Hebanthe eriantha, commonly known as Suma or “Brazilian ginseng,” is a plant found throughout South America, a plant with deep roots that pull nutrients from the soil. For this reason, suma’s roots are the richest source of its bioactive compounds.
Suma has acquired different scientific names since its discovery, such as Pfaffia paniculata. This can lead to confusion as different sources may refer to the same plant by different names. It is often referred to as “Brazilian ginseng,” although this name is a bit misleading, as the plant is not related to what most people commonly know as ginseng.
👉 Suma is rich in a large variety of nutrients, minerals, and other compounds.
The potent antioxidants in suma root play a key role in protecting the brain and other organ damage and are critical for preventing disease and fighting the long-term effects of aging.
Electrolytes, amino acids, minerals (magnesium, iron, and zinc), and vitamins (A, B1, B2, E, K1, and K2) in the plant’s root are crucial metabolic “building-blocks” for the body as a whole. Suma’s nutritional profile helps provide the body with the essential compounds to maintain optimal health.
Germanium, found in suma roots, helps distribute oxygen to the body – a particularly important factor in athletic performance. Vitamin B in suma plays a vital role in many of the energy-producing metabolic pathways in the body. It also has properties and a role in maintaining and boosting immune system function.
Saponins from its roots are pfaffic acids or pfaffosides. Pfaffosides play a role in hormone synthesis, glucose and cholesterol metabolism, cellular oxygenation and even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Suma is also rich in ecdysteroids, a family of hormones which may impact reproductive health and improve sports performance.
Herbalists consider suma an adaptogen, which means it improves the body’s ability to cope with stress and provides resistance against diseases and various other harmful biological and environmental factors.
According to preliminary research, this root has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as you will read further.
👉 Anticancer Effects
Native Americans have traditionally used suma root for cancer prevention, among others. However, the clinical trials on its purported anticancer effects are lacking.
Cancerous mice treated with suma root extract survived significantly longer than untreated mice. Suma root extract decreased the size of breast and liver cancers and prevented leukemia in studies on mice.
In test tubes, suma root killed human breast cancer cells, but this doesn’t imply the same effect in the human body.
It’s potential anti-cancer effects are believed to come from pfaffic acid in roots. However, the specific mechanisms by which these compounds may affect the development and progression of cancer are still being researched.
Suma root may kill cancer cells by triggering apoptosis, without damaging healthy cells. It may also help the immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells early in tumor formation.
However, in most of the studies, suma generally appeared to slow down the rate of tumor growth, but not reverse or cure it altogether. The complete lack of clinical data is another major limitation.
👉 Suma is also rich in ecdysteroids, a family of hormones which may impact reproductive health and improve sports performance.
Ecdysteroids from the suma plant act like anabolic steroids, the hormones involved in building muscle. In animal and cell-based studies, they enhanced muscle growth and strength.
Ecdysteroids may enhance physical strength and athletic performance without the side effects associated with traditional steroids, but the research is still young.
Interestingly, some researchers have cautioned that suma could be considered a kind of “doping” agent in athletic competitions.
Ecdysteroids and its effect on maximizing sports performance is currently thoroughly investigated, while World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), has added these to its monitoring list (2023) in order to investigate misuse by athletes.
👉 Energy levels and fat burning effects
Even though suma is not a stimulant, it might enhance physical energy because of its rich nutritional profile. It contains different electrolytes, essential amino acids, and minerals, which are lost through sweating and physical exertion.
Treating animals with ecdysterone reduces body fat by up to 10%.
Similarly, another study found that mice given ecdysteroid extracts showed lowered insulin levels, improved processing of blood glucose, and a loss of body fat.
👉 Sexual Performance and Testosterone Levels
Researchers observed the potential of suma extract to improve sexual performance in impotent rats. However, It had no effect on rats whose sexual performance was already normal. Interestingly, improving sexual performance has been one of the main uses of suma in traditional medicine. More clinical studies are needed.
Mice fed with suma-infused water for 30 days showed significantly higher levels of testosterone compared to a control group. However, the only existing human study on ecdysteroids, active components from suma roots, did not find significantly increased levels of testosterone. More studies are needed here too.
👉 Female Fertility
Impaired fertility is a growing issue in modern environments, with everyday contact with a wide range of hormone-disrupting chemicals and toxins.
Sitosterol and stigmasterol, two of the saponins contained in Suma root, increase estrogen levels. Mice fed with powdered suma root for one month showed significant increases of estradiol and progesterone compared to the control group.
Estradiol is one of the main estrogen-based hormones involved in female fertility, and progesterone plays a key role in reproductive and sexual function in women. According to preliminary research, ecdysteroids stimulate the production of prostaglandins, which are involved in ovulation and the menstrual cycle.
Suma root has shown potent anti-inflammatory effects in animal and cell-based research.
In rats with intestinal inflammation, suma root extract reduced intestinal inflammation (pro-inflammatory cytokines and CRP) and lesioning.
Suma root extract reduced swelling (edema) for up to 6 hours post-injection in another study on rats. It also reduced histamine, a major pro-inflammatory component, in human skin cells.
But suma root contains also polyphenols and alkaloids, two compounds renowned for their antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that help neutralize unstable free radicals. If allowed to build up in your body, free radicals can cause cell damage and ultimately contribute to a variety of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.