Herbal Section | Sarsaparilla

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For centuries, indigenous people around the world used the root of the sarsaparilla plant for treating joint problems like arthritis, and for healing skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis. The root was also thought to cure leprosy due to its “blood-purifying” properties. Sarsaparilla was later introduced into European medicine and eventually registered as an herb in the Unites States Pharmacopoeia to treat syphilis. 

The benefits

Sarsaparilla contains a wealth of plant chemicals thought to have a beneficial effect on the human body. Chemicals known as saponins might help reduce joint pain and skin itching, and also kill bacteria. Other chemicals may be helpful in reducing inflammation and protecting the liver from damage. It is important to note that human studies for these claims are either very old or lacking. 

  1. Psoriasis– Benefits of sarsaparilla root for treating psoriasis were documented decades ago. Source found that sarsaparilla dramatically improved skin lesions in people with psoriasis.  Researchers hypothesiSed that one of sarsaparilla’s main steroids, called sarsaponin, is able to bind to endotoxins responsible for the lesions in psoriasis patients and remove them from the body.
  2. Arthritis– Sarsaparilla is a potent anti-inflammatory. This factor makes it also a useful treatment for inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and other causes of joint pain and the swelling caused by gout.
  3. Syphilis– Sarsaparilla has shown activity against harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that have invaded the body. Though it may not work as well as modern day antibiotics and antifungals, it has been used for centuries to treat major illnesses like leprosy and syphilis. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium. Leprosy is another devastating infection caused by bacteria. The antimicrobial activity of sarsaparilla has been documented in recent studies. 
  4. Cancer– Recent study showed that sarsaparilla had anticancer properties in cell lines of multiple types of cancers and in mice. Preclinical studies in breast cancer tumors and liver cancer have also shown the antitumor properties of sarsaparilla. More research is needed to find out if sarsaparilla can be used in cancer prevention and treatment.
  5. Protecting the liver– Sarsaparilla has also shown protective effects on the liver. Research conducted in rats with liver damage found that compounds rich in flavonoids from sarsaparilla was able to reverse damage to the liver and help it function at its best.
  6. Improving the bioavailability of other supplements– Sarsaparilla is used in herbal mixes to act as a “synergist.” In other words, it’s thought that the saponins found in sarsaparilla increase the bioavailability and absorption of other herbs.

Side Effects-There are no known side effects of using sarsaparilla. However, taking a large amount of saponins may cause stomach irritation. Sarsaparilla may interact with certain medications. It can increase the ability of your body to absorb other drugs. Call your doctor right away if you experience any side effects while taking sarsaparilla. (Healthline.com)

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