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Medicinal Shrubs: Rhus, Sumac

 
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Twenty-five varieties of Rhus are commonly discussed in Herbal Medicine… some as the cause of terrible rashes that must be cured using other herbs, and some as useful herbs or edible berries: Rhus ambigua, Rhus aromatica - Lemon Sumach, Rhus copallina – Dwarf, Rhus coriaria - Elm-Leaved, Rhus diversiloba - Western Poison Oak, Rhus glabra – Smooth, Rhus chinensis - Chinese Gall, Rhus integrifolia - Lemonade Berry, Rhus microphylla – Desert, hus ovata - Sugar Bush, Rhus potaninii, Rhus punjabensis, Rhus punjabensis sinica, Rhus radicans - Poison Ivy, Rhus sempervirens, Rhus succedanea - Wax Tree, Rhus sylvestris, Rhus toxicodendron - Eastern Poison Oak, Rhus trichocarpa, Rhus trilobata - Skunk Bush, Rhus typhina - Stag's Horn Sumach, Rhus verniciflua - Lacquer Tree, Poison Sumach, Rhus wallichii, Rhus x pulvinata

The Sumac family may be seen as one in which some are helpful and pleasant, while near relatives should be avoided like poison! Fortunately, the tree or shrub type Sumacs that grow in my region are among the nicer members of the family. Shrub forms are: Rhus aromatica var. aromatica (Fragrant Sumac) and Rhus michauxii (Michaux's Sumac).

Dioscorides mentioned this in his Materia Medica:

Rhus (which is sprinkled among sauces and also called erythrum) is the fruit of rhus coriaria, which is called this because tanners use it for thickening their hides. It is a little tree which grows on rocks — two feet high, the leaves somewhat long and red, jagged all around. The fruit is like little bunches of grapes — thick, the size of that of terminthos, and somewhat broad. That which encloses the fruit is very useful. The leaves are astringent and good for the same purposes as acacia. A decoction dyes the hair black, and is a suppository for dysentery. It is a liquid medicine, hip bath, and an instillation for discharges of the ears. The leaves applied as a poultice with vinegar or honey stop pterygium [membrane on the eye] and gangrene. The juice of the dried leaves boiled with water to the consistency of honey are as useful for as many things as lycium. The fruit does the same things (being food) in mixing it with meat for coeliac [intestinal complaints] and dysentery. Applied as a plaster with water it prevents inflammation of fractures, desquamation or skin peeling, and blueness of wounds. It cleans rough tongues with honey. It prevents the excessive discharges called whites [leucorrhoea — a mucosal vaginal discharge] and cures haemorrhoids, applied with oak coals pounded into small pieces. The boiled liquid of this fruit gathers a cream that is better for these purposes than the fruit itself. It also leaves a gum which is put into the cavities of teeth to take away their pain.

Gerard wrote of Currior Sumac and Myrtle Sumac in the Rhus family:

A. The leaves of Sumach boiled in wine and drunken, do stop the lask, the inordinate course of women's sicknesses, and all other inordinate issues of blood.

B. The seed of Sumach eaten in sauces with meat, stoppeth all manner of fluxes of the belly, the bloody flux, and all other issues, especially the white issues of women.

C. The decoction of the leaves maketh hairs black, and is put into stools to fume upward into the bodies of those that have the dysentery, and is to be given them also to drink.

D. The leaves made into an ointment or plaster with honey and vinegar, stayeth the spreading nature of gangrenes and pterygia.

E. The dry leaves sodden in water until the decoction be as thick as honey, yield forth a certain oiliness, which performeth all the effects of Licium.

F. The seed is no less effectual to be strewed in powder upon their meats which are Cœliaci or Dysenterici.[Suffereing from colic or dysentery]

G. The seeds pounded, mixed with honey and the powder of oaken coals, healeth the Hæmorrhoids.

H. There issueth out of the shrub a gum, which being put into the hollowness of the teeth, taketh away the pain, as Dioscorides writeth.

I am not sure which Rhus Culpepper referred to as “Sumach”:

The seeds dried, reduced to powder, and taken in small doses, stop purges and hæmorrhages; the young shoots have also great efficacy in strengthening the stomach and bowels; they are best given in a strong infusion. The bark of the roots has the same virtues, but in an inferior Degree.

