Sarsaparilla root (Sarsaparillae radix)

Published September 1, 1990.
List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy)

Sarsaparillewurzel

Name of Drug

Sarsaparillae radix, sarsaparilla root.

Composition of Drug

Sarsaparilla root consists of the dried root of Smilax species, such as Smilax aristolochiaefolii Miller, S. regelii Kill. et C.V. Morton and S. febrifuga Knuth [Fam. Smilacaceae], as well as preparations thereof.

Uses

Preparations of sarsaparilla root are used for skin diseases, psoriasis and its sequelae, rheumatic complaints, kidney diseases, and as a diuretic and diaphoretic.

The claimed efficacy has not been documented.

Risks

Taking sarsaparilla preparations leads to gastric irritation and temporary kidney impairment [diuresis]. The absorption of simultaneously administered substances, for example digitalis glycosides or bismuth, is increased. The elimination of other substances (e.g., hypnotics) is accelerated. This can cause an uncontrolled condition of increased or decreased action of herbs taken simultaneously.

Evaluation

Since the efficacy for psoriasis has not been documented, a therapeutic application cannot be justified because of the risks.

[Ed. note: Contrary to the undocumented claims of gastric irritation due to saponin content of sarsaparilla root, we can find nothing in the scientific literature that substantiates this assertion. It is well known that many commonly consumed vegetables contain saponins and sarsaparilla root is a common ingredient in soft drinks, e.g., root beer and many herbal teas. Therefore, we disagree with the Commission that potential gastric irritation is a problem associated with the ingestion of this herb in normal quantities. See Introduction].