Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest

How to Use This Book | Brazil Nut | Cat's Claw | Suma

How to Use This Book

This book is divided into three main sections. Part 1, Rainforest Destruction and Survival, discusses the rainforest, the Amazon rainforest in particular, and the issues involved in its destruction and preservation. Part 2, Medicinal Plants of the Rainforest, provides detailed documentation on fifty-four different medicinal plants of the rainforest. Part 3, Rainforest Resources, includes recipes for herbal remedies, tables that summarize the documented medicinal properties and ethnic uses of rainforest plants, a listing of nonprofit rainforest organizations, and a listing of sustainable rainforest products.

A helpful element of this book is the Quick Guide to Herbal Terms, Uses, and Disorders. In this section you will find definitions of medical and herbal terms, and it also serves as a quick reference for matching a condition to the plants that are used to treat it.

Reading the Plant Information in Part 2
Part 2, Medicinal Plants of the Rainforest, describes fifty-four rainforest plants, trees, and herbs. You will find the following information on each plant: family, genus, and species; common names; parts used; medicinal properties; main text on the plant; worldwide uses of the plant; and phytochemical information.

Medicinal Properties
Scientists, herbalists, and practitioners refer to the biological or pharmacological properties or actions of medicinal plants using specifically defined words like anti-inflammatory, diuretic, spasmolytic, and so on. These terms describe the documented actions or properties of the plant. Some, such as anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, are pretty self-explanatory. Others, like febrifuge or vulnerary, may be less familiar. If you are unfamiliar with the meaning of any of these specific property and action terms, you can find their definitions in the Quick Guide to Herbal Terms, Uses, and Disorders. The listing of medicinal properties of each plant summarizes the documented actions and properties that have been attributed to the plant either through clinical laboratory research or practitioner uses and observations (and it’s for all parts of the plant as well). These properties and actions are then discussed in more detail in the text section on the plant.

Main Text on the Plants
The main text provides well-referenced information about each plant. This information includes

  • what the plant looks like
  • where and how it grows
  • the history of its uses by rainforest inhabitants and Indian tribes
  • current uses in different countries and in herbal medicine
  • methods of preparation
  • how various parts of the plants are used
  • a summary of the results of scientific research conducted on the plant

An overview of scientific research and clinical data about each plant is provided in the text. Complete citations of the studies that are footnoted in the text are found in the Notes section in the back of the book. You also will see the distinction as to whether the research was performed in vivo or in vitro. In vivo studies refer to research that has been performed on animals or humans to determine a drug’s effects on mammals. In vitro studies refer to research that is conducted “in the test tube.” A good example is studies performed on parasites. An in vitro study would place the parasite in a test tube or a petrie dish and place the plant or some form of liquid extract of the plant in with the parasite to determine whether or not it kills the parasite. An in vivo study would inoculate an animal with a parasite, and then administer the plant or extract to the animal to determine the effectiveness of the dosage administered in treating the parasitic infection in the animal. Clearly, in vivo studies are much more effective in verifying a plant’s uses and how it might affect a tested mechanism or affect you. Yet this is just a point of reference as well. How a plant might affect a rat or mouse does not always relate to how it will affect humans. Readers should also understand that scientific research is in no manner standardized, and different results will be demonstrated based on the methods employed by the researcher. As stated earlier, wherever possible the summary of research provided herein will differentiate whether the study was performed in vitro or in vivo and will give information on the types of methods or types of extracts that were used.

Worldwide Uses Table
Ethnic uses of plants can be very important. If a plant has been used in a specific way for a specific purpose for many years and in many different geographical areas, there certainly is a reason for it: It’s effective. It is this ethnobotany that helps scientists target which plants to research first and what to study them for. In fact, the majority of our plant-based drugs or pharmaceuticals were discovered through this ethnobotanical research and documentation process.

The Worldwide Uses table summarizes the documented ethnobotany or ethnic uses of the plant. This information includes the plant’s properties and actions as well as specific conditions and illnesses for which the plant has been utilized by people around the world. It includes tribal or indigenous uses, as well as current uses in herbal medicine. This information summarizes how all parts of the plants are employed, without distinction. The information shown in the table should only be used as a reference, and the main body of the text will review it in more detail.

