Sarsaparilla is used for treating psoriasis and other skin diseases, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and kidney disease; for increasing urination to reduce fluid retention; and for increasing sweating. Sarsaparilla is also used along with conventional drugs for treating leprosy and for syphilis.
Athletes sometimes use sarsaparilla as a steroid for performance enhancement or bodybuilding. Some supplement makers claim that chemicals (sterols) in sarsaparilla can be converted to anabolic steroids like testosterone. But this is a false claim. The sterols contained in sarsaparilla are not anabolic steroids nor are they converted in the body to anabolic steroids. Testosterone has never been detected in any plant, including sarsaparilla.
Mexican and Honduran sarsaparillas are used for treating gonorrhea, fevers, and digestive disorders.
In manufacturing, sarsaparilla is used as a flavoring agent in foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals.
In the American "Old West," sarsaparilla was the most popular drink of the cowboys.
Don't confuse sarsaparilla with Indian or false sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus indicus, Family: Apocyanaceae). There are reports that this false sarsaparilla is a common impurity found in sarsaparilla preparations. False sarsaparilla contains none of the possibly active chemicals found in true sarsaparilla (Smilax febrifuga, Family: Smilacaceae).
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