Sassafras albidum is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 15–20 m tall, with a trunk up to 60 cm diameter, and a crown with many slender sympodial branches. The bark on trunk of mature trees is thick, dark red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The shoots are bright yellow green at first with mucilaginous bark, turning reddish brown, and in two or three years begin to show shallow fissures. The leaves are alternate, green to yellow-green.
All parts of the Sassafras albidum plant have been used for human purposes, including stems, leaves, bark, wood, roots, fruit, and flowers. Sassafras albidum, while native to North America, is significant in the economic, medical, and cultural history of Europe as well as North America. In North America, it has particular culinary significance, being featured in distinct national foods such as traditional root beer and File powder, used in Louisiana Creole cuisine.