Sarsaparilla for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

Particularly known in the sixteenth century as a remedy for syphilis, sarsaparilla is today known in phytotherapy mainly as a diaphoretic. Let’s find out better.

Properties of sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla is a plant with a diuretic, purifying, expectorant and emetic action. Very useful against flu, arthritis, asthma, gout, rheumatism and eczema, its roots contain useful active ingredients such as smilacin, salsasaponina, carbohydrates, choline, saponin, tannins, potassium and calcium.

Sarsaparilla is also known as a phyto-purifier as it tolerates metals very well and accumulates lead, zinc and cadmium poorly in its leaves. Therefore it is useful for reducing the risk of metal transfer in the food chain.  

How to use

The root of the sarsaparilla is used to prepare decoctions and herbal teas.

To obtain a good skin cleansing decoction, boil 20 grams of sarsaparilla root in about 2 liters of water. Filter and let it rest. Consume 1 or 2 cups a day.

Instead, against arthritis and rheumatism, a decoction is prepared by boiling 30 grams of sarsaparilla root and 5 grams of soapwort in 1 liter of water. After about twenty minutes, turn off and let it rest. Consume 2 cups a day for two weeks.

For rheumatic pains, colds and flu, then, boil a glass of water and leave to macerate 15 grams of sarsaparilla roots. Filter, sweeten with honey and drink immediately. Consume before going to bed because it has a great sweating power, so by staying covered in bed, you avoid getting any colds.

Sarsaparilla can also be used in cooking. In this case the young tops of the branches are consumed like wild asparagus, blanching them first. 

Contraindications of salsaparilla

Sarsaparilla can cause irritation of the gastric mucosa. Therefore, before starting to use it, it is good to consult your doctor. Furthermore, sarsaparilla should be avoided when taking diuretic and digitalis drugs.

Description of the plant

Sarsaparilla ( Smilax aspera ) is a shrubby plant with a lianose habit of the Smilacaceae family. The stem is flexible and covered with thorns, the heart-shaped leaves have toothed and spinos margins.

The flowers, small and yellow-green, are very fragrant and collected in umbelliferous inflorescences; the fruits are red berries, gathered in clusters, which ripen in autumn. The seeds are very small, round in shape.

Habitat of sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla is a plant native to tropical America. It is frequent in shady areas, at the edges of fields and along hedges, up to an altitude of 300 meters.


The sarsaparilla in our country is also known with the name of “stracciabrache” and ” strazzacausi“, these terms indicate the possible consequences due to the presence of sharp thorns in the plant.

When rubbed vigorously, sarsaparilla produces a soapy lather that resembles that of horses when they sweat profusely. From this foam derives the name: Salsa (foam in fact) and pariglia (pair of horses used to tow carts, etc.).

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