Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Botanical Family:


Other Common Name:

“Brazilian ginseng”*, para tudo, pfaffia, corango-acu

Where is it found?

This shrubby plant is native to the Central and South American tropics (Duke et al., 2009; Schultes and Raffauf, 1990).

Parts of the plant used:

Mainly the root, although the leaves are sometimes used.

How is it used?

The root is decocted in water and taken as a tea. The leaves are also used to make tea. Capsules are also available in commerce.

What is it used for?

The roots are crushed and macerated in cold water and taken as a tea to regulate fertility (Quattrocchi, 2012). In South America, the plant is known as para todo or “for everything”, meaning it is used as a cure-all or panacea to treat a plethora of diverse ailments. Some of the uses for the root and or leaves in South American traditional medicine include the following: analgesic, anemia, anti-aging, aphrodisiac, arthritis, asthma, arteriosclerosis, bronchitis, cancer, circulatory problems, diabetes, diarrhea, digestive disorders, dysentery, estrogenic, fatigue, fever, headache, hormonal problems, high blood pressure, impotence, malaria, for rejuvenation, against malaria, rheumatism, sexual dysfunction, sterility, stress, ulcers, and tumors (Berdonces, 2009; Duke et al., 2009; Lorenzi and Abreu-Matos, 2008; Taylor, 2005).

Various antitumor compounds obtained from the suma plant have been patented (Lorenzi and Abreu-Matos, 2008; Mabberley, 2008; Schultes and Raffauf, 1990). Suma roots contain a group of bioactive ingredients known as pfaffosides A-F. These phytochemicals possess antineoplastic (anticancer), chemopreventive (cancer preventive), and antiproliferative (inhibit cell proliferation) actions (da Silva et al., 2015).

An in vitro study by Mozar et al. (2015) tested the effects of a Suma extract on the red blood cell rheological properties in patients with sickle cell disease and healthy individuals. The results showed that the plant extract had beneficial effects on the red blood cell deformability seen in patients affected with sickle cell disease.

Suma root has adaptogenic actions and is used in Brazilian traditional medicine against stress. Stress is one of the various factors involved in the irritable bowel syndrome of IBS. For this reason, Costa et al. (2015) hypothesized that the plant enhances the response of animals subjected to colonic inflammation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of a suma root extract in rats before or after induction of intestinal inflammation using a chemical compound known as trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS). The results of the study showed that the plant extract had a protective effect on the gastrointestinal tract of animals treated with the chemical via Suma’s antioxidant effects (reducing cell damage due to oxidative stress).

Safety / Precautions

  • The safety of using suma during pregnancy and lactation has not been established (Gardner and McGuffin, 2013).
  • Due to the plant’s possible estrogenic actions, women with estrogen-positive cancers should best avoid this plant (Taylor, 2005).

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!


Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; p. 657.

Costa CA, Tanimoto A, Quaglio AE, Almeida LD Jr, Severi JA, Di Stasi LC.
Anti-inflammatory effects of Brazilian ginseng (Pfaffia paniculata) on TNBS-induced intestinal inflammation: Experimental evidence. Int Immunopharmacol. 2015; 28(1):459-69.

da Silva TC, Cogliati B, Latorre AO, Akisue G, Nagamine MK, Haraguchi M, Hansen D, Sanches DS, Dagli ML. Pfaffosidic Fraction from Hebanthe paniculata Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Caspase-3-Induced Apoptosis in HepG2 Cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:835796.

Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, Ottensen R. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009; pp. 347-349.

Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 643-644.

Lorenzi H, Abreu-Matos F J. Plantas Medicinais No Brasil 2a ed.
Nova Odessa, Brasil: Instituto Plantarum; 2008; pp. 52-53.

Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 652.

Mozar A, Charlot K, Sandor B, Rabaï M, Lemonne N, Billaud M, Hardy-Dessources MD, Beltan E, Pandey RC, Connes P, Ballas SK. Pfaffia Paniculata extract improves red blood cell deformability in sickle cell patients. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2015 Sep 25.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol 4.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 505-506.

Schultes R, Raffauf R. The Healing Forest.
Portland OR: Dioscorides Press; 1990; pp. 52-53.

Soukup J. Vocabulario de los Nombres Vulgares de la Flora Peruana.
Lima, Perú: Editorial Salesiana; n.d.; p.319.

Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs.
New York: Square One Publishers; 2005; pp. 429-433.