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Long used as a medicinal herb by Native American tribes, sarsaparilla may help with everything from acne breakouts to heart disease. Sarsaparilla, however, does not have any effect on syphilis, despite some notoriety as a treatment for the disease. The herb also does not contain anabolic steroids, even though it has been linked with bodybuilding as a way to increase muscle mass. Children younger than 2 should not use sarsaparilla; consult your doctor before using sarsaparilla or any herb to avoid any adverse side effects.
Sarsaparilla has diuretic qualities and may help to relieve medical conditions complicated by fluid accumulation. Michael Castleman, in his book “The New Healing Herbs,” explains that sarsaparilla contains compounds called saponins, which have diuretic effects when consumed internally. As a result, sarsaparilla may effectively treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Sarsaparilla may also provide relief for women who experience premenstrual fluid retention. Castleman stresses, though, that sarsaparilla and other diuretics should only be used under the supervision of a health-care professional.
Sarsaparilla may serve as an overall detoxifying and anti-inflammatory agent. Linda Page, in “Healthy Healings Detoxification: Programs to Cleanse, Purify and Renew,” explains that sarsaparilla promotes the healthy function of your kidneys by stimulating detoxification. The herb may also be able to improve liver and blood health by preventing toxins from entering your blood. Page notes that the detoxifying, anti-inflammatory qualities of sarsaparilla may make it an effective treatment for a number of health conditions, including jaundice, hepatitis, arthritis, rheumatism, edema and other blood conditions. Consult your doctor before undertaking any detoxification process, particularly one involving herbal supplements.
Sarsaparilla may contribute to the overall health of your skin by helping to protect it from ongoing damage from toxins. Jeanette Jacknin, in her book “Smart Medicine for Your Skin: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Conventional and Alternative Therapies to Heal Common Skin Problems,” writes that sarsaparilla may be an effective botanical therapy for psoriasis, as well as other skin conditions, such as acne, warts and even leprosy. She explains that the nutrients in sarsaparilla help to normalize your body’s metabolism of fat and to improve the binding of toxins in your skin cells. Consult your doctor before using herbal remedies to treat any skin condition.
Sarsaparilla may serve as an effective treatment for sexual health issues. Alfred Pulford, in “Homoeopathic Materia Medica of Graphical Drug Pictures,” explains that sarsaparilla has been used to treat impotence in men and a lack of sexual responsiveness in women. Pulford adds that the steroidal-like substances in sarsaparilla may help to heighten sexual desire in men and women alike. The efficacy of sarsaparilla for sexual health concerns, however, has not yet been scientifically proven, so consult your doctor before using it or any herb to address sexual issues.
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- “Homoeopathic Materia Medica of Graphical Drug Pictures”; Alfred Pulford; 2002
- “Smart Medicine for Your Skin: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Conventional and Alternative Therapies to Heal Common Skin Problems”; Jeanette Jacknin; 2002
- “Healthy Healings Detoxification: Programs to Cleanse, Purify and Renew”; Linda Page; 2008
- “The New Healing Herbs: The Classic Guide to Nature’s Best Medicines Featuring the Top 100 Time-Tested Herbs”; Michael Castleman; 2001
Christine Switzer has been a freelance writer since 2007. She contributes to travel and regional periodicals such as "Georgetown View" and "Burlington the Beautiful" and she enjoys writing on travel, lifestyle and the workplace. Switzer holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in English and has taught university courses in communication, public speaking and journalism.
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