Native sarsaparilla

A native Australian sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla) is a climber that grows in open forest/littoral rainforests, predominantly on the coast. Leaves are a shiny green and turn black when ripe at the start of winter. It can grow in semi-shade or no shade but prefers moist soil. The leaves and berries were traditionally used medicinally by Indigenous communities as a tea/infusion, to strengthen their immune system and fight colds. There is evidence that in the earliest days of colonisation, non-indigenous colonists also used Smilax as a tea substitute to treat scurvy, coughs and chest complaints, and it was traded at least up until the late 19th Century by Sydney herbalists.

Ripe seeds are used for potency (both male and female), and chewing the leaves helps in preventing dehydration. Recent research shows that Smilax glyciphylla contains antioxidants, and hospital controlled trials have been done at Shoalhaven hospital using Smilax glyciphylla as an alternative for insulin for diabetics.

There have been significant losses of this vine over the last decades due to habitat destruction and increased deforestation and urbanisation.

The leaves of sarsaparilla are used a snack. They have strong sweet flavour and only young and soft leaved should be consumed. They are also used to make sarsaparilla tea. The berries can also be eaten when ripe.

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