Sarsaparilla (Smilax species) is a vine with prickly stems, shiny leaves, and numerous reddish-brown roots. Among several recognized sarsaparilla species, Jamaican Smilax regelii (also known as Smilax officinalis) is the most commonly cultivated for commercial and medicinal use.
Sarsaparilla is used as a flavoring for beverages and as a homeopathic medicine. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases. Compounds extracted from the rhizomes, or horizontal underground stems, and fruit are being explored as potential treatments for cancer, arthritis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and various inflammatory conditions. A combination of Nigella sativa seeds, Hemidesmus indicus root, and Smilax glabra rhizome is used by traditional medical practitioners in Sri Lanka to treat cancer.
3'-O-methylastilbin, Aralia nudicaulis, astilbin, disporoside A, helonioside B, nannaari, phenylpropanoid glycosides, rhizoma Smilacis glabrae, sapogenins, smilaside E, smilasides, Smilax aristolochiaefoli, Smilax aspera, Smilax china, Smilax china tubers, Smilax febrifuga, Smilax glabra, Smilax medica, Smilax officinalis, Smilax regelii, steroidal saponins, sugandhi-pala, tu fu ling, wild sarsaparilla rhizome extract.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.