Herb: Horse Brier

Latin name: Smilax rotundifolia

Synonyms: Smilax caduca

Family: Smilacaceae (Greenbrier Family)

Medicinal use of Horse Brier:

The stem prickles have been rubbed on the skin as a counter-irritant to relieve localised pains, muscle cramps and twitching. A tea made from the leaves and stems has been used in the treatment of rheumatism and stomach problems. The parched and powdered leaves have been used as a dressing on burns and scalds. The wilted leaves have been used as a poultice on boils. A tea made from the roots is used to help the expelling of afterbirth. Reports that the roots contain the hormone testosterone have not been confirmed, they might contain steroid precursors, however.

Description of the plant:


12 m
(39 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Moist to dryish thickets and woods. Considered to be an obnoxious pest in America.

Edible parts of Horse Brier:

Root - cooked. Rich in starch. The root can be dried and ground into a powder that is used in making cakes, puddings, sweet drinks etc, it can also be made into a jelly or eaten in soups. A beer resembling root beer or sarsaparilla is made from the roots. Young shoots - raw or cooked. They can be added to salads or cooked like asparagus.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow March in a warm greenhouse. This note probably refers to the tropical members of the genus, seeds of plants from cooler areas seem to require a period of cold stratification, some species taking 2 or more years to germinate. We sow the seed of temperate species in a cold frame as soon as we receive it, and would sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if we could obtain it then. When the seedlings eventually germinate, prick them out into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year, though we normally grow them on in pots for 2 years. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in early spring as new growth begins. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots, July in a frame.

Cultivation of Horse Brier:

Moist to dryish thickets and woods. Considered to be an obnoxious pest in America.

Known hazards of Smilax rotundifolia:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.