Mrs. Grieve used the name “Sumachs” for both the Smooth (Rhus glabra) and Sweet (Rhus aromatica) Sumac, but gave medicinal uses for only the Smooth Sumac:

The bark is tonic, astringent, and antiseptic; the berries refrigerant and diuretic. A strong decoction, or diluted fluid extract, affords an agreeable gargle in angina, especially when combined with potassium chlorate. Where tannin drugs are useful, as in diarrhoea, the fluid extract is an excellent astringent. The bark, in decoction or syrup, has been found useful in gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, diarrhoea, dysentery, hectic fever, scrofula and profuse perspiration from debility. Combined with the barks of slippery elm and white pine and taken freely, the decoction is said to have been greatly beneficial in syphilis. As an injection for prolapsus uteri and ani, and for leucorrhoea, and as a wash in many skin complaints, the decoction is valuable. For scald-head it can be simmered in lard, or the powdered root-bark can be applied as a poultice to old ulcers, forming a good Antiseptic. A decoction of the inner bark of the root is helpful for the sore-mouth resulting from mercurial salivation, and also for internal use in mercurial diseases. A free use of the bark will produce Catharsis. The berries may be used in infusion in diabetes, strangury bowel complaints, and febrile diseases; also as a gargle in quinsy and ulcerations of the mouth and throat, and as a wash for ringworm, tetters, offensive ulcers, etc. The astringent excrescences, when powdered and mixed with lard or linseed oil, are useful in Haemorrhoids. The mucilagic exudation, if the bark be punctured in hot weather, has been used advantageously in gleet and several urinary difficulties.

The Cherokee used Sumac as:

An ingredient in the medicine.. “For water blisters.” A cold tea of the roots is used by old women to make their milk flow…. For convulsions of people and animals when the brain has been affected, a root steep is blown all over the hot areas… Use this and another variety of sumac for “clapps” (gonorrhea). Make a tea of the berries and roots of sumac and the root of another herb, drink four times daily. The red berries are eaten for kidney trouble or to stop bedwetting in children. Gargle the berry tea for tonsillitis. For sores on the arm or mouth during the dog days, make a cold water infusion of the roots of sumac. For young children lance the blisters with a pin, allowing the water to drain and rub on the tea.

The Lumbee used Sumac:

In the Lumbee traditional language, Sumac was called “yap wiiti tah-re” or shoe tree. Sumac berries were boiled by many Lumbee to make a tea and the patient was instructed to drink half a teacupful three times a day to aid in bladder discomfort. A tea was made from a handful of the roots, as long as the patient’s middle finger to the bottom of his palm, placed in two quarts of water, and boiled until a quart remained. This decoction was fashioned to treat bladder and kidney discomfort.

Towards and American Materia Medica tells us:

Rhus, or Sumac. " In many persons" the Rhus radicans, Rhus Vernix, and Rhus Toxicodendron, " in- duce a peculiar and very troublesome vesication, which I have frequently removed, in a short time, by means of a mercurial wash." I have employed, in these cases, an aqueous solution of the muriate of mercury, or corrosive-sublimate. Nothing that I have made use of has so effectually removed the disagreeable symptoms as this lotion. Its good effects are very speedily perceived. Many other applications are made use of, in various parts of the United- States. The principal of them are prepared from vegetables. That some of these do good, I shall not deny : but, compared to the prepa- ration of mercury, which I have mentioned, they are very inert applications. Of the vegetables, I think I have employed none with such decided advantage as the juice (mixed with cream) of a native species of Urtica, or Nettle; perhaps the Urtica pumila of Linnaeus — It is said that the bark of one species (but I cannot tell you what species) has been found useful in intermittents." Perhaps, it is the bark of the Rhus glabrum, or Smooth Pennsylvania Sumac. The juice of the Upland-Sumac (Rhus glabrum) is said to be excellent for removing warts, and also tetters. It is applied to the affected parts. This shows, that even this species, which is generally deemed innocent, possesses some active quality. Indeed, I am inclined to think, that all the American species of the genus Rhus are poisons to some constitutions. I am assured, that the Rhus typhinum, or Stagshorn- Sumac, hasaflfected the skins of certain persons, in the same manner as the Rhus radicans, &c. Yet the Rhus typhinum is generally considered as an innocent species. In some parts of the United States, the Rhus glabrum is called " Indian Salt." It is said, that the Indians employed the saline powder which invests the berries, as a condiment to their animal food. They also employ this substance as a mordant, or fixer, for the red colour with which they die the quills of the porcupine. They use other mordants for the same purpose.— With great satisfaction, I refer the medical and philosophical read-er of these Collections, to Dr. Thomas Horsfield's Experimental Dissertation on the Rhus Vernix, Rhus radicans and Rhus glabrum. This dissertation, which was published in Philadelphia, in 1798, reflects great honour upon the ingenious author, and even credit upon the University which gave it birth.

