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Sarsaparilla (Smilax regelii) belongs to the Liliaceae plant family along with lily of the valley, aloe, and false unicorn root. It is native to Latin and South America. The plant was introduced to the European continent sometime in the beginning of the 16th century where it was used to treat syphilis and rheumatism.
Sarsaparilla is primarily known as an alternative or blood cleansing herb. The active parts of the plant are the root and the rhizomes, which can be dried and then made into a sweet, spicy, aromatic herbal tea. As a cleansing tonic, there are many healing benefits of sarsaparilla, a useful herb for treating some of the most common conditions of today.
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What are the active compounds in this herb? The healing actions of sarsaparilla are due to the presence of sapogenins, beta-sitosterol, glycosides, and essential oil. It is known to have alternative, anti-rheumatic, diuretic, and diaphoretic properties, and is also considered as a general tonic. Sarsaparilla root also is rich in nutrients, including iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.
As an alternative this herb acts to correct imbalances in the body and to purify the blood of pollutants. In this way it can be considered as a beneficial herb for improving overall well-being. It is also specifically helpful for treating chronic skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It will help to regulate hormones and is believed to contain compounds which aid testosterone in the body.
The cleansing action is also beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis as a build-up of toxins can be a contributing factor in the joint pain and inflammation of this condition. The beta-sitosterol is most likely responsible for sarsaparilla's known properties as an anti-rheumatic herb, helping the body deal with the natural process of inflammation.
Sarsaparilla's diuretic and diaphoretic properties also help to remove toxins from the body. Diuretic herbs encourage the release of toxins through the urine, diaphoretic herbs, through sweating.
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How to Use
Like other healing herbs, the benefits of sarsaparilla will not manifest over night. Taking the root in tea, tincture, or capsule form over a period of two to four weeks will start yielding results. To make a herbal tea take two teaspoons of the dried root. Infuse in one cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Sarsaparilla actually has a pleasant aroma and taste, so it is an enjoyable tea to drink for most people. For treating skin conditions combine with burdock and cleavers. For arthritis problems blend with meadowsweet. Drink one to three cups a day.
If you don't want to drink the herbal infusions, you can also take this herb in other forms. Tinctures are great mediums for the medicinal properties of herbs. Add a dropperful to a glass of juice and drink once or twice a day. Powdered sarsaparilla is also available in supplement form.
There are so many sarsaparilla benefits that this herb can be enjoyed by anyone interested in improving well-being through cleansing and balancing. It is safe for general use, but of course if you are pregnant, if you have any serious medical conditions, or if you are taking medications, talk to your doctor before using herbal medicine.
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Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies." (Element Books, 1996).
NutraSanus, Sarsaparilla Root and Herb Information
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
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