With its tangy, lemon-like flavor and vibrant red hue, sumac spice is a superstar ingredient that deserves a spot in every spice cabinet. Besides adding a zip of flavor and color to dishes, this powerful spice has also been associated with an extensive set of benefits. Thanks to its rich content of polyphenols and flavonoids, adding a dash of sumac into your diet may help lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar and even reduce bone loss.

So what is sumac, and why should you start stocking up on this potent spice? Let’s take a closer look at a few of the ways that sumac spice can benefit your health.


What Is Sumac Spice?

Sumac refers to any flowering plant that belongs to the Rhus genus or the Anacardiaceae family, which often consist of small shrubs and sumac trees that produce bright red fruits known as drupes. These plants are grown around the world but are especially common in East Asia, Africa and North America. Some other popular variations include the staghorn sumac, African sumac, smooth sumac and fragrant sumac.

Sumac spice, however, is derived from the dried and ground berries of a specific type of sumac plant, Rhus coriaria. This bright and flavorful spice is often added to other spice blends, including za’atar. It’s also a common ingredient in traditional Middle Eastern cuisine and is used in everything from meat dishes to salads.

So what does sumac taste like? Sumac has a unique taste typically described as tangy and slightly fruity, a bit like lemon. But in addition to bringing a distinct taste to dishes, it also boasts a long list of impressive benefits. In fact, recent research suggests that sumac could have a powerful effect on blood sugar control, heart health, disease prevention and even pain relief.

Benefits of Sumac Spice

  1. Regulates Blood Sugar
  2. Reduces Cholesterol
  3. High in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
  4. May Reduce Bone Loss
  5. Relieves Muscle Pain

1. Regulates Blood Sugar

High blood sugar can take a real toll on many aspects of health. In the short term, it can cause symptoms like fatigue, headaches, frequent urination and increased thirst. Over time, sustaining high levels of blood sugar has even more serious consequences, including nerve damage, kidney problems and impaired wound healing.

Some research shows that sumac may help maintain normal blood sugar levels. In one study, 41 people with diabetes were given either three grams of sumac spice or a placebo daily for a three-month period. At the end of the study, sumac spice was found to decrease blood sugar levels by 13 percent and even led to an improvement in overall blood sugar control. (1)

Plus, it may also help prevent insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the bloodstream to the tissues, so when blood sugar levels are consistently high, insulin levels remain spiked. This causes the body to become resistant to its effects, resulting in impaired blood sugar control. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, sumac spice may be effective at lowering insulin levels to prevent insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar. (2)

2. Reduces Cholesterol

High cholesterol is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Cholesterol can build up inside the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden, placing strain on the heart muscle and making it harder to push blood through.

Although research is currently mostly limited to animal models, studies suggest that sumac benefits heart health by lowering cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease. According to a study conducted by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, sumac was able to reduce both triglyceride and cholesterol levels in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet. (3) Another study had similar findings, showing that administering a combination of sumac and ginger to hens caused a significant decrease in cholesterol levels. (4)

3. High in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants

Antioxidants are powerful compounds that help fight free radicals to prevent cell damage and protect against chronic disease. Some research even suggests that antioxidants may reduce the risk of serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. (5)

Sumac is a concentrated source of antioxidants, which can help neutralize free radicals and keep your body healthy. (6) In fact, one 2015 animal model showed that sumac was effective at reducing diabetes complications in rats, largely thanks to its antioxidant content. (7)

4. May Reduce Bone Loss

Osteoporosis is a common condition characterized by weak, brittle bones caused by bone loss and an increased risk of fracture. The risk of osteoporosis steadily increases with age, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 25 percent of women over 65 have osteoporosis in the femur, neck and lumbar spine. (8)

Although research is still very limited on the potential effects of sumac on bone health, one study did find some promising results. A 2015 animal study published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science showed that administering sumac extract to rats altered the balance of several specific proteins involved in bone metabolism, resulting in decreased bone loss. (9)

5. Relieves Muscle Pain

If you suffer from chronic muscle aches and pain, switching up your spice cabinet may be able to help. In fact, one study showed that sumac juice, derived from the same plant as sumac spice, was able to help reduce muscle pain during aerobic exercise in healthy adults. (10)

Because of its rich antioxidant content, it may also aid in reducing inflammation to provide even more pain relief. Not only does inflammation contribute to disease development and play a central role in several autoimmune conditions, but studies also show that inflammation may be involved in pain regulation as well. (11)

Sumac Spice Nutrition and Natural Medicine Uses

Like other healing herbs and spices, sumac spice is low in calories but high in vitamin C and provides a burst of important antioxidants to help fight disease and optimize health. In particular, sumac is high in polyphenols and flavonoids, such as gallic acid, methyl gallate, kaempferol and quercetin. It also contains tannins, which act as antioxidants and may even have anticancer properties as well.

The medicinal properties of sumac have been recognized for thousands of years, particularly in regions like South Asia and the Middle East, where sumac was commonly grown. In holistic medicine, it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from asthma to diarrhea and colds. The fruit is also sometimes used as a natural diuretic to help promote proper elimination and detoxification.

Sumac Spice vs. Poison Sumac

Poison sumac, sometimes also called thunderwood, is a type woody shrub that belongs to the same family of plants as poison ivy. Although it shares the same name as sumac spice, the two belong to different plant genera and share very few similarities.

Unlike sumac spice, poison sumac is not edible and can actually be extremely dangerous to health. The plant contains a compound called urushiol, which can irritate the skin and mucus membranes, causing a poison sumac rash. When the leaves are burned, the compound can even enter the lungs, causing pain and difficulty breathing, which can even be fatal. Sumac spice, on the other hand, has not been associated with significant side effects and can be safely consumed by most people.

Sumac Spice vs. Turmeric

Both sumac spice and turmeric are powerful spices that can have a powerful effect on health. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and boasts a similar set of benefits to sumac spice. Both are also bright and flavorful, perfect for adding a bit of zing to your favorite dishes.

The sumac taste is very distinct, though, and quite different from turmeric. Turmeric has a bitter, slightly pungent flavor that works well with most dishes. Sumac, on the other hand, is more tangy and lemony, which is why lemon zest mixed with black pepper is often used as a sumac spice substitute.

Ideally, add both to your spice cabinet to bring a good mix of flavor and health benefits into your diet and take advantage of what each has to offer.

Where to Find and How to Use Sumac Spice

Wondering where to buy sumac spice? It can usually be found in the spice section of many grocery stores and is also common in specialty Middle Eastern markets. If you’re having trouble, you can also find it online, sometimes at an even lower price.

If you’re able to get your hands on some sumac berries, you could also try making it at home. There are plenty of tutorials online for how to make sumac spice, but it generally involves simply drying and coarsely grinding the berries into a spice and then enjoying in your favorite recipes.

So how do you start adding sumac to your diet to reap all of the delicious benefits that it has to offer? This versatile spice can be used in everything from dressings to marinades. It’s a staple ingredient in fattoush salad and also goes well with grilled meat and fish. You can also add a sprinkle of sumac over cooked vegetables or side dishes for a dash of extra color and flavor.

Sumac Spice Recipes

Need some new sumac food ideas to add into your routine? Here are a few simple yet delicious recipes that incorporate sumac spice to help you get your fix:

  • Chickpea Salad
  • Roasted Chicken with Sumac and Lemons
  • Lebanese Fattoush Salad
  • Squash Toast with Feta, Sumac and Poached Egg
  • Persian Lentil Soup


The sumac plant, which is native to South Asia and the Middle East, is known for its vibrant red berries, also called drupes. These berries become fully ripe in the fall but gradually develop a darker red hue in the winter and are an important source of nutrition for wildlife when food becomes scarce.

Historically, sumac has been used for thousands of years to boost the flavor and color of dishes. It was also used medicinally and brewed into a tea to promote breast milk production, soothe sore throats and relieve gastrointestinal issues.

Today, it remains an important part of Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese recipes and is also used in certain spice blends, such as za’atar. As it grows in popularity, it’s becoming more common in other types of cuisine as well and can be used in everything from soups to salads and beyond.


Keep in mind that sumac spice is different from poison sumac, a plant that is closely related to poison ivy. Poison sumac contains a compound called urushiol, which can irritate the skin and cause serious side effects that may even be fatal. Sumac spice, on the other hand, belongs to a different genus of plants and can be consumed safely by most people.

Adverse side effects of sumac spice consumption are very rare but possible. It also belongs to the same family of plants as cashews and mango, so you may want to consult with your doctor before trying sumac spice if you have a food allergy to either of these ingredients. If you experience any negative symptoms like itching, swelling or hives after eating sumac, discontinue use and talk to a trusted health care practitioner.

If you take any medications to help lower blood sugar or cholesterol levels, be sure to keep your intake in moderation and consider discussing with your doctor. Since sumac spice has been shown to decrease blood sugar and reduce cholesterol, it may interact with these medications.

Final Thoughts

  • What is sumac? This powerful spice is made from the dried and ground berries of Rhus coriaria and is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Sumac has a tangy, slightly fruity flavor that works well with meat and fish dishes, which is why a combination of lemon juice and black pepper is often used as a sumac substitute in some recipes.
  • Because of its rich antioxidant content, potential sumac spice health benefits include decreased cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar, reduced bone loss and relief from muscle pain.
  • Try adding sumac spice to salads, marinades, roasted vegetables and meat dishes to take advantage of its unique taste and the health benefits that it has to offer.

Read Next: Asafoetida: The Ancient Roman Spice that Reduces Asthma, Blood Pressure + Farting!

What Are The Benefits Of Sumac Plant?

The root of the Sumac is the rhus plant. The fruit of the sumac plant obtained from the Rhus plant is dried and ground. Sumac, especially to give a taste of sour or lemonade to the meat dishes of base is used extra.

Given the plants used frequently in food, sumac is used more rarely than others. Because, usually, the food is not liked to taste lemonade or anonym.

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But the fruit of the sumac plant is very popular, especially in North America. It is harvested for excellent sour taste along with its health benefits.

Sumac bushes grown and used in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, North America and Africa are grown in large areas.

Red, greenish or cream-colored sumac plants dry over time and become dark red, purple core clusters.

Sumac has acquired a large place in Turkish, Arab and Middle Eastern cuisine. In particular, the Turkish taste of the Sumac Plant, North America’s natives in hot or cold syrup and tea prepared and used to consume.

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Health Benefits Of Sumac

It Is A Powerful Antioxidant

Sumac has powerful antioxidants that fight against bad cells that damage healthy cells. According to a 2004 scientific study, antioxidants fight against bad cells responsible for heart diseases, premature aging, stomach disorders, and many other adverse events.

Fights Fungal Infections

As a result of another scientific research, it has emerged that the sumac has an effective antifungal effect. Sumac can fight against Aspergillus flavus ( the most effective harmful cell), especially a human pathogen. Aspergillus flavus can cause lung infection and shortness of breath.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

This infection can affect many organs in the body, including the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. Chest pain, fever, and joint pain are the most common symptoms of fungal infections.

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Fight Germs

Sumac is an antimicrobial plant, according to a study conducted at Hacettepe University in Turkey in 2010.

Sumac plant is said to be used as a serious defense against the micronutrient, especially salmonella Typhimurium.

This is a very effective weapon against germs when it is used as a mixture of sumac and thyme oil together.

Is Good For Diabetes

Studies have shown that the sumac plant is effective in the treatment of diabetes and obesity. According to laboratory results, sumac, a very powerful antioxidant, helps to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

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It’s a Diuretic

The sumac has diuretic properties. Therefore, it has been observed that it is a herb that helps in the removal of toxic substances from the body.

It is used to treat painful and burning urination and inflammation resulting in bladder inflammation. In the Middle East, sour sumac juice is a commonly used option to relieve stomach discomfort

Fight With Cancer

Some studies have shown that the sumac plant has anti-cancer properties. If you are a smoker, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer by using a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

It is believed that breast cancer protects healthy cells during treatment. As a result, sumac has been regarded as a promising chemotherapeutic agent for cancer chemotherapy.

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Is Beneficial For Women’s Health

Sumac juice, sumac tea, sumac bark is traditionally used to treat women’s diseases. Sumac is also applied externally in extreme vaginal discharge. Also, the mother’s milk also increases. It helps treat menstrual disorders, cramps, menstrual burns, and pain by acting like estrogen.

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What Are The Benefits Of Sumac Sour?

  • As a powerful antioxidant is used.
  • Sumac sour lowers bad cholesterol levels.
  • It helps to fight early aging and disease.
  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Type 2 is useful for diabetes.
  • It lowers blood sugar levels and improves glycemic control.
  • It helps treat skin rashes.
  • It has both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
  • It helps to treat joint diseases.
  • Diarrhea, bleeding, colds, sore throat and tuberculosis fight against.
  • It helps to treat asthma, ulcers, and osteoporosis.
  • Good for eye health, ear health and heart health.

Health Benefits Of Sumac Tea

Sumac Tea is a very easily prepared and healthy tea. Sumac tea, which has its beautiful red color, can be prepared with ice and cold tea.

When mixed with lemonade, it becomes an excellent source of vitamin C and increases body resistance.

* Sumac Tea is vitamin C depot. Therefore, it is good for winter sickness such as colds and flu.

* Used as a fire reduction.

* Sumac Tea is considered to be a mixture for asthma, shortness of breath, diarrhea, cough, sore throat, infections.