The Thomsonian System of Medicine states:

SUMACH. Rhus Glabra. (Dr. Thomson.) This appears to be a new article in medicine, entirely unknown to the medical faculty, as no mention is made of it by any author. The first of my knowledge that it was good for canker was when at Onion River, in 1807, attending the dysentery. Being in want of something to clear the stomach and bowels in that complaint, found that the bark, leaves or berries answered the purpose extremely well, and have made much use of it ever since. It is well known, and is found in all parts of the country; some of it grows from eight to twelve feet high, and has large spreading branches ; the berries grow in large bunches, and when ripe are a deep red color, of a pleasant sour taste ; and are used by the country people to dye with. The leaves and young sprouts are made use of in tanning morocco leather. For medicine, the bark should be peeled when full of sap, the leaves when full grown, and the berries when ripe; they should be carefully dried, and when used as part of No. 3 should be pounded, and may be used altogether, or either separate. A tea made of either or altogether is very good, and may be given with safety in almost all complaints, or put into the injection. It will scour the stomach and bowels, and is good for strangury, as it promotes urine and relieves difficulties in the kidneys by removing obstructions and strengthening those parts. I have been in the habit of late years of making use of this article with bayberry bark and lily root, or hemlock bark, equal parts, for No. 3, and it has, always answered a good purpose. The leaves are the least astringent, but are valuable in dysentery and hemorrhages of lungs or uterus. The bark is more stimulating, astringing and toning, and is valuable for leucorrhoea, inflammation of the bladder, and for rectal troubles, chronic diarrhoea and rectal hemorrhages. The berries are a pleasant acid astringent. Fill a vessel full of berries, cover with boiling water and steep a half-hour. Then strain and sweeten to suit taste. This is a good beverage to allay irritation of the bladder and in the treatment of diabetes and for the relief of bloody urine.

Resources of The Southern Fields and Forests tells us:

SMOOTH SUMACH, (Rhus glabra, Linn.) Grows in the upper districts; found near Columbia, and Augusta, Ga., in wet soils. N. C. Fl. May. "If the bark of the root is boiled in equal parts of milk and water, forming, witli flour, a cataplasm, it will cure burns without leaving a scar." The excrescences have been preferred, as an astringent, to tannin or gallic acid. Dr. Walters employed and substituted them for galls; their sourness is supposed to be owing to malic acid, which is contained in the pubescence. According to Dr. Cozzens, also, of New York, they are astringent and" refrigerant, furnishing with water a cooling drink, useful in inflammation and ulceration of the throat. The excrescences on the leaves of the R. glabra, which I have gathered (1862) on Tiger Creek, Spartanburg District, are as large as persimmons — resemble fruit in appearance — are powerfully astringent, and contain moving bodies resembling seeds attached to the inner walls, surrounded by a white, cottony substance, probably . embryo animals. These glandular excrescences are showy. I would recommend them as a perfect substitute for tannin. I have dried and powdered them. They are a pure astringent. From the experiments of Dr. Stenhouse, (U. vS. Disp., 12th Ed.,) it appears that the tannic acid of sumach is identical with that of galls ; malic acid and binoxalate of lime coexist in the berries, (W. J. Watson,) and Prof. Eogers suggests the procuring of malic acid from this source. Dr. Fahnestock states that an infusion of the inner bark of the root is employed as a gargle, and is considered almost as a specific in the sore throat attending mercurial salivation. An infusion of the leaves sweetened with honey is serviceable, applied in the same way, and for cleansing the mouth in putrid fevers. The bark is considered a febrifuge. Lind. Nat. Syst. Bot. 166 ; U. S. Disp. 598; Am. Journal Med. Sci. 561 ; Mer. and de L. Diet, de M. Med. vi, 77, where its employment as a gargle is alluded to; Eev. Medicale, i, 1830, 307; Griffith, Med. Bot. 106. The decoction of the root is used by the Indian doctors in the treatment of gonorrhoea and gleet, and as a wash in ulcers. In other words, it is an astringent. The bark of this, the R. copal, and the R. typhmum, and of the European species, acts as a mordant for red colors, and much use is made of it in the tan- ning of morocco leather. A vinegar may be prepared from the berries of this species. I introduce the replies of several correspondents of the Charleston Courier (1862) to inquiries concerning the sumach. Dr. Abner Lewis Hammond writes : "The Rhus Glabra I consider identical with that so extensively grown for export and manufacturing purposes in Sicily. The difference, as seen in the size of the leaves, tree, etc., is attributable, no doubt, only to a difference in locality, soil and cultivation, and to no other. I have seen it flourishing alike on the mountain slopes and in the valleys of Virginia; on the rich table lands and bottoms of Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois; on the flinty ridges and barren mineral lands of Missouri. Under cultivation it suckers freely. Looking at its value and importance as a manufacturing agent or material, and its easy production, I have long wondered at its total neglect, and feel no hesitancy in saying that with the same care given to its cultivation by our people as by the Sicilians, it could be as successfully and profitably raised in the one as the other country, and should, under existing circumstances, be neglected no longer. Hundreds and thousands of bags, at heavy expense, are annually imported into the United States for tunning and other purposes, yielding to the growers (after expense) a remunerating profit. The berries, the bark of the tree and roots, have for years furnished the country people here and in the West a most substantial dyestuff, (a brilliant black,) while its prepared leaves (ground) have been as steadily used (to the full extent of the available quantity in the preparation of morocco." A correspondent from South Carolina says: "Your article and a subsequent communication lead me to believe there is more importance in the sumach than I ever attached to it. I have gathered bushels of the berry on the mountains in this State for the purpose of having the wool dyed black for the woof of our home-made jeans. I will try its use in shoemakers' wax (as recommended.) There can be any quantity gathered in this section. "Should any one wish to try dyeing wool, they will find it one of the handsomest black dyes known to me." Dr. Wm. Jeuson, of Charleston, writes : "Sumach — Rhus Glabra — figured also as Rhus Yirginicum, better known as smooth sumach, and variously called Pennsylvania sumach, upland sumach, is a native of most parts of the continent of North America. Grows in dry, uncultivated places flowering early in July, and succeeded by' dense clusters of crimson berries, which, when mature, (about early autumn,) are covered with a whitish and very acid efflorescence (often used to make vinegar in country localities.) The bark and leaves are astringent, and said to be used in tanning leather and in dyeing. Excrescencies are produced under the leaves resembling galls in character. These have been used by Dr. Walters, of New York, who thought them in every respect preferable to imported galls. The only officinal part is the berries, which are used as a refrigerant and febrifuge, though Dr. Fahnestock speaks highly of an infusion made from the inner rind or bark of the root, for a wash and gargle in the sore mouth attending inordinate mercurial salivation. The writer's own experience has been to use the berries in impure water, or when that was not to be obtained, to put them into the mouth to allay the thirst attendant upon riding through the hot, unsheltered and frequently waterless prairies of the far West. He also knows that a syrup made with the berries is successfully used in the fall fluxes, while a drink made with them is a favorite remedy in many localities in febrile attacks. James Reokliain. of Columbia, South Carolina adds : "1 have often wondered that no one here engages in its cultivation, or rather in gathering and preparing it for market, as it grows all over the country."

