Monthly Archives: May 2015

Three Leaf Sumac. A Refreshing Drink. A Global Spice and Herbal Remedy!




Sumac grows all over the world and is used as a spice, food, a tea and herbal medicine.

It grows in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

It also can be landscaped into many environments.

It has many uses. Check out this site!

Sumac a Global food!

Make a delicious, popular Middle Eastern spice using ground sumac berries. Why not forage or garden your own. Dry the berries then grind for a spice!

This wonderful spice mixture is called Za’atar.

Get the recipe here!

Za’atar spice blend recipe!

Three Leaf Sumac
Rhus trilobata

Family: Anacardiaceae
Same family as cashews and mangoes!

Common Names: Three Leaf Sumac,
Basketbush, Sumac, Lemonade-bush

Foothills, canyons, slopes, usually dry rocky soil, usually on limestone outcrops.

Sunny locations, perhaps dappled shade. Not frost tender. Drought resistant, often used in landscaping.

The up to 6 foot high, rounded shrub, multi branched …when in new growth is supple and more upright when it grows.


When dried these stalks made good strong arrows for Pueblo peoples.

The leaves come in threes with small yellow flowers emerging before the leaves come out.

The fruit when it emerges is like a berry. Starting greenish tan and become orange-red to red in color, with sticky glandular hairs that give the fruit a fuzzy appearance.

The red fuzzy berries make a wonderful lemonade like beverage.
The berries are soaked in cold or hot (not boiling hot) to make a beverage. A little honey or sweetener can be nice since it is very sour. I liked it unsweetened myself. But, however you prepare it, it is cooling and refreshing on a hot day, like a lemonade or prickly pear fruit beverage.

Some people like to call this lemony, sumac drink Rhusade.

Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit is Cooling

Or Rhusade is soothing and nourishing, as a hot beverage, on a winter day as a hot tea.

Per serving, steep a rounded tablespoon of the fresh or dried berries until it meets your fancy.

Don’t bring water to boiling as this brings out the tannins and makes it too astringent as a beverage.

The Rhus trilobata berries can also be added to salads, sandwiches, perhaps sauerkraut?
Throw in some juniper berries into your sauerkraut too. They are traditional.
Be inventive and avoid boiling the berries is my only suggestion.

In Michael Moore’s, Medicinal Plants of the Canyon West., he suggests and indicates 3 leaf Sumac’s uses:

Gather leaves when green.
Gather the berries when they are fully red in summer also when leaves are green or a bit red.

The leaves turn a splendid red in fall. The tree is deciduous.


The dried leaves last a year. The dried berries last 2-3 years.

The leaves can be used in powdered form and a quick salve made with castorlatum from castor oil. It has a petroleum jelly like consistency yet not petroleum based, a plus! Or if your coconut oil is still solid at room temperature try that… or the same with ghee.

Stir 1 part powdered leaves into 2 parts castorlatum gel. *


For a glycerine tincture, macerate 1 part by weight of powdered leaves in 5 parts by volume of a half water & half glycerine menstruum for the tincture. Leave for four weeks. Then shake and strain*

Moore states that the powdered leaves, quick salve and glycerine tinctures are excellent for mucosal-epithelial sores. Such as: lips, mouth membranes, genitals, and nostril membranes. The actions are to soothe and shrink inflamed tissues and to mildly disinfect.

Powdered leaves are very soothing to mouth sores on nursing infants.

*Preparation method is important here, such as with quick salve method and glycerine tincture. Heating and alcohol tincture could pull out too many tannins.


Sumac is originally an Arabic word.
And Rhus, the Genus name, is derived from a Greek word meaning to flow. So named due to its properties in stopping flow of blood, this case with hemorrhages. It is hemostatic. Proper methods and use are critical.


3 Leaf Sumac looks similar to POISON OAK!

Poison Oak is not actually an oak species. It is in the Sumac family too… Anacardiaceae

The leaves of both are lobed.

The next picture is of Poison Oak.
Toxicodendron diversilobum
It also turns red in the fall.


image: wiki commons

Whereas, 3 Leaf Sumac has a velvety texture on the TOPSIDE as well as underneath.

