Suma plant, Brazilian Ginseng - Pfaffia Paniculata (Amaranthaceae)

Medicinal Use of Suma, Brazilian Ginseng – Pfaffia Paniculata (Amaranthaceae)


Climbing perennial with a thick rootstock, growing up through rainforest trees into the forest canopy.

Habitat & Cultivation

Suma is native to rainforests of South America, from Venezuela to southern Brazil.

Parts Used



Suma contains triterpene saponins (pfaffosides), sterols (including betaecdysone), and minerals (including significant levels of germanium).

History & Folklore

Suma has been used by the people of the Amazon rain forest from the earliest times for conditions as varied as wound healing, diabetes, and cancer. Also taken for its aphrodisiac qualities, suma has become a popular herbal medicine in Brazil, where it is known as para todo (“for all”), or Brazilian ginseng.

Medicinal Actions & Uses

Suma has many medicinal applications, most centered around three areas of activity: as a hormonal and glandular tonic, as an immune stimulant and detoxifying agent, and in cancer prevention and treatment.

Suma is perhaps best known as a male sexual tonic, but it is equally effective for women and has value in treating menstrual and menopausal problems. Suma root enhances nonspecific immunity and has a role to play in treating chronic infection and lowered immune resistance.


Research into suma suggests that it can be useful in cancer prevention and treatment; several of the pfaffosides have been shown to prevent tumor growth in laboratory conditions. The pfaffosides are chemically similar to the ginsenosides found in ginseng (Panax ginseng), and, like ginseng, suma’s acclaimed value as an aphrodisiac appears to have a scientific basis. Male rats with depressed sexual function were observed to become more sexually active on being given a suma extract.


Avoid taking suma during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.