Sarsaparilla and Root Beer: Old-Fashioned Drinks You Can Make at Home
Rootin', tootin', it's time to don your ten-gallon hat and mosey up to the bar to grab yourself a pint glass of sarsaparilla. A once-popular soft drink, especially during the 19th century when sodas like Coca-Cola were given out to help with ailments, Sarsaparilla is slowing fading away. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to make your own Sarsaparilla soda at home with a few ingredients and a bit of know-how.
Discovered in the early 16th century, the sarsaparilla plant, which comes from the smilacaceae plant family, was found in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Some common names of the sarsaparilla plant that root from the types of sarsaparilla species are smilax regelii, smilax aristolochiifolia and smilax glabra.
Gatherers used the steroidal saponins, flavonoid antioxidants, and sterols from the sarsaparilla root for its health benefits which include increased urination, treating psoriasis, skin problems, rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, and treating digestive disorders. As a herbal medicine, it seemed perfect.
Then in the 1960s, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) concluded that a compound in sassafras called safrole caused side effects including cancer cells in mice. Because of this, Sassafras was banned, leading to the ultimate demise of the soft drink and making room for root beer to take over.
Today companies in the United States use a sarsaparilla extract with the safrole removed or a flavoring mix that tastes like root beer.
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