You must be observant when reviewing the ethnobotany documentation provided. Although a plant may be documented to be anti-inflammatory, the ethnic use may well be as a topical inflammatory aid for something such as skin rashes rather than taken internally for arthritis or stomach inflammation. Or, many tribal remedies documented and employed by indigenous people call for a specific plant to be placed in bath water for a “bathing remedy” rather than taken internally. Other times, a disease or condition like herpes or malaria may be documented and listed in the Worldwide Uses table; the text, however, may reveal that the specific plant has been employed as an aid to treat such symptoms as fever or lesions rather than being used as an antiviral or antimalarial aid to directly affect the illness. For these reasons, it is important to read the main text on the plant and use the ethnobotany tables only as a general reference.

The information on the ethnic uses of the plants, as well as their current uses in herbal medicine, has been compiled from many publications, journals, and books by various authors, herbalists, botanists, and ethnobotanists. These documents are listed in the References section in the back of the book.

Phytochemical Information
The last table in each plant entry shows phytochemical data. Phyto means plant, so phytochemicals simply refers to the chemicals that are found in the plant. Many readers will never need or use this type of information. Phytochemical data, however, is sometimes very difficult to access, and many medical professionals, pharmacists, botanists, ethnobotanists, researchers, scientists, and alternative health professionals will value this compiled information. Often, the plant’s effective uses or actions will be closely tied to specific chemicals found in the plant that have been tested and documented to have specific pharmacological and biological activities. In other words, it helps explain why the plant works for certain things.

Again, the phytochemical data provided is a summary of chemicals that have been documented to exist in the plant. It does not include every known chemical in the plant, and no distinction has been made as to which chemicals are found in the different parts of the plant (leaves, fruit, bark, and so on). Therefore, the phytochemical data may or may not be all-inclusive or complete. It is provided for a general reference for the more experienced reader.

Reading the Information in Part 3

The information summarized in Table 1, Documented Properties and Actions of Rainforest Plants, and Table 2, Documented Worldwide Ethnic Uses of Rainforest Plants, is just that: summaries of all the documentation on all of the plant parts. This is why it is important to read all of the information in Part 2 on each plant before using it. The information provided in the text on each plant reviews how different parts of the plant are prepared for different purposes.

The information contained in this book is for informational and educational purposes and is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any illness, nor to replace proper medical care.

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Brazil nut

Family: Lecythidaceae
Genus: Bertholletia
Species: excelsa
Common Names: Brazil nut, castania, castanheiro do para, para-nut, creamnut, castana-de-para, castana-de-Brazil
Parts Used: Nut, seed oil
Medicinal Properties: Antioxidant, emollient, insecticide, nutritive
Although thousands of tons of Brazil nuts are exported each year from Brazil, virtually all Brazil nut production comes from wild forest trees and wild-harvesting.

In addition to protein and fat, Brazil nuts are a substantial source of selenium, an important antioxidant that has documented anticancer properties. One single Brazil nut exceeds the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of selenium.


The brazil nut tree is enormous, frequently attaining the height of 49 m or more. The fruit is a large, spherical woody capsule or pod that measures an average of 15 cm in diameter and weighs up to 2.25 kg. The tree is called castanheiro do para in Brazil and is found throughout the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. It is most prevalent in the Brazilian states of Maranhao, Mato Grosso, Acre, Para, Rondonia, and Amazonas.

The fruit pods grow at the ends of thick branches; they ripen and fall from the trees between January and June. Inside each fruit pod, wedged in like orange segments, are 12 to 25 Brazil nuts within their own individual shells. Brazil nut trees can produce approximately 300 or more of these fruit pods. The monetary value of Brazil nut exportation today from Amazonian Brazil, which began in the 1600s with Dutch traders, is second only to that of rubber. Although thousands of tons of Brazil nuts are exported each year from Brazil, virtually all Brazil nut production comes from wild forest trees and wild-harvesting. The trees grow very slowly, taking as long as 10 years before producing nuts; thus very few trees are actually cultivated. The United States alone imports more than 9 metric tons of Brazil nuts annually.

