Suma (Hebanthe eriantha), also known as Brazilian ginseng, is a species of plant in the Amaranthaceae family. Though it is not actually in the same family as ginseng, it does share many of its properties, and is known to be a powerful adaptogenic herb, meaning that it supports the body’s ability to accommodate varying physical and emotional stresses.
The root of the suma plant is the part used to make medicine, and has historically been used in the Amazon rainforest region by indigenous tribes to treat a variety of ailments, including a tonic for energy, to boost sexuality, treat anxiety and ulcers, and more. Today, in areas such as Equador, suma continues to be used as a tribal folk medicine for the treatment of a variety of health conditions.
Suma Roots Benefits
Suma is considered a rambling ground vine; it grows a complex root system and is native to tropical areas such as Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and other countries in the Amazon rainforest.
Adaptogenic herbs such as suma help the body cope with stress by adapting themselves to support the body’s imbalances, whatever they may be. They are often helpful in helping the body cope with conditions linked with aging, such as chronic inflammation, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and impaired cognitive function. Adaptogens also help boost the immune system and promote healthy brain aging.
Studies about Suma
Suma has been of considerable interest to researchers for its potential to treat cancer. Perhaps the most important of the possibilities for medicinal uses of suma is cultivation and commercial use of the plant’s roots for its anti-tumor activity. Traditionally, suma had been used to stimulate the appetite, balance blood sugar levels, improve memory, boost the immune system, stimulate blood circulation, and improve physical energy and performance.
Some conditions commonly treated with suma include chronic fatigue, digestive disorders, bronchitis, skin and wound treatment, anemia, hormonal disorders (such as menopausal symptoms), diabetes, hypertension, sexual dysfunction, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), rheumatism, tumors, cancer.
A 2006 animal study examined the effects of suma supplementation on inflammation and tumor control in several diseases in 200 mice. The study concluded that suma root reduced fluid accumulation and increased the cell’s ability to engulf tumor cells (macrophage activity)—a common means of controlling a specific type of tumor growth (called Ehrlich tumor) in mice.
"Increased macrophage activity may be one of the effects contributing to inhibition of the Ehrlich ascitic tumor growth in mice," explained the study authors.
Because suma is considered an adaptogen, to treat stress, it was also studied for its impact on IBD in a 2015 animal study. The study discovered that the administration of 200 milligrams per kilograms (mg/kg) of suma reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines (involved in the inflammation process). The study authors concluded that suma was linked with a reduction in oxidative stress, due to its immunomodulatory activity. Immunomodulation is a common method used to control the growth of tumors.
A 2003 animal study examined the effects and safety of the administration of suma root on the progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone levels of female and male mice. The study findings revealed that suma increased the blood levels of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in the mice that drank water enriched with suma root, and no side effects were observed within 30 days of the administration of suma. The study authors concluded, “Consumption of suma for long periods of time appears safe.”
The suma plant offers these medicinal properties due to numerous phytochemicals within its root. The root contains various saponins, thought to boost the immune system to protect the body against some types of cancer, lower cholesterol levels, and lower the blood glucose response, helping to combat diabetes. It also contains the biologically active compound beta-ecdysterone, thought to build lean body mass. Suma contains glycosides as well, flavonoids found to have strong antioxidant, anticancer, anti-tumor, and anti-diabetes activity, that works to protect the liver and lower inflammation.
A powerful medicinal herb, suma root has been used traditionally for centuries by people native to regions of the amazon rainforest, and modern research has verified that this plant contains many healing properties. It is an effective adaptogenic herb with immune boosting, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-tumor, and antidiabetic uses.