Frutescens Herba consists of the fresh or dried above-ground
parts of Sutherlandia frutescens (L.) R. Br.
gansies, Jantjie Berend, klappers, kalkoentjiebos, keurtjies
(A), cancer bush
1 – Live plant
spreading shrubs to 1,2m high, with prostrate to erect stems;
leaves compound pinnate with leaflets oblong to linear-elliptic,
mostly 3 or more times longer than wide, slightly to densely
hairy, the latter silvery in appearance; flowers
(Jul-Dec) bright scarlet, borne in terminal racemes; fruit
an inflated leathery pod, 1.3-2 times as long as wide, bearing
a persistent upturned style; seeds black, flattened,
± 3mm in diameter.
frutescens is one of five currently recognised Sutherlandia
species, all of which are confined to Southern Africa.
The species are difficult to distinguish because they
often grade into each other and some botanists consider
them to be merely different forms of a single large and
variable species. Three of the species, Sutherlandia
frutescens, S. microphylla and S. tomentosa have
overlapping distributions in the Western Cape Province
and are probably used interchangeably in this area as
taxonomic studies3 have suggested that Sutherlandia
be taken into synonymy in Lessertia on the grounds
that there is insufficient basis for recognition of two
separate genera. Following this treatment Sutherlandia
frutescens is now Lessertia frutescens (L.)
Goldblatt and J. C. Manning. The reader is referred to
the relevant literature for details. For the purpose of
the present work, the name Sutherlandia frutescens
is retained to avoid possible confusion by non botanists.
2 – line drawing
3 – microscopical features
very numerous unicellular stiff clothing hairs, up to
200 microns in length, with warty walls, adpressed to
the leaf surface and along leaf margins (3); the straight-walled,
polygonal cells of both upper and lower leaf surfaces
(1), papillate in sectional view; the small stomata (±
20 microns in length); the bifacial structure of the leaf
lamina (2); the absence of calcium oxalate crystals
in bundles of fresh or dried material, consisting of leaf
and stem only or including flowers and fruit. The foliage
is grey-green in colour, the fruits green flushed with
red; the herb has a characteristic bitter and slightly
4 – distribution map
in drier areas of the South Western and Northern Cape
Provinces; often as a weed of disturbed places e.g. road
5 – TLC plate
layer chromatography on silica gel using as solvent a
mixture of toluene:diethyl ether:1.75M acetic acid (1:1:1).
Reference compound cineole (0,1% in chloroform). Method
according to Appendix 2a.
values of major compounds: 0, 50 (yellow-green); 0, 63
(purple); 0, 91 (purple); cineole: 0, 81 (blue-purple)
on C18 column, method according to Appendix
6 – HPLC spectrum
extract: (Figure 6)
times (mins): 19.88; 20.68
(70%) soluble extractive value: not less than 27%
7 – chemical constituents
tests in our laboratories indicated the presence of tannins
but no alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, saponins or anthraquinone
derivatives. The non-protein α-amino acid canavanine
has been detected in the seeds of this species but not
in other organs4. Free amino acids are reported
as common constituents of Sutherlandia frutescens.5
mainly as an aqueous infusion or decoction, either internally
or externally as an antiseptic wash, eye lotion or douche.
Whole fruits may be chewed for the relief of stomach pains.
the treatment of cancer, gastric ailments, gynaecological
problems, backache, rheumatism, oedema and fevers; also
as a bitter tonic or blood purifier.
the treatment of eye infections and wounds; as a douche
for prolapse of the uterus.
using 50% ethanol extracts of fresh flowers of Sutherlandia
frutescens found no antitumour activity against CA-Lewis
lung, Leuk-L1210 or Sarcoma 180 (solid) tumours in the
mouse. Similar extracts, assayed for cytotoxicity against
CA-9KB cell lines, at a concentration of 20.0 mcg/ml,
in vitro antimicrobial activity against Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, Candida albicans or Mycobacterium smegmatis
was observed in the concentrations used for disc assays
in our laboratories. Some activity was recorded against
into anticancer and immunomodulatory activity of this
species is currently in progress. The results appear promising.
use of this herb is not recommended during pregnancy.
use of excessive amounts of this herb are reputed to cause
emesis. Side effects of moderate use include sweating
and mild purgation.
in our laboratories of different collections of this herb
suggests that it is biochemically variable and that distinct
chemical races of the species may exist in different parts
of its distribution range. These may vary in potency and
a bunch (±10g = 3 tablespoonsful) of dried ground herb
is infused until cold with one litre of boiling water,
then strained and taken in half teacupful doses (90ml)
three times daily. Children 6 –12 years: one quarter teacupful
E. P. and Dyer, R A. (1934). The genus Sutherlandia..
Revista. Sudamericana de.Botanica. 1: 69-80.
B. D. and Andrews, S. (1992). Sutherlandia: gansies
or balloon peas: Part 1 . The Plantsman 14:
P. and Manning, J. (2000). Cape plants: a conspectus
of the Cape Flora of South Africa. Strelitzia
9. National Botanical Institute.
E.A. et al. (1978). The systematic significance
of canavanine in the Papilionoideae. Biochemical
Systematics and Ecology 6: 201-212.
Wyk, B-E., Gericke, N.P.and van Oudtshoorn, B. (1997).
Medicinal plants of South Africa. Briza Publications,
A.J. (1980). Antineoplastic constituents of some Southern
African plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2(4):