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is a perennial trailing vine
A vine in the narrowest sense is the grapevine , but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent, that is to say climbing, stems or runners...

 with prickly stems that is native to Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

. Common names include Sarsaparilla (icon or ˌ), Honduran Sarsaparilla, and Jamaican Sarsaparilla. It is known in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 as , which is derived from the words , meaning "shrub," and , meaning "little grape vine."


Smilax regelii was considered by Americans to have medicinal properties, and was a popular European treatment for syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital 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 that 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 it has anti-oxidant properties, like many other herbs.

Sarsaparilla is used as the basis for a soft drink
Soft drink
A soft drink is a non-alcoholic beverage that typically contains water , a sweetener, and a flavoring agent...

, frequently called by the same name, or looga. It is also a primary ingredient in old fashioned-style root beer
Root beer
Root beer is a carbonated, sweetened beverage, originally made using the root of a sassafras plant as the primary flavor. Root beer, popularized in North America, comes in two forms: alcoholic and soft drink. The historical root beer was analogous to small beer in that the process provided a drink...

, in conjunction with Sassafras
Sassafras is a genus of three extant and one extinct species of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia.-Overview:...

, 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 and the pioneer period. Sarsaparilla is not readily available in most countries, although many pubs and most major supermarket chains in the Philippines, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Australia stock sarsaparilla-flavored soft drinks.

In southern states of India (particularly Tamil Nadu) Sarsaparilla is called Maahali or Mahani and is pickled and consumed as a 'mix' along with curd rice.

See also

  • Aralia nudicaulis
    Aralia nudicaulis
    Aralia nudicaulis is a flowering plant of northern and eastern North America which reaches a height of 1–2 feet with creeping underground stems.In the spring the underground stems produce compound leaves that are large...

    , Wild Sarsaparilla or False Sarsaparilla
  • Sweet Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla
    Smilax glyciphylla
    Smilax glyciphylla, the Sweet Sarsaparilla, is a dioecious climber native to eastern Australia. It is widespread in rainforest, sclerophyll forest and woodland; mainly in coastal regions....

    ), a vine native to East Australia

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