Smilax China, Kaempf. Amoen. Exot., p. 763; Loureiro, Fl. Cochinchinensis. p. 622.—A native of Japan, China, and Cochin China.—The China root of the shops (radix China orientalis seu verae vel ponderosae) is said to be the produce of this species. But, according to Roxburgh,[Fl. Indica. vol. iii p. 792.] the roots of S. glabra and S. lanceaefolia, which are used in the East in medicine, are not to be distinguished by the eye from the roots of S. China, brought from China.
China root is imported into England, usually in baskets, from Calcutta and Singapore. Dr. O'Shaughnessy [Bengal Dispensatory] states that it is largely imported into Calcutta from the eastward. It is said to be the produce of the province of Onansi, in China. It occurs in large, ligneous, knotty pieces, of from three to eight inches long, and an inch or two thick. Externally it has a grayish-brown colour, and internally a light flesh or yellowish-white colour. It is inodorous, and has a slightly astringent taste.
It has been analyzed by Reinsch, [Buchner's Repertorium, 2ter Reihe, Bd xxxii. S. 145, 1843.] who found it to consist of wax 0.3, balsamic resin 0.4, crystalline matter (smilacin) 2.8, with sugar, tannic acid, salts, and resinous colouring matter (quantity not stated), tannic acid with salts, reddish gummy colouring matter, and smilacin 4.8, starch-gum, vegetable gluten, and salts 2.6, starch 23.5 with salts, starch with tannic acid 31.0, woody fibre 20.0, and water 12.0 (= 10O.4).
It was introduced into Europe, in 1535, as an infallible remedy for the venereal disease, and obtained greal celebrity in consequence of the benefit which the Emperor Charles the Fifth is said to have derived from it in gout. Its effects are not very obvious, but it is said to be diaphoretic. It tinges the sweat. It hns been used in the same maladies as sarsaparilla, viz., venereal diseases, rheumatism, gout, obstinate skin diseases, &c. It is given in the form of decoction.
Spurious China Roots.—Several smilaceous roots, the produce of the New World, but resembling the oriental China root, have been described under the name of American or occidental China root (radix Chinae Americanae vel occidentalis). Their origin is by no means well ascertained, though they are usually said to be the produce of Smilax Pseudo China, Linn. Hernandez [Rerum Med. Nov. Hispan. Thesaurus. pp. 212-213, Romae, 1651.] notices three sorts: one which he calls Olcacatzan or Mexican China root; a second termed Phaco; and a third called Cozolmecatl.
One or more sorts of occidental China root are frequently found in the middle of the bundles of Lima and some other kinds of sarsaparilla (see ante, p. 271).
Brazilian China root, known by the various names of Juapecanga, Inhapecanga, Japicanga, Jupicanga, and Raiz de China branca vel rubra, is obtained from several species of Smilax: viz., S. Japicanga, Grisebach; S. syringoides, Grisebach (Jupicanga, Piso, Med. Braz. i. 99); S. Brasiliensis, Grisebach (S. glauca, Martius, Reise, i. 283); and S. syphilitica, Humboldt, It has not been analyzed. Its uses resemble those of oriental China root [For a figure and description of Brazilian China root, see Goebel and Kunze's Pharmaceutische Waarenkunde, Bd. ii. S. 129, Taf. xviii. Fig. 2.]