This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Sarsaparilla Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Zarza quibuddam: the root of a species of bindweed, smilax aspera peruviana Jive sarsaparilla C. B. Smilax (sarsaparilla) caule aculeato an-gulato, foliis inermibus retufo-mucronatis Linn. growing in the Spanifh West Indies, and scarcely bearing the winters of our climate without shelter. The root consists of a number of firings, of great length, about the thick-ness of a goose-quill or thicker, flexible, free from knots,. composed of fibres running their whole length, so that they may be stript in pieces from one end to the other. They are covered with a thin, brownish, or yellowish ash-coloured skin, under which lies a thicker, white, friable substance, and in the middle runs a woody pith.
This root has a farinaceous somewhat bitter-ish taste, and no smell. To water it communicates a reddish brown, to rectified spirit a yellowish red tincture, but gives no considerable taste to either menstruum. An extract, obtained by infpiffating the spirituous tincture, has a weak, somewhat nauseous, balsamic bit-terishness, which is followed by a slight but durable pungency: the watery extract is much weaker, and in larger quantity.
Sarfaparilla was first brought into Europe by the Spaniards, about the year 1563, with the character of a specific for the cure of the lues venerea, which made its appearance a little before that time. Whatever good effects it might have produced in the warmer climates, it was found to be inefficient in this, infomuch that many have denied it to have any virtue at all, and supposed that it could do no more than, by its farinaceous softness, to obtund the force of the gastric fluid, and thus weaken the appetite and digestion. It appears however, from experience, that though greatly unequal to the character which it bore at first, yet, in many cases, strong decoctions of it, drank plentifully and duly continued, are of very considerable ser-vice, for promoting perspiration, and what is called sweetening or purifying the blood and humours. In the medical observations pub-lished by a society of physicians in London, there are several instances of its efficacy in venereal maladies, as an assistant to mercury, or when mercury had preceded it use: it oftentimes answered, and that speedily, after mercurial unctions, and long continued courses of strong decoctions of guaiacum, had failed. Three ounces of the root are boiled in three quarts of river water, till the liquor when strained amounts to about one quart, which is taken at three or four doses, either warm or cold, every twenty-four hours. Dr. Harris says, that infants who have received the infection from the- nurse, though' full of pustules and ulcers, and sometimes troubled with nocturnal pains, are cured by sarsaparilla without mercurials: he directs the powder of the root to be mixed with their food.
*The London college have now admitted as officinals a simple decoction of sarsaparilla, made by boiling (after maceration) six ounces of the root in eight pints of water to four; and a compound one, in which, to six ounces of sarsaparilla are added one ounce each of sassafras, guaiacum wood, and liquorice, and three drams of the bark of mezereon root, to be boiled in ten pints of water to five.
Decoct. far-fapar. Ph.