A Brazil nut is a three-sided nut with white meat or flesh that consists of 70% fat or oil and 17% protein. The oil extracted from the nuts is commonly used in Peru and other South American countries to manufacture soap. In the Brazilian Amazon the tree bark is brewed into tea to treat liver ailments and diseases. For centuries the indigenous tribes of the rainforest have relied on Brazil nuts as an important and significant staple in their diet—so important, that it has even been used as a trade commodity, much like money. Indigenous tribes eat the nuts raw or grate them and mix them into gruels. In the Brazilian Amazon the nuts are grated with the thorny stilt roots of socratea palms into a white mush known as leite de castanha and then stirred into manioc flour. This food is a valuable source of calories, fat, and protein for much of the Amazon’s rural and urban peoples.

With such a high oil content, Brazil nuts will even burn like miniature candles when lit. The oil is extracted from the nuts and used by indigenous and rural people for cooking oil, lamps, soap, and livestock feed. The empty seed pods, often called “monkey’s pots,” are used to carry around small smoky fires to discourage attacks of black flies and are also used as cups to collect rubber latex from tapped trees and as drinking cups. The husks of these seed pods have also been used in Brazilian folk medicine to brew into tea to treat stomachaches.

Brazil nut oil is a clear yellowish oil with a pleasant and sweet smell and taste. In addition to protein and fat, Brazil nuts are a substantial source of selenium, an important antioxidant that has documented anticancer properties. One single Brazil nut exceeds the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of selenium. The proteins found in Brazil nuts are very high in sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine (8%) and methionine (18%) and are also extremely rich in glutamine, glutamic acid, and arginine.

Brazil nut oil contains mainly palmitic, oleic, and linoleic and alpha linolenic acids and small amounts of myristic and stearic acids and phytosterols. Today, Brazil nut oil is often used in soaps, shampoos, and hair conditioning/repair products. It is a wonderful hair conditioner, bringing shine, silkiness, malleability, and softness to hair and renewing dry, lifeless hair and split ends. It provides stabilizing detergent properties and helps clean the hair. Brazil nut oil in skin creams helps lubricate and moisturize the skin, provides antioxidant benefits, helps prevent dryness, and leaves skin soft, smooth, and hydrated.

Worldwide Uses



Emollient, food, insect repellent, liver, soap

Insect repellent


    alpha-linolenic acid, antimony, cerium, cesium, europium, lanthanum, lutetium, samarium, scandium, selenoprotein, tantalum, tungsten, ytterbium

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Cat’s Claw Uña de gato

Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Uncaria
Species: tomentosa
Common Names: Cat’s claw, uña de gato, paraguayo, garabato, garbato casha, samento, toroñ, tambor huasca, uña huasca, uña de gavilan, hawk’s claw
Parts Used: Bark, root, leaves
Medicinal Properties: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antitumorous, antiviral, cytostatic, depurative, diuretic, hypotensive, immunostimulant, vermifuge
Cat’s claw has been used medicinally by the Aguaruna, Asháninka, Cashibo, Conibo, and Shipibo tribes of Peru for at least 2,000 years.

Oxindole alkaloids found in the bark and roots of cat’s claw have been documented to stimulate the immune system. Many studies indicate that at least six of these oxindole alkaloids can increase immune function by up to 50% in relatively small amounts.

Cat’s claw is even being used in veterinary practices to benefit dogs and cats with hip dysplasia, arthritis, cancers, Parvo virus, dermatitis and other skin disorders, tumors, FIV, and feline leukemia.

Cat’s claw is a large, woody vine that derives its name from hook-like thorns that grow along the vine and resemble the claw of a cat. Two closely related species of Uncaria are used almost interchangeably in the rainforests: U. tomentosa and U. guianensis. Both species can reach over 30 m high into the canopy; however, U. tomentosa has small, yellowish-white flowers, while U. guianensis has reddish-orange flowers and thorns that are more curved. Cat’s claw is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of South and Central America, including Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Trinidad, Venezuela, Suriname, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama.

Both Uncaria species are used by the indigenous peoples of the rainforest in very similar ways and have long histories of use. Cat’s claw (U. tomentosa) has been used medicinally by the Aguaruna, Asháninka, Cashibo, Conibo, and Shipibo tribes of Peru for at least 2,000 years. The Asháninka Indian tribe in central Peru has the longest recorded history of use of the plant, and they are also the largest commercial source of cat’s claw from Peru today. The Asháninka use cat’s claw to treat asthma and inflammations of the urinary tract; to recover from childbirth; as a kidney cleanser; to cure deep wounds; for arthritis, rheumatism, and bone pain; to control inflammation and gastric ulcers; and for cancer.

