Sarsaparilla is a term many people associate with a soft drink that was particularly popular in American west in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, however, the soda’s tang is largely due to artificial flavorings rather than natural sarsaparilla root. In addition to flavor, all of the vine-like plants in this genus contain several active compounds in their roots, including a variety of minerals and antioxidants such as stigmasterol, kaempferol and quercetin. While powdered sarsaparilla is usually added to baked goods and beverages or taken in capsule form, the dried root is tinctured or used to make teas and syrups.
As the name suggests, Mexican Sarsaparilla is found in Southern Mexico, but it is also distributed throughout South America, particularly in El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize.
While the root is sometimes used in tea blends, it is traditionally used to produce liquid extracts for use in flavoring beverages, baked goods and confections.