The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!


Scientific Names


  • Rhus glabra L.
  • Anacardiaceae
  • 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

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Parts Usually Used

Root bark, leaves, and berries
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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.
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Where Found

Found along roadsides and in waste land, abandoned fields and grasslands, woodland margins and clearings.

Eastern United States into southern Canada and west to the prairies and the Rockies.
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Medicinal Properties

Bark and leaves: astringent, antiseptic, alterative, tonic

Berries: refrigerant, diuretic, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, cephalic
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Biochemical Information

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

When the leaves turn red in the fall, the Native Americans would gather and dry them to use in tobacco mixtures for the pipes.

Toxicodendron vernix, the poison sumac, is the only moisture loving species and should be avoided.
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Root bark is useful in the treatment of gonorrhea, 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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Formulas or Dosages

Use 1 tsp. of either bark, leaves or berries steeped 1/2 hour in 1 cup of boiling water.  When cool, 2-4 cups a day.  Use as a gargle or mouthwash also.

Tincture: a dose is 10-20 drops in liquid 2 times a day.
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Care should be taken to identify Sumac correctly.  Other varieties of Rhus can be very toxic (poison ivy and poison oak).  Sumacs with smooth white berries, toothless leaves, and (usually) grows in or near swamps are poisonous.  Poison Sumacs may cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive people. 

Free use of the bark of Sumac will produce catharsis.
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Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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