Indigenous tribes in Piura use cat’s claw to treat tumors, inflammations, rheumatism, and gastric ulcers. Indian tribes in Colombia use the vine to treat gonorrhea and dysentery. Other Peruvian indigenous tribes use cat’s claw to treat diabetes, urinary tract cancer in women, cirrhosis, gastritis, rheumatism, inflammations, and tumors. The Cashibo tribe of eastern Peru believes that cat’s claw “normalizes the body,” and they have used it since ancient times to treat fevers and abscesses and to cleanse the system. Other documented indigenous uses of this important vine in Peru include treatments for hemorrhages and impurities of the skin, as a blood cleanser, and for irregularity of the menstrual cycle. Cat’s claw has also been reportedly used as a contraceptive by several different tribes of Peru, but only in excessive amounts. Dr. Fernando Cabieses, M.D., a noted authority on Peruvian medicinal plants, explains that the Asháninka boil 5 to 6 kg of the root in water until it is reduced to a little more than 1 cup. This decoction is then taken daily during the period of menstruation for three consecutive months, which supposedly causes sterility for three to four years.

With so many documented uses of this important rainforest plant, it is not surprising that it came to the attention of Western researchers and scientists. Cat’s claw was first written about in the mid-1960s by a European teacher, Arturo Brell, and an American university professor, Eugene Whitworth. The ethnic uses began to be recorded, plant samples taken, and initial screening of active constituents performed. Then, in the early 1970s, Klaus Keplinger, a journalist and self-taught ethnologist from Innnsbruck, Austria, organized the first definitive studies on cat’s claw. Keplinger’s work in the 1970s and 1980s led to several extracts of cat’s claw being sold in Austria and Germany as prescription medicines, as well as to three U.S. patents describing the alkaloid extraction methods and the immunostimulating actions of these alkaloids found in cat’s claw. It also fueled worldwide interest in the medicinal properties of this valuable vine of the rainforest. In May 1994 the World Health Organization sponsored the First International Conference on cat’s claw in Geneva, Switzerland. At the conference, cat’s claw received official recognition as a medicinal plant. There it was pointed out that not since quinine was discovered in the bark of a Peruvian tree in the seventeenth century had any other rainforest plant ever prompted such worldwide attention.

The most attention to date has been given to the oxindole alkaloids found in the bark and roots of cat’s claw, which have been documented to stimulate the immune system. Many studies indicate that at least six of these oxindole alkaloids can increase immune function by up to 50% in relatively small amounts. This has led to its use around the world as an adjunctive treatment for cancer and AIDS, as well as other diseases that negatively impact the immunological system. In addition to its immunostimulating activity for cancer patients, other anticancerous properties have been documented on these alkaloids and other constituents in cat’s claw. Five of the oxindole alkaloids have been clinically documented with antileukemic properties, and various root and bark extracts have demonstrated antitumorous and antimutagenic properties. Reports on observatory trials with cancer patients taking cat’s claw in conjunction with traditional cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiation noted fewer side effects to the traditional therapies (such as hair loss, weight loss, nausea, secondary infections, and skin problems).

Another significant area of study has focused on cat’s claw’s anti-inflammatory properties. While plant sterols like beta-sitosterol, acids, and other antioxidants found in cat’s claw account for some of these properties, new and novel phytochemicals called quinovic acid glycosides were found in the bark and roots and documented to be the most potent anti-inflammatory constituents found in the plant. These studies indicated that cat’s claw and some of its constituents could inhibit inflammation from 46% to up to 69% in various in vivo and in vitro tests. The results of these studies validated its long history of indigenous use for arthritis and rheumatism, as well as for other types of inflammation associated with various stomach disorders and ulcers, where it was clinically shown to be effective. This same group of chemicals also demonstrated in vitro antiviral properties in another study. Cat’s claw also contains the alkaloids rhynchophylline, hirsutine, and mitraphylline, which have demonstrated hypotensive and vasodilating properties. Rhynchophylline has also shown to inhibit platelet aggregation and thrombosis and may help prevent blood clots in blood vessels, as well as relax the blood vessels of endothelial cells, dilate peripheral blood vessels, lower the heart rate, and lower blood cholesterol.

In herbal medicine today cat’s claw is employed around the world for many different conditions. Dr. Donna Schwontkowski reports it being used for the treatment of immune disorders, gastritis, ulcers, cancer, arthritis, rheumatism, irregularities of the female cycle, acne, organic depression, wounds, fungus, fistulas, hemorrhoids, rheumatic disorders, neuralgias, chronic inflammation (vaginal or intestinal), and viral diseases like herpes zoster (shingles). Dr. Brent Davis refers to cat’s claw as the “opener of the way” because of its ability to cleanse the entire intestinal tract and its effectiveness in treating stomach and bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease, leaky bowel syndrome, ulcers, gastritis, diverticulitis, and other inflammatory conditions of the bowel, stomach, and intestines.

Dr. Julian Whitaker, M.D., reports using cat’s claw for its immune-stimulating effects, for cancer, to help prevent strokes and heart attacks, to reduce blood clots, and for diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Phillip Steinberg, certified nutritional consultant, reports cat’s claw as beneficial in the treatment of cancer, arthritis, bursitis, rheumatism, genital herpes and herpes zoster, allergies, ulcers, systemic candidiasis, PMS and irregularities of the female cycle, environmental toxin poisoning, numerous bowel and intestinal disorders, organic depression, and HIV. Kenneth Jones, in his book on cat’s claw, cites its usefulness in treating diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, colitis, gastritis, parasites, and leaky bowel syndrome. In Peruvian medicine today, cat’s claw is even being used in veterinary practices to benefit dogs and cats with hip dysplasia, arthritis, cancers, Parvo virus, dermatitis and other skin disorders, tumors, FIV, and feline leukemia. In Peruvian herbal medicine cat’s claw is used for rheumatism, colic and stomach disorders, prostate inflammation, ulcers, skin disorders, fevers, and coughs, as well as for cancer and AIDS.

The most common forms used today are cat’s claw capsules and tablets, which have become widely available. For general immune and health benefits, practitioners usually recommend 500 mg to 1 g daily. Therapeutic dosages of cat’s claw can be as high as 10 g daily, but generally for arthritis, bowel, and digestive problems 3 to 4 g daily is sufficient if a good product is obtained.

Worldwide Uses



Dysentery, gonorrhea


Abscesses, arthritis, asthma, blood cleanser, “bone pains,” cancer, cirrhosis, contraceptive, cytostatic, diabetes, diarrhea, disease prevention, dysentery, fevers, gastric ulcers, gastritis, gonorrhea, hemorrhages, inflammations, intestinal affections, kidney cleanser, menstrual irregularity, rheumatism, skin disorders, stomach, urinary tract disorders, tumors, wounds
Dysentery, intestinal affections, wounds


    3-beta,-6beta, 7-acetoxydihydronomiline SD CCO, 19alpha-trihydroxy-urs-12-en-28-oic acid, 5alpha-carboxystrictosidine, acetyluncaric acid PL ISG, adipic acid, alloisopteropodine, allopteropodine, angustine, campesterol, carboxystrictosidine, catechol BR AYL, D-catechin, dl-catechol, catechutannic acid, beta-sitosterol, corynantheine, corynoxeine, dihydrocorynantheine, dihydrocorynantheine-N-oxide, dihydrogambirtannine, ellagic acid, L-epicathechol, (-)-epicathechin, gallic acid, hanadamine, hirsutine, hirsuteine, hirsutine-N-oxide, hyperin, 3-iso-19-epi-ajmalicine, isocorynozeine, isomitraphylline, isopteropodine, isorhynchophylline, isorhynchophylline-n-oxide, isorotundifoline, ketouncaric acid, mitraphylline, 11-methoxyyohimbine, oleanolic acid, ourouparin, oxogambirtannine, pteropodine, quinovic-acid-3beta-o-(beta-d-glucopyranosyl -(1->3)beta-d- fucopyranosyl-(27->1)beta d-glucopyranosyl-ester, quinovic-acid-3beta-o-beta-d-fucopyranoside, quinovic-acid-3beta-o-beta-d-fucopyranosyl-(27->1)beta-d-glucopyranosylester, quinovic-acid- 3beta-o-beta-d-quinovopyranoside, rhynchophylline, rotundifoline, speciophylline, stigmasterol, uncarine, uncarine-f, ursolic acid

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Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Pfaffia
Species: paniculata
Common Names: Suma, Brazilian ginseng, pfaffia, para toda, corango-acu
Part Used: Root
Medicinal Properties: Anabolic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, aphrodisiac, estrogenic, hypocholesterolemic, immunostimulant, nutritive, sedative, steroidal, tonic
The indigenous peoples of the Amazon region have used suma root for a wide variety of health purposes, including as a general tonic, as an energy and rejuvenating tonic, and as a general cure-all for many types of illnesses.

