Are there any Health Benefits of Sorrel?
Sorrel has high amounts of fiber and its rich in Vitamin C and also contains some Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium. It is considered to be an excellent Anti-oxidant and Anti-microbe which makes it the main ingredient of the famous Essiac tea. All these elements present in the Sorrel plant make it surprisingly beneficial for a person’s health.
What is sorrel?
Sorrel is a bushy, annual plant from the family of Buckwheat. It grows in a wide variety of temperatures so it can be found in every type of climate, in different parts of the world. It is used to make a famous drink called Karkade. Karkade comes from Egypt and it has been known to have numerous health benefits. Different parts of this plant are also used to prepare sauces, soups, spices, jams, and medicines (1). The most common variety of sorrel that has highest medicinal value is Hibiscus Sabdariffa, commonly known as Red Sorrel, Jamaican Sorrel, or Roselle.
Hibiscus is usually grown to add flavor to food because of its sharp taste, but it has various advantages such as maintaining blood pressure, improving eyesight, heart health, etc. The strong tangy taste of Sorrel comes from Oxalic Acid which is similar to wild strawberries or kiwis. Oxalic acid is considered to be poisonous if consumed in high quantities but is completely safe if consumed in small, regulated quantities.
So, what all is sorrel good for? Following is the list of its different health benefits:
21 Proven Health Benefits Of Sorrel
1) Reduces Blood Pressure
People with high Blood Pressure/Hypertension often look for natural ways to reduce their blood pressure, so that they don’t have to rely on western medicine unless it is absolute necessary. Drinking sorrel tea for 6 weeks straight has proved to decrease blood pressure in people with Hypertension. Taking its extract by mouth for at least 4 weeks may be as effective as prescription drug Captopril, which is prescribed by a lot of doctors to the people with high blood pressure, studies suggest (2). Some studies have found out that it is not determined as to how helpful Sorrel is, when talking about blood pressure, but it is definitely worth a try. You can buy herbal extract of Sorrel from the market or prepare a tea with Sorrel Leaves and start experiencing the effects on high blood pressure. Suggested dosage of this tea is 4-5 times a day and extract once a day. You will find this recipe, and several more at the end of this article.
Sorrel has Anti-microbial and Anti-inflammatory properties which makes it an excellent antidote against Scorpion poison. When a Scorpion bites you, wash the wound properly before applying Sorrel Leaves. Sorrel leaves and its extract can be used to treat ulcers, boils, swelling, and scorbutic diseases as well. Crush the leaves and make a paste, make sure you have washed the leaves properly before muddling them (3).
3) Improves Digestion
It has been proven that Sorrel contains dietary fiber which helps in digestion and absorption of food in the digestive system making it a perfect diuretic or a laxative (4, 5). English physician Culpeper suggested that Sorrel must be given to anyone who needs to procure an appetite (6). Both these advantages make the plant a perfect remedy for most of your digestion problems. It can be used to strengthen digestive system as well as procurement of an appetite for people with low appetite which causes weakness. You can prepare tea from the leaves of Sorrel, recipe of which is given at the end.
4) Prevents Scurvy
Sorrel, a Perennial Herb from Europe contains Vitamin C which is important for the growth, repair, and development of body tissues. Its functions are formation of Collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth. Its deficiency can cause a disease called Scurvy. Vitamin C in Sorrel can be extracted in a tea to give your body the required amount of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy and help in proper growth of body tissues as one cup of this tea contains as much as 63.8 mg of vitamin C (7). Recipe for the tea is given at the end of this article with other relevant recipes.
5) Heals Wounds
Sorrel has been studied to have antibacterial activities against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Esherichia coli which are the main culprits of infection on a wound. Sorrel helps in improving the healing process and reducing trauma while reducing pain when used on wounds (8). It also has anti-oxidant properties which are slightly helpful in wound healing. A homemade medicine can be prepared to be applied on the wounds for instant relief and faster healing process. Just take some clean leaves of sorrel and muddle them nicely, remove the solid content and use the remaining extract to apply on the wound.
