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Sumac is a common ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Additionally, people use it therapeutically in their herbal medicine practices.
This article explores everything you need to know about sumac, including what it is, its potential health benefits, and how to use it.
What is sumac?
Sumac is a variety of flowering shrub that belongs to the family of plants known as Anacardiaceae. Its scientific name is Rhus coriaria. Other common members of this family include cashew and mango plants.
Sumac thrives in subtropical and temperate climates and grows all over the world, including various parts of the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa.
There are over 200 different species of sumac, all of which belong to the genus Rhus. However, Rhus coriaria – or Syrian sumac – is the type most often grown by people for culinary uses and herbal medicine.
Sumac has a large, dense set of bright red fruits that are the size of a pea.
People can steep the fresh fruit to make tea, but more often they dry them and use a powder to use as an herbal supplement or cooking seasoning. So if you’re intrested in trying out this sour powder Click here
The seasoning of sumac should not be confused with poison sumac.
Although related to poison sumac, it is very different. Poison sumac produces white fruits and can cause allergic reactions similar to those of poison ivy or poison oak.
Sumac is a flowering shrub known scientifically as Rhus coriaria. People use its red berries as a culinary spice and herbal supplements.
It’s most likely known as a culinary spice. People have also used it in traditional herbal medicine practices for centuries.
There is no scientific evidence for the effects of it on humans. However, early research suggests that it may have potential health benefits.
1. Contains important nutrients
The complete nutritional profile of sumac is still largely unknown, but some research indicates that it contains a range of beneficial nutrients. They include fiber, healthy fats, and some essential vitamins.
A 2014 analysis found that dried sumac nutritionally comprised about 71% carbohydrates, 19% fat and 5% protein.
The majority of the fat in it comes from two specific types of fat known as oleic acid and linoleic acid.
Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fat commonly associated with heart health. It also happens to be the primary fat found in other common plant foods, including olives and avocados.
Linoleic acid is a type of essential unsaturated fat that is involved in maintaining healthy skin and cellular membranes.
A 2004 chemical analysis of fresh sumac fruit found that over 14% of it consisted of fiber, a nutrient that supports digestive health.
There’s very little data on the precise micronutrient content of it, but some research suggests it contains at least trace amounts of several essential nutrients, including vitamins C, B6, B1, and B2
2. Rich in antioxidants
It’s rich in many antioxidant compounds. Experts believe that this may be the main reason for sumac’s vast therapeutic potential.
It also contains a wide range of chemical compounds with antioxidant potency, including tannins, anthocyanins, and flavonoids.
Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and reduce oxidative stress within the body.
There is also evidence that antioxidants in foods like sumac may play a role in reducing inflammation. They may help prevent inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
3. May alleviate muscle pain
A 2016 study gave sumac drink or a placebo to 40 healthy people to investigate the possibility of relieving muscle pain with it.
At the conclusion of the 4-week study, the group that received the drink reported significantly less muscle pain due to exercise.
The sumac group also experienced significant increases in levels of circulating antioxidants. The study authors suggested that this may have caused the marked pain relief.
Although these results are promising, more research is needed to understand how people can use it to relieve muscle pain or support exercise performance in larger groups.
4. May promote balanced blood sugar
Some research suggests that it could potentially be an effective tool for controlling blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
A 2014 study of 41 people with diabetes evaluated the effect of a daily 3-gram dose of it on blood sugar and antioxidant levels.
At the conclusion of the 3-month study, the group receiving the it’s supplement significantly improved average blood sugar and antioxidant levels compared to those who took a placebo.
Another similar study asked a group of 41 people with diabetes to take a 3-gram dose of it’s powder daily for 3 months.
The sumac group experienced a 25% decrease in insulin distribution, indicating that their insulin sensitivity may have increased as a result of supplementing the sumac.
At this point, scientists need to do more research to determine how it would best fit into a diabetes management care plan.
Sumac contains a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that may play a role in lowering blood sugar and alleviating muscle pain.
Potential downsides and safety precautions
It also has a proven safety record, with no adverse reactions in the clinical research available.
However, since sumac is related to cashews and mangoes, people allergic to these foods may want to steer clear of sumac to avoid any potential allergic reactions.
Since it may lower blood sugar, it is also not recommended if you are taking medications that lower blood sugar.
Furthermore, it is very important not to confuse it with the poisoning type.
Poison sumac, or Toxicodendron vernix, produces white-colored fruits, in contrast to the red-colored fruit produced by the edible sumac plant.
The poisen type can cause itchy, inflamed hives on the skin. People should never swallow it.
Because it can be difficult for untrained people to differentiate between sumac and poison sumac, don’t look for your own.
Sumac is generally safe but may cause allergic reactions for certain people. Do not confuse it with poison sumac.
Cooking with Sumac
It’s widely used in cooking in A Rabieh, Turkey, Mashreq, and especially in Lebanese cuisine. In these areas it is a major tension agent, used in other areas where lemon, tamarind or vinegar is used. It is rubbed on kebabs before grilling and can be used this way with fish or chicken.
The juice extracted from it is popular in salad dressings and pickles, and the powdered form is used in stews, vegetable pots, and chicken. “Sumac seeds are eaten in sauces with meat, it stops all kinds of belly flow …” A mixture of yoghurt and sumac is often served with kebabs.
People mostly use it as a spice.
Like many other culinary spices, it can enhance the flavor and color of a variety of dishes. It is especially popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.
It has a rich red color, a citrus-like aroma, and a distinct lemon juice-like pungent flavor. People sometimes use it to make a sweet and sour drink known as sumac lemon juice.
When dried and ground, it has a rough, gritty texture. Ground type is great for adding acidity, luster, and color to many dishes, including meats, grilled vegetables, cereals, baked goods, and desserts.
It is often used by people to enhance the flavor of spices, sauces, and broths. It’s a key ingredient in the classic Mediterranean seasoning mix known as thyme.
It is commercially available as an herbal supplement. People usually take it in capsule form, but you can also take it as a tea or tincture.
Due to a lack of data, there is no clearly defined dosage for the medicinal use of it. However, clinical research has shown that doses of up to 3 grams per day are safe.
When purchasing any dietary or herbal supplement, you should choose those that have been tested for purity and efficacy by third party organizations, such as NSF International Pharmacopoeia or US Pharmacopoeia.
Always consult your healthcare provider before adding it’s supplements to your health regimen to ensure that they are safe and appropriate for you.
You can use it to enhance the flavor of your favorite dishes or take it as a supplement.
How to store it: Like other spices, sumac should be kept in a closed container at room temperature or, if for some reason you end up with a whole lot of the stuff, in an airtight vessel in the refrigerator.
The bottom line
It is a plant that grows all over the world. Features large clusters of red berries.
People dry and powder these berries for use as an herbal medicine or culinary spice.
It is rich in a variety of nutrients and antioxidant compounds. Early research suggests that it may be useful for controlling blood sugar and relieving muscle soreness from exercise. However, more research is needed.
You’ll likely find this type of spices in the spice aisle or the auxiliary aisle of your local grocery store. Use it in the kitchen to increase the acidity of meats, grains, and vegetables.
If you plan to use it medicinally, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s appropriate for you.