Sarsaparil (biochemistry)

H. V. K. and others.Homeland – Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Jamaica.

Woody, with crooked thorns, dioecious lianas of marshy, often flooded forests, climbing trees to a height of 30 m. The flowers are small, greenish. The fruits are red berries.

Gather adventitious roots (Radix Sarsaparillae), sometimes reaching 2 m; after drying, they are tied into bundles. The thickness of the roots is 3-6 mm, the bark is wrinkled, the inner bark is wide, whitish, the wood is yellowish. The taste is slimy, turning into sharp, scratching.

The roots of sarsaparilla contain 2-4% of steroidal saponins, of which the main ones are parillin and sarsaparilloside. Sarsapogenin is the genin of both saponins. Parillin is a tetrazid (at C 3 rhamnose and 3 glucose molecules) of the spirostane type. Sarsaparilloside has a furostanovy structure and, in addition to the sugar chain at C 3 (like parilin), has one more glucose at C 26. Root decoctions are used for rheumatism and gout. Chinese sarsaparilla – S. china L., growing in China (Hubei, at an altitude of 1000-1300 m above sea level), the Korean Peninsula, Japan, the Philippines, the mountains of Northeast India; enters North Vietnam. The chemical composition is close to American species. In the history of medicine, sarsaparilla is known as an antisyphilitic agent, which for a long time remained the only one.

The plant contains steroidal saponins



Most of the genins of these saponins are based on a steroidal structure that has a spiroketal group due to the oxidation of the side chain of 8 carbon atoms and the 16-OP group and the closure of E and F through C 17 .

Some sapogenins may be of the furostane type, without the P ring.


Saponins are natural substances that are glycosides, in which steroids or triterpenes can be aglycones (sapogenins). They are united by similar physical and chemical properties, among which the most characteristic is the ability of their aqueous solutions, when shaken, to foam strongly like soap, forming a stable, long-lasting foam.

In addition to surface activity, most saponins combine hemolytic activity and toxicity to cold-blooded animals.

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