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What is Suma Root?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated May 17, 2024
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Suma root, derived from the base of the suma plant, has a history of use for dietary and medicinal purposes. Indigenous to the rain forests of the Amazon Basin of South America, suma has long been used for its ability to stabilize and restore balance to the body's various systems. Individuals considering using it should speak with a qualified healthcare provider to discuss the herb's benefits and associated risks prior to use.

Historically, suma has been used as an aphrodisiac, tonic, and astringent. South American natives would consume it as a part of their daily diet. It is asserted that the herb offered increased physical endurance and energy for those who regularly ingested it.

For hundreds of years, suma was cultivated for treating conditions such as diabetes, skin problems, and tumors. Proponents assert that it promotes the body's ability to adapt to stress and works as a harmonizing agent that restores and boosts the immune system. The herb's purported capacity to promote hormonal balance makes it a valuable, herbal treatment option for menopausal and post-menopausal women.

Suma root was recently introduced in North America and marketed as Brazilian ginseng. The herb's introduction under that name has caused some confusion, considering it is not a member of the ginseng family, and the resemblance of this herb to ginseng is merely in appearance alone. Though similar to members of the Araliaceae family of plants, suma is thought to possess a normalizing, restorative effect that is beneficial for the regulation of the body's various systems.

Since its introduction to the West, suma root has been used to alleviate symptoms associated with a variety of conditions. Individuals experiencing chronic fatigue, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory conditions have been said to derive benefit from its use as a supplement. The herb's analgesic, or painkilling, properties may be beneficial in alleviating acute and chronic pain for individuals with certain conditions.

The nutritional properties of the herb are many. The root contains nearly all the recommended daily dietary doses of amino acids and minerals, including iron, silica, and zinc. Suma also contains elevated levels of germanium, which is considered to be a potent immune system booster. Additional active elements include saponins, which counteract abnormal cell growth and development, and polyphenols, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

There have not been any evaluations or extensive formal testing conducted on the herb's toxicity, and it is speculated that it may induce estrogen-like effects in some people. Individuals who have estrogen-receptor positive (ER-positive) cancers should not use suma root. Women who are pregnant or nursing should also avoid using suma and any products that may contain it.

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Discussion Comments

By anon350193 — On Oct 02, 2013

Does anyone in this group know if it is safe to take Suma while nursing?

By anon320362 — On Feb 17, 2013

As a working herbalist who works a lot with tonic herbs such as Suma, I know it is an immune modulator, and not an 'immune violator.' Tonic herbs are world renowned for their broad and positive effects on the body. If you are new to herbs, they are the perfect place to start. Of course, do your research first.

To musicshaman, herbs such as Suma may actually be even more beneficial to the 'un-pure' and imbalanced bodies of supposed 'civilized' nations that typically have poor diets and lifestyle.

By anon159163 — On Mar 10, 2011

Do you think suma will help with herpes? Has anyone had any experience with this "immune violator"?

By anon131727 — On Dec 03, 2010

has anyone with chronic fatigue had any results from taking Suma?

By naturesgurl3 — On Oct 28, 2010

Actually, suma pfaffia and ginseng have a lot in common effects-wise.

Like you said, both suma and ginseng are restoratives, and they can help you feel more balanced, emotionally.

Also, both suma and ginseng are used in decoctions to treat chronic fatigue and ennui.

Finally, both suma and ginseng have been used as impotence and frigidity cures for centuries.

So it does make a little sense why they would call it Brazilian ginseng, even if that is misleading when it comes to what suma actually is.

By closerfan12 — On Oct 28, 2010

I have a friend who started taking suma pfaffia supplements for her menopause side effects, and she absolutely swears by them now.

My friend had never been really emotional, but after she started menopause, she got really unstable -- ups and downs all the time, and getting weepy really easily, that kind of thing.

Well, another friend told her about suma supplements, and she decided to try them since she didn't want to go on an antidepressant.

She said she felt better within a week of starting to take the supplements, and that she felt calmer and more balanced, both emotionally and physically. And the fact that it has minimal side effects was just a great bonus.

So although I'm not anywhere near menopause, I know that I'm going to be stocking up on the suma pfaffia supplements when my time comes!

By musicshaman — On Oct 28, 2010

I've heard a lot people talking about the benefits of taking suma as an immune system supplement, but I have to say that I'm slightly skeptical.

Although it may work great for people who have relatively pure and balanced bodies already, like those who live in the middle of the Amazon, I just don't know how effective it would be for most people living in developed countries, what with our antibiotics on every corner and polluted air.

Of course, I could be totally off -- maybe it really is a great aphrodisiac, immune system booster, and hormone balancer. I really don't know.

Does anybody have any more information about this herb?

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