What is Sarsaparilla Root (& its benefits)?
If you have any interested in natural well-being supplements then you have likely stumbled across Sarsaparilla, which is a woody vine that grows on trees in tropical climates in South America and the Caribbean. There are a fair few species of the Smilax that we will not bore you with but each has a range of well-being benefits and has been a keen fixture of natural well-being predating the 1800’s.
The most common form of Sarsaparilla that you will find online is a capsule but it is traditionally taken as a drink- and was popular in the US during the 1800s. It has a familiar ‘root beer’ flavour that is still popular around the world. A little bit of doom and gloom, but there are a fair few of these ‘Sarsaparilla Drinks’ that are found online do not contain the plant at all, but are artificially manufactured 🙁
Some more doom and gloom: Sadly- much like CBD – one of the main risks that you may face is being miss-informed or sold something that does not contain the active ingredients which make Sarsaparilla so great for our health. Just a disclosure: no, Sarsaparilla supplements do not contain anabolic steroids such as Testosterone (for building muscle at the gym). The confusion comes from the fact that the Sarsaparilla plant can be used to chemically synthesis the steroids however, this has not been found to happen in humans. Also, be aware of Indian Sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus Indicus) – it does is often used in supplements but (apparently) it does not contain the same active chemicals as the Smilax genus.
These days you can find Holland and Barrett Sarsaparilla supplements online or in-store. In this case, for the moment it is preferential to trust a highstreet brand.
So, what are the benefits of Sarsaparilla?
The Sarsaparilla root itself has been found to contain a plethora of active phytochemicals that are linked with a fair few well-being outcomes (most of which are also backed by science). These include strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatories- we have compiled a list of the active ingredients and their benefits here (to make things easier):
Flavonoid Antioxidants: Also found in Cannabis, these are often found in fruits and veg which are bright in colour. These have been linked with skin and eye health, strengthened immune function, reduction in inflammation and longevity (whatever that means…). The flavonoids in Sarsaparilla are called astilbin which can be found in other botanicals/ herbal remedies such as St John’s Wart, herbal teas and red wines.
Saponins: Identified by a bitter taste, Saponins are the family of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals which help to kill fungus, bacteria and other harmful microbes. They are very similar in effect to the reproductive hormones which we synthesis in our bodies: testosterone and estrogen. The Saponins are partly when Sarsaparilla is good for your skin. Saponins also produce an entourage effect and increase the bioavailability of other herbs!
PhytoSterols: Are great for your gut. They are found in high-fiber foods and have been found to be beneficial to your gut and digestive health, alongside being of benefit to your heart health. The phytosterols which are found in Sarsaparilla are sitosterol, pollinastano, stigmasterol – diosgenin, tigogenin and asperagenin.
Other beneficial Oils, Acids and Minerals: Without getting too bogged down in the specific details of each, the Sarsaparilla Root also contains a range of other beneficial fatty acids, oils and minerals including; Caffeoylshikimic acid, shikimic acid, sarsapic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, kaempferol, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, chromium selenium and aluminium.
The Liver & Kidneys!
Liver health is supported by Sarsaparilla; from promoting urine production (it is a diuretic), perspiration it has been found to help relieve the retention of fluid; which often causes stomach bloating. This just means that our body has a greater ability to flush toxins out of our body. Make sure that you drink lots of water alongside the herb to keep your hydration levels up!
Traditionally the main purpose of a Sarsaparilla drink was to help ‘clean the blood’ and remove toxins from the body. In more recent years, research has shown that the root may help with detoxification by containing chemicals (flavonoids) which bind to ‘endotoxins’ which are chemicals stored in bacterial cells- the ‘endotoxins’ are released into the bloodstream and cause wider health issues such as liver disease, psoriasis, inflammatory issues and fever.
If you’re looking for a natural detox, then this root may be something to try out!
One of the main benefits of Sarsaparilla is its ability to help remedy skin conditions, including fungus, eczema, rashes and wounds. Interestingly enough, as the root grows in tropical climates (where lots of bugs that bite live) it was found that the root could help prevent itchiness and infections caused by bites, or fungal infections (which, as you may expect, are quite common in warmer climates). A study suggests that unlike many other modern remedies, the root strengthens us and our skin as well as killing off any invaders; It is referred to as ‘strengthing the host’. A study found that it, out of 100 plants, it was the most effective plant for fighting this kind of infections.
The Sarsaparilla root has been shown to also decrease the swelling, itchiness, redness and peeling of the skin; it is the flavonoid content which is responsible for suppressing our immune system and lowing the bodies inflammatory response. It is almost certainly why the root was used to help sufferers of psoriasis (over 40% of the patients had a huge reduction in symptoms).
If you’re of a certain age (like us) you may jump at anything that is a ‘cure for baldness’. Most of the time it is a whole pile of field-fuel, but it seems that there is evidence that the Sterols in the root help to regulate our bodies hormonal balance (as they are similar to our reproductive hormones above). As they are really similar to our hormones, the liver doesn’t need to work to hard to produce human hormones. This means that Sarsaparilla may help to maintain the correct levels of testosterone, and progesterone, which can help with hair growth.
It could also mean some very positive outcomes for those who have premenstrual issues or menopause!
We are all about natural synergy here: from the entourage effect to the synergetic benefits of mushrooms or terpenes, nature works in wonderful ways! It has been found that Sarsaparilla increases the bioavailability of other herbs and enhances their benefits. Bioavailability simply means how easy something is to be absorbed by the body – CBD, for instance, is particularly difficult for the body to absorb because it is an oil-based substance, while Sarsaparilla is water-soluble. This is down to the high concentration of saponins within the roots. Fantastic right? We would be very interested to see the impact that these saponins have on cannabinoids!
Side Effects of Sarsaparilla Root
As it stands, there are no side effects of sarsaparilla or interactions with drugs. In saying this, it is maybe best to stay on the side of caution. It may be best to speak to a trusted medical professional before trying any kind of herbal remedy- and also be very aware that these supplements should not be a substitute for any medication that you have been prescribed. If you are nursing or breastfeeding- be on the safe side, and stay away.
Holland & Barrett Sarsaparilla
If you have made it this far, we love you. Thank you for reading and (hopefully) enjoying our blog post. We are in the process of producing a range of health and well-being supplements (including Sarsaparilla supplements). In the meantime, you should buy Sarsaparilla from Holland & Barrett if you are interested. They are a high-street brand and offer real supplements. It is better than playing roulette with random brands online!