Killip & C.V.Morton
Smilax regelii is a perennial, trailing vine with prickly stems that is native to Central America. Common names include sarsaparilla (// or //), Honduran sarsaparilla, and Jamaican sarsaparilla. It is known in Spanish as zarzaparrilla, which is derived from the words zarza meaning "bramble" (from Arabic sharas "thorny plant" or Basque sartzia "bramble") , and parrilla, meaning "little grape vine".
Smilax regelii was considered by Native Americans to have medicinal properties, and was a popular European treatment for syphilis when it was introduced from the New World. From 1820 to 1910, it was registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for syphilis. Modern users claim it is effective for eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, herpes, and leprosy, along with a variety of other complaints. There is no peer-reviewed research available for these claims. There is, however, peer-reviewed research suggesting that S. regelii extracts have in vitro antioxidant properties, like many other herbs.
Smilax regelii is used as the basis for a soft drink, frequently called Sarsaparilla. It is also a primary ingredient in old fashioned-style root beer, in conjunction with sassafras, which was more widely available prior to studies of its potential health risks.
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