Sarsaparilla can be observed in the roots of the several woody climbing plants considered native to Central and South America. These are in fact species of the genus Smilax, belonging to the family Smilacaceae, of which some of the more important ones are the S. aristolochiaefolia Miller, also known as Mexican sarsaparilla, S. regelii Killip and Morton, usually referred to as Honduran sarsaparilla, S. febrifuga, or Ecuadorian sarsaparilla, as well as other undetermined species of Smilax.
Brought to Europe from the New World in the mid-sixteenth century, the herb sarsaparilla became popular with physicians and others, because of the medicinal property present in the herb that proved to be an excellent remedy for syphilis. Even today, sarsaparilla enjoys the same reputation, although the elite prefer to call the herb as "blood purifier" or an "alterative", alternative terms for the same.
Herb sarsaparilla contains a versatile mixture of saponins, which have been derived mostly from smilagenin and sarsapogenin. The saponins are known to have strong diuretic properties, as well as some diaphoretic, laxative and expectorant properties. The herb also contains mild flavoring properties, and it is used as a flavoring agent by some people. It must be noted that neither the whole medication nor its contained saponins are actually effective in bringing in relief for syphilis and for purifying blood.
If there has been, in recent times, a good legal herbal replacement for illegal steroidal medications given to athletes and sportspersons just before an important race of event, then the versatile sarsaparilla is it. This is a combination herbal product that can be offered to these people, without any sort of legal ramifications, and the herb is often promoted quoting this exact property. In addition, some promoters also say that sarsaparilla contains testosterone, although it is a fact that this hormone has never been detected in the plant to date. Some advertisers claim that the saponins in the herb sarsaparilla are converted in some way in the body, which allows them to function in ways that are considered quite similar to that of anabolic steroids, but this too is untrue, and nobody has even been able to prove the fact to one's entire satisfaction. Sarsaparilla is also often mistaken for another herb, Indian in origin, known to the natives as 'sarsaparilla' too. This sarsaparilla belongs to an entirely different plant family (Asclepiadaceae), and is from Hemidesmus. This herb is widely known as 'false sarsaparilla', and is Indian in origin. This plant is no relation at all to the American sarsaparilla, and, most importantly, it does not contain the same saponins or other principal constituents found in sarsaparilla. Therefore, one must take great care to read the label before purchasing a product made with sarsaparilla; the herb must be obtained from appropriate Smilax species originating in tropical America.
The tropical sarsaparilla grown in America is a perennial plant produces a long, tuberous rootstock. From the rootstock grows a ground-trailing vine, which climbs with the help of tendrils corning in pairs from the petioles of the ovate and evergreen leaves. The flowers of the sarsaparilla are small and greenish in color, and they grow in axillary umbels. Tea made of sarsaparilla has been found to be extremely effective in treating venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. This is how it is to be prepared: bring one qt. of water to a boil, adding 2 tablespoons each of yellow dock roots and sarsaparilla herb. Then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for five minutes, remove the cover and add 3-1/2 tsp. of dried thyme herb. Then everything must be covered again and steeped an extra hour.
Sarsaparilla can act as an anti-inflammatory and cleansing agent. The herb cab be invaluable in bringing quick relief for a wide array of disorders and problems, such as for instance, skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema and itchiness, and can help treat gout, rheumatism, and rheumatoid arthritis. Certain experts advocate the herb is a very good medicine with potential use for treating impotence. This is because sarsaparilla has a specifically testosterogenic action on the body. This can lead to a dramatic increase in one's muscle bulk. The fact that sarsaparilla has a progesterogenic action means that the herb can be used to bring relief to women suffering from symptoms of menopause and other menstrual problems, like the premenstrual syndrome. In certain cases where menopause is associated with debility and depression sarsaparilla can be very useful. As a matter of fact, Native Amazonian people have been known to take sarsaparilla to improve their virility and to treat problems associated with menopause.
Sarsaparilla species generally grow in tropical rainforests and in temperate regions in Australia and Asia, and the root of the herb can be gathered during the year.
According to the experts, leptospirosis is a rare and dreaded disease that can be transmitted to human beings from rats. Several tests carried out by Chinese experts and researchers showed that the herb sarsaparilla holds great potential for curing this disease quickly and efficiently. In the treatment of syphilis too, sarsaparilla was used in combination with five other herbs, and in almost 90% of the most severe and acute cases, it was found that the disease showed signs of subsiding soon after sarsaparilla was applied.
Herbalists advise that at least nine grams of the dried root of sarsaparilla must be taken, either in the form of capsules or tablets, everyday, in divided dosages.
If one is using tincture, then it can be used in the amount of 3 ml thrice daily.
Sarsaparilla is however taken in conjunction and combination with various other herbs, and seldom alone.
It has been found that the herb sarsaparilla can cause nausea and kidney damage in some cases, and therefore, experts advise that large dosages of the herb taken over long periods of time must be avoided at all costs. Since sarsaparilla can increase absorption and/or elimination of bismuth and digitalis, such combinations are contraindicated and must therefore be avoided.