Smilax medica, Chamisso et Schlechlendal, officinalis, Kunth, ornata, Hooker filius. The dried root (rhizome and crown portion being excluded before grinding or powdering) with not more than 2 p.c. foreign organic matter, yielding not more than 2 p.c. (Mexican 4 p.c.) acid-insoluble ash.

Habitat. Tropical America, Mexico to Brazil; Andes and Chinqui Mountains, 1,200- 2,400 M. (4,000-8,000 degrees) elevation; swampy forests.

Syn. Sarsap., 1. Mexican, Vera Cruz, Tampico Sarsaparilla; 2. Honduras, Bearded, Red Sarsaparilla; 3. C. America, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Lima Sarsaparilla; Sarsae Radix; Fr. Salsepareille du Mexique; Ger. Radix Sarasparillae, Sarsaparille.

Smi'lax. L. Bindweed, Gr...., the yew, fr....(Eng. smile), a scraper -- i.e., stems rough with prickles.

Med'i-ca. L. medicus, medical, curative -- i.e., its healing properties.

Of-fi-ci-na'lis. L. officina, a work shop, = opus, work, + facere, to do, to make -- i.e., used in or belonging to the shop or store.

Or-na'ta. L. ornatus, fr. ornare, to adorn -- adorned, decorated, ornamented -- i.e., beautiful fruit and foliage.

Sar-sa-pa-ril'la. L. fr. Sp. zarzaparilla -- zarza, a bramble, + parra, a vine, or from Parillo, a physician said to have discovered and employed it.


Large perennial, thorny climbers; rhizomes short, thick, knotted, nodes thick, from which spring purplish-white roots 2-2.5 M. (6-8 degrees) long, and a few rootlets; stems many, stiff, woody, angular, ridged, subterete or quadrangular, prickles at nodes; leaves 10-30 Cm. (4-12') long, 7.5-15 Cm. (3-6') wide, petioles 5 Cm. (2') long, quadrangular, cordate, rounded lobes at base, entire, glabrous, leathery, dark glossy green; flowers dioecious, 10-20 together in umbels; fruit small berry, 8 Mm. (1/3') thick, red, 2-3-seeded. ROOT (S. medica): Mexican, in loose bundles, or pressed bales, single bundles, 30-60 Cm. (12-24') long, composed of 20-35 folded roots attached to a crown with one or more stout stems; roots 3.5-6 Mm. (1/7-1/4') thick, usually shrunken forming sharp longitudinal ridges and broad furrows, often containing some blackish earth, grayish-brown, dark brown, finely hairy; nearly devoid of branches or fibrous rootlets; fracture brittle (cortex), tough and fibrous (central cylinder); cortex mealy, whitish, brownish, horny; woody zone yellow, porous; pith whitish, distinct; nearly odorless; taste mucilaginous, sweetish, acrid; (S. officinalis): Honduras, in compact cylindrical bundles, 30-55 Cm. (12-22') long, 8-15 Cm. (3-6') thick, composed of long, folded roots bound together by a number of circular turns; roots 2-5 Mm. (1/12-1/5') thick; dark-, reddish-brown, longitudinally wrinkled or finely furrowed, usually without earth, with occasional fibrous rootlets; fracture short, sometimes tough and fibrous (central cylinder); internally reddish-brown, dark brown, occasionally light gray cortex, a light yellow porous woody zone and a whitish pith; (S. ornata): Central American, Jamaica, in more or less compact, somewhat flattened bundles, 30-45 Cm. (12-18') long, 10-15 Cm. (4-6') broad, composed of folded roots loosely bound together by a few circular turns; roots 2-5 Mm. (1/12-1/5') thick, grayish, reddish-brown, longitudinally wrinkled, occasionally nearly smooth, rarely furrowed, without earth, bearing numerous coarse fibrous rootlets; fracture short or tough and fibrous in central cylinder, internally white or dark brown cortex, and porous wood zone, a yellow or white pith.


grayish-brown -- numerous starch grains, .003-.023 Mm. (1/8300-1/1075') broad, spherical, biconvex calcium oxalate raphides, singly or in groups up to .15 Mm. (1/175') long; cells of hypodermis and endodermis with lemon-yellow, reddish-yellow porous walls (Mexican -- uneven or irregular thickening), cells being .08-.5 Mm. (1/1250-1/50') long; fragments of tracheae with thickenings, fibers with thin lignified or porous walls. Solvents: diluted alcohol; boiling water, injured by continued boiling. Dose, 3ss-2 (2-8 Gm.).


