addition to sassafras flavor, root beer often has other flavorings,
including anise, burdock, cinnamon, dandelion, ginger, juniper, spikenard /
sarsaparilla, vanilla, wintergreen, and / or yellow dock and sweetened with
aspartame, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and, most commonly
sugar. Although originally carbonated with yeast, most modern root
beer brands are artificially carbonated. Most brands of root beer
contain sodium benzoate as a preservative. - photo
of full grown Sassafras tree courtesy Montgomery County (Ohio) Public
root beer have caffeine?
tea, coffee and chocolate, root beer does not naturally contain
caffeine. In recent years, many brands advertised
"caffeine-free" prominently on packaging to avoid comparison with
colas, which normally contain caffeine. However, at least 2 currently
available brands, Coca-Cola's Barq's and Skeleteen Beverage's Rat Bastard
have added caffeine.
Does root beer have salicylates?
Many brands of root beer contain flavorings that are listed on the Fibromyalgia
Treatment Center's One Thousand of the Most Common Natural Salicylates to
Avoid including anise, cinnamon, clover, corn syrup, ginger, honey, sarsaparilla, sassafras (the main flavoring in root beer), vanilla, wintergreen, and yucca. HOWEVER, since sassafras was declared to be carcinogenic, an artificial
flavoring was developed that is now commonly used in most root beer. Usually, but unfortunately not always, if a brand of root beer contains one of these other ingredients, the label says so.
to be 2 issues with salicylates: salicylate sensitivity and fibromyalgia
(are these, in fact, the same?). According to the same Fibromyalgia
Treatment Center, these 1000 items, "if not concentrated, will be
eliminated in your digestive system" when eaten. But,
according to The Feingold Program,
"Those who are extremely sensitive to salicylates, or who exhibit signs
of eye muscle disorder may need to restrict benzoates." MOST carbonated
beverages, including root beer, use sodium benzoate as a preservative.
All of these things
combined make root beer (and most soft drinks) a good candidate for
relatively high salicylic content.
Does root beer cause cancer?
Most likely, no. In 1960, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of sassafras oil in commercially mass-produced foods and drugs (like root beer) after laboratory animals (rats) that were given oral doses of sassafras tea or sassafras oil that contained large doses of safrole developed permanent liver damage or various types of cancer. As a result, root beer makers switched to artificial sassafras flavorings. In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act eliminated the ban on sassafras oil as a dietary supplement. Microbrewers might still use sassafras, but it is not known to be used in any commercial brands.
Does root beer cause thrombocytopenia (decrease in blood platelets)?
Also in 1994 (a coincidence - or a root beer conspiracy?), the FDA published a study that implicated quillaia as a "causative agent" in thrombocytopenia. Quillaia has been used as a foaming agent in some brands of root beer and other carbonated beverages and in low-alcohol beers, as well as a skin treatment, in some laundry detergents, dandruff shampoos, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and puddings. However, in 2005, the FDA stated that normal levels of quillaia are safe.
Is sarsaparilla different from root beer? (sarsaparilla
photo right courtesy Wellesley University)
sarsaparilla (botanical Aralia nudicaulis, Spanish sarza
- bramble or shrub, parilla - vine, also called Smilax), also
called sassparilla (sassafras & sarsaparilla) and sas'parilla, is almost
always flavored primarily with sassafras, and the additional spice of
sarsaparilla (and very few people can taste any difference between
sarsaparilla and root beer made by the same company), Root Beer World
considers sarsaparilla to be root beer. For a different view, see Sarsaparilla
vs. Root Beer.
beer is similar to root beer, but is flavored with the bark of the birch
tree and does not contain sassafras. Birch beer is popular from eastern
Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New England, but is more difficult to find elsewhere. Although
some accept a wider definition of "root beer" that includes any
carbonated beverage made with any roots, bark, etc., including birch beer
(sometimes called "red root beer"), Root Beer World stands by the
definition that the primary flavor in root beer is sassafras. Thus
birch beer is different from root beer. For more information on birch
beer, see Anthony's Root Beer Barrel.
else is made with root beer?
kinds of products have been made with root beer or root beer extract:
candy, popcorn, cough drops, even shampoo. Check out The
Root Beer Gourmet for recipes for homemade root beer, entrees, side
dishes and deserts - full meals can be prepared with root beer but don't
overdo it - everything in moderation...
does root beer taste funny?
the tooth paste you used before trying root beer! Seriously, though,
people respond to different tastes in different ways. Don't assume
that all brands taste like medicine or bubble gum because one brand
does. The variety of flavorings and sweeteners used in root beer
increases the range of different tastes as well as responses to those
makes root beer frothy? Although sassafras roots and
bark may contain natural foaming agents, additional foaming agents such as
yucca or quillaja extracts, are often added to increase root beer's froth,
head or foaminess.
do I carbonate root beer? Root beer may be carbonated
naturally or artificially. Natural carbonation occurs when yeast eats
sugar, creating carbon dioxide gas. Modern methods frequently inject carbon dioxide
gas into an root beer mixture or carbonated water is mixed with root beer
syrup (as with a soda fountain).
can I get root beer in kegs?
microbrewers who make root beer in addition to beer and serve draft root
beer will either keg root beer or sell it in "growlers" - half
gallon glass brewer's bottles. If you want to make your own root beer,
you can also buy or rent keg equipment and keg your own.. Check out a
local homebrew supply store or an online retailer like Northern
many brands are available nationally (and some internationally), most are
regional and even more are local or single location. Those in search
of new brands should look in grocery stores and gas stations, liquor stores
and specialty markets. Most brewers list availability on their
websites and will also ship, usually by the case and only domestically (it's
quite expensive to ship beverages internationally). Soon, the Yellow
Froth Pages brand database will begin to include availability for individual
brands, if known. Eventually, we'd like to provide availability by state
I get root beer in <country>?
the Yellow Froth Pages brand database
for brands by country. Although Cadbury Schweppes, based in England,
owns the distribution rights for four of the most well-known US brands
(A&W, Hires, IBC and Stewart's), none of these brands is currently
available in the UK. In fact, Coca-Cola has the international
distribution rights for these brands. Both A&W and Dad's have been
found in Asia. In addition to searching for additional international
brands, we're hoping to hear from the major beverage distributors on their
brands' international availability.
they still make <brand> root beer?
classic brands are still being made, including A&W, Dad's, Frostie,
Hires, Mason's and others. Others have disappeared. We hope to
add availability information to the Yellow Froth Pages soon.
much is my old root beer <fill in the blank> worth?
any give time, hundreds of root beer collectibles can be found on auction
sites like eBay. Unless the brand or item is extremely rare,
its value is largely determined by the type and condition of the item and
its logo. We do no appraise the value of specific items - feel free to
research an item's history on various auction sites to determine its true
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