The native American sarsaparilla is called Smilax Sarsaparilla, It is claimed it does not possess the same properties as the imported.
The name “sarsaparilla” is expressive of the character of the plant, being derived from two Spanish words which signify a small thorny vine. It is called zarzaparilla by the natives. The Jamaica or red sarsaparilla is most commonly used in the U.S. and is considered superior to any of the other kinds.
It is said to derive that name from the Island of Jamaica, which is the channel of its exportation from Honduras to Europe. The reddish color of its epidermis is its chief peculiarity. Sarsaparilla, in its ordinary state, is nearly or quite inodorous, but in decoction it acquires a decided and peculiar smell. To the taste, it is mucilaginous and very slightly bitter and when chewed for some time produces a disagreeable acrid impression which remains long in the mouth and fauces. The ROOT is efficient in proportion as it possesses this acrimony. The bark is more powerful than the interior portions.
The virtues of the ROOT are communicated to water, cold or hot, but are impaired by long boiling. They are also extracted by diluted alcohol. It is an excellent blood purifier, but is rarely taken alone. It is useful in scrofulous cases, rheumatism and chronic rheumatism, gout, skin eruptions. In hot infusion, it gives an outward circulation of the blood. A beer made by fermenting an infusion with molasses is said to be a popular remedy in So. America.
It is made as follows: 2# bruised sarsaparilla, powdered bark of guaiacum 8 oz., raspings of guaiac wood, anise seed and licorice root of each 4 oz., mezereon (bark of root) 2 oz., molasses 2# and 1 dz. bruised cloves. Pour on these ingredients 4 gal. boiling water and shake 3 times daily. When fermentation has well begun, it is fit for use. May be taken in a dose of a small tumblerful 2 or 3 times daily. The bark of guaiacum may be omitted without materially affecting the virtues of the preparation.
A good compound decoction of sarsaparilla is made as follows:
Jamaica sarsaparilla 4 oz., burdock rt. 1 oz., guaiacum chips 1 oz., Clivers 1 oz., fumitory 1 oz., licorice rt. 1 oz. Pour on 3×1/2 qts. water and simmer down to 2 qts. Strain and take % teacupful 3 or 4 times daily before meals. This is a good blood purifier.
For rheumatism, add to the above, when finished and cold, tincture prickly ash 1 oz. and tinct. queen’s delight 1/2 oz. Some add to each pint, 1/2 dr. iodide of potassium. Sarsaparilla may be taken in powder in dose of 1/2 dr. or a dr. 3 or 4 times daily, but it is more conveniently administered in the form of infusion, decoction, syrup, and FE.