Sarsaparilla. The Root of Smilax Officinalis, and other species of Smilax. Nat. Ord. Smilaceae. Linn. Syst. Dicia Hexandria. It is imported chiefly from South America, Mexico, and the West Indian Islands; that from Jamaica is generally the most highly esteemed, and is the only variety of Sarsaparilla officinal in the British Pharmacopoeia. A most complete account of the various species is given by Dr. Pereira, in his valuable work on Materia Medica, to which the reader is referred (vol. ii. pt. i. p. 270, et seq.). Dr. Hancock considers that its taste is the best criterion of its goodness; the more acrid and nauseous the taste, the better the quality.
Med. Prop. and Action. Alterative and diaphoretic. It is best administered in simple "or compound decoction. Some practitioners doubt the medicinal properties of Sarsaparilla altogether, but the weight of evidence is decidedly in favour of its therapeutic value; and this view is supported by chemical analysis, Smilacin, a peculiar principle yielded by it, being shown to produce, in a concentrated degree, some of the effects which have been ascribed to the drug in its crude state; thus, in small doses, it causes nausea and diaphoresis, and in larger ones it exercises a sedative action on the heart and arterial system. (See Smilacin.) In common with other alteratives, its effects are not very obvious, and its modus operandi is as yet obscure As an alterative, it is particularly serviceable in cachectic states produced by Syphilis, or by long-continued courses of Mercury. The above remarks apply, not only to the ordinary Sarsaparilla (Smilax Sarsaparilla), but to the other species which are occasionally employed. The Italian Sarsaparilla (S. Aspera) is a remedy of ancient repute, and the S. Syphilitica appears to exercise a powerful influence in constitutional Syphilis; but of all the species, I have derived most unequivocal benefit from the China Sarsaparilla (S. Chinensis). I have employed this, and a closely allied species, possessing all the same external characters, which is indigenous in the Tenasserim Provinces, in a great number of cases, particularly in cutaneous affections Under its use, the appetite improves, the general system becomes invigorated, and the patient gains health; any cutaneous eruption rapidly disappearing. I have always used it uncombined with other remedies, and in the same proportions as S. Sarsaparilla. It may be obtained in any quantity from Penang and Singapore, and is well worthy of being introduced into British practice. The only sensible effect I have observed under its use is an increased secretion of urine. The fresher the root, the more evident is its influence.
Offic. Prep. 1. Decoctum SarsAe (Jamaica Sarsaparilla, not split, oz. iiss.; Boiling Distilled Water Diss. Digest the Sarsaparilla in the Water for an hour; boil for ten minutes in a covered vessel; cool and strain. The product should measure Oj.). Dose, fl. oz. ij. - fl. oz. iv.
* Med. Times and Gaz., Jan. 30, 1864.
Lancet, Feb. 6, 1864.