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Traditional and historic uses of the substance.
It has been used extensively in American Indian tribal medicine as a diuretic, gynaecological aid and dermatological aid. It was then inducted into Thomsonian herbal medicine as an anti-venereal, an antidote for poisons and for oral conditions. It is also a dependable source of vitamin C and has been widely used in the form of a winter drink. (Tumminello's Rhus Glabra)
Rhus glabra, Rhus trypanosomiasis, and Rhus coriaria all have acid fruit and astringent bark which is used in tanning.  (Tumminello's Rhus Glabra)
An infusion of the berries of this species is said to furnish an unequalled black dye for wool. The berries, when dried, form an article of trade in Canada, known as sacacomi , this, when smoked as a substitute for tobacco, is said to antidote the habit; the Western Indians make a preparation of equal parts of the roots, leaves, and of tobacco, which they smoke under the name of Kinikah . * (*Rafinesque, Med , Flor ., ii., 257.)
A cold infusion of the berries is often used as a cooling drink in fevers; it is also claimed to be of benefit in diabetes and strangury. The bark of the root is claimed to form an antiseptic dressing for ulcers and open wounds; while an infusion of the same is considered an excellent astringent for use in aphthous and mercurial sore mouths, diarrhea, dysentery, gonorrhea, and leucorrhea, and to be anti - syphilitic. I have known the juice of the root to remove warts, I have also known these strange growths to disappear from the use of various innocuous "charms. " such as a neighbor's potato surreptitiously obtained, rubbed upon the growths and cast over the left shoulder without noting its fall, etc. etc. (Millspaugh's Medicinal Plants)
Used extensively by Native Americans for food and medicine. Young shoots and roots are peeled and eaten raw. The fruit is also eaten raw, cooked or made into a lemonade-like drink. The active constituents in Sumac are being studied for use in many diseases some possible applications are in the treatment of TB, diabetes, and some cancers. The plant contains Calcium malate, Dihydrofisetin, Fisetin, Iodine, Gallic-acid-methylester, tannic and gallic acids, Selenium, Tartaric-acid, and many beneficial minerals. An infusion of the bark or roots is alterative, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, galactogogue, haemostatic, rubefacient and tonic. It is used in alternative medicine for the treatment of colds, diarrhea, fevers, general debility, to increase the flow of breast milk, sore mouths and throats, rectal bleeding, inflammation of the bladder and painful urination, retention of urine and dysentery and is applied externally to treat excessive vaginal discharge, burns and skin eruptions. The powdered bark is made into a good antiseptic salve. An infusion of the leaves is used for asthma, diarrhea and stomatosis. A poultice of the leaves used to treat skin rashes. The leaves also chewed for sore gums and rubbed on sore lips. An infusion of the berries is diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, purgative and refrigerant. It is used in the treatment of late-onset diabetes, constipated bowel complaints, febrile diseases, dysmenorrhoea (painful or difficult menstruation). The berries have been chewed as a remedy for bed-wetting. An infusion of the blossoms used as an eye wash for sore eyes. The milky latex from the plant is used as a salve on sores. When broken or cut the plant produces a milky substance which forms a solid gum-like body or gall, containing large quantities of tannic and gallic acid. These galls are used in tanning leather. A medicinal wine can also be prepared from them. An oil extracted from the seeds is used in making candles. Brown, red, and black dye are obtained from the berries, said to be excellent for wool. (http://www.altnature.com/gallery/sumach.htm)
Traditional uses – Rhus glabra was extensively used by Native American peoples, and later by early colonists, especially in the Appalachians, where the leaves were smoked for asthma. The berries were soaked to provide”lemonade”, which was very tart, and sometimes known as “Vinegar lemonade”.
In parts of the Alleghennies in West Virginia, a tea made from the leaves was considered to be a specific for asthma and hay fever.
The Cherokee used it as an anti emetic, an infusion of the leaves as a burn dressing, a decoction of the bark for blisters, and to improve post partum lactation. The berries were use for bed-wetting.
The Chippewa used a decoction for dysentery, an infusion of the roots for colds and an emetic, and a decoction of the blossoms for teething and stomatitis, and an infusion for asthma.
The Creek used the plant for dysentery, and the leaves were smoked for chest problems.
The Flathead used it as a purgative and for TB, as did the Kiowa.
The Kutenai used the roots for sore throats, and the Micmac for earaches.
The Nez Perce moistened the leaves for placing on skin rashes.
The Ojibwa used the bark and berries for medicine ceremonies, the blossoms as a wash for sore eyes and an infusion of the root and bark as a haemostatic.
The Okanagan used bark latex as a salve for sores, and the seeds in childbirth.
The Omaha used it for urinary retention, and as a styptic post partum wash
Other nations using rhus glabra were the Pawnee, the Sioux and the Thompson.
Many used the berries and their juices as a food, e.g. The Apache, Chiricahua and Mescalero, along with the Cherokee, Comanche, Iroquois and Ojibwa.
Either on its own or mixed with tobacco, the leaves were smoked by the Omaha, Pawnee, Ponca, Tewa, and Winnebago.
The Okanagan timed the spawning of the sock eye salmon by the colour change in the Sumac’s leaves.
Most nations used the plant’s various parts for dying leathers, the colour depending on which part of the plant was used. The Iroquois and other nations used both leaves and stems to make baskets and toothbrushes.
Some used the fruit and seeds to extract oils to make candles.
Used as a flower remedy, the blossom is supposed to still mental and emotional processes, allowing the intuitive right brain to predominate.
