Medicinal and Edible Plant Guide: Smooth Sumac

  • Posted on: 16 October 2016
  • By: Jim jones
Sumac bushes

There are many species in the Sumac family. This guide is going to focus on Smooth Sumac and how it can be used in a survival situation.


Smooth Sumac leaves of comprised of 11- 31 toothed, lance shaped leaflets. The branches and leafstalks are smooth, unlike the Staghorn Sumac that has very hairy branches and leafstalks. 

The fruit on the Smooth Sumac is a red berry cluster that points up to the sky.

All parts of this plant can be used and have astringent and antiseptic properties. The sap from a cut stem can be used on minor cuts to stop bleeding, close the wound and insolate the area from infection.


Leaves can be smoked or made into a tea to treat asthma, leaf tea can also be used to treat diarrhea, mouth disease and dysentery.


The berries can be stepped cold, or placed into hot water(best not to boil the berries) and made into a soothing, delicious drink, much like lemonade. This tea is good for sore throat, headache and is antiseptic. Which can treat mouth ulcers or other oral issues.


Root tea is a diuretic, which will promote urination for flushing the body of toxins. It is also slightly emetic, which will induce vomiting. This might be good in the event you eat something poisonous or drink bad water. Tea from the Smooth Sumac root is an anti-diarrheal as well.


Bark tea is a good treatment for diarrhea, dysentery and fever and can be used for mouth and throat ulcers. To make a tea from the bark, you will need to boil the bark in water.


Do not confuse Smooth or Staghorn Sumac with Poison Sumac. Poison Sumac berries are white or pale green and grow at the base of the leaves, hanging downward from the stems resembling a cluster of grapes. Poison Sumac is found in wet, marshy areas.


The multitude of medicinal uses of the Sumac along with its delicious, nutritious and refreshing tea make it a must have in your survival toolkit of knowledge.

Out of 100 medicinal plants tested for antibiotic activity, the Smooth Sumac was  the most active.

Geared To Survive recommends these great books for identifying and using plants as food and medicine

Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition (Peterson Field Guides)

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides)

photo credited to Dan Zan