Sassafras is the “root” in root beer. However, in the mid-60’s, the FDA discovered that a chemical in sassafras called safrole caused cancer in rats, and proceded to ban its sale for edible uses. This sent the root beer industry into a frenzy trying to find a replacement flavor (they eventually came up with something that’s a combination of licorice root – that’s not anise, and doesn’t taste like it – and wintergreen).