It’s a thorny dioecious vine, with perennial leaves.
It sprouts from an underground cylindrical rhizome of 1 cm in
diameter. The young stem is reddish. As the plant gets older, the stem and the
leaves harden. Leaves are alternate, petiolate, with nodes and a sheath that
wraps a spur. They have tendrils that use to creep and climb. The leaf is
arrow-shaped and 6 cm long, widen at the base and narrowing towards
the apex, ending up in a short and abrupt point. The upper face is shining
green and paler beneath. Flowers are white, small grouped at the end of the
stems arranged in a zig-zag pattern. Fruit is a dark red berry when ripe,
globose with three cavities holding 1-2 seeds inside each. Traditionally it has
been included in the Liliaceae family, although nowadays is considered to
belong to the Smilacaceae family.
Sarsaparilla leaves in thickets and hedges and prefers sunny places and limy
substrate soils. It can be found in bushes, holm-oak woods, hedges and ravines
throughout the Iberian Peninsula. It is also found in tropical regions.
The sarsaparilla was a very popular beverage during the 19th century, both in Europe
and United States. It was a refreshing drink made from the roots of the plant,
sugar, honey and water.
The root of different species of Smilax is used, in
Spain, mainly S. Aspera.
> Skin diseases: acne, eczemas, psoriasis, etc.
> Joint rheumatisms: Hyperuricemia and gout.
> Oliguria, irritation of the urinary tract, kidney stones, edemas.
> High blood pressure.
> Flu and colds.
> Depurative treatments.
> In folk medicine it has been used for the treatment of syphilis, gonorrhea
and other sexually transmitted diseases. It was also recommended as a sexual
tonic and stimulant.
> Skin disorders: skin infections caused by
dermatophytes, dermatitis, psoriasis, etc.
> Arthritis, arthralgias.