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The Damages Of The Sumac

There is not enough information about whether the sumac is completely safe for everyone. For this reason, you should consult your doctor before using plant sumac. It can also cause skin reactions when applied to the skin.

Pregnancy And Lactation: there is not enough information that the sumac plant is completely safe during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, it is useful to stay away from consumption to stay on the safe side.

PlantsHospital Recommendations

Sumac has been used mainly in traditional and folk medicine. Therefore, there is no study to determine a strictly recommended standard dose of this plant. The fruit of the sumac plant is usually prepared and consumed as tea with boiling water.

Sumac Benefits Include Highest Antioxidant Spice, With Catch

The Middle Eastern spice sumac is a rare sighting in American cuisine.

It comes from a flowering plant in the same family as cashew and mango (Anacardiaceae). This shrub or small tree produces conical clusters of bright purple-red berries. These are dried and ground to make sumac, also known as summaq in Arabic-English translations.

Dried raw sumac spice is purplish-brown with a gritty texture. It’s not a fine powder.

What sumac tastes like is salty lemon zest. It’s tart and acidic, but less so than lemon. For cooking, it’s used to add a tangy flavor to meats, vegetables, rice, and salads like fattoush.

Za’atar spice contains sumac, along with thyme, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram, oregano, and salt. Za’atar is considered the condiment king in the Middle East.

While it’s most known for that part of the world, Native Americans eat it too. Long before Christopher Columbus set sail.

Rhus coriaria is the type of sumac that’s most common. Also called Sicilian sumac because it’s grown in southern Italy. In the Arabic and Islamic world, Iran is a major exporter of the crop, as well as a heavy consumer of it.

Rhus glabra, called smooth or white sumac, can be found in all 48 states of the continental US. Native Americans used the shoots for salad-like dishes.

staghorn berries on plant before drying

Rhus typhina, called staghorn sumac, grows in the eastern and Midwest US. It’s one of the largest species, with edible red berries which are less tart. The Navajo Indians used this to make a sumac lemonade flavored iced tea, minus the lemon. It’s called chiilchin.

There are only 35 true species in the Rhus plant genus. Reports of 250+ are outdated.

Related to poison ivy, poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) was incorrectly included in the genus until it was re-classified as a new species. Likewise for hundreds of other similar looking bushes, ivies and vines that produce white and red berries.

Identifying poison sumac – which are different species – from the real thing requires a skilled understanding in subtle differences of leaves, flowers, bark, and berries.

This is why picking some from your backyard isn’t recommend. There’s a good chance it may be a toxic imitator.

Please keep in mind that all of the following are preliminary findings and remain unproven. This ingredient/supplement should not be used to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Health benefits

1. Highest antioxidant spice

Whether it’s ORAC, FRAP, DPPH, or another laboratory method of measuring antioxidant activity, this spice usually gets first place. At least when it’s from the common Rhus coriaria or the Rhus typhina (staghorn) varieties.

As previously reported by the USDA, the spice has measured as having an ORAC of 312,400. Gallic acid is the most prevalent antioxidant in the plant. (1)

It has 66 times more antioxidants the blueberries.

Those have an ORAC of “only” 4,669. Though keep in mind that’s on an equal weight basis, comparing 100g (3.5 oz) of each. Eating that many blueberries is easy to do. With the spice, you’re probably eating 5-10% of that amount per serving, at most.

2. Anti-cancer activity in lab research

Now to be clear, if there are benefits for humans, they remain totally unproven.

There are no human clinical studies.

However in lab research – think Petri dishes and rodents – there is quite a bit of data showing anti-proliferative activity.

When exponentially growing HT-29 colon cancer cells in the lab were treated with Rhus coriaria (RCE), their viability was “significantly inhibited” through multiple pathways (Beclin-1-independent autophagy and subsequent caspase-7-dependent apoptosis).

That highest dose you see on that chart – 600 ug/mL – is equal to a mere 0.06% concentration. (2)

Rhus coriaria has also been found to suppress breast cancer growth in the lab through several actions (inhibition of STAT3, NFKB and nitric oxide pathways). (3) (4)

At least one study suggests that sumac tree resin inhibits angiogenesis – which is the growth of new blood vessels in tumors – better than other parts of the plant. (5)

Staghorn sumac has also been tested on cultured breast cancers and those Canadian scientists said the “…extract would be a promising chemotherapeutic drug conjugate in cancer chemotherapy.” (6)

Rhus succedanea, better known as the Japanese wax tree, has shown anti-leukemia activity. (7)

There are two human clinical trials involving Chinese lacquer tree. Formally known as Rhus verniciflua Stokes, it’s now Toxicodendron vernicifluum, as it’s no longer counted as a true sumac species.

Both of those took place in South Korea. Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer and metastatic pancreatic cancer participated.

In both, it was used adjacently to their normal medical treatments. At the end of each study, overall survival rates were higher in the patients taking that plant extract, however these were small studies that only looked at 1-year survival rates. (8) (9)

In the lab, that same species has been studied for ovarian cancer and other types, too. (10)

Back to the most common species of sumac used for spice – Rhus Coriaria – there is one clinical trial which used it. However the focus of it was on chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) and how to reduce that side effect. They were not evaluating anti-cancer activity. (11)

If you search the PubMed database for sumac and cancer, you will get around 100 results. However the majority of them involve what was formally known as Rhus verniciflua Stokes (now Toxicodendron vernicifluum). It’s a “poison sumac” containing toxic phenolic compounds known as urushiols. (12)

That being said, Rhus verniciflua Stokes/Toxicodendron vernicifluum still is in the same family as the species we eat (Rhus coriaria). That edible species has a fair amount of cancer research on it too, but just not as much.

3. May lower LDL cholesterol

When the sumac Persian spice made up 1.5% of the diet for rabbits, there was a “significantly lower level of cholesterol” observed. Similar happens in rats. (13) (14)

How about humans?

In just the past couple of years, a few randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled clinical trials have also observed this.

Registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, the above chart comes from one where sumac supplement capsules were taken for 6 weeks. The dosage was 1,000 mg per day. For those who were overweight (middle graph) they experienced:

  • Reduced LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
  • Increased HDL cholesterol (the good kind)

Another trial from Iran had 72 obese teens and young adults participate. During the 1 month trial where 500 mg of powdered sumac berries were taken 3x daily, there was a “considerable” reduction in total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. (15) (16)

4. May lower blood pressure

In alternative medicine of the Middle East, using sumac for high blood pressure is a popular practice, primarily in the form of decoctions. It may be an anti-hypertensive herb according to preliminary studies. (17)

Cells treated in the lab with low concentrations of ground sumac tannins have been found to reduce vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) migration by 62%. That’s a major contributor to atherosclerosis, which is the stiffening of arteries that comes with aging. (18)

Only one human trial has reported this benefit and it wasn’t the primary focus. Among the 30 adults with high cholesterol, those in the sumac group experienced a slight decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (19)

5. May be good for diabetes

Even after a single dose, in diabetic rats the sumac berries have been found to reduce postprandial blood glucose (blood sugar after eating) by a staggering 24% at 5 hours. (20)

In fact, there are over a dozen studies involving rats and mice that report it improving insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar, and boosting leptin levels (AKA the “satiety hormone” that suppresses your appetite). (21) (22) (23)

Can it do this in humans?

