Sanicula europea. N.O. Umbelliferae.
Synonym ► Pool Root, Wood Sanicle. Habitat ► Woods and shady places.
Features ► Stem nearly simple, reddish, furrowed, up to two feet high. Leaves radical, palmate, long-stalked, glossy green above, paler underneath, serrate, nearly three inches across. White, sessile flowers, blooming in June and July. Taste astringent, becoming acrid.
Part used ► Herb.
Action ► Astringent, alterative.
With more powerful alteratives in blood impurities. As an astringent in diarrhea and leucorrhea. Wineglass doses of the ounce to pint (boiling water) infusion are taken. Claims have been made for this herb in the treatment of consumption, and Skelton has given publicity to alleged cures. These cases are not now considered to have been proved.
SARSAPARILLA, JAMAICA. Smilax ornata. N.O. Liliaceae.
Synonym ► Smilax medica, Smilax officinalis.
Habitat ► Sarsaparilla is imported from the West Indies and Mexico. Features ► The root, which is the only part used medicinally, is of a rusty-
brown colour and cylindrical in shape. It is a quarter of an inch to half an inch in diameter, has many slender rootlets, is deeply furrowed longitudinally, and the transverse section shows a brown, hard bark with a porous central portion. The taste is rather acrid, and there is no smell.
The “Brown” Jamaica Sarsaparilla comes from Costa Rica. The Honduras variety reaches us in long, thin bundles with a few rootlets attached, and further supplies are imported from Mexico.
First introduced by the Spaniards in 1563 as a specific for syphilis, this claim has long been disproved, although the root undoubtedly possesses active alterative principles. It is consequently now held in high regard as a blood purifier, and is usually administered with other alteratives, notably Burdock.
Compound decoctions of Sarsaparilla are very popular as a springtime medicine, and Coffin’s prescription will be found in the Herbal Formulas section of this volume.