King's American Dispensatory, 1898 tells us of several plants:

Rhus Aromatica.—Fragrant Sumach. Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This exceedingly valuable medicine was introduced by J. T. McClanahan, M. D., Booneville, Mo. (Ec. Med. Jour., 1879, p. 317). At first, the use of this remedy was confined to the treatment of diabetes, and other excessive discharges from the kidneys and the bladder, as well as to cases of incipient albuminuria. More recently, in addition to the above-named diseases, it has been largely employed with advantage in urethral irritations, uterine leucorrhoea, cholera infantum, diarrhoea, dysentery, chronic laryngitis, chronic bronchitis, and especially in the enuresis of children and of aged persons. While it is of undoubted value in many hemorrhagic states, particularly in chronic hematuria, a malarial form of which is quite common in the southern states, its chief value is in enuresis, with marked atony and chronic irritability of the urinary passages, whether in young or old subjects. The favorite remedies for "bed-wetting" are Rhus aromatica, belladonna, and thuja. Sometimes this affection yields to Rhus aromatica alone; sometimes a combination, as indicated, must be used. Fragrant sumach is indicated in all cases of over-activity of the kidneys, but is always contraindicated when there is active inflammation. A patient suffering, for several years, from catarrh of the bladder and hypertrophy of the prostate, with excruciating pain during micturition, necessitating the continued use of a soft catheter, the introduction of which invariably proved painful, was relieved by fragrant sumach. After exhausting the employment of all recognized remedies for the patient's condition, together with the use of the water at the Hot Springs of Arkansas, etc., without the least benefit, as a dernier ressort, the patient was placed upon teaspoonful doses, 3 or 4 times daily, of the fluid extract of Rhus aromatica. In 3 weeks' time the symptoms were all removed, and the prostate so far reduced that the use of the soft catheter became unnecessary. The patient was 65 years old and subsequently voided urine as freely and as painlessly as a boy of 18 years (J. King). Inflammatory symptoms being absent, it may be employed in passive uterine hemorrhage, hemorrhage of the bowels, as in chronic bloody-flux (not in acute dysentery), chronic painful vesical catarrh, and in phthisis, to control hemorrhage when small in amount, and to restrain the accompanying diarrhoea and night-sweats. In bronchitis, with profuse, blood-streaked expectoration, it may be given with confidence. A good form of administration is as follows: R Specific fragrant sumach, ℥ss; glycerin, ℥iijss. Mix. Sig. Dose, from ½ to 1 teaspoonful every 3 or 4 hours. This remedy is reputed useful in purpura hemorrhagica. The forms of administration now preferred are specific fragrant sumach and the fluid extract, of which the dose of either varies from 5 to 60 minims, repeated every 3 or 4 hours. It may be taken in water, in glycerin and water, and in solution of pure gelatin, or in syrup, when these vehicles are not Contraindicated. Specific Indications and Uses.—Not the remedy for active conditions. As given by its introducer, Dr. McClanahan, the specific indications are: "Stools profuse, skin cool and sallow, pulse small and feeble, loss of flesh, abdomen flabby, tongue pale, trembling and moist, trembling in lower limbs; general sense of lassitude and languor. Dose for infants, 10 to 20 drops in a half-glass of water, teaspoonful as often as necessary; for children, perhaps 5 drops of the first dilution" (Ec. Med. Jour., 1879, p. 317). To these may be added large, painless diarrhoeal discharges; nocturnal enuresis, from weakness of spincter vesicae; prostatic enlargement; and malarial Haeematuria. Rhus Glabra (U. S. P.)—Rhus Glabra. Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—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. Specific Indications and Uses.—Relaxation of mucous tissues, with unhealthy discharges; mercurial ulcerations; aphthous stomatitis; spongy gums; ulcerative sore throat, with fetid discharges; flabbiness and ulceration of tissues. Related Species.—There are several species of Rhus, as the Rhus typhina, Staghorn or Velvet sumach; and the Rhus copallina, Mountain or Dwarf sumach, which possess similar virtues, and which must be carefully distinguished from those which possess poisonous properties. The nonpoisonous species have their fruit clothed with acid crimson hairs, and their panicles are compound, dense, and terminal; the poisonous varieties have axillary panicles and smooth fruit. King’s American Dispensatory states: Rhus aromatica or Rhus trilobata The part employed in medicine is the root, or the bark of the root. It has attained some little local reputation heretofore, but was unknown to the medical profession until introduced by Dr. McClanahan, in 1879. When dry, the root is from ¼ to 1 inch in diameter, and appears in the market in pieces of from 6 inches to 2 feet in length. The bark is of a dark, rusty-brown color externally, and a pink or walnut color below the cork. It is about ⅛ of an inch in thickness, and throughout the inner bark of a prime article are little cavities containing a transparent balsam, somewhat resembling balsam of fir. The wood is white or yellowish. When fresh, the wounded bark exudes a turpentine-like balsam, or solution of a resin in some volatile oil, which dries to a glossy tear or layer. The bark is astringent, but, undoubtedly, the turpentine-like balsam likewise possesses considerable medicinal value. Alcohol extracts this substance, and the addition of water to the tincture produces a milkiness. In making the tincture of either the fresh or dry bark, alcohol alone should be used, and any addition of water is objectionable. Quantitative analysis of the drug by H. W. Harper (Amer. Jour. Pharm.) showed the presence of volatile and fixed oils, several resins and wax, butyric acid, tannin, glucose, gum, starch, oxalates, etc., and 13.8 per cent of ash. The berries were examined for acids by Edo Claassen (Pharm. Rundschau, 1890, p. 262), and yielded 10.65 per cent of citric and a small quantity of malic acids. Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This exceedingly valuable medicine was introduced by J. T. McClanahan, M. D., Booneville, Mo. (Ec. Med. Jour., 1879, p. 317). At first, the use of this remedy was confined to the treatment of diabetes, and other excessive discharges from the kidneys and the bladder, as well as to cases of incipient albuminuria. More recently, in addition to the above-named diseases, it has been largely employed with advantage in urethral irritations, uterine leucorrhoea, cholera infantum, diarrhoea, dysentery, chronic laryngitis, chronic bronchitis, and especially in the enuresis of children and of aged persons. While it is of undoubted value in many hemorrhagic states, particularly in chronic hematuria, a malarial form of which is quite common in the southern states, its chief value is in enuresis, with marked atony and chronic irritability of the urinary passages, whether in young or old subjects. The favorite remedies for "bed-wetting" are Rhus aromatica, belladonna, and thuja. Sometimes this affection yields to Rhus aromatica alone; sometimes a combination, as indicated, must be used. Fragrant sumach is indicated in all cases of over-activity of the kidneys, but is always contraindicated when there is active inflammation. A patient suffering, for several years, from catarrh of the bladder and hypertrophy of the prostate, with excruciating pain during micturition, necessitating the continued use of a soft catheter, the introduction of which invariably proved painful, was relieved by fragrant sumach. After exhausting the employment of all recognized remedies for the patient's condition, together with the use of the water at the Hot Springs of Arkansas, etc., without the least benefit, as a dernier ressort, the patient was placed upon teaspoonful doses, 3 or 4 times daily, of the fluid extract of Rhus aromatica. In 3 weeks' time the symptoms were all removed, and the prostate so far reduced that the use of the soft catheter became unnecessary. The patient was 65 years old and subsequently voided urine as freely and as painlessly as a boy of 18 years (J. King). Inflammatory symptoms being absent, it may be employed in passive uterine hemorrhage, hemorrhage of the bowels, as in chronic bloody-flux (not in acute dysentery), chronic painful vesical catarrh, and in phthisis, to control hemorrhage when small in amount, and to restrain the accompanying diarrhoea and night-sweats. In bronchitis, with profuse, blood-streaked expectoration, it may be given with confidence. A good form of administration is as follows: R Specific fragrant sumach, ℥ss; glycerin, ℥iijss. Mix. Sig. Dose, from ½ to 1 teaspoonful every 3 or 4 hours. This remedy is reputed useful in purpura hemorrhagica. The forms of administration now preferred are specific fragrant sumach and the fluid extract, of which the dose of either varies from 5 to 60 minims, repeated every 3 or 4 hours. It may be taken in water, in glycerin and water, and in solution of pure gelatin, or in syrup, when these vehicles are not contraindicated. Specific Indications and Uses.—Not the remedy for active conditions. As given by its introducer, Dr. McClanahan, the specific indications are: "Stools profuse, skin cool and sallow, pulse small and feeble, loss of flesh, abdomen flabby, tongue pale, trembling and moist, trembling in lower limbs; general sense of lassitude and languor. Dose for infants, 10 to 20 drops in a half-glass of water, teaspoonful as often as necessary; for children, perhaps 5 drops of the first dilution" (Ec. Med. Jour., 1879, p. 317). To these may be added large, painless diarrhoeal discharges; nocturnal enuresis, from weakness of spincter vesicae; prostatic enlargement; and malarial haeematuria. Rhus glabra Rhus glabra, sometimes called Upland or Pennsylvania sumach, is common to the United States and Canada, growing in thickets and waste grounds, and on rocky or barren soil, flowering in June and July, and maturing its fruit in September and October. The drupes or berries only are official. They should be gathered before the rains have removed their external downy efflorescence, for when this is washed off the berries are no longer acid. The bark is likewise used to some extent in medicine. The berries are officially described as "subglobular, about 3 Mm. (1/8 inch) in diameter, drupaceous, crimson, densely hairy, containing a roundish-oblong, smooth putamen; inodorous; taste acidulous"—(U. S. P.). 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. Chemical Composition.—Sumach berries have an agreeably acid, slightly styptic taste, which is due, according to W. J. Watson, to malic acid and tannic acids, beside which they contain malate of calcium, gallic acid, fixed and volatile oils, red coloring matter, etc. The bark of the root contains albumen, gum, starch, tannic and gallic acids, caoutchouc, soft resin, coloring matter, and probably a volatile odorous principle (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1853, p. 193). The leaves of Rhus glabra, collected in Iowa, contained, according to Jos. A. Palen (ibid., 1888, p. 389), about 16 percent of tannin. Virginia-grown leaves usually yield 20 to 25 percent. The excrescences upon the leaves contain tannic and gallic acids, albuminous and coloring matter, and are fully equal to nutgalls in medicinal power. Prof. Trimble (The Tannins) found one specimen to contain 61.7 per cent of tannin. Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—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. Specific Indications and Uses.—Relaxation of mucous tissues, with unhealthy discharges; mercurial ulcerations; aphthous stomatitis; spongy gums; ulcerative sore throat, with fetid discharges; flabbiness and ulceration of tissues. Related Species.—There are several species of Rhus, as the Rhus typhina, Staghorn or Velvet sumach; and the Rhus copallina, Mountain or Dwarf sumach, which possess similar virtues, and which must be carefully distinguished from those which possess poisonous properties. The nonpoisonous species have their fruit clothed with acid crimson hairs, and their panicles are compound, dense, and terminal; the poisonous varieties have axillary panicles and smooth fruit (see also Rhus Toxicodendron and Related Species; and Coriaria, p. 607).