Only a couple studies have been done with people. To give you an idea as to what those results are looking like…

In plain English, using sumac spice for diabetes appears to hold promise.

There was a decrease in insulin, C-reactive protein, and increased sensitivity to insulin among other parameters. (24)

In traditional medicine, sumac tea has been used for diabetes. Further clinical research is needed to validate this purported benefit.

6. Weight loss by blocking fat

When extracts were tested in pig pancreatic tissue, there was pronounced anti-lipase activity.

When the sumac dosage was 300 mg/mL and above, the benefit was as good as orlistat (Alli, Xenical) which is a medication used for obesity. It works by inhibiting pancreatic lipase, which is an enzyme secreted by the pancreas that helps breaks down fats for digestion. When fats are not fully broken down, fewer calories from them get absorbed.

The raw conventional and organic sumac berries both produced similar results. (25)

It’s too early to claim sumac for weight loss, but this supports the possibility of it being a diet remedy. It’s already considered to be one in some cultures.

7. Mitigating bone loss

No matter how healthy you are, age-related bone loss is a fact of life. It’s why your parents seem so short when you’re in your 20’s… and why you will seem short to others someday!

In a rat study of experimental periodontitis (gum infection), their alveolar bone loss was measured.

That’s bone which connects to teeth. Erosion with aging is major cause of dental problems and complicates fixes, like dental implants and dentures, since you may not have enough bone to attach them to.

They were split into 3 groups and those treated with sumac extract experienced significantly less bone loss versus the non-ligated (control group). (26)

Unfortunately no human research exists, so this is very preliminary.

8. Antibacterial against oral pathogens

Perhaps it can help teeth in more ways than one.

In a lab study, a water-based extract of sumac was found to decrease biofilm formation on orthodontic wire when caused by these 5 common culprits:

  • Streptococcus mutans
  • Streptococcus sobrinus
  • Streptococcus sanguinis
  • Streptococcus salivarius
  • Enterococcus faecalis

“Rhus coriaria L. water extract had significant antibacterial properties against five common oral bacteria and was able to inhibit bacterial biofilm formation on orthodontic wire. Further investigations are recommended for widespread clinical use of this extract.”

Not proof, but promising. Especially considering that the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was found to be as low as 0.390 mg/ml. That’s a strength of just 0.039%. (27)

Side effects

Adverse reactions for eating sumac spice are uncommon and may include:

Allergic reactions

Since it is in the same family as cashew, those with an allergy to this tree nut should consult a doctor before eating. Those with a mango allergy should also take note since both trees are in the same family.

Skin dermatitis, rashes, and itching from sumac spice due to urushiol content is a myth. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain urushiol. These have been re-categorized to the plant genus Toxicodendron. That’s different than the Rhus genus, which encompasses the Arabic spice and staghorn sumac from North America. (28)

Undesired weight loss

While most would consider this a benefit, those who are underweight and have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight should avoid eating sumac daily. This is because of the possible anti-lipase activity, which partially blocks the absorption of fat in the small intestines.

Unknown pregnancy safety

Can you eat sumac when pregnant?

Herbs and spices to avoid during pregnancy include uterine stimulants and those that disrupt the menstrual cycle. Those actions can increase the risk of miscarriage. Sumac berries and tea haven’t been studied for those. Nor have pregnant women or animals in general been studied.

The quercetin in sumac is a potent antioxidant that demonstrates both anti-cancer benefits and mutagenic side effects in research. In a purely theoretical sense, the latter could be of concern to birth defects risk. Oxidizing enzymes and alkaline pH levels are known to inactivate the mutagenic effect. (29) (30)

Avoiding high amounts of the spice and sumac tea while pregnant is recommended, until safety data is available.

Drug interactions

Statins to lower cholesterol, blood pressure medicines, and diabetic treatments may all be adversely affected. When high amounts of sumac are taken with them, the result might be too low of a drop.

Best type to buy

A sumac substitute in cooking is 3 parts lemon zest and 1 part salt. It’s a good alternative to replicate the taste in recipes. For fattoush salad, lemon juice can also be used.

As far as the antioxidants though, you can’t replicate those levels!

Even fresh lemon skin only has an ORAC of 2,740… that’s less than 1% of the value.

Stick with the real thing, not a substitute. By a significant margin, sumac is the spice with the most antioxidants.

Where to buy sumac near me?

This is a hard spice to find. Stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts will be your best bet. Even there, we don’t always find it in-stock.

Middle Eastern supermarkets will almost certainly have it, though it will likely be non-organic and loaded with salt.

And that’s the catch.

Whether it’s as part of the za’atar blend, or as a stand-alone in the form of ground berries, almost every brand adds salt and lots of it!

Sadaf and Ziyard are probably the two most popular “genuine” Middle Eastern brands of ground sumac. Their price per ounce is low, but their salt content is high – up to 200 mg per teaspoon!

Remember, it already has an uncanny salty flavor which is natural and low in sodium. There’s no need to ruin that health perk by adding actual salt.

The best sumac brand is Spicely Organic. It’s non-GMO, USDA certified organic, certified gluten free, vegan, and contains less than 1% salt.

You can find it for sale at some specialty grocers in 2 oz. jar but we prefer to buy the 1 lb bulk bag on Amazon.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The wonderful health benefits of Sumac

Why you should be cooking with Sumac:

If you’re Middle Eastern, you’re probably familiar with Sumac. It’s a slightly sour ruby colored spice featured in Palestinian Masakhan or Fatoush salad. And if you’re not familiar with it, we highly recommend it! But did you know that Sumac is considered a health super spice?

Sumac is a spice that comes from ground Sumac berries of the Middle Eastern Rhus Coriaria plant. It’s famous for its Ruby color and tangy flavor. And now scientists are studying the health benefits of this anti-oxidant rich spice.

6 Sumac Health benefits:

  1. Anti-cancer: A super anti-oxidant, and packed with vitamin C which means it can help ward off diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
  2. Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is thought to be the cause of most diseases and Sumac is an anti-inflammatory spice that helps fight various disorders, colds and the Flu.
  3. Has been studied to be effective in regulating cholesterol levels and treating diabetes by reducing blood sugar.
  4. Anti-fungal & Anti-microbial: Sumac is Anti-microbial and anti-fungal spice which can help treat skin inflammation and disorders. It has also been studied to be effective in fighting bacteria like Salmonella and can be used to safely disinfect fruits and vegetables.
  5. Can increase breast milk production and ease menstrual cramps
  6. Sumac is a Diuretic which means it helps remove toxins from the body through urine and has been used traditionally to treat urine infections and digestive problems.

With all of these health benefits and its delicious flavor, what’s stopping you from ordering the freshest Sumac spice on the market? Click the link below to order Sumac and more great spice flavors on our website:

Cooking With Sumac: The Dos And Don’ts

Sumac is associated mainly with Middle Eastern cooking, though there is a North American variant of the spice. Its primary function is to add a tart note to foods. The flavor of sumac is similar to lemon and other citrus fruits though some also liken its flavor to that of fresh apples. Along with the flavor, sumac gives your dishes a bright red color. Of course, it is possible to misuse this potent spice if you are unfamiliar with it. Use the following sumac dos and don’ts as a guide to using the spice appropriately.

Do use sumac as an alternative to citrus.

Using citrus fruit generally means adding liquid to your dish, which may not be a good thing in some cases. Sumac is a dry spice, which means that you will not have any extra liquid from it. For example, it can work well in a dry rub for meat that you intend to grill or smoke.

Do use sumac in traditional applications.

You don’t have to limit your use to Middle Eastern dishes, but knowing how it works in time-tested recipes can give you a feel for the spice. Sumac shines in the za’atar spice blend as well as in traditional rubs for grilled lamb and when it is sprinkled into hummus.

Do feel free to use sumac as a primary or a secondary flavor in a dish.

Sumac is versatile enough that it can play either the starring role or take a place in the background.

Do use sumac on fatty meats.

Its bright acidity can be used to cut through the fattiness of lamb, duck, and similar meats. A traditional sumac application is kebabs, which often feature fatty meats.

Do reduce the salt in your recipe when you use sumac.

In most cases, the sumac that you buy from a Middle Eastern store will contain salt. You may need to reduce any other salt going into the recipe to compensate.

Do store sumac correctly.

You will need to keep your sumac in an airtight container and away from light to maximize its shelf life. It can last for several months when you store it in the right environment.

Do use sumac as a garnish as well as a seasoning.

Sumac’s bright red color makes it an attractive addition to pale dishes. It can be used in the same way that paprika is used: to provide that final touch of bright color.

Do feel free to add sumac to your food at the table.

This is actually a traditional use for the spice. It is a common table condiment in the Middle East.

Don’t limit your use of sumac to seasoning food.

In addition to being a great savory spice, it also works for giving a burst of acidity to Bloody Mary drinks and other beverages. You can also use it to make tea.

Don’t consume sumac if you are allergic to cashews or mangoes.

Sumac is in the same family as both of those plants. An allergy to mangoes or cashews indicates that you are likely to also have an allergy to sumac.

Don’t confuse the sumac spice with poison sumac.

While poison sumac is related to the variety of sumac that is consumed as a spice, they are very different plants. Poison sumac is white, not red like sumac spice.


What is Sumac?

Sumac comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows wild in all Mediterranean areas, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East, notably Iran. It is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking, being preferred to lemon for sourness and astringency. Many other varieties of sumac occur in temperate regions of the world. In North America Rhus glabra is known for its use in the tanning industry and for its medicinal properties. Also in North Americai is the related Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy) which can cause a severe skin reaction when touched.

Spice Description

The berries are dried and crushed to form a coarse purple-red powder. The whole fruit appears in dense clusters. Individual berries are small, round, 10 mm (1/4”) in diameter, russet coloured and covered with hairs.
Bouquet: Slightly aromatic.
Flavour: Sour, fruity and astringent
Hotness Scale: 1

Preparation and Storage

The berries can be dried, ground and sprinkled into the cooking, or macerated in hot water and mashed to release their juice, the resulting liquid being used as one might use lemon juice. Ground sumac keeps well if kept away from light and air.

Cooking with Sumac

Sumac is used widely in cookery in Arabia, Turkey and the Levant, and especially in Lebanese cuisine. In these areas it is a major souring agent, used where other regions would employ lemon, tamarind or vinegar. It is rubbed on to kebabs before grilling and may be used in this way with fish or chicken.

The juice extracted from sumac is popular in salad dressings and marinades and the powdered form is used in stews and vegetable and chicken casseroles. “The seed of Sumach eaten in sauces with meat, stoppeth all manner of fluxes of the belly…” (Gerard, 1597) A mixture of yogurt and sumac is often served with kebabs.
Za’atar is a blend of sumac and thyme use to flavour labni, a cream cheese made from yogurt.

Substitute for Sumac

Lemon zest with a little salt makes a reasonable stand-in for sumac.

Health Benefits of Sumac

The berries have diuretic properties, and are used in bowel complaints and for reducing fever. In the Middle East, a sour drink is made from them to relieve stomach upsets.

Plant Description and Cultivation

A bushy shrub of the Anacardiaceae family, reaching to 3m (10 ft). It has light gray or reddish stems which exude a resin when cut. Young branches are hairy. The leaves are hairy on the underside. In autumn the leaves turn to a bright red. White flowers are followed by conical clusters of fruit, each enclosed in a reddish brown hairy covering.

Easily propagated by seed, sumac grows best in poor soils. In Sicily, where it is widely cultivated and grows wild in the mountains, its quality is found to increase proportionately the higher it is sited.

Other Names

Elm-leafed Sumac, Sicilian Sumac, Sumach, Sumak, Summak, Tanner’s Sumach

French: sumac
German: Sumach
Italian: sommacco
Spanish: zumaque
Arabic: sammak

Scientific Name

Rhus coriaria
Fam: Anacardiaceae

Recipes using Sumac

Try Jujeh al Sammak and Armenian Manti. Sumac is included in our Mediterranean Spice Collection.

Meet Sumac, the Superfood Spice That’ll Help You Fight Inflammation—and Bland Food—for Good

The ancient herb sumac—made from ruby-colored berries that are ground into a beautiful, coarse powder that bursts with color and flavor—has been underappreciated in American cooking (if you immediately thought of poison ivy, you’re wrong!) for centuries. We’re here to fix that.

If you grew up in a Middle Eastern household, however, you probably have a very different sumac story to tell. “You’ll know it as a souring agent that’s an excellent substitute for lemon or vinegar, and is great to use on kebabs, fish or chicken,” says Tenny Avanesian, an Armenian American Food Entrepreneur and Founder of Lemonette. “It’s been used to add tangy, fresh flavors in Lebanese, Syrian, Armenian, and Iranian cooking for many millennia, and you could not walk through a street food marketplace of centuries past (even today) without seeing it everywhere around you.”

RELATED: This Superfood Tea Is an Anti-Inflammatory Superhero

According to Tenny, sumac is the secret ingredient in endless Middle Eastern mezzes, salads, rice dishes, stews, and kebabs. It’s also the primary element and focal point of za’atar, a very popular and timeless Middle-Eastern spice blend of sumac, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, and marjoram. And thanks to its beautiful, rich, deep red color, sumac is the perfect finishing touch for dips, vegetables, grains, and more.

How to start cooking with sumac

Sumac is ideally used in place of (or in addition to) lemon juice or lemon zest when making dishes like salads, hummus, marinades or dressings, tzatziki, or baba ganoush.

You can also sprinkle it atop basmati rice, grain salads, pita chips, or any type of flatbread (or use it as way to pump up the flavor of store bought breads or chips). Add it to roasted vegetables, fried or scrambled eggs, or incorporate it into roasted nuts. Rub sumac on meat, fish, or poultry—if you’re grilling them, even better. Shall we go on?

Yes. Because sumac also goes extremely well with mint. “Two salads in particular, Shirazi Salad (in Iranian cuisine) and the Fattoush Salad (in Arabic cuisine) both add sumac and mint to their dressings,” says Tenny.

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Sumac is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices out there. It ranks high on the ORAC chart, which means it’s packed with antioxidants and has the ability to neutralize free radicals that can cause cancer, heart disease, and signs of aging.

Sumac is also a beneficial ingredient for those with type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that daily intake of sumac for three months will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among people with type 2 diabetes.

RELATED: 7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat Every Day for Long-Term Health and Happiness

The Health Benefits of Sumac Spice

Your spice rack is already stocked with rosemary and garlic powder, but there’s another spice you should make room for-sumac. Discover the benefits of sumac spice and how the tart, earthy spice can take your dishes-and your health-up a notch.

What Is Sumac?

If you immediately thought, “poison ivy? No, thanks,” not to worry. Although, some species of the plant are poisonous, the superfood spice version we’re talking about here comes from the berries of the Rhus coriaria plant and is totally safe to eat. “It’s a versatile spice with a tangy, lemony, but also fruity flavor,” says Dawn Lerman, MA, CHHC, LCAT, a board-certified nutrition expert. The fruit’s berries form in dense clusters on bushes, which are native to the Middle East. “They’re then dried into a tangy purplish or maroon spice that’s high in antioxidants,” Lerman says. It can be found in whole berry form, but more often you’ll find it in spice markets as a powder.

The Health Benefits of Sumac

Antioxidants are one of the biggest health benefits of sumac spice, says Despina Hyde, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Sumac ranks very high on the ORAC chart, which ranks foods’ antioxidant capacity,” she says. “That’s the ability to neutralize the free radicals that can cause cancer, heart disease, and signs of aging.” These antioxidants also make sumac a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, which can ward off illnesses like coronary heart disease, says Kristen Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Sumac has been shown to have a positive effect on diabetes patients. One study found that daily intake of the superfood for a period of three months lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among participants with type 2 diabetes.

How to Eat Sumac

Use it as a rub on chicken or fish, in a marinade or dressing, or sprinkle the spice on hummus, suggests Lerman. You could also add sumac to yogurt or to season sweet potato fries or chips. It’s tasty in beverages, too, from sumac lemonade and You can even make a natural cough syrup, which you can make by boiling sumac, water, and a little honey, says Lerman. Want something a little more refreshing? Try the lemonade recipe below.

Sumac Lemonade


Sumac Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons ground sumac

Sumac Lemonade

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sumac syrup
  • lemon juice
  • ice

Sumac Syrup Directions:

1. Combine water and honey in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.

2. Stir in sumac and infuse until cool, at least 10 minutes.

3. Strain and store in an airtight container.

Sumac Lemonade Directions:

1. Combine water or sparkling water with sumac syrup, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

2. Add ice and stir.

  • By By Moira Lawler

Sumac – A Spice with Health Benefits

Not only do the dried and ground berries of the edible Rhus species add wonderful lemony flavor to meat and vegetable dishes, research suggests that food-grade sumac may also be good for you. In fact, the recent studies done on the Staghorn and Sicilian varieties show that sumac has exceptionally high antioxidant properties, so sumac berries may well turn out to be the next superfood to hit the headlines! Antioxidant properties aside, the edible sumac species also have a number of other potential health benefits, including improved glycemic control, reduced cholesterol levels and better cardiovascular health. To get the full scoop, read on!

Note: Some plants in the Rhus genus, such as poison sumac which has white berries, are inedible/poisonous. Therefore, for your safety, only get sumac from a reputable supplier. Please also note that some sumacs that are generally considered safe (when used as a spice in normal quantities) may cause severe skin irritation and other adverse reactions in some people.

Antioxidant Protection

Both staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta L.) and Sicilian sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) have been studied for their free radical scavenging properties. A study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Food Chemistry in 2013 measured the antioxidant capacity of staghorn sumac using a number of different parameters, including FRAP, ORAC and PCL. This in vitro study confirmed the results of earlier studies that had found staghorn sumac to exert significant antioxidant activity, and stated that staghorn sumac has higher antioxidant activities than many common fruits and vegetables, suggesting that sumac might have earned a place on the superfood list. The strong antioxidant properties were largely attributed to polyphenols such as anthocyanins and other flavonoids found in staghorn sumac extracts.

Another study, published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry in April 2014, analyzed the antioxidant capacity of water extracts of Sicilian sumac, along with extracts of a number of other spices, including barberry, cardamom, black pepper, red pepper, fennel, laurel, turmeric and nutmeg. Among the tested spices, sumac came out on top in terms of antioxidant capacity, followed by laurel and barberry.

As you may already know, antioxidants are beneficial molecules that neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules that promote aging and the development of many diseases. It is important to keep in mind, however, that positive findings of in-vitro studies – such as the ones described above – do not necessarily mean that the same positive effects will be observed in actual living beings. That said, there is some evidence that the antioxidants in sumac may really offer health benefits to humans (see section Glycemic Control and Lowered Cholesterol Levels below).

Glycemic Control and Lowered Cholesterol Levels

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in fall 2014 reported an interesting finding: type 2 diabetic patients might be able to reap a range of health benefits by adding sumac to their diets. At the end of the three month trial period, patients who had been taking 3 grams of ground Rhus coriaria L. (Sicilian sumac) daily had significantly lower levels of blood glucose, Apolipoprotein B (the so-called bad cholesterol) and HbA1c (a type of hemoglobin that is measured to identify the average plasma glucose concentration over prolonged periods of time). At the end of the trial, the sumac group also showed increased levels of TAC (total antioxidant capacity) and apoA-I (a component of the so-called good cholesterol).

In another study, published in the June 2013 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, a team of Iranian scientists evaluated the efficacy and safety of Ziabetes. This herbal formulation contains common purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.), Sicilian sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) and pomegranate (Punica granatum L.), and has been used in the Middle East as a traditional remedy for diabetes. Not only did the herbal formulation appear to be safe with no reported side effects, it was also found be effective at decreasing fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients.

Sumac and Atherosclerosis

It has also been suggested that sumac berries might be good for your cardiovascular system due to the high levels of antioxidant tannins they contain. Intrigued by these claims, scientists at the Sacred Heart School of Montreal, Canada, decided to carry out a study to investigate whether sumac could inhibit vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) migration, a process that plays a key role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Using cultivated murine VSMCs and tannins extracted and purified from ground sumac, the researchers observed a 62% reduction in VSMC migration in tannin-treated cells. They concluded that tannins extracted from sumac appear to possess potent antimigratory properties and might therefore offer potential anti-atherosclerosis benefits. They did add, however, that further studies, especially in vivo, are still needed before drawing any definitive conclusions about the health benefits of sumac in this context.

Traditional Uses

According to the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs covering Eastern and Central North America, various parts of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra L.) – including the berries, roots and leaves – have been used as folk remedies for a variety of conditions and health problems, including asthma, diarrhea, gonorrhea and bed-wetting. According to the same guide, tea made from the berries of staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta L. Sudworth) has been used to treat “female disorders” and lung ailments, while herbal tea made from the leaves of staghorn sumac has been used for sore throats and tonsillitis. These uses, however, lack scientific backing.

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Making sumac tea

The autumn season brings many delights that can only be enjoyed this time of year, such as the changing leaves, pumpkins, fresh apples, grouse hunting and much more. Many of these delights focus on wild edibles like mushrooms, grapes, various nuts, wild rice and persimmons, to name a few. Sumac is a wild plant that provides a nutritional drink and is easy to locate.

Sumac is a shrub or small tree that is common to much of the Great Lakes region and Michigan. Wild sumac is easily identified in autumn by its bright red compound leaves and cluster of red berries that form in a cone shape. These berries have a fuzzy look and feel. Don’t confuse this sumac with poisonous sumac, which has white berries and grows in wetlands. If you are concerned about proper identification, contact your local Michigan State University Extension county office or county forester for help.

The red berries on wild sumac can be put in your mouth to enjoy a tart burst of flavor. The berries have small hairs that give them a fuzzy appearance and make them unpleasant to ingest. If you choose to taste the berries, just spit them out after sucking on them. However, they make an excellent nutritious drink.

Sumac tea is easy to make, high in vitamin C and is delicious! Here is how to make this wonderfully nutritious drink that has a lemonade-type flavor:

  1. Pick several clusters of berries for use. You can slightly crush the berries to help aid in releasing their flavor.
  2. Soak the berry clusters in a pitcher of cold water over night or longer to enhance the flavor. Be sure to use cold water, as hot water can destroy the vitamin C content.
  3. Next, strain the tea through a coffee filter or cheese cloth to remove the berries and particles from the fruit so all you are left with is the tea.
  4. Enjoy! You can add sugar, honey or other additives of your choice to suit your palate.

Sumac is reported to have several medicinal benefits. American Indians used it to treat colds, fever and scurvy while also grinding the berries mixed with clay and using as a salve on open wounds. Sumac has also shown to have benefits for treating diarrhea, dysentery, sore throats, infections, asthma and cold sores. Sumac berries are also used in beekeeping smokers.

There are numerous wild edibles that can be harvested and enjoyed with youth. Making sumac tea is a particularly enjoyable activity for youth as they will have fun making the tea and reap the reward of their efforts by having a delicious drink to enjoy. The tea can be stored in the refrigerator to be enjoyed later and shared with friends.

Michigan State University Extension encourages participation in new experiences that are safe and expose youth to science involvement with 4-H Science: Asking Questions and Discovering Answers. Please contact me at [email protected] for ideas on spending time outdoors with youth.

How to Make a Delicious Sumac Tea (AKA Sumac Lemonade)

Yesterday one of my students arrived for class with a gallon of freshly made sumac lemonade. I didn’t get a chance to taste any during class, which I took as a sign that it was good since everyone else drank it up before I could get to it. Luckily for me, there was another jar hidden away and as the last car pulled out of the driveway I was sipping a glass with my feet up.

What is sumac?

There will be many of you who are already familiar with sumac and those of you who aren’t probably know the plant, though you think you don’t. As we drive along on the highway at this time of year, sumac (Rhus spp., namely Rhus glabra) is the wispy leaved, leggy shrub growing in large clumps with the red pointy mass held up above its green heads. These shrubs are quickly turning a brilliant red. They are truly one of the show-stoppers of fall ranging from brilliant shades of orange to fiery red.

But isn’t sumac poisonous?

As I sipped I wondered how many people still know all that the sumac plant has to offer. So often I hear the common misconception that they are poisonous. There is indeed a poisonous sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) in the family, but it isn’t closely enough related to really get it confused. Poisonous sumac has white berries and the sumacs in the Rhus genus have red. Further, this family is where we find poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum). Perhaps it is this fear that the common sumacs we find in wild areas might be poisonous that has allowed this amazing plant to fall out of favor.

Benefits of Sumac

The sumac tea or sumac lemonade I am drinking is a traditional beverage in the south. It was used to cool the body in extreme heat. The Native Americans and those in the Middle East have a long history of using the plant. We don’t have much recorded in Europe because sumacs weren’t native there.

Traditionally, both the bark and the berries have been used in medicine. Overall, the plant is highly astringent, an ability that explains its use in drying up any situation in the body that involves excess “liquid.” Most amazing is its use in supporting a healthy urinary tract and blood sugar level in the face of a diabetes diagnosis. It makes me wonder, with such a prevalence of diabetes in the American south, if this traditional drink has been set aside to our detriment.

The plants are high in tannic acid, which is what makes them astringent. It is also what makes the sumac an excellent dye with a rich history of use in both the leather and wool industry here in the US. Because of the levels of tannic acid, sumac doesn’t need anything to “fix” it and make it remain in the material to be dyed. The colors tend to range from mahogany to black, sometimes even a shocking yellow in the case of leather.

I love looking at the sumac and so we planted a group of them on the property this year. They aren’t quite as common where I live since we are in the middle of farmland that has been relatively open for too long. When I get closer to wooded areas I begin to see them much more frequently at the edges of the roads just out of the shade of the trees.

I thought that since it is the season to get out there an experience the sumac I would pass on the traditional recipe for making a delicious lemonade. Be sure to only collect red sumac berries. They should be hairy if you’re picking them properly when it hasn’t rained for about a week.

Delicious Homemade Sumac Tea

  • large handful of fresh sumac berries
  • cold water


Rub the berries between your hands, lightly bruising them as you drop them into a glass or stainless steel container. Cover with cold water and allow to sit about an hour. Everything I read suggests that your tea will taste the best if you allow it to steep in the fridge. When the tea is ready, strain it through a very fine seive or several layers of cheesecloth. Be sure to remove any hairs or solids that may irritate digestion. Serve and enjoy!

Do you have access to sumac? Have you ever used it for anything? If so, please share in the comments!


Sumac tea has been used for thousands of years for health benefits and therapeutic reasons. Research studies confirm the use of sumac for ailments such as diabetes.

Consuming tea made with sumac is another example of westerners jumping on a healthy trend thousands of years later. This is a good thing. That’s because the tea has many benefits.

One of the benefits shown is lowering blood sugar. And considering there are about 30 million people with diabetes in the U.S. alone (more than 180 million people worldwide), expect sumac tea to become more popular.

What Is Sumac Tea?

Sumac is a member of the plant family, Anacardiaceae. There are over 250 types of sumac within the Anacardiaceae family.

Wild sumac grows in the U.S. However, historically, it’s best known as a spice in Mediterranean countries as well as Iran and other countries in the Middle East.

Traditional cultures have been using sumac tea and sumac berries for millennia. In Iran, sumac is a popular spice. But it’s not just for making foods like hummus taste savory. Many people in Iran and other countries use sumac for medicinal purposes. (See below for sumac health benefits.)

More people in the west are consuming natural foods. In light of this, sumac tea is becoming more popular. Making the tea is easy. It’s also pleasant tasting. In fact, most people say it tastes like lemonade. That’s why the sumac plant is also known as the lemonade tree.

Staghorn Sumac Tea

Yet another name for sumac is staghorn. Or, more accurately, staghorn sumac. The name staghorn derives from the velvety antler horns on stags. Stags are adult male deers.

Many people believe sumac is poisonous. And for some people it is. This is especially true if your skin is sensitive and comes in contact with sumac. However, staghorn sumac is edible–if you know exactly the right kind of staghorn to eat.

Sumac Berries Health Benefits

The difference between edible staghorn berries and poisonous ones is easy to distinguish. Edible berries have red cones. By comparison, the poisonous kind are white. Keep that in mind if you’re foraging for staghorn berries. Again, red berries, good. White staghorn berries, bad.

Eating staghorn berries is most likely not as popular as making sumac tea. The main reason for this? The berries have large pits. The actual fruity flesh is minimal. In fact, you’re likely to get more pit than fruit.

All in all, staghorn fruit lacks a sweet scent. In addition, they are not sweet tasting. On the contrary, they are rather tart. However, the tartness and compounds in sumac berries offer several health benefits.

For starters, staghorn berries are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. In addition, there are also other antioxidants in sumac berries.

There’s a long history of medicinal usage of staghorn berries. Native Americans applied cut berries topically to heal wounds. An interesting fact about staghorn berries: nowadays, beekeepers use them in smokers to relax the bees.

Staghorn Sumac Medicinal Uses

Staghorn has been studied for its medicinal benefits. A few studies show it lowers total cholesterol. In addition, staghorn lowers ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and fats in the blood. Overall, staghorn berries lower blood sugar levels as well.

These studies were done on animals. However, there’s little proof that these benefits apply to humans. Although, to be fair, no large-scale human trials exist. (Study sources for sumac benefits: effect on serum glycemic index and effect on insulin resistance)

According to this research, staghorn is an effective traditional medicine. In addition to blood-sugar lowering and antioxidant properties, staghorn possesses the following properties:

  • antifungal
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antimalarial
  • antimicrobial
  • antimutagenic
  • blood thinning
  • prevents tumors
  • antiviral
  • prevents hardening of arteries

Two of the compounds staghorn tea is rich in: gallic acid and tannins. The former is a strong antioxidant. Tannins, also an antioxidant, may help prevent cancer.

How To Make Sumac Lemonade

Considering all the amazing health benefits of sumac, how do you make sumac tea, aka sumac lemonade? It’s easy.

First, you’ll need to either pick or buy the berries. Next, you’ll need a pitcher of cold water. Add sumac berries to the pitcher. Afterwards, use a strainer to filter out any particles from the berries.

Keep the sumac lemonade low carb by not adding any sugar. Instead, you can use Monk fruit or Stevia extract. However, try the sumac lemonade without anything else. You might like the taste of sumac tea just like this.

In India, hot tea made with sumac is quite popular. There, people make it by boiling water then adding a couple handfuls of sumac berries to the hot water. This drink is known as Indian lemonade.

However, some people say that exposing sumac berries to hot water neutralizes some of the vitamin C. Is this really a problem? Hardly. Even if some of the vitamin C neutralizes, hot sumac tea is still a delicious, healthy drink.

Sumac Tea Side Effects

Herbal teas like sumac are diuretics. Diuretics increase the amount of urine expelled. Some people take diuretics to detoxify the body. Detoxification sounds healthy, right?

Too much detoxification at once can do more harm than good. Drinking a lot of sumac tea at once might theoretically produce a flood of toxins. These toxins release into the bloodstream too quickly. That being said drinking a cup of this tea is likely very good for your health.

Prep Time: 10 minutes Sit Time: 4 hours Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes

Enjoy sumac lemonade (aka tea) for it’s health benefits. It’s a medicinal drink that may help ailments like diabetes.


  • 2 to 3 berry clusters
  • water
  • sweetener


  1. Place berries in a 2 quart pitcher. Pour water over to fill the pitcher. Let sit for at least four hours or overnight.
  2. Pour liquid through a fine strainer or coffee filter to remove berries and any particles. Sweeten to taste. Enjoy chilled or over ice.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 1mg Carbohydrates: 0g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 0g Nutritional information for the recipe is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site.

Other Natural Detoxing Methods

Interested in learning about more ways to detox naturally? Check out these other articles:

  • Best Detox Drinks for Weight Loss
  • Coffee Enema Detox
  • Master Cleanse Salt Water Flush
  • Detox Lungs for Heavy Smokers

First Published: August 31, 2017… Last Updated: August 7, 2019

Many of us living in the UAE eat this sprinkled over salad or soups but have no clue what this spice is.With its tangy flavor, sumac is both a delicious and a healthy spice. Sumac is a staple in both the Mediterranean and the Middle Eastern Cuisine. Itpairs well with soups, salads, mezzes, kebabs, meat and seafood, vegetable and legume dishes.

In addition to its use in various cuisines, sumac has a wide range of health benefits:

-Sumac is a rich source of antioxidants and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, from obesity to Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

-Sumac is a vitamin C powerhouse. Vitamin C is crucial for a strong immune system and we all know that vitamin C is also beneficial for the skin, slowing down aging and the formation of wrinkles.

-Sumac helps regulate blood sugar levels, lowering the glycemic index of a meal.

-It also lowers cholesterol levels aiding the prevention of heart disease.

(Credit: Asli Cakar, Holistic Health and Nutrition coach)

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Health benefits of sumac

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