A member of the lily family and native to tropical and temperate parts of the world and comprises about 350 species worldwide. It is native to South America, Jamaica, the Caribbean, Mexico , Honduras, and the West Indies. The name sarsaparilla is not surprisingly a derivation of the Spanish words zarza a bramble or bush, parra or vine, illia a small vine. It is a component of traditional Root Beer used to produce the characteristic foam (saponins form soapy bubbles in solution), rather than as a flavoring agent. Root Beer was flavored with Sassafras.
Sarsaparilla root is globally recognized for medicinal properties. It has been used to treat gout, gonorrhea, open wounds, arthritis, cough, fever, hypertension, pain, a lack of sexual desire, indigestion, and even certain forms of cancer. More serious conditions have also been treated with sarsaparilla root. In the Amazon, some tribes used it as a treatment for leprosy by ingesting it as well as using it externally.
Introduced to Europe in the 1400s as a medicine discovered in South America. Europeans used the root to encourage sweating and urination and to purify blood. During the 1800s, sarsaparilla was used in both Europe and the United States for its blood purifying properties and recommended as a treatment for the sexually transmitted condition syphilis.
Studies suggest that the benefits come from antioxidant properties and plant sterols beneficial to human health. Sarsaparilla also contains flavonoids, a pigmentation chemical that gives many plants their leaf, stem, flower and even root color. In the past decade, flavonoids have garnered more widespread recognition for their use in treating autoimmune conditions and inflammation. The sarsapogenins have been shown to bind to endotoxins in the alimentary canal and encourages lower inflammatory response in the body as a whole.
One of the active agents in sarsaparilla root are saponins, a chemical compound. Saponins, usually bitter to the taste, are named after soap because of the foam-like reaction they have when placed in water. In the plants where they originate, saponin chemical compounds help deter fungi and insects from eating their leaves. This could be one of the possible reasons that sarsaparilla has anti-fungal properties.
The best way to prepare dried sarsaparilla root is to boil it into an infusion and take a cup of it several times a day. It is readily available in tea form both bulk and in tea bags. Tea is the preferred way to consume this healing herb but capsules and tinctures can also serve well in pace of the tea. With capsules follow the dosages recommended on the bottle. Usually, it takes less than half a teaspoon of ground root powder to have the desired effect. In the case of tincture, half a teaspoon / 40 drops twice daily is a recommended dose. It’s best to work up to maximum dosages starting out with lower amounts thereby allowing the body to adjust to the herb. This is true of all botanicals, especially if your condition is a chronic one.
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