Hemidesmi Radix, B.P. Hemidesmus Root.

Botanical name: 

Related entries: Sarsaparilla

Hemidesmus root, or Indian sarsaparilla, is the product of Hemidesmus indicus, R.Br. (N.O. Asclepiadeae), a climbing plant indigenous to India and Ceylon. The root is tortuous, rigid, shrunken and simple or only slightly branching, 30 centimetres or more in length, and from 3 to 6 millimetres in thickness. It varies in colour from dull red to dark brown, bears but few wiry rootlets, and is marked at frequent intervals with cracks that penetrate the cork and occasionally the cortex. The cork, which is very thin, easily separates from the cortex, and is in places detached from it. The aerial stems which are attached to the crown of the root are slender and exhibit alternate leaf scars. The odour recalls that of tonka bean; the taste is aromatic and sweetish.

Constituents.—The constituents of hemidesmus root are unknown. The aromatic odour is supposed to be due to coumarin, or an allied substance.

Action and Uses.—Hemidesmus root is used in India as an antisyphilitic in place of sarsaparilla. It was formerly applied to similar uses in this country, but now survives only as the syrup, which is sometimes used as a flavouring agent, and as the decoction, which is given several times daily for the same purposes as decoction of sarsaparilla.


Decoctum Hermidesmi, B.P.C.—DECOCTION OF HEMIDESMUS, 1 in 10.
Dose.—15 to 60 mils (½ to 2 fluid ounces).
Syrupus Hemidesmi, B.P.—SYRUP OF HEMIDESMUS.
Hemidesmus root, bruised, 10; refined sugar, 70; distilled water, boiling, 50. Pour the boiling distilled water upon the bruised hemidesmus root, allow to infuse for four hours, strain, and set the strained liquid aside until clear, then decant, and dissolve the sugar in the clear liquid by the aid of gentle heat. The finished product should weigh 105. Syrup of hemidesmus is used principally as a flavouring agent. Dose.—2 to 4 mils (½ to 1 fluid drachm).

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.