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Pfaffia paniculata, Kuntz


Pfaffia paniculata, Kuntz


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Suma, Brazilian ginseng, Pfaffia.


Pfaffia paniculata is a creeping, shrub like vine that has an extensive and complex root system with leaves that are measure 2cm to 8cm long and 1cm to 4cm wide.

Origin / Habitat

P. paniculata vine is indigenous to the tropical areas of Brazil, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela and in general to the Amazon basin.   It requires the climate of the tropics in order to thrive and grows best in soil that is mineral-rich particularly rich in iron.

Chemical Constituents

Allantoin, beta-ecdysterone, beta-sitosterol, daucosterol, germanium, iron, magnesium, nortriterpenoids, pantothenic acid, pfaffic acids, pfaffosides A-F, polypodine B, saponins, silica, stigmasterol, stigmasterol-3-o-beta-d-glucoside [1] [2].

Plant Part Used

Root [6].

Traditional Use

The name ‘Para toda’ explains its traditional use in South America as it is translated to mean “for all things” demonstrating its adaptogenic properties. In Brazil, the uses are many including treatment for arthritis, asthma, cancer, rheumatic complaints, energizer and stress reducer.  In Peru, it is primarily used to treat gastrointestinal complaints [3]. In many areas, it was used and continues to be used as a sexual aid, stimulant and as a general tonic [4].  Traditional use dates back over 300 years and continues today.


Dosages vary by tribe, application  and preparation.  As a tea, one to three grams as a total daily dosage would be common.



Laboratory studies have found that extracts of P. paniculata can increases levels of sex hormones, like estrogen (estradiol), progesterone and testosterone[9]. P. paniculata extracts improve the copulatory performance of sexually sluggish/impotent rats, increased the percentage of rats achieving ejaculation and significantly reduced mount, intromission and ejaculation latencies, post-ejaculatory interval and intercopulatory interval [10].

Laboratory studies have found that constituents in Para toda, pfaffic acid and pfaffocides, act as cancer-inhibiting compounds [5]. P. paniculata root extracts have antineoplastic effects and cancer chemopreventive activity, reducing cellular proliferation and increasing apoptosis of various cancer cell lines [6][7]. Laboratory studies have also reported an increase in immunity, as shown by increased macrophage activity [8].


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking medications that alter sex hormonal activity, such as testosterone, oral contraceptives or HRT (hormonal replacement therapy, including estrogen and progesterone) [9].

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

 P. paniculata has been reported safe in recommended doses. P. paniculata is reported to have hormonal-like effects, so caution is recommended in individuals with estrogen-positive cancers or prostate cancer [11].

Discontinue if allergy occurs.



Do not use in pregnancy or lactation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Ishimoto N. et al. Pfaffosides and nortriterpenoid saponins from Pfaffia paniculata. Phytochemistry. 1984; 23(1):139–142.
  2. Nishimoto N. et al. Three ecdysteroid glycosides from Pfaffia. Phytochemistry. 1988;27(6):1665–1668.
  3. Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:  A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals. New York: Square One Publishers;2005.344.
  4. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis; 2009.413.
  5. Nagamine MK, da Silva TC, Matsuzaki P, et al. Cytotoxic effects of butanolic extract from Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng) on cultured human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Exp Toxicol Pathol. Jan2009;61(1):75-82.
  6. Carneiro CS, Costa-Pinto FA, da Silva AP, et al. Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng) methanolic extract reduces angiogenesis in mice. Exp Toxicol Pathol. Aug2007;58(6):427-431.
  7. da Silva TC, Cogliati B, da Silva AP, et al. Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng) roots decrease proliferation and increase apoptosis but do not affect cell communication in murine hepatocarcinogenesis. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 8May2009. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Pinello KC, Fonseca Ede S, Akisue G, et al. Effects of Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng) extract on macrophage activity. Life Sci. 16Feb2006;78(12):1287-1292.
  9. Oshima M, Gu Y. Pfaffia paniculata-induced changes in plasma estradiol-17beta, progesterone and testosterone levels in mice. J Reprod Dev. Apr2003;49(2):175-180.
  10. Arletti R, Benelli A, Cavazzuti E, Scarpetta G, Bertolini A. Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual-behavior of male rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl). Mar1999;143(1):15-19.
  11. de Oliveira FG, et al. Contribution to the pharmacognostic study of Brazilian ginseng Pfaffia paniculata. An. Farm. Quim. 1980;20(1–2):277–361.

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