Sarsaparilla (Smilax sarsaparilla )

Botanical Name : Smilax sarsaparilla
FamilySmilacaceae
Genus: Smilax
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales
Species: S. regelii
Common NamesSarsaparilla , zarzaparrilla,  Honduran Sarsaparilla,  Jamaican Sarsaparilla., khao yen, saparna, smilace, smilax, zarzaparilla, jupicanga

Habitat :Smilax sarsaparilla is native to Central America.

Description:
It is a perennial trailing vine with prickly stems that . Common names include It is known in Spanish as zarzaparrilla, which is derived from the words zarza, meaning “shrub,” and parrilla, meaning “little grape vine.”

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Subshrubs or vines ; rhizomes black, knotted, 5-6 × 2 cm, often with white to pinkish stolons. Stems perennial , prostrate to clambering , branching, slender, to 1 m , ± woody, densely woolly-pubescent, usually prickly (especially at base ). Leaves mostly evergreen , ± evenly disposed; petiole 0.05-0.25 cm, often longer on sterile shoots ; blade gray-green, drying to ashy gray-green, obovate to ovate-lanceolate, with 3 prominent veins, 6-10.5 × 5-8 cm, glabrous adaxially, densely puberulent abaxially, base cordate to deeply notched , margins entire, apex bluntly pointed . Umbels 1-7, axillary to leaves, 5-16-flowered, loose , spherical ; peduncle 0.2-0.8 cm, shorter than to 1.5 as long as petiole of subtending leaf. Flowers: perianth yellowish; tepals 3-4 mm; anthers much shorter than filaments ; ovule 1 per locule; pedicel thin, 0.1-0.4 cm. Berries red, ovoid , 5-8 mm, with acute beaks , not glaucous. (source   :Flora of North America)

The red, pointed fruits and densely pubescent herbage of Smilax pumila are distinctive.

The name Smilax humilis Miller, which predates S. pumila by 20 years and recently has been determined to apply also to this species, has been proposed for rejection (J. L. Reveal 2000). If that proposal is not adopted, the correct name will be S. humilis.

Medicinal Uses:
Common Uses: Eczema * Psoriasis * Rheumatoid Arthritis *
Properties:  Depurative* Antibacterial* AntiViral* Tonic* Anti-inflammatory* Appetite Depressant/Obesity* Antiscrofulous*
Parts Used: Root
Constituents: parillin (smilacin), glucoside, sarsapic acid, saponins: sarsasaponin, sarsaparilloside, many flavonioids and starch

For many years, people thought sarsaparilla had testosterone in it, but there is none present, or for that matter in any plant studied so far. The spicy, pleasant smelling root is what gave old fashioned root beer its bite and is the part used medicinally. The exact mechanism of action has not been identified, however it is thought that the phytosterols it contains stimulate hormone-like activity in the body. However most modern herbalists no longer believe that sarsaparilla cures syphilis, build muscles or cure a flagging libido. There is research to substantiate its use. for gout, arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and eczema. Certain root phytochemicals, called saponins, have soothed psoriasis, most likely by disabling bacterial components called endotoxins. Endotoxins show up in the bloodstreams of people with psoriasis, arthritis and gout.If you have any of these conditions, and feel the need for an all-around tonic to help you fight stress sarsaparilla could certainly play a beneficial role.

It was thought by Central Americans to have medicinal properties, and was a popular European treatment for syphilis when it was introduced from the New World. From 1820 to 1910, it was registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for syphilis. Modern users claim that it is effective for eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, herpes, and leprosy, along with a variety of other complaints. No peer reviewed research is available for these claims. However, there is peer reviewed research suggesting that it has anti-oxidant properties, like many other herbs.

Other Uses
Sarsaparilla is used as the basis for a soft drink sold for its taste, frequently of the same name, or called Sasparilla. It is also a primary ingredient in old fashioned root beer, in conjunction with Sassafras, more widely available prior to studies of the potential health risks of sassafras.

Sarsaparilla is not readily available in most countries, although many pubs and most major supermarket chains in Malaysia, The United Kingdom and Australia stock sarsaparilla flavored soft drinks. In Malaysia, it is called “Sarsi” amongst many other names. In America, the prevalent brand is Sioux City Sarsaparilla.[citation needed] In Taiwan, HeySong Sarsaparilla soda is also commonly available for purchase from convenience stores and street vendors.

Sarsaparilla was a popular drink in the Old West.

Research:
Sarsaparilla contains steroidal saponins, such as sarsasapogenin, which some researcher claim can duplicate the action of some human hormones. However, this purported property of sarsaparilla remains has not been substantiated by empirical evidence.

Sarsaparilla also contains beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol, which may contribute to the anti-inflammatory property of this herb. A few reports suggest that sarsaparilla has both anti-inflammatory and liver-protecting effects. Similar findings on the effect of sarsaparilla on psoriasis can also be found in European literature.

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Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.houseofnutrition.com/sarsaparilla.html
http://zipcodezoo.com/Plants/S/Smilax_pumila/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smilax_regelii
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail297.php

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