You probably know Sarsaparilla best as a sweet soft drink, but did you know Sarsaparilla is thought to have many medicinal properties and used to be drunk as a curative tonic?

Sarsaparilla is a vine, native to the rainforests of Central and South America. The root of the plant is the most valued part of the plant, and the part used for its medicinal benefits.

Sarsaparilla was brought to Europe from the Americas in the mid-sixteenth century where it quickly became popular with physicians and the public.

Today, Sarsaparilla is most often used for its anti-inflammatory properties, which make it a great treatment for sufferers of skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema and itchiness. Sarsparilla has also been used in the past to treat a variety of conditions, including gout, arthritis, rheumatism, impotence, depression, syphilis and some symptoms of the menopause.

The root of the Sarsaparilla plant is very bitter, and so it was common for pharmacists to distill the useful chemicals from the plant and then to mix these with sugar and water. This tonic would often contain ingredients such as liquorice, cassia, ginger, cloves, coriander seeds, sassafras and wintergreen.

Sarsaparilla was one of G. Baldwin & Co’s most popular remedies, where they used to serve it strong and frothy, and very different to the sweet carbonated drink Sarsaparilla is today! Did you ever try a glass of Baldwin’s Sarsaparilla?

Today the anti-inflammatory action is still much in demand for treating arthritis and skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis, and supplements of the plant are still on sale in Baldwins today.