Traditional Indications

Sarsaparilla is alterative, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antipruritic. Sarsaparilla root has long been used as a traditional medicine in Central and South America, where it is traditionally indicated in the treatment of sexual impotence and circulatory disorders, rheumatism and joint pain, headaches, skin ailments and as a general tonic in cases of physical weakness. (1)

Sarsaparilla's steroidal saponins exert an anti-inflammatory effect. It also has a diuretic action, flushing out chlorides and uric acid and therefore of benefit in gout and other rheumatic or arthritic conditions. It is also an alterative (blood cleanser) used in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. It is traditionally used as a tonic for sexual functioning and also as a rejuvenating tonic to boost stamina and energy. As a circulatory stimulant, sarsaparilla promotes blood flow to the genitals thereby increasing libido.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Sarsaparilla is known as Tu Fu Ling. Tu Fu Ling is said to be sweet bland and neutral and to enter the Liver and Stomach channel to clear Heat, eliminate Toxicity, resolve Damp and relieve muscle and joint pain. (2) In Asian culture it is strongly believed to act as an aphrodisiac and a sexual stimulant. (3)


Sarsaparilla has testostermomimetic effects thereby increases testosterone so is anabolic. The Chinese refer to this herb as khao yen’ and believe strongly in its abilities to act as an aphrodisiac and a sexual stimulant. (4)

Sarsaparilla contains steroidal saponins, arsaparilloside, Δ(20(22))-sarsaparilloside, and parillin and two new furostanol saponins sarsaparilloside B and sarsaparilloside C. A study comparing the activity of these steroidal saponins was compared in six human cell lines derived from different tumour types and found to display antiproliferative activity particularly active against the HT29 colon tumour cell line. (5)

Sarsaparilla extract inhibits migration and invasion of cancer cells by suppressing TGF-β1 pathway.(6) Transforming growth factor beta 1 or TGF-β1 is a polypeptide member of the transforming growth factor beta superfamily of cytokines. It is a secreted protein that performs many cellular functions, including the control of cell growth, cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and apoptosis.

1. PFAF. Smilax officinalis. 2019.
2. Info CH. Tu Fu Ling – Smilax – Sarsaparilla. 2019.
3. Lim PHC. Asian herbals and aphrodisiacs used for managing ED. Translational andrology and urology. 2017;6(2):167-75.
4. Bucci LR. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;72(2):624S-36S.
5. Challinor VL, Parsons PG, Chap S, White EF, Blanchfield JT, Lehmann RP, et al. Steroidal saponins from the roots of Smilax sp.: Structure and bioactivity. Steroids. 2012;77(5):504-11.
6. She T, Zhao C, Feng J, Wang L, Qu L, Fang K, et al. Sarsaparilla (Smilax Glabra Rhizome) extract inhibits migration and invasion of cancer cells by suppressing TGF-β1 pathway. PloS one. 2015;10(3):e0118287-e.