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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Rhus coriaria Anacardiaceae The Mediterranean

Used 2,000 years ago by the ancient Greeks as a diuretic, sumac is today a staple ingredient in many eastern cuisines. Sumac is not popular in European or North American households, but it is sometimes available in specialty and ethnic markets.

History indicates that a Roman botanist favored sumac for its medicinal qualities, but it was also used widely to make condiments or cooking oil. Sumac berries were softened in boiling water to extract their essential oils, which were then added to olive oil or vinegar.

Sumac is slightly more sour and astringent than lemon and is used to add flavor and color to food. The name sumac means 'dark red' from the Aramaic 'summaq'. Sumac berries grow on the small shrubby tree Rhus coriaria. The berries are dried and sold whole or ground into sumac powder. Sumac has a tart flavor, with a touch of fruit and astringency.

Today, sumac is used primarily in Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Arabic cuisines as a souring agent.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

The entire Rhus coriaria plant can be used medicinally. Sumac berries act as a natural diuretic and are often used to treat and prevent intestinal and bowel problems. Sumac is high in anti-oxidants and contains some antimicrobial properties.

Historically, sumac has been used to:

  • As a diuretic
  • Aid digestion
  • As a carminative
  • As an anti-oxidant
  • As an antimicrobial

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Used primarily as a souring agent in Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Arabic cuisines, sumac can also be used as a rub and on grilled fish. Sumac berries are normally dried, ground then added to a dish or mashed and soaked in hot water.  Food for thought:

  • Add sumac to hummus or yogurt based dips
  • Fry sumac with onions
  • Add sumac to stews and soups
  • Sprinkle sumac over rice, vegetables and meats
  • Use sumac in place of lemon juice or rind
  • Use sumac in place of vinegar or any acidic ingredient

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