I am not posting a photo of this plant because I can’t find one for officinalis and there are tons of Sarsaparilla varieties. Please see my notes at the bottom of this post for a picture of wild sarsaparilla, which is a different botanical plant (but used medicinally, as well).

Botanical Name: S. officinalis and varieties. S. ornata (Jamaica), considered to be the most medicinal Family: Liliaceae

Common name(s): Sarsaparilla, Greenbrier, Catbrier, Bullbrier, Tramps Trouble


  • Perennial woody climber | Zones 6-9 | 15 feet tall | Broad, ovate leaves, tendrils, , thorny branches, small green and flowers, black-ish berries
  • Grows in forests


The root is harvested throughout the growing season


Decoction: Bring 1-2 teaspoon of the root to a boil in 1 cup water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 1-2ml 3x/day


Constituents: Essential oil, glycoside, phytosterols, sapogenins, resin, starch, sugar, fat, minerals

Actions: Alterative, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antipruretic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic,diuretic, estrogenic, tonic

Uses: Inflammatory conditions (including rheumatism), liver disorders, menstrual issues, skin issues, venereal disease, virility

Combinations: Burdock, yellow dock, and cleavers for psoriasis


Sweet, mild, spicy neutral to cool


  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • SFGate

Aralia nudicaulis is a plant in northeastern forests that goes by the same name – called Wild Sarsaparilla. I learned that it is often used as a substitute in herbalism for Smilax. And I was actually surprised to learn this because I was taught by a local herbalist that this northern plant was Sarsaparilla and didn’t know that it wasn’t the official variety. Also, there are about 300-350 varieties of Smilax (a.k.a. Sarsaparilla). Confusing, to say the least!

This is a picture of the wild version, from my yard’s forest area: