Sumac lemonade is a traditional end of summer treat that has medicinal values which rank surprisingly high. Sumac is often confused with poison sumac, even though the two look completely different. Sumac, for making lemonade, has deep red cones, called a drupe or sumac bob, while poison sumac has white berries like you would see on mistletoe, yet bigger. It’s impossible to confuse the two.

Sumac berries are famous for being high in vitamin C. Traditionally, American Indians would smear the berries on open wounds to assist in healing. They also used it as a cough syrup and throat soother. Beekeepers who practice traditional apiculture use sumac in the smoker to relax the bees. Sumac is known to ward off a cold by drying up the sinuses. It is known to treat gout symptoms and is often used to reduce inflammation.

Sumac lemonade is most famously known as a source of vitamin C used for survival. It grows wild in most regions and is one of the most economical ways to up your antioxidant levels, just in time for flu season.

Sumac is easy to spot in the fall when the foliage turns a brilliant crimson color. It is classified as a shrub or small tree. At the end of summer, sumac berries are ready for picking. Some prefer to pick it into the fall, when it’s more dried, for a deeper flavor. If this is chosen, you may be battling spiders and spider webs, which are a lot of work to clean from the drupes.

Berries can be checked for ripeness by rubbing them between your fingers and tasting. They have a sour taste which is pleasant, not bitter.

Berries from the drupes can be harvested and powdered to increase vitamin C levels of food, as is commonly done in Mediterranean, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. This tangy flavor can add vitamin C to meals throughout the winter; however, if it’s cooked, the heat will compromise the vitamin C content.

The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences reported a study of diabetic patients which showed sumac caused a “Significant decrease in insulin. We concluded that daily intake of 3 g sumac for 3 months may be beneficial for diabetic patients to make them less susceptible to cardiovascular disease.”

The Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research reported a study done on rats where they, “reported a single dose of administration of the extract of R. coriaria fruits reduced blood glucose significantly in rats and in the long term experiment, on the day of 21, blood glucose was found to be significantly lower (by 26%) that is compared to diabetic control group.”

To make sumac lemonade, clip off the berry cones. Toss them in a gallon jar and fill with filtered water. If you wash the berries prior to use, you can wash away the goodness as the true flavor is on the outside of the berries. Agitate the berries to assist in releasing some of their medicinal properties. A delicate sumac-ade can be made with more water than sumac berries, as shown in this picture. This method offers a sumac lemonade with a more gentle flavor. A rich sumac lemonade can be made by packing the jar with drupes and just covering them with water.

Let the sumac lemonade sit in the sun for 24 hours, strain and serve over ice. It can also be made by steeping and left to sit for an hour. Any sweetener of your choice can be used, such as local honey or a couple drops of stevia extract. Berries that are very fresh have tiny hairs on them. If these are used, make sure they are strained through a coffee filter or old piece of cotton to thoroughly remove the hairs. This delicious lemonade has a tart lemon flavor.

It’s refreshing. It’s soothing. It’s delicious!

*Nourishing Plot is written by Becky Plotner, ND, traditional naturopath, CGP, D.PSc. who sees clients in Rossville, Georgia. She is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor, through The American Naturopathic Medical Association and works as a Certified GAPS Practitioner who sees clients in her office, Skype and phone. She has been published in Wise Traditions, spoken at two Weston A. Price Conferences, Certified GAPS Practitioner Trainings, has been on many radio shows, television shows and writes for Nourishing Plot. She serves on the GAPS Board of Directors and has recently been named “The GAPS Expert” by Dr. Natasha and will serve teaching other Certified GAPS Practitioners proper use of the GAPS protocol. Since her son was delivered from the effects of autism (Asperger’s syndrome), ADHD, bipolar disorder/manic depression, hypoglycemia and dyslexia, through food, she continued her education specializing in Leaky Gut and parasitology through Duke University, finishing with distinction. She is a Chapter Leader for The Weston A. Price Foundation. [email protected]

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988.

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