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Sutherlandia frutescens (balloon pea)

Balloon pea is a South African herbal remedy traditionally used for stomach problems, diabetes and lately as an important tonic to improve the overall health of cancer and HIV/AIDS patients.
Sutherlandia frutescens

Sutherlandia frutescens in South Africa (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Sutherlandia frutescens (L.) R.Br.

Common name: 

balloon pea, cancer bush, duck plant, gansies

Conservation status: 

Not threatened. Evaluated by IUCN as of Least Concern.


Low rainfall areas with low shrubs and sparse ground cover, on sandy soils, often on roadsides and in disturbed areas.

Key Uses: 

This species has a long history of medicinal use in southern Africa. It is also an attractive ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Leguminosae/Fabaceae - Papilionoideae
Genus: Sutherlandia

About this species

Sutherlandia frutescens, a widespread and rather weedy species from Southern Africa, is regarded as the most important and multi-purpose of the medicinal plants in Southern Africa. It has enjoyed a long history of use by all cultures in the region because of its efficacy as a safe tonic for diverse health conditions. S. frutescens is also an attractive garden plant, and has been cultivated in gardens for many years, for its fine form, striking flower colour and attractive bladdery pods often used in dry flower arrangements.


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