Poison Oak is fuzzy UNDERNEATH the leaf only, shiny on top..

Also, poison oak has non fuzzy whitish-green berries.

Poison oak can cause severe contact dermatitis and further injury if trees are burned and smoke is inhaled.


Three Leaf Sumac



Berries not ripe yet

Plants for a Future/ 3 Leaf Sumac

Research your local species of Sumac. The berries are the easiest way to determine if it is safe. The safe species have red fuzzy berries like the Rhus trilobata here.

3 Leaf Sumac


3 Leaf Sumac berries makes a wonderful lemony drink!

When I lived on the East Coast I enjoyed making a lemony tea from the Staghorn Sumac. I was in my early twenties then and felt a little bit leery about Sumac. I grew up with caution about Poison Sumac that grew in the swamps. And New England has its fair share of swampy areas in the woods.

One season, I and others, worked as Interpreters, in beige uniform, alongside coworkers of many different Native American backgrounds, including Wampanoag. I am grateful to my friends who taught me so much about Wampanoag customs and culture. Including the use of local plants, such as Staghorn Sumac berries. I even filled in a few times and gave guided nature trail talks, pointing out useful and edible plants. It is fun to piece together these experiences since the plant world is an everyday ally to me now.

A Wampanoag perspective on history and Thanksgiving.


Rhus typhina…Staghorn sumac


staghorn sumac: wiki commons

Further Herbal medicinal, food and other traditional, global uses of edible/medicinal Sumac, including Native American… just some of the info I found!

Please Note:
Learn to identify the safe Sumacs in your area. This means positively identifying possible poisinous look alikes, in the same family, such as Poison Sumac, Poison Oak, and Poison Ivy.

It brings that old song to mind….maybe I can find it on youtube.

Here it is!

The Coasters. Poison Ivy 🌿


Edible/Medicinal Sumac is: astringent, antipruritic, analgesic, contraceptive (for males,) deoderant, diuretic, emetic, hemostatic, odontalgic, oxytoxic

-tanning leather, dyeing wool, etc.
*-Dyeing hair black/dark…a decoction of boiled leaves (I want to try!….also Globe mallow decoction makes for a fine dark rinse for hair.)
-Added to meat helps deter stomach upset (bacteria on meat?)
-Leaves made into poultice with vinegar or honey stops the spread of gangrene
-Seeds pounded and mixed with honey help with hemorrhoids
-The gummy sap when applied to a tooth eases pain
-The leaf and root helps a woman expel the placenta (there is a description and method of preparation in book cited below.)
-helps stop internal bleeding
-helps with dropsy
-Helps with diseased gums
-Helps with freezing/frostbite or burns
-helpful with some venereal disease with application
-leaf added to tobacco mixes
-sumac helps with: dysentery, fevers, rhematism, dysuria, diahrrea, skin ulcers
-Seeds make oil for lighting or tallow like oil can be made into a candle.
-Decoction of bark and berries for sore throat
-aids in female urinary incontinence
-vermifuge in mixture with other herbs
-leaves rubbed on your skin make for a Bug and Snake repellant
-Root used as deoderant and buds used as perfume

Sumac species may vary in given properties and effects.

natural hair dyes including fun colors!

Will keep you posted, I am curious myself how to use 3 Leaf Sumac leaves as a darkening hair rinse.

I made a boiled decoction of fresh leaves, then added apple cider vinegar with success. My hair became a darker tinted shade. 👧

Perhaps dried, powdered leaves made into a paste would further darken my hair. But, I like it!


Haha my gardening hands! While I wait for my hair rinse to finish!


Above, Globe Mallow is used as a traditional dark coloring for hair.

I also want to try black walnut hulls and garden sage… known to darken hair and garden sage is good at covering grey.

The 3 Leaf Sumac branches are used to make basketry and dyes for decorations on baskets too.

Jemez Pueblo people still use Sumac branches in their basketry.


This post is mainly a description of 3 leaf sumac…Rhus trilobata.

