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Useful Tropical Plants

Smilax officinalis

Kunth

Smilacaceae

+ Synonyms

Smilax barbillana Cufod.

Smilax bernhardii Apt

Smilax chiriquensis C.V.Morton

Smilax gilgiana Apt

Smilax standleyi Killip & C.V.Morton

Smilax tonduzii Apt

Smilax vanilliodora Apt

Common Name:

Smilax officinalis
Smilax officinalis Smilax officinalis

General Information

Sarsaparilla is a perennial climbing plant that can produce prickly stems up to 50 metres long, with paired tendrils that attach themselves to other plants for support[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Sarsaparilla root is a popular medicinal herb, having been used by the peoples of central and southern America for many hundreds of years, and in Europe since the 15th century[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].The root is obtained from several different Smilax species, including this one. It is mainly gathered from the wild both for local use and for trade[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Known Hazards

No known toxicity or side-effects have been documented for sarsaparilla; however, ingestion of large dosages of saponins may cause gastrointestinal irritation[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Botanical References


Range

Northwest S. America - Ecuador, Colombia; C. America - Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras.

Habitat

Rainforests, where it often climbs high into the trees[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitPerennial Climber
Height25.00 m
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details



The root, when used for medicinal purposes, is long and tuberous-spreading 180 - 250cm long. It is odourless and fairly tasteless[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Edible Uses

The root has been used as an ingredient in root beer and other beverages, where it is valued for its foaming properties, not for its flavouring properties[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Medicinal

Sarsaparilla root has long been used as a traditional medicine in Central and South America, where it is employed in the treatment of sexual impotence; rheumatism and joint pain; headaches; the common cold; skin ailments, including leprosy; and as a general tonic in cases of physical weakness[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
]. The plant has become popular as a herbal remedy in many parts of the world and considerable research has been carried out into the medically active compounds in the root.
The most important active compounds in the root are a range of plant steroids and saponins; other compounds present include flavonoids[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
The saponins have been shown to facilitate the body's absorption of other drugs and phytochemicals, which accounts for its history of use in herbal formulas as an agent for bioavailability and to enhancement the power and effect of other herbs[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Clinical research has validated the traditional use of sarsaparilla for skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, and leprosy. In one clinical study with 92 patients it was reported that use of the root improved psoriasis lesions in 62% of cases and completely cleared lesions in 18% of cases. The root's blood cleansing properties are believed to be largely responsible for this, and in particular the steroid sarsaponin, which has been shown to remove endotoxins from the blood[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Sarsaparilla's effective use in the treatment of leprosy has been documented in a 1959 human trial[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
The effectiveness of sarsaparilla in the treatment of adolescent acne caused by excessive androgens has received some experimental support as well[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Flavonoids in sarsaparilla have been documented to have immune modulation and liver protective activities[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Clinical observations in China demonstrated that sarsaparilla was effective (according to blood tests) in about 90% of acute and 50% of chronic cases of syphilis[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Other studies have show the antibiotic, antifungal and antimycobacterial properties of the root[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
Its anti-inflammatory activity has been demonstrated in several in vitro and in vivo studies[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
The root has been reported to have stimulatory activity on the kidneys in humans and, in chronic nephritis, it was shown to increase the urinary excretion of uric acid[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Saponins and plant steroids found in many species of plants (including sarsaparilla) can be synthesized into human steroids such as oestrogen and testosterone. This synthesis has never been documented to occur in the human body - only in the laboratory[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
The steroids sarsasapogenin and smilagenin have been claimed to have the ability to treat senile dementia, cognitive dysfunction, and Alzheimer's disease. Any studies to substantiate these claims, however, have not yet been published in peer-reviewed papers[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
]

In modern herbalism, the root is considered anodyne, antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, antiinflammatory, blood cleanser, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, digestive, febrifuge, hepatic and tonic[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Through its reputation as a blood cleanser, the root has had a long history of use for syphilis and other sexually-transmitted diseases throughout the world. It is also used in the treatment of conditions such as gout, syphilis, gonorrhoea, rheumatism, wounds, arthritis, fever, cough, scrofula, hypertension, digestive disorders, psoriasis, skin diseases, and cancer[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].
The root is also widely available in health food stores, with a variety of tablets, capsules, and tincture products sold today. It can be found, both on its own or as an ingredient in various herbal remedies, where it is recommended for skin disorders, libido enhancement, hormone balancing, and sports nutrition formulas. It's also commonly used in herbal preparations as a synergist or bioavailability aid - as it is thought that the saponins in sarsaparilla root increase the absorption of other chemicals in the gut[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The stems of many Smilax species are covered with prickles and, sometimes, these vines are cultivated to form impenetrable thickets (which are called catbriers or greenbriers)[
318
Title
Raintree Nutrition - Tropical Plant Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.rain-tree.com/plants.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Detailed information on the medicinal uses of more than two hundred rainforest plants, mainly from S. America, with basic descriptions of the plants, their other uses etc.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed -
Cite as: Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. tropical.theferns.info. 2019-12-05. <tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Smilax+officinalis>

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