AskDefine | Define sarsaparilla

Dictionary Definition

sarsaparilla

Noun

1 any of various prickly climbing plants of the tropical American genus Smilax having aromatic roots and heart-shaped leaves
2 carbonated drink flavored with an extract from sarsaparilla root or with birch oil and sassafras

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. Any of various tropical American vines, of the genus Smilax, having fragrant roots
  2. The dried roots of these plants, or a flavoring material extracted from these roots
  3. A soft drink flavored with this extract
  4. Any of several North American plants, of the genus Aralia, having umbels and small white flowers

Alternative spellings

Extensive Definition

Sarsaparilla (pronounced SAS-per-il-luh, IPA /ˌsæspəˈɹɪlə/) (Smilax regelii and other closely related species of Smilax) is a perennial trailing vine with prickly stems native to tropical America and the West Indies. Its name (which is zarzaparrilla in Spanish) comes from the Spanish words zarza for "shrub" and parrilla for "little grape vine."
The name sarsaparilla can also refer to a drink made from the roots of the vine. The name "Sasparilla" is a common misspelling of Sarsaparilla.

Uses

Sarsaparilla contains active principle, Parillin (Smilacin), glucoside, sarsapic acid, sarsapogenin (related to progesterone and used in its synthesis), sarsaponin and starch
Fatty acids:
Oral remedy for psoriasis

Appearance

The vine has a long, prickly stem ; shiny leaves; and numerous reddish-brown roots up to 3 meters long. Several species of Smilax are used in agriculture, but the Jamaican S. regelii (syn. S. officinalis) is the species preferred for commercial use. Sarsaparilla is also grown in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. It is also grown in parts of South India, known in Telugu as Sugandhi-pala, in Kannada as "Sogade beru" and in Tamil as Nannaari. The primary uses of sarsaparilla include the flavoring of beverages, and folk medicine.
Before processing, the roots are bitter, sticky, and have a strong odor. They are dried and boiled in order to produce the extract. In beverages, oil of wintergreen or other flavors may be added in order to mask the natural bitterness of the root. Root beer made from sarsaparilla roots is generally more "birchy" than the sarsaparilla extract used in the more popular, commercial brands.
A carbonated beverage, made from and called sarsaparilla, is available in many countries.

References

sarsaparilla in Catalan: Arítjol
sarsaparilla in Corsican: Raza
sarsaparilla in Spanish: Smilax aspera
sarsaparilla in French: Salsepareille
sarsaparilla in Italian: Smilax aspera
sarsaparilla in Pampanga: Sarsaparilla
sarsaparilla in Dutch: Sarsaparilla
sarsaparilla in Japanese: サルサパリラ
sarsaparilla in Polish: Sarsaparilla
sarsaparilla in Swedish: Sarsaparill
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