Balloon pea

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Balloon pea
Balloon pea (Lessertia frutescens)

Balloon pea ( Lessertia frutescens )

Eurosiden I
Order : Fabales (Fabales)
Family : Legumes (Fabaceae)
Subfamily : Butterflies (Faboideae)
Genre : Balloon peas ( Lessertia )
Type : Balloon pea
Scientific name
Lessertia frutescens
( L. ) Goldblatt & JCManning
Fruits on Lessertia frutescens

The balloon pea ( Lessertia frutescens , Syn. : Colutea frutescens L., Sutherlandia frutescens . (L.) R. Br) is a plant type from the subfamily Schmetterlingsblütler (Faboideae) in the family of the Leguminosae (Fabaceae, Leguminosae).

It is a traditional South African medicinal plant that has attracted increasing scientific and public interest in recent years due to its successful use as a tonic in AIDS and cancer patients .

Appearance and location requirements

In Lessertia frutescens is an evergreen shrub , the stature heights up to 1 m reached and only in the deserts of Southern Africa (from South Africa , Namibia , Botswana is common). The narrow, slightly hairy, silvery pinnate leaves and the striking red butterfly flowers, arranged in numerous clusters, indicate that it belongs to the legume family . The plant is easy to recognize by the balloon-like inflated, red overflowing fruit pods. Lessertia is a pioneer plant , i. that is, it can endure extreme conditions and is the first to grow in places where no other plant has been able to thrive. If other plant species penetrate these areas, the species disappears.

The balloon pea as a medicinal plant

Traditional use

The locals have been using this species as a versatile remedy for centuries . This type of plant is used by traditional healers to strengthen the body's own defense system against a wide variety of diseases . This is how the Sotho people call the plant Lerumo-lamadi - “spear of blood”, because Sutherlandia is said to purify the blood and thus strengthen the body. Cancer-Bush (in German: Krebsbusch, in Africaans: kankerbos) is another name by which the plant is known in South Africa . The plant was also used during the flu epidemic in 1918 and has since been called Unwele by the Zulu people - "the wonderful medicine".

Ingredients and pharmacology

Sutherlandia contains numerous amino acids as main ingredients, such as B. L- canavanine , as well as D- pinitol and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), saponins , phenols , tannins , cardiac glycosides and several flavonoids . L-canavanine, a non-proteinogenic amino acid , acts as an L-arginine antagonist , reduces the absorption of essential amino acids from the intestine and disrupts protein biosynthesis . The composition of balloon pea preparations is subject to great variations, which depend on genetic differences, cultivation location, season, harvesting method, parts of plants used and processing methods.


According to the World Health Organization's guidelines for the evaluation of herbal medicines, the drug is classified as safe because the history of safe use in South Africa goes back well into the past. No serious adverse side effects are documented. There have been only isolated reports of a slight diuretic effect , diarrhea , constipation and dry oral mucosa after taking Sutherlandia. L-Canavanine can be incorporated into proteins instead of arginine, which can lead to autoimmune diseases if used for a long time. So one can lupus erythematosus occur. There are also individual reports of malformations and miscarriages .

Web links

Commons : balloon pea ( Lessertia frutescens )  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ferial Hafferjee: Self-made healing . SÜDWIND Magazin, published in December 2002. Another translation (English hair ) is available from Diana Gibson: Ambiguities in the making of an African Medicine: clinical trials of Sutherlandia frutescens (L.) R.Br 1 (Lessertia frutescens). African Sociological review. 15 (1) 2011, p. 125 ( download ). For the translation "should drive away grief or darkness", d. H. have an antidepressant effect, see Klaus Peter Latté: Sutherlandia frutescens (L.) R.Br. - The crab bush. Z Phytother 2005; 26 (6), pp. 300-306. doi : 10.1055 / s-2005-925484
  2. ^ S. Shaik, N. Singh, A. Nicholas: Comparison of the selected secondary metabolite content present in the cancer-bush Lessertia (Sutherlandia) frutescens L. Extracts. In: African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines: AJTCAM / African Networks on Ethnomedicines. Volume 8, Number 4, 2011, pp. 429-434, PMID 22654222 , PMC 3218450 (free full text).
  3. ^ E. Mills, C. Cooper, D. Seely, I. Kanfer: African herbal medicines in the treatment of HIV: Hypoxis and Sutherlandia. An overview of evidence and pharmacology. In: Nutrition journal. Volume 4, 2005, p. 19, doi : 10.1186 / 1475-2891-4-19 , PMID 15927053 , PMC 1156943 (free full text) (review).