Laboratory studies indicate anticancer effects of Sutherlandia frutescens, but it has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer in humans.
Sutherlandia frutescens is a shrub native to Southern Africa and along the coast of West Africa. It is used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes, chicken pox, and external wounds, and also as a cancer treatment. Laboratory studies show that Sutherlandia can fight off viruses, bacteria, fungi, and also has anticancer properties. A few case reports show that it can decrease fatigue in cancer patients.
Because Sutherlandia can fight HIV virus, it is being proposed as an AIDS treatment in Africa. Clinical trials are needed to determine Sutherlandia’s safety and efficacy.
Laboratory studies show that Sutherlandia has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects. Human studies are needed.
Stomach and blood ailments
There is no scientific evidence to support this claim.
Sutherlandia showed anticancer effects in lab studies, but it has not been studied in cancer patients.
Laboratory studies indicate that Sutherlandia has antiviral properties. Data from a clinical study are yet to be published.
Do Not Take If
You are pregnant.
You are taking Cytochrome P450 3A4substrate drugs: Sutherlandia may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
You are taking P-glycoprotein substrate drugs: Sutherlandia may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
Common: Diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness. Rare: Drinking or swallowing high doses of Sutherlandia may cause sweating and vomiting.
Sutherlandia frutescens is a shrub native to South Africa and the coast of West Africa. This plant and its related species have been used by the locals as medicine to treat diabetes, chicken pox, and external wounds. Although Sutherlandia is not generally consumed as a dietary supplement in the West, some use the raw herb as an adaptogen. Constituents in Sutherlandia have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer properties (2). Sutherlandia is also known as Cancer bush for its purported use as a cancer treatment. There are case reports of Sutherlandia’s ability to reduce fatigue in cancer patients (3).
In recent years, there has been a growing effort in Africa to promote the use of local herbs to treat AIDS due to the lack of availability of pharmaceuticals. Based on reports that Sutherlandia is effective against HIV virus (4), it has been proposed as a treatment for AIDS (5). The safety and efficacy of this herb have been studied in HIV-infected adults. The data are yet to be published (6).
Adverse effects are rare but Sutherlandia has been shown to inhibit P-glycoprotein and cytochrome P450 3A4 and can interact with other substrate drugs, particularly those used to treat AIDS (7)(8).
Sutherlandia frutescens is generally consumed as a tea.
As a tonic
Stomach and blood ailments
Mechanism of Action
Sutherlandia was shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in vitro (9). Pinitol, a constituent of Sutherlandia, demonstrated antidiabetic effects by increasing the availability of glucose for cell metabolism (2). Sutherlandia was also shown to upregulate VAMP3, a gene which plays a role in vesicle transport, and also regulate 26 other genes that code for vesicle transporters, receptors, signalling molecules, transcription factors, and metabolic enzymes (14).
GABA found in the dry leaves of this herb can slow down nerve cell activity (2). In other studies, the ethanolic extract of Sutherlandia inhibited growth of MCF-7 breast adenocarcinoma cell line by inducing apoptosis (10)(11). Sutherlandia also downregulated metalloproteinases (MMP), which control cell migration, proliferation, apoptosis, and regulate tumor expansion, angiogenesis, and dissemination (10).
Pregnant women should not take Sutherlandia frutescens.
Common: Diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness. Rare: Drinking or swallowing high doses of Sutherlandia may cause sweating and vomiting. (2)
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Sutherlandia inhibits CYP3A4 and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs including antiretroviral treatments metabolized by these enzymes (7). But in a study of rats, it was shown to induce rat CYP3A2/human equivalent CYP3A4, resulting in decrease in intracellular concentration of nevirapine, a a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (16).
P-glycoprotein substrates: Sutherlandia was shown to inhibit P-Gp activity and can interfere with the metabolism of drugs including antiretroviral treatments (8).
Atazanavir: Sutherlandia was shown to significantly reduce the bioavailability of Atazanavir, an antiretroviral protease inhibitor (17).