There are different types of Sarsaparilla species available today including the following popular names – Jamaican Sarsaparilla, Indian Sarsaparilla, Australian Sarsaparilla etc. In addition, there is a soft drink flavored with the root of this herb which is also branded as Sarsaparilla drink. In this article, we specifically study the herbal benefits of the Jamaican Sarsaparilla.
What is Sarsaparilla?
The botanical name of the Jamaican Sarsaparilla is Smilax Regelii and the herb belongs to the lily family. The herb is extensively seen in tropical regions of the world including the following – the USA, Asian countries especially in India and the Caribbean land.
Sarsaparilla has a vine like structure with long prickly stems that can grow up to a height of 50 meters. The herb has brown colored roots and white, yellow, green & brown colored small flowers. The roots of this plant have all the medicinal properties the herb is famous for, and in addition has a very pleasant aroma. Sarsaparilla roots are also used in food and beverages.
According to some herbalists, as an herbal remedy Sarsaparilla root was first used in the 16th century to treat skin related ailments, digestive problems and syphilis. Today, dried Sarsaparilla root extract is used to treat a variety of ailments and is popularly used as a tonic to remove toxins from the body.
How does it work?
Sarsaparilla contains the following main components – Steroid Saponins including sarsaparilloside, parillin, desglucoparillin, aglycones sarsapogenin, smilasaponin, sitosterol glucoside, stigmasterol and pollinastanol. In addition, the herb contains the following compounds – beta-sitosterol, acetyl-parigenin, dihydroquercetin, eucryphin, taxifolin, epsilon-sitosterol, ferulic acid and a variety of essential oils among others.
As an herb, Sarsaparilla contains the following properties – anti-inflammatory, diuretic, diaphoretic and it also acts as an emulsifier. The steroid saponins and beta-sitosterol found in the herb add to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Sarsaparilla has the following health related benefits in humans:
The root extract of Sarsaparilla can affect the reproductive organs and also can stimulate the production of hormones in our body. It is said that the herb can increase the levels of testosterone and progesterone. An increase in the testosterone level in the body can also stimulate the sexual desires in humans. Also, many say the herb is effective in reducing some of the symptoms of menopause. Traditionally, the herb has been used by Central and South American Natives to treat sexual impotence in men & women.
For Skin Problems
Another popular usage of this herb is in treating skin related conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, leprosy and itchiness. It is said that the anti-inflammatory property of Sarsaparilla is responsible for this herbal effect.
Sarsaparilla extracts are also used by many to treat rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis condition. Sarsaparilla extract is usually taken as an herbal tonic for treating general physical weaknesses associated with the human body. Again, the anti-inflammatory properties of the herb are said to be responsible for this pain reducing effect.
Another herbal usage of Sarsaparilla is in removing heavy metallic contamination from the human body, especially those found in the blood. In this way, Sarsaparilla works as an herbal purifier and detoxifier. It is said that the herb is effective in removing toxins from the body as it promotes excessive sweating and urination.
Many also add that the herb has diuretic, laxative and expectorant properties. May be due to these factors, Sarsaparilla extracts were used in traditional medicine preparations to treat kidney related diseases. Apart from removing toxins from the blood, the herb also has lymph cleansing properties.
Sarsaparilla extracts are popularly used in folk medicine to treat and kill bacteria that spread sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis & gonorrhea, and also that are responsible for spreading urinary tract infection.
Apart from the above, Sarsaparilla root extracts were used by native Mexican and Honduran tribes to treat the following conditions – fever, digestive problems, venereal diseases, gout, turbid urine, headaches, cough etc. Today, some use the herb as a steroid and also as a sports nutrition formula to help in body building and to increase stamina.
Sarsaparilla extracts are usually taken in the form of herbal tea. To make herbal tea using Sarsaparilla, one can add 1-4 grams of the herbal extract in about 8 ounces of boiling water. One cup of the tea prepared should be then taken three times per day. The herb is also available as a liquid extract in the market which may contain traces of alcohol. The appropriate dosage level for liquid extract containing sarsaparilla may be somewhere between 2 to 3 teaspoons taken two times per day.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
If sarsaparilla is taken at the recommended dosage amount, side effects are usually rare. However, the herb may lead to the following effects in some – gastric irritation, liver problems and dehydration.
Also, overdose or taking the herb for a long time may lead to nausea and kidney problems.
Sarsaparilla is an ancient herb which is extensively used by tribal members and also in folk medicine. However, it is unfortunate that there is no major scientific study conducted to test the herbal efficacy of this herb. There are many different species of Sarsaparilla in the world such as – the Indian Sarsaparilla, the Jamaican Sarsaparilla and two different types of Australian Sarsaparilla.
The herb is used in food preparations and in making the popular Sarsaparilla drink which is considered the perfect body coolant in summer. The herb is mainly used for its body purifying action and for those with urinary problems.
In the market, Sarsaparilla is available in the following forms – herbal tea, tablets, tincture and capsules. The herb is cultivated extensively in Mexico, China and in Latin America.
As mentioned above, there are no major scientific study conducted using Sarsaparilla. However, many herbalists claim that Sarsaparilla root extracts may interact with Digoxin. Sarsaparilla extracts usually have a diuretic effect and work like a water pill in the human body. Due to this reason, the herb may interfere with the absorption of Lithium. Excess lithium in the body may lead to serious health conditions. Therefore, Sarsaparilla extracts must not be taken along with Lithium.