What is sumac and what properties does it have?

Sumac is a spice used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. It stands out for its particular flavor and for its medicinal properties.

Last update: February 10, 2022

The sumac, scientific name Rhus coriaria, It is a variety of shrub that belongs to the plant family Anacardiaceae. It is estimated that there are around 200 species, but the most used is the Syrian sumac, recognized for its culinary and medicinal qualities.

In particular, it is often used as an aromatic spice in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisine, in dishes such as salads, hummus and kabobs. In addition to this, it is valued for its nutritional properties, since it provides vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. Are you interested in knowing more about its uses and benefits?

Characteristics and nutritional properties of sumac

A review in the academic journal heliyon details that sumac is a flowering shrub that typically grows in subtropical and temperate climates of all the world. To be more precise, it is common in various regions of the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa.

The plant is characterized by having slightly hairy and branched stems, on which oval and toothed leaves grow, with an intense green hue on the top and light green on the back. In turn, this grows crowded flowers and small bright red fruits that lack pulp.

From the latter, a powdered spice is made It is used both culinary and in the preparation of remedies. According to evidence, it is a source of the following nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates (up to 71%).
  • Fats (up to 19%).
  • Proteins (up to 5%).
  • Calcium.
  • Zinc.
  • Magnesium.
  • Potassium.
  • Vitamin A.
  • Vitamin C.
The spice derived from this plant can be purchased in Middle Eastern bazaars and specialty stores.

Medicinal properties of sumac

For now, the medicinal properties of sumac have not been sufficiently studied in humans. Despite this, existing studies suggest certain health benefits.

In any case, it should not be a treatment of first choice when it comes to treating diseases. Let’s see its main applications.

Prevention of oxidative stress

Due to its high concentration of antioxidant compounds, sumac has become an ideal supplement to combat the negative effects of free radicals. According to a publication in the magazine antioxidantsAbout 200 phytochemicals with beneficial health effects have been isolated from the plant.

Of these, substances such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, terpenoids and coumarin derivatives stand out for their potential to combat oxidative stress and protect the body’s cells. With that not only decreases the risk of premature agingbut also chronic diseases.

Control of high glucose levels

To date, researchers have not clarified how sumac can help lower high blood glucose levels. According to the hypotheses, it is due to its high concentration of antioxidants. In any case, studies suggest benefits of this remedy for diabetic patients.

In a research shared Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Researchpatients who consumed 3 grams of sumac achieved a reduction in their high blood sugar levels and an increase in antioxidant capacity.

On the other hand, a study Journal of Research in Medical Sciences made similar findings, but added that the powdered extract of the plant improved insulin sensitivity. For now, more research is needed.

High cholesterol reduction

Popular literature describes a wide variety of cardiovascular benefits from sumac. Of these, lowering high cholesterol has been one of the most researched.

In this regard, a study in 2011 reported that sumac fruit extract It has lipid-lowering properties that favor the reduction of high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.. For this reason, it is also attributed cardioprotective and hepatoprotective potential.

Muscle pain relief

The minerals and antioxidants in sumac are quite beneficial for athletes. Its assimilation seems to significantly reduce muscle pain caused by exercise.

This was reported by the result of a shared randomized controlled trial in Physiology International, in which these effects are attributed to the increase in circulating antioxidants.

Other Possible Benefits of Sumac

  • The bioactive compounds of sumac fruits have antimicrobial activity that favors the prevention of infections. In fact, the spice is used to prevent food contamination.
  • Due to its tannin content, it is considered a good astringent. Therefore, it is used as an adjuvant against gastric ulcers and to stop minor external bleeding.
  • Gallic acid and other antioxidants in sumac fruit have neuroprotective effects. These neutralize the action of free radicals in the brain and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Risks and contraindications of sumac

Till the date, There are no reports of adverse reactions from sumac consumption in healthy adults. As long as its use is moderate, it is considered safe. Despite this, its intake is not recommended for people with a history of allergies to mangoes or cashews.

It is also contraindicated in the following cases:

  • Kids.
  • Women in a state of pregnancy and lactation.
  • Patients taking medications for diabetes.

Since there is a lack of evidence about its safety, the ideal is to consult the doctor before taking this type of herbal remedies, especially if there is already a diagnosed disease or if medications are being consumed.

On the other hand, it should be remembered that sumac (Rhus coriaria) not the same as poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix). The latter produces white fruits and only contact with the skin can cause inflammation and itching. It should not be taken under any circumstances.

Poison sumac is different and comes from a different species. In this case, ingestion by humans is totally contraindicated.

Consumption recommendations

in the form of a spice sumac gives color, flavor and aroma to a wide variety of dishes. It is usually used in preparations with meat, cereals, vegetables, sauces and baked goods. It is also the protagonist of the sumac lemonade, in which it provides a bittersweet touch.

However, it can also be included as a dietary supplement, as it is available in capsules, tea, and tincture. In these cases, it is convenient to check the label and follow the recommendations without exceeding the suggested dose.

What to remember about sumac?

The sumac is a shrub that stands out for its clusters of red fruits. From these powders and extracts are obtained for cooking and natural medicine. It is characterized by its abundant concentration of antioxidants and nutrients that benefit health.

In particular, it appears to help prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol, and counteract the negative effects of free radicals. Despite this, the evidence is insufficient and more research is required. Therefore, if you plan to use it for medicinal purposes, it is best to consult your doctor.

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