Suma is a popular South & Central American herb that has been used since ages for curing an assortment of health disorders. It is believed that tribal communities in these areas use Suma as an ingredient in their daily diet to provide physical stamina and endurance.
What is Suma?
Suma is botanically known as Pfaffia paniculata and belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. The genus Pfaffia has more than fifty related species and almost every herb in this family is known to the indigenous population of South America. The first official documented use of Suma as an herbal remedy was dated as early as 1826. Other common names by which Suma is known include the following – Brazilian Ginseng and Para Toda.
The herb is predominantly seen in Brazil and also in the Amazon jungle where it is referred as Para Toda meaning an herb ‘for all things’. The tribal members of these areas use Suma not only as an herbal remedy but also as an active component in their food. Also, Brazilian Ginseng the other name given to Suma does not mean that the herb is related to the Ginseng family of herbs. In fact, Suma and Ginseng are entirely different herbal plants that are not even vaguely related.
As a plant, Suma is a large and sprawling ground vine found in the rainforests of South & Central America. This herb has a deep and complicated root system. According to some, the roots of Suma resemble the ginseng and may be for this reason many call it the Brazilian Ginseng. The herb is commonly seen in the following places in the Amazon Basin – Brazil, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela and the Ecuador.
The medicinal part of this herb is its root.
How Does it Work?
Suma as an herb acts like an adaptogen and positively influences the immune system in humans. The root of this herb contains the following compounds – pfaffic acid which is a new form of nortriterpene, saponin derivatives known as pfaffosides, amino acids, sitosterol, stigmasterol and beta-ecdysone. Suma also is rich in trace minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium.
The herb also contains vitamins such as Vitamin A, B-complex and Vitamin E. Studies have also found traces of germanium in the herb which acts as an immune system stimulator in humans. The pfaffosides found in the herb is said to be effective in slowing tumor cell growth.
Health Benefits of Suma
Suma has many health related benefits such as:
1. As an Adaptogen
Suma is added in many different herbal products since it is considered a powerful adaptogen for the human body. Adaptogens are known to increase the general resistance power of the body against diseases & stress. As an adaptogen, Suma is also used to increase the sexual energy in humans. The native South Americans use Suma as part of their regular diet to increase their stamina and energy levels. As an adaptogen, Suma was popularly used by athletes in Russia during the 1970s.
2. As an Immune System Stimulator
This herbal benefit is very closely related to the adaptogen capabilities of Suma. It is said that Suma contains Germanium which is a trace mineral that helps in stimulating the immune system. Some say that the herb can increase the production of immune cells such as macrophages in the body.
3. For the Skin
Suma is traditionally used by tribal members to reduce and treat skin related ailments. The herb can be applied directly to the skin for curing problems such as ulcers & boils, and can even treat wounds due to the presence of Allantoin.
4. Against Diabetes
The root extracts derived from Suma also might be beneficial in treating diabetes in humans. This is because Suma contains saponins that help in regulating the blood sugar levels in those suffering from the disorder.
5. For the Reproductive System
One of the traditional uses of Suma is in treating male sexual problems such as impotence. As an aphrodisiac, Suma helps in sexual arousal and also cures hormonal imbalance issues. In females, Suma helps in treating premenstrual syndrome symptoms and problems associated with menopause.
It is also claimed that the herb can be used to treat infertility problems as it reduces stress related complications in the body. In a clinical study conducted on mice, it was observed that Suma was able to significantly increase the progesterone and testosterone levels.
6. As a Tonic
According to some herbalists from Ecuador, Suma is an excellent herbal tonic that can stabilize the following – cardiovascular system, digestive system, central nervous system and the reproductive system.
And according to herbal experts from Europe, the herbal tonic can improve the glandular functions and the working of the endocrine system in the body. The herbal extracts derived from Suma also help in providing more oxygen to the cells and help in increasing blood circulation in the body. As a tonic, it is also used to increase the appetite.
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7. Anti Cancer
In some clinical studies, it was found that the Pfaffic acid found in Suma have anti-cancer properties. The same finding has been confirmed in many animal based research studies conducted in Japan. Few studies that were conducted on mice showed that the herb could slow down the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cells in the animal body.
Apart from the above, Suma is also linked with the following medical conditions – Sickle cell anemia, memory impairment, fatigue, arthritis, high blood pressure, mononucleosis, bronchitis, arteriosclerosis etc.
In traditional medicine, a decoction can be prepared by using 10 grams of the dried herbal extract in one liter of water. The recommended dosage for decoction according to herbalists is two cups per day. In case of capsule, the recommended dosage is less than 4 grams per day in divided doses.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Suma is generally considered safe. The side effects of using the herb include – asthma as a result of inhaling the powdered extract and lead poisoning since Brazilian herbs usually have high lead content. The herb should be avoided by women suffering from hormonal conditions such as estrogen positive cancer.
The herb Suma is definitely an herb for all (para toda) ailments as it enhances the general health in humans. Suma is an ancient herb and even today its use has been supported by the Native Americans and the indigenous tribal people of the Amazon Basin. The herb is known as the Brazilian Ginseng in the market and is available in the following forms – dried powdered extracts, capsules and tablets.