What is Sumac, Know its Benefits, Downsides, Uses

What is Sumac?

Sumac is an ingredient in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines that have therapeutic uses in herbal medicine practices. (1)

It is a flowering shrub and is scientifically known as Rhus Coriaria. It is characterized by large, dense clusters of bright red, pea-sized fruit.

Sumac spice should not be confused with poison sumac, which produces white-colored fruit. This can cause an allergic reaction similar to those from poison ivy.

Potential Benefits Of Sumac

Sumac is best known as a culinary spice but has been used in traditional medicinal practices for centuries.

Some researches provide evidence to support the potential health benefits it serves.

Sumac Contains Important Nutrients

Sumac is a host of some of the beneficial nutrients that include fiber, healthy fats, and essential vitamins.

A nutritionally dried sumac contains 71% carbs, 19% total fat, and 5% protein. The majority of fat comes from oleic acid and linoleic acid.

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat that is known to benefit heart health.(2) Linoleic acid is an essential polyunsaturated fat that helps in maintaining healthy skin and cellular membranes.(3)

A chemical analysis of fresh sumac fruit found that 14% of it is made up of fiber that supports digestive health.(1, 4)

Sumac is Rich In Antioxidants

The therapeutic potential of sumac is due to its richness in multiple antioxidant compounds.

Its multiple antioxidants include tannin, anthocyanin, and flavonoids.

Antioxidants protect the cells from damage and also reduce oxidative stress. Another role of antioxidants is that they help in reducing inflammation and thus may prevent inflammatory illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.(5)

Promotes Balanced Blood Sugar

A few researches suggest sumac can be effective in managing blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

A study done on 41 people with diabetes found that on taking a daily dose of 3grams of sumac, the blood sugar and antioxidant levels improved.(6)

A similar study was done on 31 people, who were asked to consume 3 grams of sumac every day. It was found that the group consuming sumac experienced a 25% reduction in circulating insulin. This might be due to increased insulin sensitivity which resulted due to the intake of sumac supplement.(7)

Sumac May Help Alleviate Muscle Pain

Various nutrients and antioxidants present in sumac are believed to play a role in alleviating muscle pain.

40 healthy people were given sumac beverages or placebo to investigate the potential of sumac to relieve muscle pain. It was found those who received sumac had significantly less exercise-induced muscle pain compared with the placebo group.(8) There was also an increase in the antioxidant levels in the body of those consuming sumac.

Downsides of Sumac

There is no research indicating any side effects of sumac.

As sumac is related to cashew and mango, therefore those allergic to these should avoid sumac to avoid a potential allergic reaction.

As sumac lowers the blood sugar, therefore, while consuming it, a close tab should be kept on the blood sugar medication. If already taking medicine for blood sugar, consult your healthcare provider before starting sumac.

Also never confuse sumac with poison sumac, to avoid the related allergic reactions.

How to Use Sumac?

Sumac is used in food and also as herbal medicine.

Culinary Uses

  • For culinary purposes, sumac is commonly used in the form of spice to enhance the flavor and color of many dishes.
  • Sumac has a rich red color and citrus fragrance. It is also used to make sweet and sour beverages such as sumac lemonade.
  • It can be dried and grounded to be added to many dishes such as grilled meat and vegetable, desserts, and baked goods.
  • It is also frequently used to flavor spice rubs, sauces, and dressings.

Herbal Supplements

  • Sumac is used as an herbal supplement and is available in capsule form. It can also be taken in tea or tincture form.
  • Before adding sumac to your wellness regimen, consult your healthcare provider to ensure its safety and appropriateness.

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