6) Cancer Treatment And Prevention
Rene M Caisse, a nurse in Ontario made Essiac what it is now. In the 1920s, one of her patients informed her about the advantages of sorrel and how she recovered from cancer using this Indian herb. She made a tea with this herb and drank it several times a day to reduce the cancer symptoms. She healed a relative with this treatment and names it Essiac, her name spelled backwards.
Later she opened up a clinic for treatment of cancer and treated numerous patients with Essiac. She never revealed the other herbs which she used in the formula but she stated that sorrel was the one with anti-tumor effects. She even prepared injectable doses of the extraction from sorrel which worked better as opposed to the tea, but we will suggest you to stick to tea as there has been very less research as to how the injection would work. Recipe of the tea can be found at the end of this article (9).
[ Read: Natural Remedies for Bloating ]
Vitamin A, one of the most important nutrient present in the red sorrel is very important for good eyesight. Vitamin A is mostly confined to the leaves of sorrel and it is suggested that eating the sorrel leaves can provide a good amount of vitamin A which is required to maintain a good eyesight. Night blindness can be caused due to pregnancy or temporary affliction, caused by tiredness and overwork. People in such situations must consider treatment from sorrel leaves to help improve their eyesight and reduce the symptoms of night blindness. Vegetarians and people consuming less oil must also consider this method if they are out in the sun a lot as they will require vitamin A to keep their eyesight healthy (10, 11). Red sorrel soup has proven to be highly beneficial for this purpose, and recipe for the same is mentioned in the end.
8) Induce Milk Flow
Milk let down is a normal process where a breastfeeding mother goes through a phase in which milk production reduces. It is fine because it is unavoidable but sometimes it can become a problem if it lasts too long, and the flow of milk becomes too slow or forceful. Some mothers feel Milk Let down Reflex and others don’t, but the ones who do feel it say that it is pretty painful. This will normalize with time but if it doesn’t, sorrel comes to the rescue. A decoction of the seeds of red sorrel can be fed to the breastfeeding mother which will help augment the milk flow and relieve the pain associated with Let down Reflex (12). This decoction should be given in small quantities over longer periods.
9) Skin Problems
Skin problems are very common and we all have been there. We’ve seen rashes on our skin because of one reason or the other. Rashes can be caused due to some allergy or asthma. Other skin problems include heat boils, acne, hives, etc. These skin problems can be treated with the help of red sorrel leaves. Sorrel contains high quantities of calcium and potassium which act as soothing agents against skin related issues (13, 14). Use of sorrel for treating skin diseases dates back to more than a century ago where it was used in India for various purposes by making a juice of the leaves, straining it and applying it on the affected area.
10) Kidney Health
Sheep sorrel and red sorrel have been deemed beneficial plants in a paper published by Washington University, in St. Louis (15, 16). They have been proven to cure acute diseases like kidney stones and clean the urinary tract if juice of thier leaves are consumed by the patient on a regular, but controlled bases. They also help in the prevention of kidney stones formation, and its growth. Juice of these leaves contains Oxalic acid which can be harmful if consumed in very high quantities. Some experts suggest that making a pesto out of sorrel leaves and consuming it with calcium rich foods reduces the soluble oxalate content and is an ideal way to consume sorrel because the amount of oxalate absorbed in the body is reduced (17, 18).
Recipes for Pesto made with sorrel leaves is given at the end of this article.
11) Heart Health
Hibiscus sabdariffa has an excellent safety and tolerability record and has been linked with many therapeutic uses including its effect on lipid metabolism. This means that red sorrel is a cholesterol fighting herb, because of various anti-oxidant components present in it. It also inhibits Angiotensin-Converting Enzymes (ACE) which help keep your heart healthy and keep the cholesterol level balanced and under control (19). Consumption of juice made with its leaves and other drinks made with sorrel can be beneficial for your heart. You can find the recipes at the end. Red sorrel seed oil also has excellent lipid dissolving capabilities which can be used in food preparation instead of some other oil, especially if you have a high cholesterol level or if you are suffering from any kind of heart disease.
