Why Is Root Beer Called Root Beer?

Root beer contains water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and natural and artificial flavoring, like most sodas. Sassafras, a US tree root, gives root beer its peculiar flavor.

Native Americans used it for first aid and fever reduction. Later, gum and toothpaste were made from it.

When invented, root beer featured vanilla, molasses, sarsaparilla, wintergreen, honey, cinnamon, allspice, licorice root, and other popular spices and medicinal compounds.

The FDA banned sassafras root extract in 1960 after lab experiments indicated a component caused cancer in rats.

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Commercial root beer employs chemically flavored syrups to standardize and protect its soda-making process.

Root beer flavors differ since each company uses its unique blend of flavorings. Native Americans employed sassafras tinctures and other liquids for centuries before European colonization. 

Root beer appeared in candy and soda stores in the 1840s. A Philadelphia pharmacist sold the first commercial root beer 35 years later.

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