Native Americans used the bark of all sumacs as an astringent, and leaves and bark were used for tanning leather, due to the high tannin content. Other Native American uses include: fruit eaten raw or cooked; bark eaten; leaves used as basket covers; dye made from berries, bark, roots, pith; leaves used for smoking mixture.
Relaxation of mucous tissues, with unhealthy discharges; mercurial ulcerations; aphthous stomatitis; spongy gums; ulcerative sore throat, with fetid discharges; flabbiness and ulceration of tissues.2
Traditionally, Rhus glabra was used in Native American Indian medicine and Thompsonian herbal medicine for its diuretic properties, as a gynecological aid and as a dermatological medicine. The remedy was first proven by VA. Marshall in a tincture form and is to be found in Allen's Encyclopedia and also in Clarke's Materia Medica.3
Berries can be used to make a delicious, pink lemonade-flavored, cold drink. Berries should be collected between June and October before many heavy rains wash out the acid of the fruits, which produce the distinctive sumac taste. Berries should be bruised and steeped in water overnight; the solution should then be strained through cheesecloth to eliminate the presence of bristly hairs in the drink. Drink ice cold.5
The antimicrobial activity of the methanol extract and isolated constituents of Rhus glabra (Anacardiaceae), a species used in folk medicine by North American native people, was evaluated against 11 microorganisms, including gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The extract was subsequently fractionated and monitored by bioassays leading to the isolation of three antibacterial compounds, the methyl ester of 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acid (methyl gallate) (minimal inhibition concentration (MIC) 12.5 micrograms/ml), 4-methoxy-3,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (MIC 25 micrograms/ml) and gallic acid (MIC > 1000 micrograms/ml). The first two compounds are reported here for the first time from Rhus glabra. Their structures were established using spectroscopic and chemical methods.
Traditional use (Rhus Gabra, A Homeopathic Proving. Peter L Tummimello)
Sumach leaves have been used in tanning, and a concentrated decoction of the bark is used as a mordant for dyeing red colors. Sumach root bark is of a light-gray color, with a tinge of red externally, yellowish-white internally, and of a very astringent and slightly sweet taste. When broken on the plant, a milky fluid exudes from the bark as well as from the leaves, which subsequently forms a solid, gum-like body. Both the bark of the branches and root are used. Both the bark and berries of sumach yield their active properties to water. The excrescences (galls) which form upon the leaves are reddish-brown externally, grayish-white internally, varying in size and appearance, being usually very irregular in their outline, hollow, and sometimes consist of a mere shell, of a line or less in thickness. Their taste is slightly bitter, and very astringent.
It has been used extensively in American Indian tribal medicine as a diuretic, gynaecological aid and dermatological aid. It was then inducted into Thomsonian herbal medicine as anti-venereal, an antidote for poisons and for oral conditions. It is also a dependable source of vitamine C and has been widely used in the form of a winter drink.
Hale mentions that an infusion of the root is of popular repute in diarrhoea and dysentery, especially when the discharges are fetid, and the berries are used for chronic cough, wheezing cough and laryngeal asthma.
The tincture made of the whole panicle, "sumac-bobs", cured a poatient of his, who every spring, had an attack of laryngeal cough with dyspnoea and almost complete loss of voice.
Sumach bark is tonic, astringent, antiseptic, and decidedly alterative; the berries are refrigerant and diuretic. In decoction or syrup, the bark of the root has been found valuable in gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, diarrhoea, dysentery, hectic fever, scrofula, and in profuse perspiration from debility. Combined with the barks of slippery elm and white pine, in decoction, and taken freely, it is said to have proved highly beneficial in syphilitic ulcerations. Externally, the bark of the root in powder, applied as a poultice to old ulcers, forms an excellent antiseptic. A decoction may also be used in injection for prolapsus uteri and ani, and leucorrhoea, and as a wash in many cutaneous diseases; simmered in lard it is valuable in scald head. A decoction of the inner bark of the root is serviceable in the sore mouth resulting from mercurial salivation, and was formerly much used internally in mercurial diseases. A saturated tincture is useful in ulcerative stomatitis, and for spongy gums attending purpura hemorrhagica and scorbutus. Diarrhoea and dysentery, with intestinal ulceration, seem to be well controlled by it. Dose of the tincture, from 5 to 20 drops. The berries may be used in infusion in diabetes, strangury, bowel complaints, febrile diseases (as a pleasant acidulous drink where acids are indicated), etc., as a gargle in quinsy and ulcerations of the mouth and throat; and as a wash for ringworm, tetter, offensive ulcers, etc. Excrescences are frequently formed on the leaves of this plant, and which are very astringent; when powdered and mixed, with lard or linseed oil, they are said to prove useful in hemorrhoids. In hot weather, if the bark be punctured, a gummy substance flows out, which has been used with advantage in gonorrhoea and gleet, and several urinary affections. Dose of the decoction of sumach bark, or infusion of the berries, from 1 to 4 fluid ounces. A free use of the bark will produce catharsis.2
Rhus-g has been used by American Indians as a diuretic,as gynaecological aid and in dermatology.
Thomasian herbal medicine worked with it as
-an anti - veneral (gonorrhoea)
-an antidote for poisons
-for oral conditions(inflamation of mucosa,aphtous conditions)
Containing vitamin C it was widely used preparing a winter drink.
One of the taditional indication of Rhus-g was "profuse perspiration arising from debility"
The infusion of the root was popular among the country people in treating diarrhoea and dysentery
with fetid and bloody discharges.
The berries were used as a remedy for chronic hoarseness,wheezing coughs,and so called laryngeal
asthma(asthma + laryngitis)
Horses who had a kind of asthma (emphysema) were treated with the berries added to their food.
Murphy states that Rhus glabra is atrologically related to the moon.