Sarsaparilla (Smilax officinalis, Liliaceae)

Habitat: The plants are climbing vines native to tropical America and the West Indies.

Collection: The roots and rhizome can be unearthed throughout the year.

Part Used: Root and rhizome.


  • Saponins, based on the aglycones sarsapogenin and smilagenin; the major one being parillin (=sarsaponin), with smilasaponin (=smilacin) and sarsaparilloside
  • b-sitosterol, stigmasterol and their glucosides.

Actions: Alterative, anti-rheumatic, diuretic, diaphoretic.
Indications: Sarsaparilla is a widely applicable alterative. It may be used to aid proper functioning of the body as a whole and in the correction of such diffuse systemic problems as skin and rheumatic conditions.

It is particularly useful in scaling skin conditions such as psoriasis, especially where there is much irritation. As part of a wider treatment for chronic rheumatism it should be considered and is especially useful for rheumatoid arthritis. It has been shown that Sarsaparilla contains constituents with properties that aid testosterone activity in the body. Ellingwood recommends it for the following pathologies: scrophula, secondary syphillis, cutaneous disease, rheumatic and gouty conditions.

Kings Dispensatory suggests it for these conditions: Syphilis, herpes, rheumatic affections, dropsy, gonorrhoeal rheumatism, syphilitic sore throats, chronic hepatic disorders.

Combinations: For psoriasis it will combine well with Burdock, Yellow Dock and Cleavers.

Preparations & Dosage:

  • Decoction: pour 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
  • Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

The root of this woody, 150 foot vine should not be confused with the Sarsaparilla Tree whose extract is used to flavor natural root beer. Rather than a mere flavoring like the tree, the unrelated Sarsaparilla Vine is a rich source of a special category of phytonutrients called Saponins. Saponins leverage the assimilation and utilization of other phytonutrients, thus enhancing their effective potency. The vine root extract is often employed in South American herbal blends as a booster for the entire formula. In 1536, a Sarsaparilla root was shipped from Mexico to Europe where the plant soon developed a strong following as a general tonic, and as a treatment for syphilis and rheumatism. It then gained a wide reputation as a blood purifier, and was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia after 1820. According to Chinese clinical blood test studies, Sarsaparilla Vine was effective in 50% to 90% of syphilis cases. Other research has shown it to attack and neutralize a wider range of microbial substances.

The unique Saponin phytonutrient Sarsaponin in Sarsaparilla Vine Root binds the endotoxins of harmful bacterial cell wall fragments so they stay in the intestines and pass out of the body. This is quite incredible, as these toxic fragments are otherwise absorbed and become a burden, or overburden, upon your liver. They can tax your energy and make you feel just plain yuckie.These toxic particles are a factor in psoriasis, so Sarsaparilla may therefore be a meaningful player in its deterrence and abatement. There are a number of phytonutrients in this vine such as (Beta-sitosterol, Epsilonsitosterol, Sitosterol-d-glycoside and Stigmasterol)which merit observation in regard to supporting a more youthful hormone activity into middle-age and for older adults. GH (Growth Hormone), estrogen and testosterone benefits could all be seen.

Each of these hormones begin their dramatic declines after your mid-twenties. Fat-gain, muscle-loss, slower healing, reduced immune power, rapidly aging skin, and older-looking complexion – along with a decrease in sex drive – and a decrease in ambition in general, are but some of the penalties for a decline in these hormones. Any combination of nutrients, which support or restore their increases to more youthful levels would be a godsend – especially for those people who are endeavoring to lose a few pounds. GH is also a big plus for body builders, and definitely for the elderly. Sarsaparilla Vine promotes good circulation. It enjoys a vigorous following by aphrodisia enthusiasts in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Turkey. It is mentioned for lung congestion, rheumatism (there are those two together again),eczema, diabetes, and for the kidneys, the stomach and liver – and as a protective against harmful radiation.

The fact that it facilitates removal of toxins from the intestine, cells, blood and lymph was first documented some 150 years ago. Dr. Pereira, one of London’s more enlightened physicians in the mid-1800’s, noted that Sarsaparilla Vine was especially helpful for those patients whose health was long – broken by the use of mercury-based medicines – “It is a great restorer of appetite, flesh, color, strength and vigor”. Other British doctors observed that patients given Sarsaparilla Vine Root tea were cured, and recovered faster than those given the most powerful and dangerous mercury-based medications. In this era of exponentially increased mercury toxicity, anything which facilitates its removal from your body is a profound blessing to your health, longevity and brain functioning as a whole!

Author: Life Enthusiast Staff