Sutherlandia frutescens

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Sutherlandia frutescens
Sutherlandia frutescens 01.jpg
Scientific classification
S. frutescens
Binomial name
Sutherlandia frutescens

Sutherlandia frutescens (cancer bush,[2] 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.[3]

It is a shrub with bitter, aromatic leaves. Red-orange flowers appear in spring to mid-summer.[4]


Sutherlandia frutescens is a small bush growing up to about 1 m (39 in) 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 two to three 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.[4]

Traditional uses[edit]

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.[3]

Scientific study[edit]

in Habitat, Richtersveld

Although some animal studies have been conducted on the putative pharmacology of S. frutescens,[3] there is no good evidence relating to its safety and efficacy.[5]

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.[6][7][8]


  1. ^ "Sutherlandia frutescens". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-03-03.
  2. ^ "Sutherlandia frutescens". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Ojewole, JA (2004). "Analgesic, antiinflammatory and hypoglycemic effects of Sutherlandia frutescens R. BR. (variety Incana E. MEY.) Fabaceae shoot aqueous extract". Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology. 26 (6): 409–16. PMID 15349136.
  4. ^ a b Phakamani M' Afrika Xaba & Alice Notten (April 2003). "Sutherlandia frutescens". Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
  5. ^ Johnson, Q; Syce, J; Nell, H; Rudeen, K; Folk, WR (2007). "A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Lessertia frutescens in healthy adults". PLoS Clinical Trials. 2 (4): e16. doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0020016. PMC 1863514. PMID 17476314.
  6. ^ Mills, Edward; Cooper, Curtis; Seely, Dugald; Kanfer, Izzy (2005). "African herbal medicines in the treatment of HIV: Hypoxis and Sutherlandia. An overview of evidence and pharmacology". Nutrition Journal. 4: 19. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-4-19. PMC 1156943. PMID 15927053.
  7. ^ Müller, AC; Kanfer, I (2011). "Potential pharmacokinetic interactions between antiretrovirals and medicinal plants used as complementary and African traditional medicines". Biopharmaceutics & Drug Disposition. 32 (8): 458–70. doi:10.1002/bdd.775. PMID 22024968.
  8. ^ Mills, E; Foster, BC; Van Heeswijk, R; Phillips, E; Wilson, K; Leonard, B; Kosuge, K; Kanfer, I (2005). "Impact of African herbal medicines on antiretroviral metabolism". AIDS. 19 (1): 95–7. doi:10.1097/00002030-200501030-00013. PMID 15627040.

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