Simply put, Gumbo File is powdered sassafras leaves, which is also an absolutely essential ingredient in much Cajun cooking. Adding it to stews and soups, Gumbo File lends a unique taste to any broth, a mixture of the freshness of eucalyptus and the warmth of thyme. For that reason, our Gumbo File also includes some powered thyme leaves, which further stimulates the appetite and complements the energizing sassafras powder.
Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spicy herb made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum), native to eastern North America. Choctaw Indians of the American South (Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana) were the first to use dried, ground sassafras leaves as a seasoning, what is now called filé, or gumbo filé, used in Creole cooking. It is used in the making of some types of gumbo, a Creole and Cajun soup/stew often served over rice; other versions of gumbo use okra or a roux as a thickener instead. Sprinkled sparingly over gumbo as a seasoning and a thickening agent, it adds a distinctive, earthy flavor and texture. Filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season. Filé translates to "string", suggestive of the powder's thickening ability. "Filé gumbo" is famously mentioned in the classic country song by Hank Williams Sr., Jambalaya (On The Bayou), as it is considered a staple of Cajun cuisine.
Unlike sassafras roots and bark, the tree's leaves, from which filé is produced, do not contain a detectable amount of safrole. This is significant because safrole is regarded by the U.S. government to be a weak carcinogen. The relationship between safrole and sassafras may be the origin of the widely reported belief that filé powder has a questionable effect on human health, but it is incorrect.
Sassafras leaf powder, and thyme leaf powder.