Sarsaparilla was carried to Europe from Peru, S. Domingo, Brazil, by the Spaniards in 1550, and has been in general use ever since. Plants occur in very thick undergrowth that renders careful collection quite troublesome, which is effected by grubbing, pulling, etc., so as to avoid extermination; those fully grown often yield at first cutting 30-60 pounds (13.6-27 Kg.), and every 2 years thereafter smaller quantities of more slender, less starchy roots. Collectors accept as best that having many roots from stem, persistent acrid taste, closely set prickles and thin leaves, and according to physical properties recognize two kinds (a) Non mealy: Mexican, Jamaica, thin, not cracked, red, brown, little or no starch, usually pasty, rarely in granules, somewhat horny with longitudinal and irregular folds; thought best as bark and pith are relatively small, roots have more rootlets, greater acridity, and yield most extract, dissolving clearly in cold water; (b) Mealy: Honduras, Para, more or less swollen, pale yellow, trnsversely cracked, considerable starch, usually in fine granules, seldom pasty. There are four varieties: 1, Mexican, once thought valueless, but now, owing to acridity, most valuable; grows in Mexican Andes, around Orizaba, Vera Cruz, etc., being considered a variety of S. officinalis, with slender branches, and often without prickles; 2, Central American, Jamaica, grown chiefly in Costa Rica, some in the Amazon Valley, and called "Jamaica" as it is exported through that province; resembles Honduras, but redder, less wrinkled and amylaceous, and yields more extract; 3. Honduras, most popular, grown in Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, C. America; enters market in bales, skins, 100 pounds (45.3 Kg.); 4, Para (Brazilian, Rio Negro, Lisbon -- S. Papyra'cea), in compact cylindrical bundles, 30-90 Cm. (12-36') long, 15-20 Cm. (6-8') thick, closely and neatly bound by a stem of a vine, and ends evenly trimmed; rootlets few, dark, amylaceous, acrid, resembling Honduras, and growing in N. Brazil, Guiana (Para, Maranham): considered a variety of S. officinalis, with older stems and lower branches remaining square, angles with flattened prickles and much more membranous leaves; rather rare, and the only one of the four varieties not recognized in U.S.P.

The Guayaquil (S. officinalis), growing in W. Andes alleys, occasionally enters market, usually loose and carelessly packed in bales, rhizome and stem portions often included; roots dark with much fiber, bark furrowed, thick, somewhat amylaceous, internally pale yellow. Roots are taken also from S. syphilit'ica (Colombia) S. glau'ca (Mexico) S. util'is (Jamaica), etc.


Saponin-like substance (separable into 3 glucosides -- Sarsasaponin. Parillin, Smilasaponin) 3 p.c., volatile oil, resin, starch 10-15 p.c., pectin, coloring matter, calcium oxalate and other salts, ash 7-10 p.c.

Sarsasaponin, CHO, is the most important component, being 3-4 times more active than the other two; it is crystallizable, soluble in water, alcohol, more so with heat.

Parillin (Smilacin), CHO, crystallizable, soluble in water, alcohol, frothing with agitation, aqueous solution precipitated by lead acetates, tannin; boiled with diluted acids splits into sugar and parigenin.

Smilasaponin, CHO, non-crystallizable, soluble in water, alcohol.


1. Fluidextractum Sarasparillae.  Fluidextract of Sarsaparilla.  (Syn., Fldext. Sarsap., Fluid Extract of Sarsaparilla; Extractum Sarsae Liquidum; Fr. Extrait fluide de Salsepareille; Ger. Sarsaparillafluidextrakt.)


Moisten, macerate for 6 hours in tightly-covered containers 100 Gm. with enough diluted alcohol, pack, percolate with same menstruum until exhausted, reserve first 85 cc., reclaim alcohol, evaporate to soft extract, which dissolve in the reserve, mix thoroughly, add menstruum q.s. 100 cc.  Dose, 3ss-1 (2-4 cc.).

Preps.: 1. Syrupus Sarsaparillae Compositus.  Compound Syrup of Sarsaparilla.  (Syn., Syr. Sarsap. Co., Syrupus Sudorificus; Fr. Sirop de Salsepareille compose, Sirop sudorifique; Ger. Zusammengesetzter Sarsaparillsirup.)


Fluidextract of sarsaparilla 20 cc., fluidextract of glycyrrhiza 1.5, oil of     sassafras, .02, oil of anise .02, methyl salicylate .02, alcohol 1.94, add this solution to syrup 76.5 cc.  Dose, 3j-4 (4-15 cc.).  Prep.: 1. Syrupus Bromidorum, N.F., 45 p.c.

2. Fluidextractum Sarsaparillae Compositum, N.F., 75 p.c. + glycyrrhiza 12, sassafras 10, mezereum 3.  Dose, 3ss-1 (2-4 cc.).

Unoff. Preps.: Compound Decoction 10 p.c. (+ sassafras 2, guiaiacum wood 2, glycyrrhiza 2, mezereum 1), 3j-4 (30-120 cc.).  Decoction.  Extract, gr. 5-10 (.3-.6 Gm.).  Extract Comp.; Syrup.


Alerative, diuretic, diaphoretic, tonic.  Mostly believed to be of little service unless associated with other drugs, such as potassium iodide, guaiac, sassafras, mezereum, etc.


As a blood purifier in scrofula, cutaneous diseases, abscesses, ulcers, tertiary syphilis with mercuric chloride or potassium iodide or both; gout, rheumatism.

Incompatibles: Alkalies, iodine, and corrosive sublimate is claimed to be converted into calomel by the compound syrup.  Smilax chi'na, S. Pseu'do-china, S. tamnoi'des, S. as'pera and Ca'rex arena'ria, German Sarsaparilla, are used like official.