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Sarsaparilla

  • Simlax officinalis L.
  • Liliaceae
  • Lily family



Common Names

herbsDwipautra (Sanskrit name)
herbsHonduras sarsaparilla
herbsJamaica sarsaparilla
herbsQuay-quill sarsaparilla
herbsRed sarsaparilla
herbsSpanish sarsaparilla
herbsTu-fu-ling (Chinese name)


Parts Usually Used

Root, rhizome


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


Where Found

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.


Medicinal Properties

Carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic, alterative, demulcent, antisyphilitic, stimulant, antiscorbutic. antispasmodic, antirheumatic


Biochemical Information

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 drinking.

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.


Uses

Sarsaparilla root is said to be good for gout, rheumatism, arthritis, colds, fevers, 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 superior quality.

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. rootstock in 1 cup water. Take 1-2 cups a day.

Tincture: a dose is from 30-60 drops.


Nutrient Content

Iron, manganese, sodium, sugar, sulfur, vitamin A and D, and zinc


How Sold

Capsules: take 1 for up to 3 times per day.

Extract: mix 10 to 30 drops in liquid daily. For fevers, use warm liquid.

Sold under the name of Simlax


Warning

Take only for 2 weeks out of every 3.

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