Brazilian Pfaffia paniculata
Common names: Suma, Brazilian ginseng, pfaffia, para toda, corango-acu Part Used: Root Suma is a large, rambling, shrubby ground vine with an intricate, deep, and extensive root system. It is indigenous to the Amazon basin and other tropical parts of (southern) Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. Since its first botanical recording in 1826, it has been referred to by several botanical names, including Pfaffia paniculata, Hebanthe paniculata, and Gomphrena paniculata. The genus Pfaffia is well known in Central and South America, with over 50 species growing in the warmer tropical regions. TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES In South America suma is known as para toda (which means "for all things") and as Brazilian ginseng, since it is widely used as an adaptogen with many applications (much as "regular" ginseng). The indigenous peoples of the Amazon region who named it para toda have used suma root for generations for a wide variety of health purposes, including as a general tonic; as an energy, rejuvenating, and sexual tonic; and as a general cure-all for many types of illnesses. Suma has been used as an aphrodisiac, a calming agent, and to treat ulcers for at least 300 years. It is an important herbal remedy in the folk medicine of several rainforest Indian tribes today. In herbal medicine throughout the world today, suma is considered a tonic and 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. In modern Brazilian herbal medicine practices, suma root is employed as a cellular oxygenator and taken to stimulate appetite and circulation, increase estrogen production, balance blood sugar levels, enhance the immune system, strengthen the muscular system, and enhance memory. In North American herbal medicine, suma root is used as an adaptogenic and regenerative tonic regulating many systems of the body; as an immunostimulant; to treat exhaustion and chronic fatigue, impotence, arthritis, anemia, diabetes, cancer, tumors, mononucleosis, high blood pressure, PMS, menopause, and hormonal disorders, and many types of stress. In herbal medicine in Ecuador today, suma is considered a tonic and "normalizer" for the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, the reproductive system, and the digestive system; it is used to treat hormonal disorders, sexual dysfunction and sterility, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, circulatory and digestive disorders, rheumatism, and bronchitis. Thomas Bartram, in his book Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, reports that suma is used in Europe to restore nerve and glandular functions, to balance the endocrine system, to strengthen the immune system, for infertility, menopausal, and menstrual symptoms, to minimize the side effects of birth control medications, for high cholesterol, to neutralize toxins, and as a general restorative tonic after illness.