Suma Root: All the Plant Health Benefits

Suma Root: All the Plant Health Benefits

What is Suma Root?

Suma (Pfaffia paniculata), 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.


Due to its many unique medicinal properties, we have included suma root as one of the primary ingredients in our Immune Response Tonic.


What is suma root used for?


Suma is primarily used as an “adaptogen” to help the body adapt to stress. Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands—all of which are involved in the stress response. Essentially, they work by “hacking” the stress response in the body.


Suma root is also widely used for its immune boosting properties, and has also been used as a treatment for various illnesses, including for tumors, diabetes, and male sexual performance problems; as a tonic to restore body function; and as an aphrodisiac to heighten sexual arousal.


We use Suma Root in our Daily Immunity Tonic.


What are the health benefits of suma?


Suma root benefits for health are numerous. It has historically been used in the Amazon rainforest region by indigenous tribes to treat a variety of conditions. Modern research has also verified many of the health benefits of this unique herb.


Suma root is used for boosting the immune system


One of suma root’s greateast health benefits is its positive effect on the immune system. Suma has been used as an immune stimulant tonic for centuries, and modern research has also verified its beneficial effects on the immune system. In 1988, Japanese researchers filed a U.S. patent for a proprietary extract of suma (which extracted the ecdysterone and beta-ecdysterone compounds); it claimed (through various in vivo and in vitro studies) that their compound maintained health, enhanced the immune system, and had a tonic and an anti-allergenic effect.



The specific saponins found in the roots of suma include a group of novel phytochemicals that scientists have named pfaffosides. These saponins have clinically demonstrated the ability to inhibit cultured tumor cell melanomas (in vitro studies) and help to regulate blood sugar levels (in vivo studies). 


Suma root is used as an adaptogen


The herbal definition of an adaptogen is “a plant that increases the body's resistance to adverse influences by a wide range of physical, chemical, and biochemical factors and has a normalizing or restorative effect on the body as a whole.”


When we face a stressor, whether physical or mental, our bodies go through what is called general adaptation syndrome (GAS). GAS is a three-stage response: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens are a category of herbs that help us stay in the resistance phase longer, via a stimulating effect that holds off the exhaustion. Instead of crashing in the midst of a stressful moment, task, or event, we attain equilibrium and can move through it. 


To learn more about adaptogens, read our blog "What Are Adaptogenic Herbs?"


Suma root is used for reducing inflammation


Inflammation is a natural process by which your body's white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is one of the ways your body protects you from various illnesses. However, when the body experiences small amounts of inflammation over long periods of time as a result of dietary, lifestyle, and environmental factors, it becomes what is known as “chronic inflammation” which is very harmful to our health, and actually has been linked to most major illnesses.


Research has shown that suma root demonstrated analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities in various in vivo rat and mouse studies, and may be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory herb that can help reduce levels of inflammation in the body.


Suma root is used for increasing testosterone levels


Some research has shown potential for suma root to aid in the production of testosterone. In one study on suma root, mice fed with suma-infused water for 30 days showed significantly higher levels of testosterone compared to a control group.


Suma root is used for muscle-building and endurance


Another interesting name for suma root is "the Russian secret," as it has been taken by Russian Olympic athletes for many years and has been reported to increase muscle-building and endurance without the side effects associated with steroids.


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 are not like traditional steroids. They are natural substances that may enhance physical strength and athletic performance without the side effects associated with traditional steroids. 


Suma root is used for increasing energy


Suma root is not a stimulant, but it may still 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.


Germanium, found in suma roots, helps distribute oxygen to the body – a particularly important factor in athletic performance, and Vitamin B in suma plays a vital role in many of the energy-producing metabolic pathways in the body. 


Suma root is used as an aphrodisiac


Suma root has long been used as an aphrodisiac, and interestingly, improving sexual performance has been one of the main uses of suma in traditional medicine. 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.


Suma root is used as for improving female fertility


As our environment becomes increasingly filled with toxins due to industrialization and poor management of waste, humans have more exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals and toxins, and unfortunately this has contributed to a rise in infertility. 


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.


What are the active compounds in suma root?


Suma root has an impressive range of active compounds that are credited for its medicinal benefits—including alkaloids, triterpines, natural steroids, and saponins.


The major active compounds of suma root are: Allantoin (alkaloid), Pfaffic acid, Pfaffoside A, Pfaffoside B, Pfaffoside C, Pfaffoside D, Pfaffoside E, Pfaffoside F (triterpenes), Daucostero, Ecdysone, Polypodine B, Sitosterol, Stigmasterol, Stigmasterol-3-o-beta-d-glucoside (natural steroids), and a range of plant saponins.


Is suma root safe?


Suma root is a safe and effective herb that has been used traditionally for centuries by indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest. However, there are a few contraindications worth noting.


Suma has been documented to contain a significant amount of plant sterols that might have estrogenic properties or activities and/or cause an increase in estrogen production (not clinically proven) as this plant has been used traditionally to regulate menstrual processes, as well as to treat menopause, PMS, and other hormonal disorders. 


Suma root powder has been reported to cause asthmatic allergic reactions if inhaled. When handling raw suma root powder or preparing decoctions with root powder, avoid inhalation of the root powder/dust.


Ingestion of large amounts of plant saponins in general (naturally occurring chemicals in suma) has shown to sometimes cause mild gastric disturbances including nausea and stomach cramping. Reduce dosages if these side effects are noted.




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, anti-tumor, and antidiabetic uses.


Suma root has numerous health benefits and has been used for boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, muscle building and endurance, increasing levels of testosterone, improving energy levels, improving sexual drive, and also for improving both male and female fertility.


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 diseases, 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.


This herb truly is one of a kind. We love it so much that it is one of the primary ingredients in our Immune Response tonic, a formula that has been master crafted and used for decades to improve the body’s natural immune response.






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