Sutherlandia frutescens (cancer bush, balloon pea, or sutherlandia; syn. Colutea frutescens L., Lessertia frutescens (L.) Goldblatt & J.C.Manning) is a southern African legume which has traditionally been used as an indigenous medicine for a variety of ailments.
It is a shrub with bitter, aromatic leaves. Red-orange flowers appear in spring to mid-summer.
Sutherlandia frutescens is a small bush growing up to about 1m high. It is native to dry parts of southern Africa, preferring full sun but tolerant of a wide variety of soil types. It is a tough plant, hardy, fast growing and drought tolerant but short lived. Seeds germinate readily in around 2 to 3 weeks and established plants self-seed readily. Seedlings may be vulnerable to damping off, but provided it is in well drained soil, it grows readily and is not very vulnerable to pests.
An infusion made from the leaves is a traditional remedy said to treat fever, chicken pox, flu, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, and stomach and liver problems.
Sutherlandia frutescens has been promoted as useful to people with HIV/AIDS, but there is no evidence of benefit, and it interacts adversely with conventional drugs used, such as antiretroviral drugs.
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- Phakamani M' Afrika Xaba & Alice Notten (April 2003). "Sutherlandia frutescens". Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
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