Native to South and Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, sarsaparilla root has been used over the years to treat many different ailments. It was primarily used to treat syphilis in the 1800's, and was exported to Europe for this express purpose. Health tonics were manufactured and sold with the claims that they were useful as diuretics, blood purifiers, and general health boosting agents. Although it is not used as frequently for syphilis anymore, the other health claims still stand up, and many make tea using the roots of this plant to help detoxify and strengthen the body.
The sarsaparilla root is different from the tree that many people are more familiar with up in the Northern hemisphere. This vine-like plant has long thorns and woody stems. If you are interested in making tea from the plant, it's recommended to use approximately 1-4 grams of the chopped, dried root, for every 8 ounces of hot water. This must then be filtered before drinking it or the dosage will be too high. For those who don't wish to purchase the roots in bulk, it's also available in commercial tea bags in many health food shops, or can be sold in a powdered form or tincture, depending on your preference. The tea can be taken two to three times a day for the best results.
One of the main benefits of using sarsaparilla root as a health tonic is in the treatment of different skin disorders, including eczema and psoriasis. It can be made into an ointment and rubbed on the skin, or ingested as a tea that is boiled from the roots of the plant. This helps hydrate the body, nourishing it from the inside out. Another unique facet of this plant is that it helps boost testosterone levels, which has led to it being marketed as a potential libido enhancer or steroid replacement for body builders.
To fight against itching, you can put tea on a compress, or applied directly to the infected area several times per day. The sarsaparilla root has been shown to have antifungal and antibacterial qualities, which may explain why it was so popular in the past for the treatment of syphilis and other infections. Due to its effect on human hormone levels, however, including testosterone, it's not recommended to prolong your use of this supplement, or you may experience some unwelcome side effect. Always consult with your doctor before taking this or any other herbal supplement.