Sarsaparilla Root and Herb Information

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Smilax species including Smilax aristolochiifolia Mill. (Mexican sarsaparilla), S. officinalis Kunth ( Honduras sarsaparilla), Smilax regelii Killip et Morton ( Honduras , Jamaican sarsaparilla), Smilax febrifuga (Ecuadorian sarsaparilla), Smilax sarsaparilla, Smilax ornata. Family: Liliaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Sarsaparilla, smilax, smilace, sarsa, khao yen.

Sarsaparilla is a natural herb that has been used by many individuals in connection with liver disease and syphilis. However, it is most commonly used in connection with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin disorders.


The French physician Monardes described using sarsaparilla to treat syphilis in 1574. In 1812, Portuguese soldiers suffering from syphilis recovered faster if sarsaparilla was taken to treat the disease vs mercury, the standard treatment at the time. Sarsaparilla has been used by many cultures for ailments including skin problems, arthritis, fever, digestive disorders, leprosy, and cancer. Late 15th century accounts explaining the identification and the first descriptions of American drugs include sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla's role as a medicinal plant in American and European remedies in the 16th century is also evident.

Botany :- Sarsaparilla is a woody, trailing vine that can grow to 50 m in length. It is grown in Mexico , Honduras , Jamaica , and Ecuador . Many Smilax species are similar in appearance regardless of origin. The part of the plant used for medicinal purposes is the root. Although this root has a pleasant fragrance and spicy sweet taste, and has been used as a natural flavoring agent in medicines, foods, and nonalcoholic beverages.

Uses of Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla has been used for treating syphilis, leprosy, psoriasis, and other ailments.

Side Effects of Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla can cause nausea and kidney damage. Large doses for long periods of time are to be avoided. As sarsaparilla can increase absorption and/or elimination of digitalis and bismuth, such combinations are contraindicated


Sarsaparilla is often taken in capsules, 2-4 grams three times per day. A tincture, 2-4 ml three times per day, may also be used.


No major contraindications, warnings, or toxicity data have been documented with sarsaparilla use. No known problems exist regarding its use in pregnancy or lactation either; however, avoid excessive ingestion. In unusually high doses, the saponins present in the plant could possibly be harmful, resulting in GI irritation. The fact that sarsaparilla binds bacterial endotoxins in the gut, making them unabsorbable, greatly reduces stress on the liver and other organs.

One report describing occupational asthma caused by sarsaparilla root dust exists in the literature.

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