The healing power of sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla is a medicinal plant that is used in herbal medicine. The root can be eaten as a vegetable and is therefore used by herbalists against all kinds of diseases. They mainly use the plant against rheumatic diseases. Bodybuilders could use sarsaparilla to build muscle.
NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing sarsaparilla / Source: Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Naming sarsaparilla
  • History of sarsaparilla
  • Active ingredients sarsaparilla
  • Sarasaparilla for detoxification
  • Sarsaparilla as a hormone regulator
  • Sarsaparilla against inflammatory diseases
  • Other medicinal effects
  • External use sarsaparilla
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Naming sarsaparilla

The Latin name for this South American plant is Smilax Officinalis . Smilax is the Greek name for climbing plants. Officinalis means: from the pharmacist’s workplace. Officinalis is a term that used to be given to commonly used medicinal plants.

History of sarsaparilla

The original inhabitants of Central and South America have long used this plant against rheumatic complaints, skin conditions, impotence, as a blood purifier and a general tonic for the body. Spanish colonizers took the plant to Europe where it was studied medicinally. European doctors saw a diuretic effect, which explains the rheumatoid properties. They also found that it was a blood purifier and diaphoretic, which cured diseases such as high blood pressure and skin diseases. The Europeans also discovered that it served as a medicine for syphilis and other venereal diseases. Chinese medicine views sarsaparilla as an herb that strengthens the blood and life energy. In 1942, scientists discovered that it is a medicine against psoriasis and in 1959 it was discovered that it combats leprosy.

Active ingredients sarsaparilla

The secondary roots are removed from the stick and used for medicinal use. The leaves and stems are used less; for external use only. The carrot contains the following nutrients: Saponins such as sarsapogenin, isosarsapogenin, smilagenin, sarsasaponin or parillin, smilasaponin, smilacin, sarsaparilloside and sarsasaponosides. It contains the phytosterols betasitosterol, stigmasterol, epsilonsisterol, sitosterol-d-glycoside and sterol glycosides. It contains the bitter substance smilacin. To a lesser extent it contains flavones, essential oil, starch and the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, selenium, zinc, chromium, iron, manganese, cobalt and tin.

Sarasaparilla for detoxification

In herbal medicine, sarsaparilla is believed to have a detoxifying effect. Sarsaparilla has a diuretic and uric acid diuretic effect due to the collaboration between saponins, flavones and essential oil. Because it is a good diuretic, it also purifies the blood. Toxins such as mercury, lead and amalgam are removed from the body more quickly by sarsaparilla, as are intestinal toxins. In addition, it is a general tonic for the body. These medicinal effects may force herbalists to use the plant as a natural medicine for:

Dried sarsaparilla / Source: Maša Sinreih, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Insufficient urine production and reduced kidney function,
  • Adjuvant in renal insufficiency, chronic renal inflammation, nephrotic syndrome,
  • Increased uric acid levels, gout,
  • Spring fatigue, fatigue, spring cures,
  • Detoxification of heavy metals.


Sarsaparilla as a hormone regulator

This medicinal plant contains steroid saponins that provide a precursor for the body’s own steroid production. A precursor is a substance that triggers the body to produce hormones itself. There is discussion in top sport about considering these precursors as doping. The steroids work as an aphrodisiac and muscle strengthener for men and ensure the production of progestin. Because of these medicinal properties, a herbalist may decide to prescribe it for:

  • Infertility due to ovarian disorder,
  • Disturbances in the female hormone balance, irregular menstruation,
  • Menopausal complaints, PMS or PreMenstrual Syndrome, fibrocystic breasts,
  • Disturbances in the male hormone balance, impotence,
  • Muscle weakness, insufficient muscle mass, supplementation with strength sports.


Sarsaparilla against inflammatory diseases

This climbing plant with red berries has a stimulating effect on the human immune system. It repels bacteria, fungi and viruses. In addition, the saponins promote coughing up mucus. It is also a diaphoretic. All these medicinal activities together make it a natural medicine for the following indications:

  • Viral conditions such as herpes infections , colds, flu,
  • respiratory diseases,
  • White discharge, vaginal inflammation,
  • Fungal infections.


Other medicinal effects

  • It is a mild laxative and expels gases so it can be used for flatulence and meteorism.
  • It is an appetite and digestion stimulant so it can be used for anorexia and dyspepsia.
  • It promotes liver function so that it is a remedy for chronic liver diseases and jaundice.


External use sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla has limited use for external diseases. It is a disinfectant and has an antiviral effect. This means it can be used for herpes infections, skin fungus and rashes. In addition, it is an anti-inflammatory agent. If you suffer from rheumatic joints, it will help to make an infusion of the plant and treat the joints with a warm wrap.

Consult a herbal therapist

Anyone who wants to use sarsaparilla as a medicinal product is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Sarsparilla extracts and medicines in the form of mother tinctures, powders, nebulisate, liquid extract, ointment, cream and capsules should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can tell you more about this, as well as about any side effects and interactions with other medicines or herbs. There are also beneficial combinations with herbs. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.

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