Only the red, fuzzy berries of Sumacs are edible. Some species may cause contact dermatitis and Poison Sumac should be avoided! It is not included in Sumac’s healing effects. And it is highly toxic!

Here is a botanical sketch of Poison Sumac.
Note the similarity to other Sumacs and also note the whitish berries. The berries are green in spring and not fuzzy. A strong distinguishing feature from the fuzzy red berries of the edible sumacs!

Toxicodendron vernix
formerly classified as Rhus Genus


image from PFAF and Wiki Commons







In addition to posted links:

PFAF Rhus trilobata

Use of Plants. For the Past 500 Charlotte Erichsen-Brown, Breezy Creeks Press. Ontario. Canada, 1979.

Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province. by Dunmire & Tierney, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM, 1995.

Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. by Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM, 1989.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. by Nicholas Culpeper, W. Foulsham & CO., London, England.


Eat your Thistles. The Thistle that Loves your Liver


Yum! Artichokes

image & buy organic artichoke seeds!

The Globe artichoke goes by two botanical names. Some believe the *Cardoon and Globe artichoke are the same. See below.

Artichokes are Thistles!

Family: Asteraceae
Cynara scolymus
or Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus
Common Herbal Name: Artichoke leaf, Cynara
Plant name: Globe artichoke

Cynara cardunculus
Plant name: *Cardoon
Ancestor to modern artichoke

And the local thistle near me …. in the thistle family like the cardoon and the artichoke….

Family: Asteraceae
Cirsium neomexicanum
New Mexico thistle
Yishdloh or Azee in Navajo
Cardillo (little thistle,) Cardo in Spanish

Nickname: Lavender Thistle. Desert thistle, Powder puff thistle
USDA info on New Mexico Purple Thistle

The thistles known as Carduus by ancient healers such as Pliny, etc.

Here are picture of thistles growing wild near me.



I enjoy making local connections with plants. In this case, thistles! This New Mexican thistle was also used medicinally and for food by Navajo, Hopi and other peoples.

-as food-raw, peeled stems,
-cold infusion of plant-for an overall remedy when feeling sick,
-and cold infusion of root used as eyewash for eye diseases, irritations

Find out if local thistles in your area are edible and/or medicinal.

They might not be safe as food or medicine.

Research, ask questions, take a friend or knowledgeable person with you. You can always enjoy them as a beautiful wildflower.

Enjoy 🌱


Harvest with respect for future stands and if only a few are around, just enjoy. My local thistle makes pollinator friends very happy.

Native American Herbal and Food uses.

We owe gratitude to the peoples and traditions for centuries old plant wisdom that carries forth today.

This gratitude also extends around the globe… all the many people. As Rosemary Gladstar has pointed out, The plant world existed long before us.

This mural at the community Herb store where I work gives a heartening reminder to me.


and plants as medicine.
Hope 💚


The plant kingdom, plants and trees are our elders. Teachers. Allies. The very air we breathe comes from plants and trees.


Happy sigh here.

People working with plants as allies and healers, food medicine, foodways, wild plant foodways and herbs… family/community gardens.

And, sharing what we know and have learned through our own uses and experiences. Bringing the elders and children together.

Thankyou 💚






My local thistles… in my locale
How about you?

adventures in wild thistle eating!

I am taking an herbal preparations course and it is fun. What I love also are all the great tidbits I am learning along the way. And this particular Herbal preparation class gave me the nudge to learn more about thistles.

Here’s why..

In our section, learning to make medicinal wines…I found out that artichoke leaves… that grow around the globe of the artichoke…
are very healing and restorative to the liver. Hence the “love to the liver” part. 😀

Artichokes are thistles!


I like seeing the whole artichoke plant. I had no idea they could get so leafy and the artichokes look small in comparison.

Image source and further nutritional and medicinal information:
Plants for a Future

In class we used a sweet white wine. Cut or tear the fresh Globe artichoke leaf into small pieces and fill a jar. (not jam packed but full) Then completely cover the leaf parts with the sweet, white wine.

There, now you can have your wine and help your liver too!

Let this tincture or infusion sit for 5 days. You can shake it each day too. Remember to infuse your good energy into it!