Jethro Kloss wrote:

SUMACH BERRIES (Rhus glabra) Common Names: Scarlet sumach, smooth sumach, dwarf sumach, upland sumach, Pennsylvania sumach, sleek sumach, mountain sumach. Part Used: Bark, leaves, berries. Medicinal Properties: Bark and leaves — tonic, astringent, alterative, antiseptic. Berries — diuretic, refrigerant, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, cephalic. Description and Uses: A valuable treatment to try in gonorrhea and syphilis when others have failed is the following: equal parts sumach berries and bark, white pine bark, and slippery elm. This tea is very cleansing to the system, and is very useful in leukorrhea, scrofula, and for inward sores and wounds. A tea of sumach berries alone is excellent for bowel complaints, diabetes, and all kinds of fevers; and for sores in the mouth there is no superior. Use also as a gargle and mouthwash. As a tincture take 5 to 15 drops in water two times a day.

Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians tells us:

American Indians used almost every part of sumac. (Rhus glabra) The leaves, bark and berries were decocted or infused to make an astringent wash to treat burns, stop bleeding (internal and external), control diarrhea and reduce fever. The leaves were also used for tanning leather. The berries produce a nice black dye. After sumac leaves turned red in the fall, they were collected, dried and mixed with tobacco in ceremonial smoking blends. Ripe berries were infused in water to make a cooling, lemony beverage. Alabama herbalist, Tommie Bass, considered the sumac berry to be an important source of vitamin C. He recommended using berry tea as a gargle for sore throats or as a compress for hemorrhoids.

