Suma and Testosterone: The Russian Secret
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Gerardo Sison, PharmD
Suma (Pfaffia Paniculata, Brazilian Ginseng, Russian Secret) is a strong adaptogenic herb with ergogenic activity.
It’s a large ground vine that cultivates mostly in the Amazonian rainforest, generously used by the native tribes. The locals call it “para tudo” which literally means “for everything”…
…And for everything, it seems to be, as research has shown that Suma supports the endocrine system, has anti-cancer qualities, improves strength and exercise performance, is an adaptogen, oxygenates cells, and improves libido.
Suma also has a nickname of “The Russian Secret”, and that’s because back in 1976 a Russian scientist called V.N. Syrov extracted an ergogenic compound called ecdysterone from the plant, and found out that it exerted more of an anabolic effect in-vitro than Dianabol and methandrostenolone, which are both anabolic steroids.
After that Syrov introduced Suma and ecdysterone extracts to the Russian Olympic team and conducted several trials on the herb and extracts…
…Here’s one abstract from Syrov’s trial on amateur athletes:
Experiment participants first noted a “sense of well-being” within 3-5 days, and a new increased desire to get to their next training session. Weight lifters experienced much less pain during heavy lifts when they took Suma. These researchers recommended 500 mg. for every 40 lbs. of body weight, spread out evenly in two divided doses, for the maximum gain in muscle strength and size. During a 54-day period (almost 8 weeks), the dosage was only taken on days 1-10, 16-25, and days 31-40. Despite the 24 days off the herb, researchers reported that Suma’s effects were still felt by the athletes on the off days.
This all happened during the cold war, and as Suma gave a competitive edge to the Russian athletes who participated in the Olympics against the U.S, it’s pretty clear that the knowledge and research conducted by V.N Syrov were kept as a secret.
Hence the name, Russian Secret.
Suma Root is a Potential Testosterone Booster for Athletes
It also contains beta-ecdysterone, which is an ergogenic phytochemical structurally similar to testosterone.
The fact that Suma is jam-packed with a wide range of nutrients probably accounts for the wide range of benefits too…
And here’s a quick list of the nutrients we know of:
19 amino acids, various electrolytes, trace minerals, zinc, magnesium, iron, germanium, pantheonic acid, vitamins B1, B2, A, K1, K2, E, steroidal glycosides, plant sterols, steroidal saponins, nortripenes, ecdysteroids, and pfaffic acids.
After looking at those nutrients, we can make a few conclusions about the herb:
a) Suma is packed with amino’s, electrolytes, minerals that evaporate through sweat, and germanium which acts as a cell oxygenator, making it one hell of an amazing natural sports drink ingredient.
b) The B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin K2, zinc, magnesium, ecdysteroids, saponins, and steroidal glycosides are all building blocks/enhancers of testosterone synthesis.
Here’s what science says about the plant:
a) This patent application from 1995 describes a double-blind controlled placebo human study where the subjects received various forms of Suma and noted significant increases in their red blood cell count (if you didn’t know this by now, red blood cells seem to increase in correlation with testosterone). The study lasted for 3-6 months, but most of the subjects were still using the herb even 3 years after the study, due to the fact that it “increased overall well-being”.
b) This in-vitro study found out that one of the active ingredients in Suma called beta-ecdysterone is anti-estrogenic.
c) This study found out that male rodents who drank Suma root infused water had significantly higher testosterone concentrations than their plain water drinking peers.
d) This study found out that Suma root extract significantly improved sexual performance and mounting frequency in “sexually sluggish” rats.
e) The researchers in this study found out three new ecdysteroids from the herb and also saw that they were anabolic in-vitro.
f) This study found out that pfaffia paniculata (suma) induces nitric oxide synthase and increases nitric oxide levels, possibly due to the fact that the plant contains natural nitrates (if you didn’t already know, this basically means that your blood flow increases and veins dilate).
All-in-all the herb has some very interesting science backing up its claimed effects. However, it lacks human studies, which sucks because that takes away a huge chunk of credibility from the herb.
But those in-vitro and animal studies in combination with the facts that suma increased red blood cell count and contains a wide range of testosterone boosting nutrients should tell us something.
And even if Suma wouldn’t boost testosterone levels, it would still be worth the supplementation due to the massive amount of nutrients.
What is the best form of suma to supplement with then?
Answer: An organic raw powder form will give you the full range of nutrients, but a tincture form will give you a more potent bio-available dose of the active ingredients (ecdysteroids, saponins, etc).
Pfaffia Paniculata (suma) is clearly an ergogenic substance with some very promising science behind its functions as a testosterone and workout booster.
The sheer amount of nutrients that the herb contains is enough for me to supplement with it…
…And even if Suma wouldn’t have any ecdysteroids or testosterone boosting benefits, it’s still a natural vitamin/mineral/phytochemical/amino acid mix.
Not to mention that it has libido boosting, cell oxygenating, and possibly even anti-cancer benefits.