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Scientific Names Sumac

Rhus glabra L.


Cashew family


Common Names

Blue glabrum

Dwarf sumac

Mountain sumac

Indian salt (the powder on the berries)

Pennsylvania sumach

Scarlet sumac

Sleek sumach

Smooth sumac

Upland sumach


Parts Usually Used

Root bark, leaves, and berries

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A small tree or shrub with thick branches and smooth gray bark. It has large, deciduous, compound leaves with 11-31 sawtoothed, hairless leaflets. Dense cone-shaped clusters of whitish male and female flowers grow on separate plants. Fruits are dark red, fuzzy berries in similar dense clusters. Another variety: The Chinese sumac (Rhus semialata) is called Yen-fu-tzu.

Medicinal Properties

Bark and leaves: astringent, antiseptic, alterative, tonic Berries: refrigerant, diuretic, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, cephalic

Biochemical Information

Malic and acid calcium malate with tannic and gallic acids, fixed and a small amount of volatile oils

Legends, Myths and Stories

Native Americans used the split bark and stems in basket-making and the roots for a yellow dye. Also the pipe-stem was made with sumac, a sumac that grows close to the pipestone quarry. This stem is about 24 inches long and an inch wide, but quite thick, flat like a carpenter’s pencil. They gathered the sumac in the spring when the sap was up in the large pith. Some meat or fish was put out where blowflies could work on it. When large maggots were on the meat, the piece of sumac which had previously been put in a can of oil or bear grease, was brought in. As the large pith had taken up the oil, it was soft, and quite a bit was dug out. The maggots were then sealed up in the stem, to either eat their way through, or die. Sometimes they did both, but there was plenty of time to do it all over again, patiently, until a long perfect hole was drilled through. Then the finishing touches could be applied to the pipe.


Root bark is useful in the treatment of gonorrhea, gleet, leukorrhea, scrofula, diarrhea, restless fever, scrofula, and profuse perspiration from debility. Combined with the barks off white pine and slippery elm and applied externally, used effectively to treat syphilitic ulcerations, old sores, canker sores, wounds, and ulcers. As a douche it is used for leukorrhea, prolapsed uterus, kidney and bladder problems, diabetes, and hemorrhoids. As a mouthwash, for sore and bleeding gums. The berries are used in an infusion for diabetes, strangury, bowel complaints and febrile diseases. It makes a pleasant drink. Berries good for ringworm, tetters, and ulcers.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease.