Entry Detail

sassafras, ague tree

Entry Type:  
Scientific Name:  
Common Name:  
sassafras, ague tree
Myaamia Name:  

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Myaamia Archival Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Archival Data Comments
Gatschet, A.S. ca. 1895 Use - Technology 

"äshakani grist mill hollow tree or wood for pounding hominy.  The hole was burnt out by coals of fire, gradually going further down, ashwood, sassafras were used for its purpose, and wild cherry.  An Ottaway man on Spring River [NE OK] makes them now - he is called jábuk.  The handle to pound with has to be made of dogwood or ironwood".

Rafert, S. 1992 Use - Medicinal 

Sassafras tea is made from the roots and used as a blood thinner/conditioner.

Lamb, E.W., Shultz, L.W. 1964 Related Info 

"It is common knowledge to most of us that sassafras was used as a spring tonic and blood thinner".

Gatschet, A.S. ca. 1895 Use - Medicinal 

"the pulverized root is an aboriginal remedy against bleeding, its pith is helpful for sore eyes, it is drank in spring time as we drink tea or coffee. Being considered as the best blood purifier it was called medicine bush. Sassafras officinale, it belongs to the family of the laurineae and is a native of the United States. As it furnishes one of the most important remedies to the Indians, they call it for short the medicine tree, either m., or m. tawani. They drink the decoction of the root, m. tchipki chiefly in spring time as a drug as tea and as an every day beverage and regard it as the best blood purifier. The pulverized root is their remedy against bleeding, its pith is helpful for soreness of the eyes".

Miami Tribe of Oklahoma Archives Related Info 

A map of the yard of the Drake House (one of the original Myaamia allotment houses in Miami, Oklahoma) included these trees:  sassafras, sumac (writtten "shoe-mak"), water oak, and many others. 

Olds, J., Olds, D. and D. Tippman 1999 Use - Medicinal 

Sassafras tea was made and used.

Rafert, S. 1989 Use - Medicinal 

Sassafras tea was considered a tonic. "And sassafras, of course, has always been known since the earliest days of this country, in the Middle West and all the way to the coast of South Carolina".

Rafert, S. 1989 Use - Food 

"They [the Myaamia] took to coffee like a duck to water when it became introduced to them. But in their earlier days, their primitive days, they didn't know coffee. The only drink they had of that type would have been sassafras or spicebush".

Tippman, D. 1999 Use - Food 

Sassafras roots were used to make tea.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Medicinal 

The roots are dug up, sliced, boiled and steeped in water to make tea. Honey is added for taste. The tea is used in the longhouse during a sweat.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Horticultural Info 

Smaller roots 1/2 to 2 inches diameter are harvested in fall around the end of October, when the sap is down, always offering tobacco it is harvested. Once Goerge harvested a 3-4" diameter root, but only took the top half of the root, and left the bottom intact so the root could still grow. He covered the exposed portion of the root with sassafras bark and packed earth back around it.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Horticultural Info 

Collect the roots in early spring. Tie a ribbon to the stems in the fall to remember which stems to dig up. The cut roots resprout usually.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Medicinal 

The roots are harvested for making tea. "The tea is good all year long, but especially in the spring when you get fresh root." For storing roots, one can make shavings and dry them.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Use - Medicinal 

Leaves made into tea for a spring tonic. Barbara Mullin's grandparents, both sets, including Ethel Goodbo Gamble, believed in the health-inducing properties of sassafras tea, drunken as a spring tonic. Barbara said, "My grandfather said on the first day of February that you had to have a cup of sassafras every day through the month of February and then you would not be ill all year . . . And he lived to be 93."  Her brother-in-law owns several trees and gets the roots for selling. She goes out every year to collect the roots, except this last year. "We always knew what it looked like, at that state [without leaves]. It has a certain smell . . . You can tell." They would cut the gathered roots into small segments and boil. Patches need to be identified in the summer, so they could return in the winter to the right place".

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 Horticultural Info 

Collect roots in January. . "You need to know what it looks like without leaves. . . it has a certain smell, . . . you can tell. Pull up small trees and get roots. You have to go to different patches [so you don't kill all the trees in one patch]."

Small, J.K. 1903 Description 

Also known as "ague tree".

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 Use - Medicinal 

The root is used for drink/tea, "mangĭ́cakwĭ".

Botanical Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Data Comments
Tippman, D. 1999 Habitat 

Occurred in many places [in northern Indiana], especially along railroad tracks.

Gleason, H.A. and Cronquist, A. 1991 Habitat 

Occurs in disturbed woods, thickets, roadsides and oldfields in eastern and western Myaamia lands. 

Related Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Data Comments
Coulter, S. 1932  

Oil from sassafras roots are aromatics, stimulants, diaphoretics, diuretics, aseptic and astringent. This oil is used mostly as a flavor. Large doses causes circulatory depression and respiratory paralysis. Oil is reported to cause contraction of the uterus and abortion.

Kellogg, L.P. 1923  

Use of tree sap and sassafras against palsy, dropsy and venereal diseases, by the general Great Lakes region tribes.

Costa, D. 2005  

"makinjak8i", 'laurier’

Aatotankiki myaamiaki 1998-2006  

Barbara Mullins recipe for sassafras tea: boil a few pieces of sassafras roots. Simmer for about 20 minutes until tea is clear and very bright pink/red. Add sugar or honey if desired. Serve hot.

Aatotankiki myaamiaki 1998-2006  

The Myaamia word mankiišaahkwaapowi means sassafras tea, and incorporates the Myaamia words for medicine, wood, and drink.

Aatotankiki myaamiaki 1998-2006  

Sassafras jelly recipe from Barbara Mulllin, obtained from a Choctaw, includes sassafras tea, honey, and sassafras root bark.

Hoyt, H. 1959  

 "Recurring ague [malaria] and fever however, was a condition affecting the lands in the Miami Tribe claim as of the dates of this appraisal". Possibly the "ague" tree was used in the treatment of diseases like malaria.

Tulsa World Newspaper 2003  

Due to lead, cadmium and zinc contamination in the Tar Creek Superfund Sites watershed, around Miami, Oklahoma and the Miami Tribe of Oklahomas headquarters, Miami and other local tribal members worry that traditional gathering of food, medicine and customs items may be contaminated. Fish, wild blackberries, sassafras, pokeweed, basket-making supplies and wild onions could have high concentrations of lead, as do the waters of nearby lakes, and it is not always successful keeping tribal members out of these areas. The Seneca-Cayugas berry dance could not be held, if all the wild blackberries and strawberries in the area are found to be contaminated.

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900  

"sassafras, mun-gay-shokqh"