Sarsaparilla, often misidentified as “sasparilla”, is an incredibly beneficial plant to people all over the world, yet is mainly known as an ingredient in root beer. Native to the tropical zones of the Caribbean, South America, Mexico and West Indies, the original name was zarzaparilla, Spanish for small, bramble vine. Used as a curative by medicine men and shamans for hundreds of years, it was eventually noticed by the Europeans who quickly carried it back home.
It was introduced to European medicine in 1536 where it was first used to treat skin problems, sexual issues, joint aches and general pains, and gradually became used as a tonic, blood purifier and diuretic. The root continued to grow in popularity and in the number of illnesses it was used to treat, yet was still utilized in its age-old treatments, and was registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a syphilis treatment from 1820 through 1910.
Why It Works
The sarsaparilla root contains plant steroids and saponins, which have been credited with many of its pharmacological properties. Evidence has shown that saponins facilitate the bodyÂ’s absorption of phytochemicals and is used as an ingredient in many medicines to enhance their power and effect. Flavonoids found in the root have proven to have immune regulating properties as well as liver protection capabilities. It also contains beta-sisosterol, which is suspected as the source of its anti-inflammatory ability.
One of the main steroids is sarsaponin, which has been found to bind together endotoxins and remove them from the bloodstream. Endotoxins are cell wall fragments from common bacteria found in the stomach, and individuals suffering from psoriasis are known to have high levels of endotoxins in their blood. One study detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1942 involved a case study of 92 patients with psoriasis, where 62% of those patients reported improved psoriasis lesions and 18% reported that the psoriasis had been cleared completely.
That study demonstrated why sarsaparilla has been used for centuries as a blood purifier and is now utilized for its endotoxin-binding properties when used for treating eczema, arthritis and acne. One study of arthritis and inflammation in the 1950s credit the beneficial results of its usage to the immune modulatory properties it possesses. It has shown to increase the urinary excretion of uric acid, stimulate the kidneys, and helps prevent immune-related liver damage. Other uses include libido enhancement, treating sports injury, and hormone balancing.
Sources and Doses
Most of the sarsaparilla consumed today is grown near its native land on farms in Mexico and Latin America but more and more is being grown in China, which has a large market for the root. Due to the wide variety of maladies it treats and its lack of toxicity or side effects it is going through a resurgence in its popularity and becoming more common in health food stores and on line.
It can be ingested as a tea and in powder form within a capsule. A favored dosage in tea form calls for 1,000 mg to 4,000 mg (or one gram to four grams) of chopped dried sarsaparilla to be soaked in about eight ounces of hot but not boiling water, then filtered before drinking. This is favored because it is best to get as close as you can to its original condition, the root. The powdered form found in capsules is still very beneficial. Dosages vary so please follow the directions included in the package.