Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Smilax China (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Habitat: China, Japan and East Indies.

(The China used in homoeopathy is not to be confused with this plant. In homoepathy China is the name given to Peruvian bark. - EDITOR)

Description: A climbing shrub with tuberous roots, stems prickly, leaves stalked and veined, with a tendril on each side of the leaf stalks. The flowers have globular heads, sessile in the axils of the leaves, Tubers cylindrical, irregular, 4 to 6 inches long, 2 inches thick, slightly flattened, having short knotty branches, with a rust-coloured shiny bark, sometimes smooth, may be wrinkled, internally pale fawn colour, mealy, small resin cells, no odour, taste indifferent, afterwards slightly bitter and acrid, not unlike ordinary sarsaparilla.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Alterative, diaphoretic, tonic. China Smilax is used for the same purposes and has much the same properties as the official Sarsaparilla. In large doses it causes nausea and vomiting, especially valuable in weakened and depraved conditions due to a poisoned state of the blood, it is a useful alterative in old syphilitic cases and in chronic rheumatism; it is also used for certain skin diseases. It was introduced into China in A.D. 1535, when it was considered an infallible remedy for gout; in that country the roots are eaten as a food. With alum the root gives a yellow dye and with sulphate of iron a brown colour.

The name Smilax was used by the Greeks to denote a poisonous tree, but some authorities consider it is derived from 'Smile,' meaning cutting or scratching, having reference to the rough prickly nature of the plant.

Preparations: The compound syrup is mostly used to form a vehicle for the administration of mercury and iodide of potassium. Dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm.

The smoke from sarsaparilla has been highly recommended for asthma.

Other Species: The rootstocks of Smilax Pseudo-China are made into a sort of beer in South Carolina. They are also used to fatten pigs. In Persia the young shoots of some of these species are eaten as asparagus.