Gray Sarsaparilla

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  • Botanical: Smilax aristolochiifolia
  • Family: Smilacaceae
  • Hits: 958
Gray Sarsaparilla


Smilax aristolochiifolia



Known as

Smilax medica, Mexican Sarsaparilla, Sarsaparilla, Stechwinden

Old Use

medicine, culinary

Parts Used





anemia, anorexia, psoriasis, rheumatism

Heart & Circulation


Infection & Inflammation


Muscle & Joints


Skin & Hair





Sarsaparilla is a perennial woody climber with tendrils, thin branches and extended ovate leaves that grows about 4 to 5 meters vertically. Its paper-like leaves are pinnate veined, leathery and alternatively arranged. The leaves' width ranges from 10 to 30 cm and the petioles' length is about 5 cm. It is known for its small red berries with 2 or 3 seeds and small green flowers. The flowers are radially symmetrical, dioecious and have umbel inflorescence of 12 flowers. The berries are produced in the fall or in the late summer and stays intact through the winter for animals and birds to eat. Thus the pollination occurs as the unharmed seeds are found in the feces. The surface of the stem is smooth; it also is bent and have thorns at the joints. The hairy roots of sarsaparilla are fibrous and may have few rootlets growing out. They have stiff surface and are deep-rooted, which grows from 2 to 2.5 meters. The color of the roots ranges from brownish gray to black. Sarsaparilla is a persistent plant; even when most roots are cut off from the stem, roots will grow few years later but will be slender and less starchy.

Properties & Uses

Smilax aristolochiifolia root has extensive medicinal uses. As the traditional medicine, it is used to treat leprosy, tumors, cancer, psoriasis and rheumatism. It is also used as tonic for anemia and skin diseases. It is reported to be have anti-inflammatory, testosterogenic, aphrodisiac and progesterogenic effects. Therefore, sarsaparilla roots are often promoted as male rejuvenator. Not only that but it was used to build lean body mass by some gym enthusiasts. Also it is believed to improve digestion and arouse appetite.Natives in New Guinea use the stem of sarsaparilla as treatment for toothache.

Other use

Its roots are extracted to be used in flavoring beverages, dairy desserts, baked goods and candies.Sarsaparilla was once a main ingredient for flavoring root beer. However, the taste of the root extract itself is sweet and bitter.



No major contraindications, warnings, or toxicity data have been documented with sarsaparilla use. No known problems have been seen regarding its use in pregnancy or lactation either; however, excessive ingestion should be avoided. In unusually high doses, the saponins present in the plant could possibly be harmful, resulting in GI irritation. The fact that sarsaparilla binds bacterial endotoxins in the gut, making them unabsorbable, greatly reduces stress on the liver and other organs. Sarsaparilla has inhibited induced hepatocellular damage in rats, without any significant adverse reactions reported.


Smilax aristolochiifolia is native to Mexico and Central America. Sarsaparilla is native to the Mesoamerica region, especially in Belize, El Salvador and Guatemala. In North America, sarsaparilla originates in Southern Mexico, being found primariy in the states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatán, Nuevo León, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Quintana Roo. In El Salvador, sarsaparilla is located in Hacienda San Jose, Santa Ana.


Many Smilax species contain a number of steroidal saponins. S. sarsaparilla contains approximately 2% steroidal saponins, including sarsaponin, smilasaponin (smilacin), sarsaparilloside and its aglycones sarsasaponin (parillin), sarsasapogenin (parigenin), and smilagenin. Other saponins include diosgenin, tigogenin, and asperagenin. Phytosterols listed are sitosterol, stigmasterol, and pollinastanol. One report lists three new steroidal saponins from S. officinalis . Various saponins from other Smilex species exist as well, from S. menispermoidea , S. sieboldii , S. lebrunii , S. riparia , and S. china.

Other constituents present in sarsaparilla include starch (50%), resin, cetyl alcohol, volatile oil, caffeoylshikimic acid, shikimic acid, ferulic acid, sarsapic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin. Minerals reported in the genus include aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium, zinc, and others. A related species, S. glabra , contains flavonol glycosides such as isoastilbin, isoengetitin, and astilbin.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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