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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Glycosides

It consists of dried roots of Smilax ornata Hooker., belonging to family Liliaceae.






Smilax Medica, Red-bearded Sarsaparilla, Radix sarsae, Radix sarsaparillea, Jamaica sarsaparilla.


Biological Source


It consists of dried roots of Smilax ornata Hooker., belonging to family Liliaceae.




This plant derived its name from being exported to Europe through Jamaica. The word Sarsaparilla comes from the Spanish Sana, meaning a bramble, and parilla, a vine, in allusion to the thorny stems of the plant.


It is a large perennial climber, the drugs are found bundles in the market, each bundles consists of numerous long slender roots 3 mm in thickness. They are dark red to brown in colour. They are shrunken and furrowed longitudinally and bear numerous root lets. They are tough and flexible difficult to break. It is odourless and slight bitter in taste.


Stems erect, semiwoody, with very sharp prickles 1/2 inch long.


Leaves large, alternate stalked, almost evergreen with prominent veins, seven nerved midrib very strongly marked. Cortex thick and brownish, with an orange red tint; when chewed it tinges the saliva, and gives a slightly bitter and mucilaginous taste, followed by a very acrid one.

                            Smilax ornata 

Chemical Constituents


The main constituent is a saponin glycoside, sarsaponin which on hydrolysis yields sarsasapogenin and dextrose. It also contains a small proportion of starch, sarsapic acid, and fatty acids, palmitic, stearic, behenic, oleic and linolic.




Used in chronic skin diseases, rheumatism, passive dropsy and in syphilis.


Other Species


Smilax officinalis (Native Jamaica Sarsaparilla) is obtained from the same place and it could be distinguished by colour, size and other characters. It has a twining stem, angular and prickly; young shoots unarmed; leaves ovate, oblong, acute, cordate, smooth, 1 foot long; petioles 1 inch long, having tendrils above the base. It consists of very long roots, with a thick bark, grey or brown colour. The roots bear scattered, stout rootlets. It is odourless and has mucilaginous taste.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparation known as Purodil Capsules and Syrup (Aimil Pharmaceuticals).


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