Sarsaparilla is remembered by many as the perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day. This particular species is a woody perennial climbing vine indigenous to South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived, they found the indigenous tribes using beverages made with sarsaparilla as a general health tonic. Among the claims they made for sarsaparilla were that it improves the libido, increases sexual appetite, is beneficial for treatment of psoriasis and other skin conditions, and fights several viral infections. The Mayan's considered it as a tonic for general weakness. The name itself is from the Spanish: sarza, meaning brambles, and parilla, meaning vine. Modern medicine and science seem to confirm many of the traditional uses of sarsaparilla root. The saponins found in the root, for instance, can be used to synthesize human steroids, though there is no evidence that this transformation happens naturally in the human body. Still, there is a great deal of interest in the actions of plant steroids in the human body. There is some evidence to support the use of sarsaparilla root in treating skin conditions, and in increasing general health, as well as evidence that some constituents of sarsaparilla have antiviral action, and are useful in treating rheumatism and syphilis.
Sarsasaponin, Sarsaparilloside, Arsasapogenin, various quantities of starch and flavonoids, sarsapac acid, dextrose, certain fatty acids.
Root decoction as a tea, powdered in tablets or capsules, made into cold beverages,