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.
Mexican Sarsaparilla is a climbing vine native to North and South Americas, most notably Mexico and the Mesoamerica region.
The root of the plant has a sweet but slightly bitter flavor. At one time, the distinctive taste of root beer was due to the inclusion of Mexican Sarsaparilla in the original formula. The powdered root is usually used to make infusions and liquid extracts.