Herb: Wild Sarsaparilla


Latin name: Aralia nudicaulis


Family: Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)



Medicinal use of Wild Sarsaparilla:

Wild sarsaparilla is a sweet pungent tonic herb that acts as an alterative. It had a wide range of traditional uses amongst the North American Indians and was at one time widely used as a substitute for the tropical medicinal herb sarsaparilla. The root is alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and stimulant. The herb encourages sweating, is stimulating and detoxifying and so is used internally in the treatment of pulmonary diseases, asthma, rheumatism, stomach aches etc. Externally it is used as a poultice in treating rheumatism, sores, burns, itchy skin, ulcers and skin problems such as eczema. The root is collected in late summer and the autumn and dried for later use. A drink made from the pulverised roots is used as a cough treatment. A poultice made from the roots and/or the fruit is applied to sores, burns, itchy skin, ulcers, swellings etc. A homeopathic remedy made from the roots is important in the treatment of cystitis.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
40 cm
(1 foot)

Flovering:
June

Habitat of the herb:

Moist, shady, rocky woods.

Edible parts of Wild Sarsaparilla:

The rootstock is used as a flavouring, it is a substitute for sarsaparilla and is also used for making "root beer". It is also used as an emergency food (usually mixed with oil), having a sweet spicy taste and a pleasant aromatic smell. A nutritious food, it was used by the Indians during wars or when they were hunting since it is very sustaining. Young shoots - cooked as a potherb. A refreshing herbal tea is made from the root. Pleasantly flavoured. The roots are boiled in water until the water is reddish-brown. A jelly is made from the fruit. The fruit is also used to make wine. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 - 5 months of cold stratification. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 4 months at 20C. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Once the plants are 25cm or more tall, they can be planted out into their permanent positions, late spring or early summer being the best time to do this. Root cuttings 8cm long, December in a cold frame. Store the roots upside down in sand and pot up in March/April. High percentage. Division of suckers in late winter. Very easy, the suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions if required.

Cultivation of Wild Sarsaparilla:

Moist, shady, rocky woods.

Known hazards of Aralia nudicaulis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.