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).

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