Related entry: Sarsaparilla
Hemidesmus Root. Br. 1898. Hemidesmi Radix. Indian Sarsaparilla. Nunnari. Raoine de Hemidesmus, Fr. Hemidesmus-Wurzel, G.—"The dried root of Hemidesmus indicus R. Br." Br., 1898. Hemidesmus indicus (Fam. Asclepiadaceae) is a climbing plant, with twining, woody, slender stems, and opposite, petiolate leaves, which are entire, smooth, shining, and of a firm consistence. The leaves vary much in size and shape, some being linear and acute, others broad-lanceolate, and others again oval or ovate. The flowers are small, green on the outside, purple within, and disposed in axillary racemes. The fruit consists of two long, slender, spreading follicles. This plant is common over the whole peninsula of Hindostan. The official portion was the root, which has long been used in India as a substitute for sarsaparilla. It is 30 cm. or more long and from 3 to 6 mm. thick, rigid, tortuous, cylindrical, and little branched, consisting of a ligneous center, and a brownish, corky bark, marked with longitudinal furrows and transverse fissures. The odor is aromatic, recalling that of tonqua bean, the taste is aromatic and sweetish. On one side of the root the cork is frequently separated from and raised above the cortex, and is transversely fissured. The transverse section exhibits numerous laticiferous cells in the cortex. For details of microscopic structure, see P. J., 1872, 62. Garden obtained from hemidesmus a peculiar, volatilizable acid principle, which he named smilasperic acid, under the erroneous impression that the root was derived from Smilax aspera. Pereira proposed to call it hemidesmic acid. Scott also obtained a stearopten by distillation with water, presumably the same material. It has not been further investigated.
Hemidesmus root is said to be tonic, diuretic, and alterative. It was introduced into Great Britain from India, and was employed for some time under the name of Smilax aspera. It is used for the same purposes as sarsaparilla, and in some instances it is said to have proved successful in syphilis when that medicine had failed, but it cannot be relied upon. The native practitioners in India are said to employ it in nephritic complaints, and in the sore mouth of children. It is used in the form of infusion or decoction, made in the proportion of two ounces of the root to a pint of water. A pint (500 mils) may be given in wineglassful doses in the course of the day. A syrup was official in the Br., 1898.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.