Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation throughout the body. Sarsaparilla is a plant that may have anti-inflammatory effects. This may be beneficial in relieving symptoms of psoriasis.

Sarsaparilla is native to South America, Mexico, Jamaica, and the West Indies.

There are many different species of the plant, and some have edible berries. Some types of the sarsaparilla species may affect the immune response and may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Traditional medicine uses the dried roots as part of treatment for chronic conditions, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

This article examines the evidence behind sarsaparilla treatments for psoriasis, potential risks, and alternative treatments.

Dried sarsaparilla root to help treat psoriasis.Share on Pinterest
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Certain species of sarsaparilla, such as Jamaican sarsaparilla, may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Astilbin is the active component in the root of a species of sarsaparilla called Smilax glabra.

A 2016 study looked at the effects of astilbin and found that it may have positive effects in treating inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

In mice with psoriasis-like lesions, 25–50 milligrams (mg) of astilbin per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) inhibited T helper 17 (Th17) cells. These cells play a key role in promoting inflammation.

The researchers also found that astilbin inhibited pro-inflammatory cells in test-tube experiments.

They concluded that astilbin is likely to improve psoriasis-like lesions and may help regulate the immune system in people with psoriasis.

Sarsaparilla also contains flavonoids that may reduce levels of nuclear factor-κB (NF-кB) by 61.7%. NF-кB is a type of protein involved in inflammation and immune response.

Inhibiting NF-кB may play a role in treating inflammatory conditions, but may also have adverse side effects. The body requires a certain level of NF-кB function to maintain cell survival and a normal immune response.

Although people may have traditionally used sarsaparilla to treat psoriasis, there is little research on the use of sarsaparilla to treat autoimmune conditions.

According to a 2020 case report, animal and tissue culture research has shown that certain species of sarsaparilla may help reduce symptoms of psoriasis. Other species of the Smilax family may have similar properties, although there is currently not enough research to support this.

The research does show that certain types of sarsaparilla can help to regulate the immune system by affecting a type of white blood cells called T cells, which play an important role in the development of psoriasis.

In a 2019 study on rats, methanol and ethyl acetate extracts from Jamaican sarsaparilla showed anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties.

Compared to control groups, the extracts showed significant anti-inflammatory activity after 150 minutes of taking, which lasted for 2.5 hours. The extracts also had significantly relieved pain after 30 minutes of taking, lasting for 2.5 hours.

The anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties of Jamaican sarsaparilla may have positive effects on psoriasis, but researchers require further human studies to support the evidence.

There is little scientific evidence to suggest an ideal dose for sarsaparilla, or how best to use it in the treatment of psoriasis.

A 2020 study involved one 73-year-old female participant with psoriatic arthritis, who was taking sarsaparilla alongside turmeric curcumin, black pepper extract, and vitamin D. The participant also had acupuncture treatments.

The participant was taking 425 mg of Smilax officinalis root in nonstandardized powdered capsule form.

The combination of these treatments resulted in:

  • increased range of motion
  • reduced swelling and stiffness, which remained at a tolerable level
  • reduced symptoms and better management of the condition

If people want to start taking sarsaparilla for psoriasis, they may want to speak with a healthcare professional about suitable dosage and the best way to take it. And the manufacturer’s directions on how to use the product should always be followed.

People may take sarsaparilla in the form of:

  • capsules or tablets
  • powder
  • tea
  • tinctures

There is little evidence to show how safe sarsaparilla is.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the use of sarsaparilla in food for human consumption.

The FDA does not regulate supplements for safety or effectiveness, or check the labeling. This means some supplements may contain other ingredients or have unknown adverse effects.

During pregnancy and nursing

There is not enough research on sarsaparilla to know whether it is safe while nursing or not.

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should speak with a doctor before taking sarsaparilla.

Sarsaparilla is generally safe but potential side effects may include stomach upset, particularly if people take it in high doses.

The methanol extract of Jamaican sarsaparilla may have similar effects to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. NSAIDs can have a number of side effects, while some plant sources may have beneficial active compounds with minimal side effects.

There is little evidence to show any severe risks of sarsaparilla.

Traditional use of sarsaparilla included using it as a diuretic and to induce sweating. It may lead to people urinating more frequently and sweating more, which could result in dehydration if people do not replace fluids.

When buying sarsaparilla supplements, people should be careful of false claims.

There are some reports from online sources that sarsaparilla has anabolic effects which may improve muscle growth. There is no evidence to support this is true in humans taking sarsaparilla.

To source high quality supplements, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recommend choosing a supplement with independent quality testing from an organization such as:

  • Consumer Lab
  • NSF International
  • U.S. Pharmacopeia

These organizations check for proper manufacturing, that a supplement contains the ingredients on the label, and that there are no harmful contaminants.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the following topical or oral natural remedies may be beneficial in relieving psoriasis symptoms alongside medical treatments:

  • Aloe vera: This may help to reduce the inflammation and scaling of the skin. A person can apply aloe vera gel onto their skin up to three times each day.
  • Apple cider vinegar: People can apply apple cider vinegar to their scalp several times each week. If a burning sensation occurs, they can dilute the vinegar with water.
  • Capsaicin from chili peppers: More research is necessary to understand the safety and benefits of long-term use. However, it may help to reduce inflammation and scaling.
  • Dead sea salt baths: People can add these salts to a bath filled with warm water and soak for 15 minutes.
  • Oat paste or bath. Applying oats to the skin can help to reduce itching.
  • Tea tree essential oil: Tea tree has antiseptic qualities. Shampoos that contain tea tree may help to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis on the scalp. However, people should use tea tree with caution as it is possible to be allergic.
  • Turmeric: People can take turmeric in the form of a pill or supplement, or in food. It may help to reduce psoriasis flares.
  • Mahonia, or Oregon grape: People can apply creams with a strength of 10% to treat mild-to-moderate psoriasis.

People will need to talk with a healthcare professional before taking herbal remedies, as they may interact with medications or existing health conditions.

If people are pregnant or nursing, it is best to avoid herbal remedies before speaking with a doctor.

A small amount of research, mostly on animals or tissue culture, suggests some types of sarsaparilla may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, which may help with symptoms of psoriasis.

Sarsaparilla appears to be generally safe but may cause stomach upset in some cases. People may take sarsaparilla in capsule or powdered form, or as a tea or tincture.

People can check with a doctor before taking sarsaparilla, especially if they are pregnant or nursing.

People will need to stop taking sarsaparilla if they experience any negative side effects.