Health benefits of Sumac

Health benefits of Sumac

Sumac spice as we all now are powder of dried fruits of sumac herb or Rhus coriaria. We all enjoy recipes made from this tangy lemony red spice and is very common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Grilled Fish or meat marinated with ground sumac spice! Sumac is often used as substitute for lemon zest or vinegar.

Sumac or sumach as we commonly call, is name of flowering plant of genus Rhus. As against its cousin – poison ivy, Sumac is perfectly non poisonous and edible. Word sumac comes from old French word sumac which means red. Fruits of sumac herb form dense clusters of reddish drupes, which are also called as sumac bobs. The tangy crimson spice which is popularly used is nothing but these purple red fruits, dried and ground, often mixed with salt.

Smooth sumac and staghorn sumac are species found in North America. Shoots of smooth sumac are edible and were used by native Indians in salads. In North America, Sumac is used to make tangy cool drink known as sumac-ade or Indian lemonade or rhus juice. Sumacade is made by soaking sumac drupes in cool water, recovering extract and adding sweetner. Native Americans mixed Sumac leaves and drupes along with tobacco in their smoking mixtures.

Sumac fruits contain mainly water soluble extract containing Vitamin C and other vitamins, protein, fiber and Minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus. Nearly 4% of sumac by weight includes tannins. Its tangy flavor is result of high acid content and because of malic acid citric acid, fumaric acid and ascorbic acid present in berries.

Health benefits of Sumac

Sumac has been used across globe for its medicinal properties and uses. Research  has showed that health benefits of sumac are many, some being antifungal, anti microbial, anti oxidant, anti inflammatory. Extract of Sumac and various bio active compounds which has potential health benefits and other food and industrial uses. Research is still ongoing in understanding full potential and health benefits of sumac. Sumac has been used as cure of various ailments in medieval medicine. Potential finding of sumac drupes in an 11th-century shipwreck off the coast of Rhodes, suggests its use as medicine, culinary spice or as a dye. Some of the health benefits of sumac are given below:

Anti oxidant properties of Sumac

Sumac is full of Vitamin C and other phytochemcials which are strong antioxidant in nature. They help ward of free radicals in body and thus protect body from degenerative diseases including cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes. Results of lab studies on strong antioxidant properties of Rhus coriaria has been published in Journal, Phytotherapy Research and Journal of Medicinal Food. [3,4]

Anti inflammatory properties of Sumac

Sumac and its extract have good anti-inflammatory properties. Sumac helps in reducing fever. Sumac works great for arthritis, skin inflammation, and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, colds, and flues. Poultice made from its leaves is used to treat skin rashes. Its leaves can be chewed in case of sore throat or inflamed gums and lips.

[Read more: Home remedies for allergy]

Sumac benefits: Anti microbial

Sumac has anti microbial properties. A study published in International Journal of Food Microbiology suggested sumac’s antimicrobial activity that can combat Salmonella bacteria. Water mixed with sumac extract can be used to treating vegetables and fruits and get rid of bacteria on them.[1] Anti microbial properties of sumac were attributed to presence of methyl gallic acid, gallic acid and other compounds in a study published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Traditionally powdered sumac bark is used as antiseptic.

Antifungal Action of Sumac

A research published in German bioscience journal, Zeitschrift Fuer Naturforschung, showed that seeds of sumac are effective against Aspergillus fungus which causes lung infection and infection to other organs. [2]

Rhus for diabetes

Research further suggests that sumac is effective in case hyperglycemia, diabetes and obesity.  Lab results have shown that sumac with its strong antioxidant properties help reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

[Read more about Natural food for diabetes]

Sumac health benefits – Diuretic

Sumac berries have diuretic properties. It aids in production of urine and helps in excretion of toxic materials from the body. It is used to cure inflammation of the bladder and painful urination. It is often used in bowel complaints. In Middle East, sour Sumac juice is used to relieve stomach upset. Sumac berries are chewed as traditional remedy for bed wetting.

Anticancer properties

Some research  is also carried on its anti tumour properties. In one study, edible staghorn sumac fruit extract, used along with chemotherapeutic drug, treated breast cancer cells while no effects on other healthy cells. Thus Sumac extract was considered promising chemotherapeutic drug conjugate in cancer chemotherapy.

Sumac for women

Traditionally infusion of sumac bark/rooks or sumac tea is used as cure for women disorders. Sumac is externally applied in case of excessive vaginal discharge. It helps in increasing secretion of breast milk. It has estrogen like behavior and helps in treating menstrual disorder, menstrual cramps.

Sumac tea is effective cure for women disorders. Click To Tweet

To summarize, health benefits of sumac can be mainly attributed to its anti microbial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Sumac health supplements, Sumac health tablets/capsules providing similar health benefits of sumac are available in market. We advise our readers to consume such health supplements only with after consulting health practitioner.
Sumac is also known by other names like: Elm-leafed Sumac; gewürzsumach (German); kankrasing (Sumac in Hindi); shumac; Sicilian sumac; somagh (Farsi); sommacco (Italian); soumaki (Greek); sumac (French); sumac, Somak (Turkish); sumaq (Hebrew); summaq (Arabic); zumaque (Spanish).

Sumac nutritious juiceSumac plant typically belongs to sub tropical and temperate region. It grows in Mediterranian countries, North Africa, South Europe, Afghanistan and Iran. It is a popular condiment used as souring agent. This reddish purple sumac spice power is very common in Middle Eastern and Arab cooking. Sumac adds a tangy lemony taste to food. It is used to marinate meat, garnish hummus, salad. In Iran, sumac is added to rice or kebab. Mixed with rice and freshly cut onion, it is served as appetizer in Turkey and Iran. Turkish döner kebab are incomplete without sumac flavoruing. Popular Jordanian spice mixture za’atar contains sumac (Rhus coriaria) along with sesame and thyme.
Young shoots of Sumac are eaten. Once peeled, the white core inside the young shoots are either eaten raw in salads or cooked. They have strong aroma and astringent taste.



There are 8 comments for this article
      • Tarcísio Ramos at 6:08 pm

        I foraged 10 Sumac flower head. It is free, just keep your eyes pilled for the striking red flower(it is easy to identify it with some key identification), it is very distinct. I made a tea this morning, taste pretty good!

    • Cheryl at 9:48 pm

      I don’t know if you can buy it at a health store but you can likely find it growing in the wild. I have lived in Virginia and Colorado and have seen it many times in both states and states in between. The berry heads are dark red and upright clusters. You can just pick a few and place them in cold water to sit for a few days and make your own for free. Please reference a field guide or look at more pics online to be sure you are picking the right plant. I just made some sumac aid today and am enjoying for the first time. It is very lemony and I like to drink it hot with a little honey.

  1. Mike Krebill at 8:14 pm

    Know three people that wound up in a hospital emergency room after coming in contact with one of the red sumacs (smooth or staghorn – in these instances). Anyone that is extremely allergic to any members of the Anacardiaceae Family (poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, smooth sumac, staghorn sumac, winged sumac, cashew, mango, pistachio, etc.) needs to stay away from the “safe” red sumacs.

  2. Mike Krebill at 9:43 am

    There are lots of websites (including this one), plus books and magazine articles that say sumac is high in Vitamin C. Where is the scientific proof from laboratory studies?

  3. Keith Lilly at 9:05 pm

    I foraged for sumac two days ago and to me taste more like Tea . I enjoy it with my breakfast to start my day. There is a big difference in the poison sumac and the red sumac. The poison sumac has white berries that droops down But even with the red sumac take a little to see how your body will react to it

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