The healing power of fragrant sumac

Fragrant sumac is a medicinal plant that originally only grows in North America. It often does not grow very high, a maximum of about 60 centimeters to two meters. This shrub can extend three meters wide. It grows in both full sun and partial shade. What is striking about this shrub is that in autumn its leaves turn yellow, orange, red and purple before falling off. The plant also attracts butterflies and bees. Fragrant sumac is a medicinal plant. In homeopathy it is mainly used as a remedy for diabetes and in phytotherapy it is mainly used as an herb that can prevent bedwetting. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Fragrant sumac / Source: Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.0)


  • Traditional use
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Fragrant sumac for bedwetting
  • Dose and safety
  • Grow your own fragrant sumac
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Traditional use

If the berries of fragrant sumac are placed in warm or cold water for 10 minutes to 30 minutes, they will flavor the water and create a natural lemonade. The fruit is simply edible, but should not be brought to the boil because too many tannins are released during the cooking process. The fruit is dried and powdered and added to a porridge or cake. In the Netherlands you can find this dried fruit powder in stores under the name sour herb.


In Latin, fragrant sumac is called Rhus aromatica . Aromatica means ‘smelling’. In English this plant is called fragant sumac. The name sumac originally comes from Arabic and Arabic took it over from Syriac where it means ‘red’. This refers to the red-colored berries of this plant. Rhus comes from the Ancient Greek word rhous which also means ‘red’, just think of the French word for red: rouge.

Active substances

The bark of fragrant sumac is used for phytotherapeutic purposes. It contains essential oil and tannins or tannins as active ingredients.

Fragrant sumac for bedwetting

The bark has proven to be an effective medicine against bedwetting in folk medicine. However, no substance in the bark has ever been identified as responsible for curing this condition. Bedwetting is not a real disease. It is a functional neurotic disorder; it has to do with a certain form of stress. Only 5% of bedwetters are said to have an organic cause. Rhus aromatica or fragrant sumac is a sedative. It can, together with St. John’s wort, passion flower and nightcap, cure bedwetting. There are other herbs that can cure bedwetting by having a decongestant effect, such as madder and belladonna, which should only be used on prescription by a doctor.

There are astringent tannins or tannins in sweet-smelling sumac. This is reason for some herbalists to prescribe it for diarrhea and menorrhagia or excessive menstruation.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Mother tincture: 25 drops three times a day.
  • Children take between 5 and 20 drops of the mother tincture, two to three times a day.
  • No side effects are known at these therapeutic doses.

Grow your own fragrant sumac

It prefers nutritious soil but can also grow in impoverished soil. Fragrant sumac can survive temperatures of -25, so it is a plant that can in principle grow well in the Netherlands and Belgium, because it rarely gets that cold. However, growth can be thwarted when frost occurs in late spring. If you want to use the berries, pay close attention to which type you use. There are 250 species and many species produce only poisonous berries.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.