you're reading...

Smilax officinalis

Smilax officinalis                                Common name: Sarsaparilla

Family: Liliaceae

Parts used: Root

Constituents:  Steroidal & glycoside saponins (smilagenin, sarsasapogenin, sarsaparilloside, sarsaponin), flavonoids (quercitin), phytosterols, starch, resin, testosterone & cortin hormones (controversial), B-sitosterol, stigmasterol glycosides, oxalic acid, fatty acids

Medicinal actions:  General tonic, pituitary stimulant, metabolic stimulant, immuno-stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, Alterative, anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic, anti-rheumatic, diaphoretic, alterative, aphrodisiac, testosteronic, progesteronic, diuretic, vulnerary 


Medicinal use: It has been used for chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and other scaling skin diseases.  It has also been used to relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Will balance the glandular system and hormones and can be used as a general tonic during menopause and improve debility and low libido.


  • Though there is no testosterone present in the plant, may exhibit testosterone-like and estrogen-like effects (eg. increase muscle mass, aphrodisiac effects). Steroidal saponins have not been shown to promote the production of sex hormones.
  • Cortin regulates the metabolism and promotes homeostatic function.

Pharmacy: Dried root: 1-4g, TID. Decoction: 1-2 tsp/cup water, simmer 20 min, TID. Tincture: (1:2, 45%), 3-6 ml QD.

Contraindications: None reported. Avoid high doses due to saponins causing GIT complaints

Toxicity: Long-term use may cause ulceration of the gastrointestinal mucosa.

Interactions: May increase the absorption or increase the elimination rate of some medications (theoretical based on saponins, no reports exist).


Comments are closed.

NPLEX II Herbal Review Course

Are you writing NPLEX II this summer?

Join me for an (as fun as possible!) day of herbal learning, meant to save you study time and build your confidence in answering exam-like questions about botanical medicine for your upcoming NPLEX II exam.

Wednesday July 7th 10am – 2pm PST


A place for all things herbal medicine

Created and maintained with love by Dr. Marisa Marciano, ND



This site is created and maintained as a free resource for herb lovers around the world. Donations are accepted with gratitude :)


Get my new book here!

The Botanical Medicine Manual is the best multidisciplinary, integrated guide available for students, clinicians & instructors. This book gives top quality content that you will refer to often in class, for board exams & in practice. Topics include, study tips, Botanical Actions, Constituents, Pharmacy, Monographs, Nutrition, Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Fiber and much more evidence informed medicine. Cost is $39.95