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PFAF - (Mart.) Kuntze

Common Name Pfaffia
Family Amaranthaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Not known
Range S. America - Amazon rainforest in Brazil to Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay Peru and Venezuela
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
PFAF Pfaffia

PFAF Pfaffia


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Commonly found in South America, Pfaffia paniculata or also known as Pfaffia, Suma, or Brazilian ginseng is a tropical, large and shrubby vine that has a deep and extensive root system. Its root is used in traditional medicine as a general cure all herbal remedy. It is used as treatment for a wide range of health conditions and for restoring general health of a body. It is also used to improve one?s appetite, balance blood sugar levels, enhance immune system, and enhance memory. It is used in the treatment of anemia, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, PMS, menopause, hormonal imbalance and disorders, and many others.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of climber
PFAF is a CLIMBER growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.


Gomphrena eriantha (Poir.) Moq. Gomphrena paniculata (Mart.) Moq. Hebanthe paniculata Mart. Iresine


Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Pfaffia root is a very important medicinal herb with a very long history of traditional use amongst the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region[318 ]. Regarded as a general cure-all, it was and is used as a tonic and rejuvenating herb to treat a wide range of illnesses and restore virility to the body[318 ]. In modern herbal medicine the root is considered to be an adaptogen and a tonic, able to increase the body's resistance to adverse influences by a wide range of physical, chemical, and biochemical factors and having a normalizing or restorative effect on the body as a whole[318 ]. It is taken to stimulate appetite and circulation; increase oestrogen production; balance blood sugar levels; enhance the immune system; strengthen the muscular system; enhance memory; and as a general restorative tonic after illness[318 ]. It is used to treat exhaustion and chronic fatigue; impotence; arthritis; anaemia; diabetes; cancer; high blood pressure; PMS, menopause, and hormonal disorders; and many types of stress[318 ]. The root contains 19 different amino acids, a large number of electrolytes, trace minerals, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, B1, B2, E, K , and pantothenic acid. Its high germanium content probably accounts for its properties as an oxygenator at the cellular level; its high iron content may account for its traditional use for anaemia. The root also contains novel phytochemicals including saponins, pfaffic acids, glycosides, and nortriterpenes[318 ]. Saponins are well known to have a wide spectrum of activities including lowering blood cholesterol; inhibiting cancer cell growth; and acting as antifungal and antibacterial agents[318 ]. They are also known as natural detergent and foaming agents[318 ]. Phytochemists report that saponins can act by binding with bile acids and cholesterol. It is thought that these chemicals 'clean' or purge these fatty compounds from the body (thus lowering blood cholesterol levels)[318 ]. The specific saponins found in the roots of suma include a group of novel phytochemicals named pfaffosides. These saponins have clinically demonstrated the ability to inhibit tumour cell melanomas and help to regulate blood sugar levels[318 ]. Pfaffia has demonstrated analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities in various studies[318 ].

Other Uses

Other Uses None known

Cultivation details

Not known


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Seed -

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Pfaffia, ginseng brazilero, ginseng de l`amazone, ginseng, amazonisch, suma.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Amazon, Brazil, South America,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Expert comment


(Mart.) Kuntze

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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