What Are the Benefits of Suma Root and Are There Side Effects?

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber, MD
Reviewed on 2/7/2023

What is suma root, and how is it made?  

Suma root — also known as Brazilian ginseng — is a herbal remedy often used as a tea or capsule. South American people commonly refer to the suma plant as para todo, or “for everything,” because of its broad range of uses in folk medicine. Clinical human and animal studies suggest that suma root may have numerous potential health benefits. However, more research is needed to investigate the full effects of this supplement. Here’s what you need to know about suma root origins, benefits, and side effects.  

Brazilian ginseng is a natural herbal remedy produced from the roots of the suma plant (Hebanthe erianthaHebanthe paniculata, or Pfaffia paniculata). The suma plant is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, which includes annual and perennial shrubs and vines. 

The suma plant is a sprawling ground vine that grows in tropical regions of Latin America like Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. In Brazil, the plant mainly grows in the Amazon Forest, Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest. 

Brazil is the main harvester of suma root and exports over 720 pounds of the root annually. The plant is washed, dried, and ground into powder before exportation. 

Traditionally, Brazilians and other South Americans have used suma root to treat these health conditions, among others: 

Suma root is growing in popularity in America. Currently, over 50 supplements with suma root are available in the U.S. 

How do you take suma root? 

You can take suma root in several forms. You can crush the root, macerate the powder in cold water, and drink it as a cold or hot tea. Commercial retailers also sell suma root capsules, creams, and powders.

Does suma root contain nutrients? 

Suma root contains numerous biological compounds and nutrients that may positively impact health. Here are a few notable compounds: 

  • Beta-ecdysone: The purpose of this compound is yet fully understood, though it may aid plant cell growth and proliferation. Beta-ecdysone may act as a tonic and treat memory diseases. It could also have anti-allergy properties and boost immune function. 
  • Pfaffic acid: This compound is a triterpene with saponin derivatives called pfaffosides. Few studies have examined pfaffic acid, but this chemical may be responsible for suma root’s anti-tumor activities. 
  • GermaniumSuma root contains a high level of this trace element. Germanium is used in supplements to aid the immune system
  • Amino acids: Suma root contains 19 amino acids. These molecules are the building blocks of protein and many essential metabolites. A diet rich in amino acids may help protect against age-related dementia, lower blood pressure, and have other positive health benefits. 
  • Essential vitamins and minerals. Suma also contains many vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A, E, and K. These micronutrients help the human body perform many functions, like building strong bones, growing new cells, and battling infectious diseases. 

What are the potential health benefits of suma root? 

Suma root has been used as a medical supplement for hundreds of years by indigenous Brazilians and other groups. Here are a few possible health benefits backed by science:  

  • Fight cancer cells: Many people promote suma root as an anti-tumor supplement. One study found that butanolic extract from Brazilian ginseng caused MCF-7 breast cancer cells to degenerate. 
  • Treat intestinal inflammation: Suma root may have anti-inflammatory activity in the intestines. One animal study reported that rats fed Brazilian ginseng extract for seven days had significantly less colonic inflammation and macroscopic damage in their intestines. 
  • Boost sex hormones: Brazilian ginseng has been traditionally used to regulate hormone levels in humans. In one older study, researchers gave powdered suma root to mice and determined that the supplement raised estradiol-17β and progesterone in female mice and testosterone in male mice.

While these preliminary studies show promising results, more research is needed to determine the plant’s effectiveness as a treatment for human health conditions.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

What are the side effects of suma root? 

Researchers have yet to investigate the side effects of suma root. However, research suggests that this supplement can cause several adverse reactions, including: 

  • Asthma. A patient developed occupational asthma after exposure to Pfaffia paniculata root powder used to manufacture Brazilian ginseng capsules. But the ginseng extract didn’t have the same effect on subjects who hadn’t been previously exposed to the ginseng dust. 
  • Decreased sperm viability. An animal study administered Brazilian ginseng to male mice for 42 days. At the end of this trial, the researchers discovered that the mice had decreased daily sperm production and fewer resistant spermatids in the testis. Some of the mice also had pre- and post-implantation embryo losses. It’s unknown if Brazilian ginseng would have a similar effect on the reproductive health of humans. 
  • Fetal death. A study examined the effects of Brazilian ginseng on mouse gestation. Mice were administered 1,000 milligrams of Brazilian ginseng extract daily for 18 days. The study reported that more embryonic and fetal deaths and malformations occurred when the extract was administered before implantation. 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using suma root until experts establish the safety of taking this supplement during pregnancy and lactation.

Because the side effects of suma root are still largely unknown, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before taking this supplement. 

Is Brazilian ginseng the same as other kinds of ginseng?

The English word “ginseng” comes from the Chinese word rénshen, which means “man root”. 

Many traditional medicine systems around the world use plants called ginseng to treat illness and improve health. These plants often have similar anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-inflammatory, and anti-stress properties. 

However, Brazilian ginseng is not the same as other types of ginseng. Most ginseng varieties come from the Araliaceous family, including American ginseng (Pannax quinquefolius), Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), Japanese ginseng (Panax japonicus), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). 

The various ginsengs also have different main active ingredients. Here’s a quick comparison of several popular varieties: 

  Type of Ginseng         Primary Functional Ingredient    
  Brazilian ginseng    Pfaffic acid and its glycoside 
  Asian ginseng    Ginsenoside 
  American ginseng    Ginsenoside 
  Japanese ginseng     Chikusetsusaponin, pseudo ginsenoside F11   
  Siberian ginseng    Eleutheroside, acanthopanax senticosus polysaccharide   

Ginsengs with different functional ingredients may have distinct health benefits and side effects. Always read ingredient lists carefully when selecting Brazilian ginseng to ensure you’re purchasing the right supplement. 

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