The tuberous rootstock produces a woody
angular stem that trails along the ground, reaching 4 to 12 inches in length.
The stems have rigid thorns and bear ovate-oblong, alternate, glossy, dark
green leaves. The flowers are green-white and grow in petiolate umbels
containing 10 to 20 blossoms. It is found throughout the tropical regions of
the Americas. The medicinal part is the rootstock - fresh or dried, collected
in the autumn.
Other common names:
* For definition of some of the above terms
see the dictionary section of this book.
|Vitamin B Complex
Carminative - an agent which assists in expelling
gas from the intestines.
Diaphoretic - an agent which increases
Diuretic - Diuretics form a class of drugs which
increase the volume of urine produced by the kidneys. It can be used
effectively to treat mild cases of edema when kidney function is good and when
the underlying abnormality of cardiac function, capillary pressure, or salt
retention is being corrected simultaneously. Diuretics are not an appropriate
treatment for edema caused by inflammation of the kidneys, and are useless in
cardiac edema associated with advanced kidney insufficiency. There are a
variety of diuretics with different modes of action. Among the diuretics are
spironolactones, triamterene, and theobromine.
Tonic - an agent which strengthens or tones.
Sarsaparilla is a valuable herb used in glandular balance
formulae. It increases the metabolic rate. Sarsaparilla contains the male
hormone testosterone, which aids hair growth, and progesterone, the hormone
produced by the ovaries. It increases blood circulation to rheumatic joints and
It is primarily effective in the delicate nerve fibers and
tissues of the brain, spinal cord, lungs, and throat. For fevers and pulmonary
distress, it is useful when taken with other herbs. For multiple sclerosis it
offers some therapeutic relief, although not a cure. Plant alkaloids in this
herb are behaviorally similar to spikenard. Their molecular structure allows
them to penetrate and soften dense masses of hardened material, as is the case
with multiple sclerosis. The alkaloid molecules also attach themselves to
germicidal microbes and weaken them.
Used with other ingredients, the saponins in this herb
help the body absorb other drugs, and have anti-inflammatory effects on certain
body tissues. Sarsaparilla is also useful in treating mercury poisoning.
Dried sarsaparilla root contains sarsasaponin (from which
the steroid sarsaspogenin is obtained), smilacin (parillin), paroaparic acid,
resin, and volatile oil. Sarsaspogenin is also found in large quantities in the
yucca species. The drug is nearly odorless, but has a bittersweet taste.
Saponins make sarsaparilla liquid extract froth readily; it is these strong,
soapy compounds which give sarsaparilla the clinical reputation for very
effective treatment of psoriasis, rheumatism, syphilis, and other skin and
For syphilis and virulent gonorrhea, sarsaparilla works
better when combined with other herbs such as sassafras and burdock root. Used
clinically for the treatment of syphilis it was rated 90% effective by Chinese
physicians, though no controlled studies have been carried out in Western
laboratories or clinics.
Sarsaparilla has been categorized as nothing more than a
mild gastric irritant due to its high saponin content.
DRUG PRECAUTIONS AND
Known Interactions - None.
Possible Interactions - The tannin in sarsaparilla
may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. The tannin in tea made
from the herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.