Suma is a large ground vine native to Central and South America. Sometimes called "Brazilian ginseng," native peoples have long used suma to promote robust health as well as to treat practically all illnesses. They called it Para Toda, which means "for all things."1
Suma's ancient reputation has generated worldwide interest. However, there has been little formal scientific investigation of the herb at this time.
According to most contemporary herbalists, suma is best understood as an adaptogen, a substance that supposedly helps one adapt to stress and fight infection (see the article on ginseng for a more in-depth discussion about adaptogens). Russian Olympic athletes have reportedly used suma (as well as other adaptogens) in the belief that it will enhance sports performance. In the United States, suma is often recommended as a general strengthener of the body, as well as for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, menopausal symptoms, ulcers, anxiety, menstrual problems, impotence, and immune support. The herb also enjoys a considerable reputation as an aphrodisiac. However, there is is no reliable scientific evidence that suma offers any benefits for these conditions. Finally, one test tube study suggests that suma might be helpful for sickle-cell disease,2 but but it is a long way from such preliminary investigations to evidence of efficacy.
A typical dosage of suma is 500 mg twice daily. It is usually taken for an extended period of time.
Suma has not been associated with any serious adverse reactions. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been undertaken. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
1. De Oliveira F. Pfaffia paniculata (Martius) Kuntze-Brazilian ginseng. Rev Bras Farmacog. 1986;1:86–92.
2. Ballas SK. Short Report: Hydration of sickle erythrocytes using a herbal extract (Pfaffia paniculata) in vitro. Br J Haematol. 2000;111:359–362.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015