Killip & C.V.Morton
Smilax regelii is a perennial, trailing vine with prickly stems that is native to Central America. Common names include sarsaparilla (pron.: // or //), Honduran sarsaparilla, and Jamaican sarsaparilla. It is known in Spanish as zarzaparrilla, which is derived from the words zarza, meaning "shrub", 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. Sarsaparilla drinks feature widely in American popular culture, particularly in works related to the American West, where the drink was often called, incorrectly, "sassparilla". In the 1957-1961 ABC western television series, Sugarfoot, the title character, Tom Brewster, played by Will Hutchins, is a teetotaler who orders sarsparilla "with a dash of cherry" whenever he enters a saloon.
Sarsaparilla is not readily available in most countries, although many pubs and most major supermarket chains in the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia stock sarsaparilla-flavored soft drinks.
The roots of sarsaparilla (locally known as Nannari roots) are also the key ingredient in a popular summer drink in south India (especially Tamilnadu and Andhrapradesh ). The drink concentrate, commonly referred to as Nannari Sharbath, is made by slightly crushing the roots of sarsaparilla and steeping them in hot water to infuse the flavors. Jaggery syrup or a sugar solution, or both, is added to this to make a concentrate. Nannari roots are termed to have medicinal properties and are typically sold in Ayurvedic stores in India.
See also 
- Aralia nudicaulis, wild sarsaparilla or false sarsaparilla
- Sweet sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla), a vine native to eastern Australia
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- "PlantNET – FloraOnline". Plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
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- Sarsaparilla Root and Herb Information
- Whatever happened to the soft drink sarsaparilla? Cecil Adams, 1977