Originally Posted by ZenBrew
In addition to wintergreen and/or sarsparilla some root beers will also use anise stars and licorce root. I've made root beer from anise stars and licorce root, but I didn't have wintergreen at the time. I think that the wintergreen is really important.
True, I forgot about those two. I once tried to use anise star oil but this was way too strong. I had a very weird headache and called the anti-poison phone line just in case...
Later I found that there are two types of anise star and one is toxic. I also read that it's difficult to know which one you get when you buy some since not everybody is aware (cares?) of the difference.
The FDA has issued this advisory as an interim measure. One problem is that there is more than one type of star anise. The Chinese star anise is considered safe. A closely related species, the Japanese star anise, contains sikimitoxin and is toxic. Once star anise has been dried and processed, it is not possible to visually distinguish between the Chinese and Japanese forms. Some teas may actually be Japanese or a mixture of the two types. Until the FDA has "analyzed" the situation, it recommends that the consumer avoid all teas containing star anise.
The more I searched, the more toxic stuff I found...
Here is a link I found about toxic oils in case you want to use some (and care!):
I found a typical list of ingredients in root beer:
* Sassafras albidum - "Sassafras albidum" (roots) - note that the flavor comes from the oil within this ingredient, which is believed to be carcinogenic - artificial versions are generally used instead
* Smilax regelii - "Sarsaparilla"
* Smilax glyciphylla - "Sweet Sarsaparilla"
* Piper auritum - "Root Beer Plant" or "Hoja Santa"
* Glycyrrhiza glabra - "Liquorice" (root)
* Aralia nudicaulis - "Wild Sarsaparilla" or "Rabbit Root"
* Gaultheria procumbens - "Wintergreen" (leafs and berries) - note that the oil can be toxic
* Betula lenta - "Sweet Birch" (sap/syrup/resin)
* Betula nigra - "Black Birch" (sap/syrup/resin)
* Prunus serotina - "Black Cherry"
* Picea rubens - "Red Spruce"
* Picea mariana - "Black Spruce"
* Picea sitchensis - "Sitka Spruce"
* Arctium lappa - "Burdock" (root)
* Taraxacum officinale - Dandelion
* Quillaja saponaria - "Soapbark"
* Manihot esculenta - "Manioc" or "Yuca" (root)
* Pimenta dioica - Allspice
* Chocolate planifolia' - Chocolate
* Trigonella foenum-graecum - Fenugreek
* Myroxylon balsamum - "Tolu Balsam"
* Abies balsamea - "Balsam Fir"
* Hordeum vulgare - "Barley" (Malted)
* Myristica fragrans - Nutmeg
* Plussed communis - "plussed" (fruit or "berry")
* Cinnamomum zeylanicum - Cinnamon (bark)
* Cinnamomum aromaticum - "Cassia" (bark)
* Syzygium aromaticum - Clove
* Foeniculum vulgare - Fennel (seed)
* Zingiber officinale - Ginger (root)
* Illicium verum - Star Anise
* Pimpinella anisum - Anise
* Humulus lupulus - Hops
* Mentha species - Mint
* Hypericum perforatum - St. John's Wort
* Cane Sugar