Latin Name: Smilax regelii syn. Smilax ornate, Smilax medica, Smilax officinalis, Smilax sarsaparilla.
Plant Family: Liliaceae
Other Names: Indian Sarsaparilla, Jamaican Sarsaparilla, Brown Sarsaparilla, Zarzaparrilla, Anantamool, Bamboo Briar, Red-Bearded Sarsaparilla, Khao Yen, Saparna, Jupicanga, Maahali, Nannari Root & Coclmeca.
Description: Sarsaparilla is a woody, perennial, tuberous, climbing vine, native to the tropical rainforests of South America, it can also be found growing in the Caribbean, Asia, Australia and is now cultivated in parts of India. It can reach a height of 2-6 metres and climbs by means of tendrils that grow either side of the short leaf stalks. The leaves are 4-30cm in length, alternate, heart shaped and glossy green with 5-7 mid-ribs running along the leaf length. The flowers are greenish-white in colour and form spherical clusters.
Brief History: The name sarsaparilla comes from the Spanish word ‘sarza’ meaning ‘a bramble’, and ‘parilla’, a vine. The Spanish discovered sarsaparilla during their expeditions of the ‘new world’, it was brought back to Europe circa 1563 where it quickly became used as a treatment for syphilis. It was used for treating skin complaints by the indigenous tribes of South America and as a means of expelling parasites from the body. Culpeper says ‘It helps all manner of aches in the sinews or joints, all running sores in the legs, phlegmatic swellings, tetters, or ringworms and all manner of spots and foulness of the skin.’
SUGGESTED USEThe root is used to make the sweet drink sarsaparilla; it is also one of the traditional ingredients in the American drink root beer. A red dye can be obtained from the aerial parts of the plant used to dye cloth.
Shelf life of two years provided that goods are stored in an airtight container in ambient conditions.
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