We have lots of sumac around our property, and this time of year just a gorgeous red. It is a dye plant used as a mordant for cotton, and good with leather as well. The native americns made sumac lemonade with the red seed heads when fresh.
in 2002 this was the herb of the month with CU Herb Society, good info. here http://www.prairienet.org/herbsociety/hotm/sumac.htm
I found this excellent article: from here http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/julyaug_08_sumacfeature
Sumac is helpful for the treatment of fever and respiratory infections. It helps to dry out the sinuses in colds, sinus infections and allergies. It is a very safe herb and can be used for the treatment of childhood fevers such as chicken pox and measles.
Sumac is an excellent herb for the treatment of cardiovascular conditions. It improves circulation, helps lower blood pressure and is a mild heart tonic. It reduces inflammation of the blood vessels in conditions like varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and even more serious conditions such as arteriosclerosis.
Another traditional use of sumac is for the treatment of diabetes. In my practice I have found it to be very effective for this application but it isn’t clear whether it just lowers blood sugar levels or helps to restore pancreas function. I suspect the latter but I’m not certain yet.
Sumac has a moderate effect on the nervous system. It helps reduce nervousness, anxiety, tension headaches and general tension throughout the body. It also improves concentration and reduces mental fatigue.
Although sumac improves digestion somewhat, in the past it was primarily used to treat diarrhea. It also helps to improve other inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract such as gastritis and colitis.
Sadly, there is very little research available on the properties of our native sumac species. As is typically the case, most of the research is being done in Asia and to a lesser extent in Europe where researchers have been focusing on several Eurasian species. However, smooth sumac has demonstrated significant antimicrobial properties against a variety of bacteria and fungi. Based on my clinical experience, these properties definitely apply to staghorn sumac as well. Staghorn sumac has antioxidant activity that has been described as similar to and possibly even exceeding green tea.
Preparation and Dosages (Sumac Sun Tea)
The fruits can be dried and taken as a tea, or used fresh or dried to make a tincture. To make a tincture, use about 30% alcohol (three parts vodka to one part water). As with most herbs, I prefer to use the tincture of the fresh fruits. For topical use sumac can be used as a compress.
When using sumac as a medicine, the usual dosage is one cup of tea or 3-4 ml of either the 1:5 fresh fruit tincture, or 1:7 dried fruit tincture. These should be taken three times per day on an empty stomach, preferably 10-15 minutes before meals. To make the tea, add 2-3 teaspoons of the fresh or 1-2 teaspoons of the dried fruits to boiled water and allow it to steep for 15-20 minutes. It will taste much stronger than when it is prepared as a beverage.
Although it is a very safe herb, the degree of action of sumac on the female reproductive system is as yet undefined. For that reason I recommend that pregnant or nursing women not take it on a regular basis. As always, anyone who has a serious condition such as diabetes or heart disease, or is taking prescription medications should consult with an experienced herbalist or other natural health care practitioner who is familiar with this herb before using it.
Topical Uses of Sumac
Topically, sumac reduces bleeding or oozing from wounds, reduces inflammation and promotes healing. It will also help eliminate infection, being particularly useful for infected wounds and fungal infections such as ringworm. It is excellent for the treatment of burns and can be used topically to augment the internal treatment of vascular conditions such as varicose veins and spider veins.
The warm days of summer are a great time to make a commitment to spend a bit more time outdoors and connect with this beautiful world that we live in. If you happen to be out there mid summer and see some of those clusters of fuzzy red fruits growing on top of the sumac trees, take one home and try a sun tea. Hot or cold it’s a refreshing summer drink. Enjoy!
Michael Vertolli is a traditional clinical herbalist practising in Vaughan (just north of Toronto). He is the Director of Living Earth School of Herbalism which offers introductory classes, certificate and diploma programs. For more information contact: Living Earth, 10971 Jane Street, Maple, Ontario L6A 1S1, phone 905-303-8723, website: www.livingearthschool.ca.
Excellent reading here also http://www.geocities.com/littleflowers_2000/staghornsumac.html
There is one poison sumac out there, I have never seen it personally, It has white berries not red infor. here http://www.henriettesherbal.com/faqs/medi-2-7-poison-ivy.html and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poison_Sumac<