Sutherlandia frutescens has a remarkably varied distribution, but occurs naturally mostly in the dryer parts of Southern Africa from the Western Cape, through Namibia and Botswana. This small shrub (0.5 – 1m in height) is hardy and fast growing and has a silver appearance due to its small, grey-green leaves. It has orange-red flowers of about 3cm in length. The large, distinctive fruit is enclosed in an inflated, almost transparent papery pod.
Sutherlandia frutescens is well known as a cure for cancer and more recently as an immune booster for those with HIV/AIDS. The traditional Cape Khoi San and Nama people used it for the washing of wounds and ingested it to bring down fevers. The early colonists regarded it as giving successful results in the treatment of chicken pox, stomach problems, and in the treatment of internal cancers. It is also known to have been used in the treatment of eye troubles, the eyes being bathed with a decoction of the plant.