According to Plants for A Future:

Medicinal use of Dwarf Sumach (Rhus copallina): a decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of dysentery. An infusion of the roots has been used in the treatment of VD. A poultice of the root has been applied to sores and skin eruptions. A tea made from the bark has been drunk to stimulate milk flow in nursing mothers. A decoction of the bark has been used as a wash for blisters and sunburn blisters. An infusion of the leaves has been used to cleanse and purify skin eruptions. The berries were chewed in the treatment of bed-wetting and mouth sores. Some caution is advised in the use of the leaves and stems of this plant, see the notes above on toxicity. Known hazards of Rhus copallina: There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. Medicinal use of Smooth Sumach (Rhus Glabra): Smooth sumach was employed medicinally by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is occasionally used in modern herbalism where it is valued for its astringent and antiseptic qualities. Some caution should be employed in the use of this species since it can possibly cause skin irritations. It is best only used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. A tea made from the bark or root bark is alterative, antiseptic, astringent, galactogogue, haemostatic, rubefacient and tonic. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, fevers, general debility, sore mouths, rectal bleeding, uterine prolapse etc. It is used as a gargle to treat sore throats and applied externally to treat excessive vaginal discharge, burns and skin eruptions. The powdered bark can be applied as a poultice to old ulcers, it is a good antiseptic. A tea made from the roots is appetizer, astringent, diuretic and emetic. An infusion is used in the treatment of colds, sore throats, painful urination, retention of urine and dysentery. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. An infusion of the green or dried branches has been used in the treatment of TB. A decoction of the branches, with the seed heads, has been used to treat itchy scalps and as a bathing water for frost-bitten limbs. The milky latex from the plant has been used as a salve on sores. A tea made from the leaves was used in the treatment of asthma, diarrhoea and stomatitis. A poultice of the leaves has been used to treat skin rashes. The leaves have been chewed to treat sore gums and they have been rubbed on the lips to treat sore lips. The berries are diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, purgative and refrigerant. They are used in the treatment of late-onset diabetes, stranguary bowel complaints, febrile diseases, dysmenorrhoea etc. They have been chewed as a remedy for bed-wetting. The blossoms have been chewed as a treatment for sore mouths. A decoction of the blossoms has been used as a mouthwash for teething children. An infusion of the blossoms has been used as an eye wash for sore eyes. Known hazards of Rhus glabra: There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. Medicinal use of Stag's Horn Sumach (Rhus typhina): Stag's horn sumach was often employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent qualities. It is little used in modern herbalism. Some caution is advised in the use of the leaves and stems of this plant, see the notes above on toxicity. The bark is antiseptic, astringent, galactogogue and tonic. An infusion is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, fevers, piles, general debility, uterine prolapse etc. An infusion is also said to greatly increase the milk flow of a nursing mother - small pieces of the wood were also eaten for this purpose. The inner bark is said to be a valuable remedy for piles. The roots are astringent, blood purifier, diuretic and emetic. An infusion of the roots, combined with purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has been used in the treatment of venereal disease. A poultice of the roots has been used to treat boils. The leaves are astringent. They have been used in the treatment of asthma, diarrhoea and stomatosis. An infusion of the fruits has been used as a tonic to improve the appetite and as a treatment for diarrhoea. The berries are astringent and blood purifier. They were chewed as a remedy for bed-wetting. A tea made from the berries has been used to treat sore throats. The flowers are astringent and stomachic. An infusion has been used to treat stomach pains. The sap has been applied externally as a treatment of warts. Some caution is advised here since the sap can cause a rash on many people. Known hazards of Rhus typhina: There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated.



This article is an excerpt from

Medicinal Shrubs and Woody Vines of The American Southeast An Herbalist's Guide
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Christian Medicine, History and Practice: https://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2022/01/christian-herbal-medicine-history-and.html

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Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Nothing on this site has been evaluated or approved by the FDA. I am not a doctor. The US government does not recognize the practice of herbal medicine and their is no governing body regulating herbalists. Therefore, I'm just a guy who studies herbs. I am not offering any advice. I won't even claim that anything I write is accurate or true! I can tell you what herbs have "traditionally been used for." I can tell you my own experience and if I believe an herb helped me. I cannot, nor would I tell you to do the same. If you use any herb I, or anyone else, mentions you are treating yourself. You take full responsibility for your health. Humans are individuals and no two are identical. What works for me may not work for you. You may have an allergy, sensitivity or underlying condition that no one else shares and you don't even know about. Be careful with your health. By continuing to read my blog you agree to be responsible for yourself, do your own research, make your own choices and not to blame me for anything, ever.
 
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Thank you for always posting these helpful pieces for us about medicinal herbs.
 
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