HERBS THAT BOOST IMMUNE FUNCTION
Suma is the common name for a tropical, rambling ground vine native to the Amazon rain forest of Central and South America. Its roots are used for medicinal purposes.
Suma has a variety of names, including Brazilian Ginseng, although it is not related to ginseng.
Its correct botanical name is Pfaffia paniculata, and it belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. Other botanical names include Gomphrena paniculata, Hebanthe eriantha, and Herbanthe paniculata.
Referred to by the people of the rain forest as para todo, which can be translated "for all things," the herb has been used for 300 years in the Amazon for many different ailments.
Aside from suma's reputation as an energy booster, aphrodisiac, and wound healer, it has also been used to treat a wide range of medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and various skin conditions. Despite suma's traditional use as a folk remedy, its medicinal properties are not widely recognised around the world. While suma is on the list of about 600 Brazilian medicinal plants published by Brazil's Department of Health in the early 1980s, the herb is not included in most of the well-known compilations of herbs outside of South America.
Only the dried root of the suma plant is used as a drug.
According to tradition, the root is also used in cooking and has a mild flavour resembling that of vanilla.
Suma is described as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is "a non-toxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning". It acts non-specifically to optimise function, and to help the body to adapt to physical and mental stress (infection, hot or cold temperatures, physical exertion, and emotional distress).
Active Ingredients of Suma
While it is not known exactly how suma produces its effects, researchers have identified some of the herb's chemical constituents. The therapeutic benefit comes from the combination of its chemicals and their interrelationship, a probable synergistic effect.
These include pfaffosides (types A, B, C, D, E, and F); plant sterols sitosterol and stigmasterol; allantoin and germanium.
The pfaffosides are nortriterpene saponins (glycosides with foaming characteristics) which are antioxidants, and also have been shown to reduce plasma cholesterol levels and have anti-cancer properties. Most importantly, they stimulate the immune system.
Plant sterols (phyto-sterols) have structures similar to cholesterol, yet have the ability to inhibit its absorption from the digestive tract into the body. They have anti-inflammatory properties and profound immune-modulating effects. Studies have shown a wide application in reversing immune abnormalities.
Allantoin is a regenerative muscle cell builder and enhances cell resistance and immunity.
Germanium is an immune booster and increases blood oxygen levels.
Therapeutic Applications of Suma
While not approved as a medication by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), suma has been reported to have a number of beneficial effects. There is, however, little scientific evidence to support these claims. The herb is used to strengthen the immune system and fight infection. Aside from this use, it is regarded as an energy booster and the herb has been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, ulcers, anxiety, menstrual problems, impotence, and menopausal symptoms. Like Panax ginseng, suma is purported to be an aphrodisiac (hence the use of the name Brazilian ginseng).
Knowledge of suma's effectiveness is based mainly on its history as a folk remedy, supported by anecdotal evidence. However a few preliminary studies suggest that it may have potential as a cancer drug and anti-inflammatory. In one in-vitro investigation, several chemicals in suma (pfaffosides) blocked the growth of melanoma tumours. These findings do not prove, however, that suma is effective in preventing or treating cancer in people. It is an area that warrants further research.
Suma appears to have the most consistent effect in people who suffer from the chronic fatigue syndrome or lack energy.
Dosage and Preparations
Suma is available as tablets, capsules and tincture ()
The strength is generally 500mg and should be 'certified standardised root'.
The recommended dose page for adults is 1000mg daily, taken in divided dosage.
*Copyright 2016: The Huntly Centre.
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