Safrole is a natural constituent in some plants. Brown Camphor Oil (Cinnamomum Camphora) and sassafras oil (Sassafras Albidum) are its main natural sources. It is also found in certain other essential oils that contains volatile oils. These include Ocotea Cymbarum Oil (Ocotea Pretiosa), Aisne, Nutmeg, etc. The brewed tea prepared from powder of sassafras root bark contains 0.09 to 4.66 mg safrole per cup. (1)

Chemical Name4 Allyl 1,2 methylenedioxybenzene
IUPAC Name5-prop-2-enyl-1,3-benzodioxole
Also spelled asSafrol, Safrole, Safrols, Safroles
Other NamesShikimol, Shikimols
Molecular FormulaC10H10O2
Molecular Weight162.188 g/mol
ColorColorless or pale-yellow oil
OdorSassafras odor
Melting Point11.22° Celsius
Boiling Point232.22to 234.5° Celsius
AbsorptionIn Gastrointestinal Tract

Safrole acts as natural pesticide. In lab, it is synthesized from catechol. It is precursor in the synthesis of a few insecticides of methylenedioxybenzene group, especially piperonyl butoxide.

Side Effects of Safrole

Safrole was found in sassafras tea, root beer, perfumes and soaps. In rat study, it was found to be a carcinogenic. It is banned by the FDA after detection of its carcinogenic properties.

The oral intake of Safrole caused liver enlargement (hepatomegaly), benign and malignant tumours in rats.

The higher dosage of Safrole is also hepatocarcinogen, according to animal studies. However, carcinogenic property of safrole is weak in human, but significant to cause cancer in rodents. It can result in oxidative damage in the liver. (2)

It can also interfere with defence functions of neutrophils. (3)

Safrole oxide is a safrole metabolite, which can inhibit integrin β4/SOD expression and cause apoptosis of neurons. (4)

Safety Profile of Natural Sources of Safrole

After ban by the FDA, now sassafras oil is devoid of safrole. Therefore, it might be possibly safe. However, tea prepared from sassafras root bark also contains safrole, which may be a health concern, especially it taken on regular basis.

Brown camphor oil contains around 80% safrole. Therefore, it should not be used for any health benefits and should not be added in medicines. In place of it, white camphor oil can be useful because it contains very small amount of safrole and might not cause any adverse effect.

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Dr. Jagdev Singh

Dr. Jagdev Singh is a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner and Herbalist with B.A.M.S. and M. Sc. in Medicinal Plants. He has a wealth of experience in using Ayurveda to treat patients, including the use of herbal medicine and personalized Ayurvedic diets. His passion for spreading accurate and scientific information about Ayurveda and Medicinal Plants led him to create Ayur Times, a trusted resource for those seeking reliable information on the topic. Through his dedicated work, Dr. Singh has helped thousands of patients find relief and improve their health with Ayurveda and Herbal Medicine.
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