Root beer is a carbonated, sweetened beverage, originally made using the root of a sassafras plant (or the bark of a sassafras tree) as the primary flavor. Root beer, popularized in North America, comes in two forms: alcoholic and soft drink. The historical root beer was analogous to small beer in that the process provided a drink with a very low alcohol content. Although roots are used as the source of many soft drinks throughout the world, often different names are used.
There are hundreds of root beer brands in the United States, produced in every U.S. state. It is a flavor almost exclusive to North America, yet there are a few brands from other nations around the world, such as the UK, the Philippines, and Thailand where the flavor often varies considerably from the typical US drink. There is no standardized recipe. The primary ingredient, artificial sassafras flavoring, is complemented with other flavors. Common flavorings are vanilla, wintergreen, cherry tree bark, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, acacia, anise, molasses, cinnamon, clove, and honey.
Homemade root beer is usually made from concentrate, though it can also be made from actual herbs and roots. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic root beers have a thick and foamy head when poured, often enhanced by the addition of cassava extract.
The custom of brewing root beer goes back to the 18th century. Farm owners used to brew their own (then) light-alcoholic beverage for family get-togethers and other social events. During the 19th century some pharmacists tried to sell their version of root beer as a miracle drug.
In 1876 pharmacist Charles Hires first introduced a commercial version at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. By 1893 root beer was sold as a bottled soft drink to the public. Especially during Prohibition, non-alcoholic versions proved to be commercially successful.
In 1960 a key ingredient (the sassafras root) came to be known as a carcinogen and its use was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Following this ban companies began experimentation with artificial flavours and preparation techniques to remove the unhealthy effects of root beer while preserving its taste.
Main ingredients 
- Sassafras albidum – Sassafras (roots) – safrole. The oil from these roots is believed to be carcinogenic so artificial versions are generally used instead. However, natural extracts with the safrole distilled and removed are available.
- Smilax regelii – Sarsaparilla.
- Smilax glyciphylla – Sweet Sarsaparilla.
- Piper auritum – Root Beer Plant or Hoja Santa.
- Glycyrrhiza glabra – Liquorice (root).
- Aralia nudicaulis – Wild Sarsaparilla or "Rabbit Root."
- Gaultheria procumbens – Wintergreen (leaves and berries) – the oil can be toxic.
- Betula lenta – Sweet Birch (sap/syrup/resin).
- Betula nigra – Black Birch (sap/syrup/resin).
- Prunus serotina – Black Cherry.
- Picea rubens – Red Spruce.
- Picea mariana – Black Spruce.
- Picea sitchensis – Sitka Spruce.
- Arctium lappa – Burdock (root).
- Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion (root).
- Pimenta dioica – Allspice.
- Theobroma cacao – Chocolate.
- Trigonella foenum-graecum – Fenugreek.
- Myroxylon balsamum – Tolu balsam.
- Abies balsamea – Balsam Fir.
- Myristica fragrans – Nutmeg.
- Cinnamomum verum – Cinnamon (bark).
- Cinnamomum aromaticum – Cassia (bark).
- Syzygium aromaticum – Clove.
- Foeniculum vulgare – Fennel (seed).
- Zingiber officinale – Ginger (root).
- Illicium verum – Star Anise.
- Pimpinella anisum – Anise.
- Humulus lupulus – Hops.
- Mentha species – Mint.
Other ingredients 
See also 
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