Smilax kerberi F.W.Apt
Smilax medica Schltdl. & Cham.
Common Name: Mexican Sarsaparilla
Illustration of the leaves and fruits
Photograph by: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
Mexican sarsaparilla is a perennial climbing plant with prickly stems.
This is one of the main species that supply commercial sarsaparilla - the rhizomes being used medicinally and as a flavouring in foods. The rhizomes are also used locally and are sold in local markets for medicinal use[
Central America - Belize, Guatemala, Mexico.
Root extracts are used to flavour soft drinks ice cream, confectionery and bakery products[
]. A bitter, liquorice-like root[
Mexican sarsaparilla (the roots and rhizome) is a sweet, acrid, alterative herb that reduces inflammation, controls itching, improves digestion and elimination and is antiseptic[
This is one of three species (the others are Smilax febrifuga and Smilax regelii) that gained a high reputation in the 17th century as cure-alls[
]. They were widely imported into Europe until early in the 20th century, by which time their rather overrated reputation had waned somewhat. However, the plants do have a number of important medicinal benefits - in particular, their roots contain steroidal saponins which are an effective treatment for many cases of psoriasis; they also have hormonal effects, and may improve fertility in women with ovarian dysfunction[
The rhizomes are alterative, digestive, febrifuge[
]. A decoction is used in the treatment of fevers, digestive disorders, kidney troubles and gonorrhoea[
]. It is also used against scrophulus, skin diseases and rheumatism[
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