Even though the berries of Sumac have many herbal properties, they were first made popular as a kitchen spice. Sumac berries have a lemon-like sour taste and due to this reason are extensively been used in salads and meat dishes such as hummus in Middle Eastern cuisine. In Persian cooking, the berries are added to kebabs and are even sprinkled over cooked rice.
Before lemons became famous in Europe, the berries of the plant were used by the ancient Romans in their cooking. And in North America, the Sumac berries are still used to make a type of lemonade called the sumac-ade. There are different types of edible as well as poisonous Sumac varieties. The berries of the edible Sumac were used as an herbal remedy to solve a dozen different types of ailments. The following article deals only with the medicinal properties of the Sumac berry.
What Is Sumac Berry?
Sumac is an herb that belongs to the genus Rhus and the family Anacardiaceae. There are nearly 250 different types of the Sumac plant.
Sumac is an evergreen herb that can be seen in the following parts of the world – Middle East, North America, Asia, Australia and in most of the temperate parts of the world.
Sumac is classified mainly on the basis of toxicity. There are many varieties of Sumac that are edible and are used in medicinal preparations. For example, the following varieties of Sumac are considered safe for use – Rhus glabra, Rhus typhina, Rhus aromatica, Rhus copallina, Rhus integrifolia, Rhus microphylla, Rhus ovata and Rhus trilobata. Edible Sumac berries are small, grainy, dark reddish or near purple in color, and are always seen in tight clusters. On the other hand, the poisonous Sumac is botanically known as Toxicodendron vernix and has white colored loosely clustered berries.
How Does It Work?
The berries of the herb contain the following chemicals – malic acid, tannic acid and gallic acid. The herb is rich in citric acid, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The berries are also popular for its anti-oxidant actions. The following medicinal properties are associated with this herb – stomachic, emetic, diuretic, astringent, anti-septic, tonic, and anti-haemorrhoidal.
Health Benefits Of Sumac Berries
The following benefits are associated with the herb Sumac:
1. To Reduce Fever & Cough
The berries of the Sumac plant are used to reduce fever. In folk medicine, the berries of the herb are used to prepare an infusion and then mixed with honey to make an herbal cough syrup.The pink colored Sumac lemonade is also used to reduce temperature in people suffering from high fever.
2. Antifungal & Anti-Microbial
The berries of Rhus coriaria possess anti-fungal actions against human pathogens. In a study, it was found that Sumac berry can be used to treat aspergillosis, which is a type of lung infection. Rhus coriaria was also found to work against Salmonella typhimurium due to its anti-microbial properties.
The berries of Sumac are considered powerful anti-inflammatory agents. They can be applied externally to treat skin inflammatory conditions and arthritis.
4. Other Benefits
The berries of Sumac are used to purify blood and to treat sore throat. Sumac berries have astringent and cooling properties associated with them. The leaves and roots of the herb are used to treat digestive and bladder issues.
Sumac has been used mainly in traditional and folk medicine. Therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact recommended standard dose for this herb. The berries of the herb are often steeped in boiling water and then strained to make an infusion.
It is important to differentiate between the edible varieties of Sumac and the poison Sumac. Using poison sumac in food or as a medicine may cause severe allergic reactions.
Edible Sumac belongs to the family that also has cashew, poison ivy & mango as its members. Therefore, if you are allergic or sensitive to cashews or mangoes, you must also avoid Sumac. Apart from these, other types of side effects are not known due to limited number of human studies conducted using this herb.
Sumac berries are rich in Vitamin C. The berries of Sumac can be dried at home or can be directly bought from herbal stores. Fresh berries are usually roasted in a hot skillet and powdered before use.
Sumac berries that are edible and are used for medicinal purpose are red in color. Apart from the berries, the leaves, bark and roots of this plant are used to treat diarrhea, urinary tract infections, skin issues and respiratory problems.
Even though Sumac is considered a wonder herb in folk medicine, there are very limited number of scientific studies conducted on this herb to determine its exact benefits, side effects and interactions with other drugs.