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Sassafras Tea

“Sassafras wood boiled down to a kind of tea, and tempered with an infusion of milk and sugar hath to some a delicacy beyond the China luxury.” – Charles Lamb

In my book, Tales of a Cosmic Possum, I wrote about John’s Uncle Kyle. I had the pleasure of meeting this University of Kentucky graduate who was an entrepreneur.

After moving to Union, South Carolina and marrying Jenny Belle Ingle, Kyle went to work in the Union Mill. To make ends meet for their household, he made metal cuts  in an aluminum plate, so he could print his own ad to send to mail order magazines for his sassafras tea.

      Kyle had the inspiration to sell sassafras root for tea; there were plenty of trees in the
nearby woods. Even young Bruce could help him pull up the tubers and wash them. After
the roots were cleaned with steel wool and cut up, he cut the roots in cubes and sold it by
the square inch.

      He chose to wrap the packages in brown paper and string, and the postage was only a nickel. He soon had repeat customers. Kyle was creative and made his own printing plate and only had to run an advertisement every two months.  His side-business proved his notion that people will buy anything if it is advertised.

     The tea was flavorful; it did not need the addition of lemon or sugar.  Scores used it to treat high blood pressure or the effects of a cold and flu. Others consumed it for gastrointestinal problems. One square inch would make sixty-four cups of tea. It was a bargain remedy that contributed to people feeling young again.

Sassafras tree bark has been used in North America for centuries. According to an old Appalachian folk legend, those who carried sassafras bark in their pockets or drank sassafras root tea were protected against the evil eye, malevolence and envy.

It was also used by the Cherokee people as a blood thinner to purify blood, to treat skin diseases, rheumatism, among other ailments.

Bark of a mature sassafras with a few pieces broken off, revealing the reddish-orange beneath.

In 1512, American Indians introduced the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon to the bark and years later the same happened to pioneers, who settled on the continent.

Whether or not this is true, looking back, we can trace the word “sassafras” as to probably deriving from the 16th century Spanish term “saxifrage”.

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Once introduced to the Europeans, they used sassafras as a medicinal tonic in the 17th and 18th century to treat everything from rheumatism to gout. The marvels of this blood thinner helped to heal many ailments.

My great grandmother used sassafras tea as a spring tonic, and she gave it to her eight children. There was a sassafras tree on their property outside Hendersonville, NC. She was right when she told them it thinned the blood, so the heat wouldn’t bother them so much come summer time. Because of the aromatic smell, those eight made little fuss to this preventive medicine of hers.

Sassafras Tea

by Maary Effie Lee Newsome

“The sass’fras tea is red and clear
In my white china cup,
So pretty I keep peeping in
Before I drink it up.I stir it with a silver spoon,
And sometimes I just hold
A little tea inside the spoon,
Like it was lined with gold.

It makes me hungry just to smell
The nice hot sass’fras tea,
And that’s one thing I really like
That they say’s good for me.”

As poet Newsome declares, sassafras tea  tastes good; there is no doubt about that. It was the favored drink for the young, especially until colas came along. That does not mean you should over do it through. Sassafras tea like most herbal teas should be consumed in moderation.

Grit Magazine shared this easy recipe.

4 pieces sassafras root, 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch diameter
2 quarts water
Sugar or honey

Gather sassafras root. Wash roots and cut saplings off where green and where root stops.

Bring water to a boil and add roots. Simmer until water turns deep brownish red (the darker, the stronger).

Whether it is sassafras tea or your own favorite, there is nothing quite like a cup of tea.

“My dear, if you could give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better understand your affairs.” – Charles Dickens

How many of you enjoy tea? How about sassafras tea?

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Our Christmas Blessing

Image result for photo of blessing others

Last week on Christmas Eve, I received a phone call from one of our octogenarian friends. He and his wife wanted to come by for a visit, and I excitedly said yes.

He was called to the ministry in South Africa 51 years ago, and this couple has served on that continent and in the US. She is an expert in all things created with a needle, and he is a teacher of the Word. I truly love to listen to their British accents and hear their usage of uncommon British terms. Their smiles are contagious, and they greet all with love and friendship. Sharing a cup of tea and cookies with them in their home has been a treat for us.

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Listening to their stories of how our Lord has led and blessed them is a journey of faith and bent knees.

When Ed arrived at our home, Mirth wasn’t with him. Unfortunately her legs were giving her trouble that afternoon. I served coffee, rather than tea, and some peach cookies made in Charleston. Our conversation drifted from the present to the past and back again, led by this man, called by God to preach His word. He told us about growing up in Africa and shared a taste of the diverse communities there. (John and I both love history, and this was all new to us. Ed painted pictures of a world completely foreign to both of us.)

Then he said he felt led to pray, and Ed prayed a prayer of blessing over John and me as a couple. As John and I held hands, as we have always done when praying, my husband’s grip tightened on mine. Ed asked God for strength for us to continue to lead the Christian lives we had been called to. He prayed for our discernment in following God’s call. He recognized our love for the Lord and blessed us for our commitment.

For John and me, it was a time of grace and bending of the knee once again to live a life of obedience and faith. What a Christmas gift to us as a couple! Individually, we have both been prayed for by friends, but not since our wedding, 37 years ago, have we been prayed for as a couple. It will be a Christmas Eve we never forget.

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In Colossians 1:9-12 is a prayer of blessing.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light.

These words echo much of what Ed spoke over us last Saturday, and the words are strong for those “who live in the light.”

As we all look toward 2017, I pray that we will seek our Father’s wisdom an share it with those around us and let “our lives shine before men that they will see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.

One of my two best friends died unexpectedly in August. The scripture she share on her notes and cards was always the same. By word or by deed, it is the blessing I am thankful for today.

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Happy New Year!