Sarsaparilla Iron Content

by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert

Ben Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert Sports and Exercise Nutrition Level 2 Strength and Conditioning CoachWritten by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.

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What comes to your mind when you hear the word sarsaparilla? 

A root extract? What about a flavor for tea? What if you were told that the sarsaparilla roots may increase your testosterone?

This article will explore the idea to see if it is true. Know the answer? Check out the answers below! 

  • What is Sarsaparilla?
  • Medicinal uses 
  • Does sarsaparilla contain iron?
  • Sarsaparilla and testosterone
  • Conclusion

What is Sarsaparilla?

Sarsaparilla is also known as Smilax Glabra Rhizome. It's a natural food supplement that has been widely used for its ability to detoxicate, clear heat, and relieve dampness. 

In Southeast Asia and North America, you can buy some SGR-containing foods, beverages and dietary supplements.

SGR-containing herbal blends have been used in Southeast Asia for many years to treat dermatitis or other diseases such as syphilis, and arthritis. 

Sarsaparilla, a common term that includes several species belonging to different genera.

Sarsaparilla is available in two groups, Indian and North American Sarsaparilla. 

Hemidesmus Indicus, also known as Indian Sarsaparilla belongs to the Liliaceae family. 

This plant is used in Ayurvedic Medicine as an antispasmodic and memory enhancer.

Previous studies identified 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzaldehyde and ledol as major ingredients along with 40 other minor constituents.

Sarsaparilla is the common name for species of Smilax in North America. Smilax aristolochiifolia, S. ornata, S. China are the most common species.

The roots of this plant have traditionally been used as diuretics and sudorifics.

Scientific literature has reported that North American Sarsaparilla also has antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer properties, as well as antidiabetic, antioxidant, and anticancer properties.

There are increasing scientific evidences that show its potential therapeutic effects in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, toxicity to the liver, hyperinsulinemia and even cancer.

SGR functions are divided into four main aspects: immunomodulatory (PCl), hepatoprotective (SRBC) and tumoricidal. The aqueous SGR extract inhibits delayed-type hypersensitivity induced by picryl chloride or sheep red cells (SRBC).

SGR acts primarily on the cellular immune reaction (CIR), which is the effector phase in DTH, rather than humoral immunity response (HIR).

This gives SGR an advantage over other immunosuppressors when treating CIR-mediated inflammation diseases such as rheumatoid and hepatitis.

Astilbin is one of the bioactive compounds that can be isolated from SGR. It can change the in vitro cytokine profile of lymphocytes, and suppress the migration and activation of T cells. This relieves contact hypersensitivity, and DTH.

Astilbin is hepatoprotective in that it facilitates apoptosis and inhibits cell-matrix adhesiveness of splenocytes, minimizing liver damage.

It could also improve liver function by reversing the transaminase increase, lowering the TNF-a and reducing hepatotoxicity in nonparenchymal cell.

The liver burden can be reduced by Taxifolin (another compound isolated from SGR).

SGR has other reported biological functions as well, such as lowering blood glucose levels or reducing HIV-1 integrase activity.

These findings all point to SGR's multifunctional potential.

Medicinal Uses

Sarsaparilla was introduced into European Medicine in the 16th century after European explorers discovered that it is a better way to treat syphilis then mercury. 

It was even registered as an approved treatment in the US Pharmacopoeia for treating this condition. 

Indigenous people have used it for centuries to deal with a variety of skin problems such as psoriasis and dermatitis. It was even rumored that its blood purifying properties could cure leprosy. 

It is used in China as an aphrodisiac, and a sexual stimulant. Since the 1960s, Chinaroot Sarsaparilla is used to treat sexually transmitted and vaginal diseases as well as scabies and tuberculosis.

It is also used in Thailand, Korea, and Sri Lanka to help reduce inflammation and improve blood vessels and circulation.

Sarsaparilla and Cancer

In terms of anticancer, it was discovered that oral consumption of a herbal formulation containing SGR could prolong the time of pain relief, improve patient's quality of life, and extend long-term survival in patients with hepatic cancer.

In mice models, another SGR-containing injectable was found to reduce tumor growth when given at relatively high doses.

SGR extracts were found to promote cell death in HT-29 colorectal carcinoma cells, HepG2 hepatic cancer cells, and HepG3 human cancer cells.

There are several other hints that point to the potential roles of SGR for controlling cell adhesion.

Astilbin inhibits the adhesion to extracellular matrix of splenocytes in mice with liver injury , as well as blocking intercellular adhesions between human Jurkat cells and ECV304 cells.

The 5-O-caffeoylshikimic, taxifolin, and astilbin of SGR also inhibited macrophage migration and adhesion.

Sarsaparilla was found to have anticancer properties. In Southeast Asia, several herbal formulas containing SGR were shown to inhibit cancer both in vitro as well as when tested in vivo.

Most previous studies have focused on SGR's inhibitory effect on cancer cell proliferation, but only a small number of them evaluated its impact on cancer cells' invasiveness.

Sarsaparilla and Arthritis 

There is limited information on the use of natural medicines for PsA.

However, a combination of acupuncture with turmeric (Curcuma longa), Sarsaparilla (S. officinalis), or vitamin D may be a viable alternative to pharmaceutical treatment.