Russian Olympic athletes have taken suma to increase muscle-building and endurance without the side effects associated with steroids.


Suma is a large, rambling, shrubby ground vine with an intricate and deep root system. It is indigenous to the Amazon Basin area and other tropical parts of 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 of the area.

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 for many things, much like 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 and rejuvenating tonic, and as a general cure-all for many types of illnesses. Suma has been used as a tonic, an aphrodisiac, and a calming agent and to treat ulcers for at least 300 years and is an important herbal remedy in the folk medicine of several indigenous Indian tribes today.

In herbal medicine throughout the world today, suma is considered an adaptogen. The word adaptogen was coined in 1947 by a Russian scientist named N. V. Lazarev. His definition of the word was a medicinal substance fulfilling three criteria: (1) It must cause only minimal disorders in the body’s physiological functions; (2) it must increase the body’s resistance to adverse influences not by specific action, but by a wide range of physical, chemical, and biochemical factors; and (3) it must have an overall normalizing effect, improving all kinds of conditions and aggravating none. Suma, with its wide range of documented uses, certainly meets these criteria. In herbal medicine in Ecuador today, suma is considered a tonic for the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, the reproductive system, and the digestive system, and it is used to treat hormonal disorders, sexual dysfunction and sterility, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, circulatory and digestive disorders, rheumatism, and bronchitis. Thomas Bartram, in 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, for 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. In North and South American herbal medicine, suma root is used as an adaptogenic and regenerative tonic regulating many systems of the body, as an immunostimulant, and to treat exhaustion resulting from Epstein-Barr disease and chronic fatigue syndrome, hypoglycemia, impotence, arthritis, anemia, diabetes, cancer, tumors, mononucleosis, high blood pressure, PMS, menopause and hormonal disorders, and many types of stress. The reported therapeutic dosage generally used is 4 to 5 g daily.

Suma has also been called “the Russian secret” because it is taken by Russian Olympic athletes to increase muscle-building and endurance without the side effects associated with steroids. This action is attributed to the anabolic-type agent beta-ecdysterone, as well as to three novel ecdysteroid glycosides that are found in high amounts in suma. Suma is such a rich source of beta-ecdysterone that it is the subject of a Japanese patent for the extraction methods employed to obtain it from this root. Two other plant hormones are found in suma, sitosterol and stigmasterol, and some practitioners believe they help to encourage estrogen production. For this reason some practitioners employ suma for menopausal symptoms.

Nutritionally, suma root contains 19 different amino acids, a large number of electrolytes, and trace minerals, including iron, magnesium, cobalt, silica, zinc, and vitamins A, B1, B2, E, K, and pantothenic acid. The high content of germanium accounts for its properties as an oxygenator at the cellular level. The root of suma is composed of up to 11% saponins. These saponins include a group of novel chemicals called pfaffosides, as well as pfaffic acids, glycosides, and nortriterpenes. These saponins have clinically demonstrated the ability to inhibit cultured tumor cell melanomas and help to regulate blood sugar levels. The pfaffosides and pfaffic acid derivatives in suma have been patented as antitumor compounds in two Japanese patents.

Worldwide Uses

Anemia, arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, Epstein-Barr, hypertension, hypoglycemia, immunostimulant, impotence, leukemia, mononucleosis, tonic, tumors
Arteriosclerosis, bronchitis, circulatory, diabetes, digestive, hormonal, rheumatism, sexual dysfunction, sterility, tonic
Endocrine, fertility, high cholesterol, immunostimulant, menopause, menstrual disorders, nerve, nervine, tonic


    United States

Cancer, steroidal, tumor

Muscle growth, tonic

Chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, Epstein-Barr, hormonal disorders, hypertension, impotence, menopause, mononucleosis, nervine, PMS


    beta-ecdysone; cobalt; germanium; iron; magnesium; nortriterpenoids; pantothenic acid; pfaffic acids; saponins; silica; sitosterol; stigmasterol; vitamins A, B1, B2, E, K; zinc

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