I liked the taste of the sweet white wine and artichoke leaf.

I took a small bit of the unused leaves home and tinctured it in red wine, since I had it available and it was already open.

Here’s my medicinal wine infusing… I finished off an open bottle of red.



Re-use jars! I have protected the medicinal wine with plastic because of the metal lid.

Sidenote: On day 3, I strained and pressed out the artichoke leaf from the red Syrah. Hoo-wee! It is a healing BITTER. I vouch for a sweet white wine next time!

I really enjoyed learning about the globe artichoke leaves. I've never grown them….it points out to me, how great gardening is. To be able to see all of the plant. And, to connect more with plants and with gratitude, enjoy the food. And, to discover, pass on and guide each other on what food plants also yield medicine. As already happens in many places today. And for us newcomers and rememberers.. a resurgence and carrying forth our appreciation… of the plant world as our allies and healers.


What a healer artichokes are. Many Foods have medicinal properties too. And, many healing traditions and modern practice suggests healing with foods as a first step for health maintenance.

In Ayurveda the artichoke herb is known as Hatichu or Hattichoke.
The vegetable taste qualities are sweet and astringent.

The artichoke leaf is bitter, which stimulates liver function.
It combines well with Arjuna.
Ayurvedic information

And, it also makes a great tea. It is popular in Vietnam and is called Tra Atiso.

check it out!


An apertif, made from artichoke and other herbs, is common after meals to stimulate digestion. A popular brand is called Cynar, made in Italy.

Now more specific info about the healing properties of artichoke leaves.

excellent article and history of use

“‘How it works
“Artichoke-leaf extract improves the liver’s eliminative function,” says Amelia Hirota, D.Ac., Dipl. C.H., an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinician at Center of Balance in East Greenwich, R.I. The acid components in the extract stimulate production of bile, (cholagogue.)

(The bile acts as) a detergentlike fluid responsible for transporting toxins out of the liver and into the intestines for excretion. Bile is also essential for the body’s breakdown of fats and cholesterol, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K.'”

Also artichoke leaf constituents and uses are as follows:

Extracts from artichoke leaves are traditionally used in the treatment of dyspeptic and hepatic disorders… also specifically: obesity, hyperlipidemia, hepatitis, diabetes, liver tonic, relieves symptoms of IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome, etc.

Removes heat and dampness in the liver.

Primary constituents are: chlorogenic acid, cynarin, caffeic acid and flavonoids (e.g. luteolin-7-O-glucoside) which are the main phenolic constituents of artichoke leaf extract (ALE).

artichoke leaf constituents

***Caution with Biliary Obstruction and gallstones, etc.***

Also, being a coffee and black tea enthusiast myself…. in my Herbal studies, I have learned to avoid taking herbal remedies of any kind with coffee or black tea. Because, it will inhibit the herb due to tannins.

Wait a couple hours after drinking coffee or black tea.
Or take your herbal tea or herb remedy, at least, an hour before coffee or black tea.

That way you can let the herb benefit you ☺

Above quoted source:
online magazine


And for Foragers out there and other interested folk…

The Globe artichoke originally came from a wild thistle.

Cynara cardunculus


image: Plants for a Future

Cardoons make a lovely food too! Traditionally the de-thorned stalks are used. That gives me some good ideas for preparing my local thistles like cardoons. Hmmm, it’s got me inspired and thinking!

How do I prepare my local edible thistle or cardoon?


Navaresse method of preparing Cardoons.


Cardoons can be used as a vegetable rennet. Some Portuguese and Spanish cheeses are made this way.

Also many people around the world are using plants to curdle milk to make cheese. I’ve made cottage cheese using lemons.

Check out this lively and informative, how-to blog, on how to use dried cardoon thistle stamens (the purple part) to make yummy cheese!

More fun for vegetarian cheese makers!

Here are some recipes that may inspire you and have fun with!

Khorchouf…Moroccan style Cardoons!

And baked Cardoons, thistle stalks too!

baked Cardoons!

Thankyou Thistles!







Me in thistle bliss