In this 2020 study, the treatment could have resulted in a reduction of edema, a decrease in stiffness and a pain relief in the affected digits.

It is impossible to determine the effects of sarsaparilla in this case (S officinalis).

No research has been conducted on the effects of sarsaparilla.

The Physicians Desk reference for Herbal medicines and other texts, however, state that sarsaparilla has been used to treat chronic inflammatory autoimmune diseases.

It should also be noted that a number of Smilax species were shown to reduce symptoms of psoriasis, RA, and tissue culture in 2 animal studies.

Some species from the same genus may possess similar therapeutic properties. Therefore, sarsaparilla can have similar effects.

It is not possible to say for sure that sarsaparilla, S. officinalis, was beneficial in this case.

Liver Protection

This 1999 study examined the effects of astilbin (a flavanoid) found in sarsaparilla on liver injury.

Astilbin, when administered to mice during the induction phase but not the effector phase, significantly reduced the liver injury caused by delayed-type hypersensitivity induced by picryl chloride.

Pretreatment of nonparenchymal but not hepatocytes in vitro with astilbin caused a concentration and time dependent inhibition against damage. 

Nonparenchymal cells isolated from astilbin-administered mice also showed a significant incompetence of hepatotoxicity, correlated with the inhibition of serum transaminase elevation.

Astilbin, however, did not protect against CCl4-induced damage to the liver. The flavanoid also promoted the apoptosis in nonparenchymal mice with liver injury, but not those of naive mice.

These results suggest that the protective effect of astilbin on liver injury is due to a dysfunctional liver-infiltrating cell rather than a protection of hepatocytes membrane.

These characteristics are important for the development of new drugs and in treating liver diseases that are immunologically related. 

Reducing Blood Glucose

The hypoglycemic effects of Smilax glabra (Liliaceae), a model of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus with hyperinsulinemia, were investigated in normal mice and KKAy mice.

The methanol extraction of rhizomes from Smilax glabra (SM) ROXBURGH (SM), 100 mg/kg of body weight, significantly reduced blood glucose in normal mice four hours after intraperitoneal injection, as well as in KK-Ay mouses under similar conditions.

However, SM did not affect the blood glucose in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice, one of the animal models of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) with hypoinsulinemia.

SM suppressed epinephrine induced hyperglycemia as well in mice. SM-treated KKAy mice showed a significant decrease in blood glucose during an insulin tolerance test. The hypoglycemic effects of SM increased insulin sensitivity. 

Does Sarsaparilla Contain Iron?

All living organisms require iron (Fe), which is involved in many biological processes. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia worldwide. 

It is a cofactor for many enzymes that are involved in the biosynthesis and biotransformation of amino acids, neurotransmitters, hormones and collagen.

Sarsaparilla is derived from the roots of several tropical species of Smilax. This plant belongs to the Liliaceae family.

Whilst trying to establish whether sarsaparilla does have any notable iron content is quite problematic due to a lack of information on the internet from any reputable sources, sarsaparilla does belong to the Liliaceae family.

However, it is reported that Urginea indica, an important native plant belonging to the Liliaceae family and an essential constituent of Bangladeshi ecosystem does content iron within the bulb and rhizome (the main horizontal stem of the plant that runs underground and can produce offshoots).

As such, it may be suggested that there would be a similar content from the sarsaparilla plant in the bulb and rhizome. However, if the iron content is your main cause for weanting to consume sarsaparilla, you would want to ensure that the extract is from these portions.

Furthermore, you may wish to consume an alternative plant source, such as spinach, chard or legumes which have a nutritionally high iron content. 

Sarsaparilla and Testosterone

Is there a connection between sarsaparilla and testosterone? It's bad news, unfortunately. 

There is also no proof that it can boost testosterone. There is no proof either that sarsaparilla can help build more muscle. 

This idea was based solely on speculation. 

Sarsaparilla contains steroidal Saponins which, in the wrong hands, are mistakenly regarded as prohormones by our bodies that convert into testosterone. This is not true. 

You could certainly extract the active compound from this plant and turn it into steroids in a laboratory. It won't work in the body. This is just impossible. 

This is because a number of supplements for bodybuilding include sarsaparilla under the assumption that they will increase your muscle mass, help burn fat and improve physical performance. This has not been proved.  

The saponins od sarsaparilla cannot and won't be able be converted to testosterone. It is not an anabolic steroids, despite claims made by some products.

We recommend the following instead

Sarsaparilla is not the only way to boost your testosterone levels. There are many other ways that can help you achieve the results you desire. 

Military Muscle is a natural testosterone booster that has been specially designed from herbal ingredients proven to increase testosterone in the body. 

Unlike some products that fill your body up with synthetic testosterone. Military Muscle is different because it supports your body’s natural ability to produce testosterone. 

Conclusion

It is very difficult to identify what the iron content of sarsaparilla is. There is very little reputable information or sources outlining the nutritional content of the plant.

However, it does belong to the Liliaceae family and it has been documented that Urginea indica which is also of the same family does contain iron in the bulb of the plant and the horizontal underground stems.

Therefore, you may surmize that sarsaparilla also contains similar amounts of iron in the same parts, but we cannot confirm this for sure.

As a result, if you are wanting to consume sarsaparilla based on the iron content alone, there are alternatives that you could include within your diet.

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