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Sarsaparilla (Smilax spp.

Also listed as: Smilax spp.


Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition

Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms

3'-O-methylastilbin, Aralia nudicaulis, astilbin, disporoside A, helonioside B,


nannaari, phenylpropanoid glycosides, rhizoma Smilacis glabrae, sapogenins,
smilaside E, smilasides, Smilax aristolochiaefoli, Smilax aspera, Smilax china,
Smilax china tubers, Smilax febrifuga, Smilax glabra, Smilax medica, Smilax
officinalis, Smilax regelii, steroidal saponins, sugandhi-pala, tu fu ling, wild
sarsaparilla rhizome extract.

Background

Sarsaparilla (Smilax species) is a vine with prickly stems, shiny leaves, and
numerous reddish-brown roots. Among several recognized sarsaparilla species,
Jamaican Smilax regelii (also known as Smilax officinalis) is the most commonly
cultivated for commercial and medicinal use.

Sarsaparilla is used as a flavoring for beverages and as a homeopathic medicine. It is


also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases. Compounds
extracted from the rhizomes, or horizontal underground stems, and fruit are being
explored as potential treatments for cancer, arthritis, human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV), and various inflammatory conditions. A combination of Nigella sativa seeds,
Hemidesmus indicus root, and Smilax glabra rhizome is used by traditional medical
practitioners in Sri Lanka to treat cancer.

Evidence Table
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness
GRADE
have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious,
*
and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often
have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always
been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a
qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Anti-aging, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant,


arthritis, bodybuilding, cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, hepatitis B, HIV,
immune system function, inflammatory skin conditions, leukemia, liver protection,
weight loss, wound healing.

Dosing
Adults (18 years and older)

There is no proven safe or effective dose for sarsaparilla in adults.

Children (under 18 years old)

There is no proven safe or effective dose for sarsaparilla in children.

Safety
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements.

There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You
should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other
drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before
starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side
effects.
Allergies

Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to sarsaparilla, its constituents, or


members of the Smilax genus. Occupational asthma caused by sarsaparilla root dust
has been reported.

Side Effects and Warnings

Sarsaparilla is likely safe when used by nonsensitive individuals in amounts


commonly found in food.

Occupational asthma caused by sarsaparilla root dust has been reported.

Although this effect has not been well studied in humans, sarsaparilla extracts may
have effects that are toxic to cells.

Use cautiously in patients with altered immune function, as extracts of sarsaparilla


rhizome may affect functions of immune cells such as lymphocyte and macrophages,
as well as bone marrow cells.

Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific


evidence.

Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to sarsaparilla, its constituents, or


members of the Smilax genus.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific


evidence.

Interactions
Interactions with Drugs

Sarsaparilla may interact with anticancer drugs, antifungals, antivirals, drugs that

may damage the liver, or drugs that may affect the immune system.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Sarsaparilla may interact with anticancer herbs and supplements, antifungals,


antivirals, herbs and supplements that may damage the liver, or herbs and
supplements that may affect the immune system.

Attribution

This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and


peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration
(www.naturalstandard.com).