- Simlax officinalis L.
- Lily family
Parts Usually Used
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
A tropical American perennial plant; its long, creeping, tuberous
rootstock (rhizome) produces a vine which trails on the ground and
climbs by means of tendrils growing in pairs from the petioles of
the alternate, orbicular to ovate, evergreen leaves. The small greenish
white flowers grow in axillary umbels; on separate shorter stalks,
followed by purple-black berries.
Other varieties: American sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis
L.), also called Red Sarsaparilla, was once used in patent medicines
in early colonies; Hairy sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) of the Ginseng
family; Sawbrier (Smilax glauca L.), also called wild sarsaparilla,
of the Lily family, containing testosterone (male hormone) in the
roots; Yellow sarsaparilla (Menispermum canadense L.) is a member
of the moonseed family
Found in woodlands in southern Canada from Newfoundland to British
Columbia and south, east of the Rocky Mountains to Georgia and Colorado,
in mountains in southern parts of its range.
Carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic, alterative, demulcent,
antisyphilitic, stimulant, antiscorbutic. antispasmodic, antirheumatic
Copper, fat, glycosides, iron, manganese, traces of essential oil,
parillin, sitosterol stigmasterin, resin, saponins, sarsaponin, sodium,
sugar, sulfur, vitamin A and D, and zinc.
Legends, Myths and Stories
Carbonated beverage was made with sarsaparilla some years ago.
Native to Central America. At the turn of the century, sarsaparilla
was a popular flavor in root beer and soft drinks, and once a popular
ingredient of many alcoholic beverages.
A simple recipe for root beer: brew a combination of sarsaparilla
and sassafras in boiling water for 20 minutes (about 4 oz. to a gallon).
Strain and add 1 lb. honey or sugar to sweeten, and brewer's yeast.
Keep covered in a warm place at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit for an
hour or two until small bubbles start to rise, showing that fermentation
has begun. Decant into bottles and tightly cap. Wait 24 hours before
There has been a mystique about this controversial herb since it
was brought to Europe from the New World by Spanish traders in the
1600s. Originally, it was used to treat syphilis but it soon became
known as a tonic for male sexual potency. Some herbalists say it contains
steroid-like compounds, saponin glycosides, that contain male hormones.
This has never been proven, but these substances appear to stimulate
the body's metabolic processes. Recently, it has been marketed as
a "male herb" that can increase muscle mass much the same way as steroids
can. But there is no evidence to back up this claim. Because of lack
of research, it is very difficult to tell fact from fiction. All that
is known is that for centuries different cultures have used this herb
in surprisingly similar ways.
Today, this herb is being used in the United States by bodybuilders
who state they have better workouts when they use Simlax (from the
botanical name Simlax officinalis). Sarsaparilla is used as a nonsteroidal
method of increasing muscle mass and is also believed to be an aphrodisiac.
But, chemical analysis has not found any evidence of testosterone
or other male hormones in the herb.
The Native American women took the root of sarsaparilla, cut it into
little pieces, boiled it, and washed their hair in this water. Dramatic
results in treating cases of baldness have reported excellent results
of hair growth when using this method. One of the most successful
treatments of 16 out of 21 cases was that of a 78-year-old man, completely
bald for 30 years.
Sarsaparilla root is said to be good for gout,
and catarrhal problems, as well as for relieving flatulence. A tea
made from it has also been used externally for skin problems, scrofula,
ringworm, and tetters. Sarsaparilla would be classed generally as
a "blood purifier". It
was once commonly taken as a spring tonic. Externally, as a wash it
can be used to bathe ulcers,
wounds, or the dried rhizomes
can be made into a poultice for external use.
A sweet herb used for impotence,
liver problems, venereal disease (i.e. syphilis)
(not a sure remedy in adults or children), leukorrhea, herpes,
fever blisters, other disorders
caused by blood impurities,
epilepsy, and nervous system disorders. Reduces fever, psoriasis,
and controls diabetes. Also
good for stomach, impotence,
cystitis, and kidney
disorders. Regulates hormones, increases energy, and protects
against harmful radiation. Will increase flow of urine. Good eyewash.
Will promote profuse perspiration when taken hot.
An excellent antidote after taking a deadly poison. Drink copiously
after thoroughly cleaning out the stomach with an emetic.
Formulas or Dosages
The roots with a deeper orange-red color are considered to be of
Infusion: steep 1 tsp. rootstock in 1 cup water. Take 1-2
cups a day.
Tincture: a dose is from 30-60 drops.
Iron, manganese, sodium, sugar, sulfur, vitamin A and D, and zinc
Capsules: take 1 for up to 3 times per day.
Extract: mix 10 to 30 drops in liquid daily. For fevers, use
Sold under the name of Simlax
Take only for 2 weeks out of every 3.