Diabetes has become very common in the past decade and is spreading faster by the day. Body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired and often shots of insulin are required to maintain blood sugar levels. Red sorrel has shown anti-diabetic properties which is because of inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase which are targeted by acarbose and miglitol to control diabetes mellitus type-2 (20). You can make red sorrel drink or juice from the recipes mentioned at the end of this article.
13) Prevents Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis, commonly known as infectious diarrhea, creates inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract which includes stomach and small intestine. Its symptoms can be diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting causing fever, lack of energy and dehydration. Gastroenteritis is caused by Aichi virus which is an emerging food borne pathogen. There are no vaccines available against this virus, but red sorrel has been seen very effective to prevent this disease and fight with Aichi virus because of its anti-microbial properties and its ability to alter structure of the virus (21). Suggested intake is in liquid form by making juice, or one of the drinks suggested at the end.
14) Provides Energy
If you feel tired by the end of your day at work, but you have a tennis game later, you are in need of some quick energy. Your daily energy requirements may or may not be met by your usual diet, but you have a wonder herb that provides you enough energy that recharges you for the whole day. Sorrel provides a lot of essential nutrients to your body in small quantities, but there is one nutrient present in abundance in sorrel, and that is iron. Iron has the ability to strengthen your blood circulation by providing more oxygen to your blood. Sorrel can provide you with an almost 80% of your daily Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of iron and more than 100% of your estimated daily requirement of vitamin A (22). It is necessary that you consume the leaves for this purpose. This can be achieved by making a sorrel soup or pesto out of sorrel leaves. For recipes, scroll down.
15) Strengthens Bones
Having milk every morning is our idea of providing the body with all the calcium it needs, but we have to understand that milk doesn’t have as much calcium as they show in the advertisements. Your body needs more calcium than a glass of milk can provide, to keep the bones dense and strong. Strong bones are a sign of healthy lifestyle and prevent injuries because, the stronger the frame, the stronger the body. Red sorrel contains high quantities of calcium and it modulates the calcium channel which makes the calcium available to the body. Adding some sorrel leaves to your daily tea can be a boon for your bones, and you will never have to face any issues related to them (23).
16) Hair Growth And Density
When women are going through menopause, they experience a change in their hormones. This hormone change will make them lose hair caused by the deficiency of vitamins A and C. So, it is of utmost importance that their diet should contain foods rich in these vitamins. Not just for women, anyone experiencing hair loss will require a diet filled with these vitamins essential for hair growth.
Including sorrel in the diet can be advantageous in providing them with essential vitamins promoting hair growth as it contains these two vitamins and much more (24, 25). You can find various ways to consume sorrel below.
17) Cure Jaundice And Other Liver Related Diseases
Jaundice is a disease related to the liver, and it happens when liver malfunctions and its ability to remove bilirubin from the body reduces or stops. This causes bilirubin to get collected in the body which is a substance formed by the breakdown of dead red blood cells. Skin, eyes, and nails start to turn yellow because of bilirubin accumulation. Sorrel is a great hepatoprotective which helps the liver heal and resume its functions. Red sorrel contains antioxidants such as protocatechuic acid and anthocyanins which have been proven to protect the liver from chemically induced peroxidative liver damage (26, 27, 28).
18) Reduces Obesity
A study has suggested that the anthocyanins present in red sorrel have been very effective in reducing obesity. They affect the aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), cholesterol, and triglycerides levels in the body and it was seen that the body weight significantly decreased after continuous use of red sorrel by a person (29, 30). Consumption of red sorrel also reduces the conditions that come with obesity like cholesterol, hence promoting heart health. You can include one of the recipes, at the bottom of this article, in your everyday life to see the effects.
Your body needs to be detoxified from time to time as you consume a lot of food items which are not all good for the body, but taste good. People who consume alcohol need to detoxify their body more than the ones who don’t drink, to keep their liver and other affected body parts working for a longer time. We all have heard of herbal teas that promote detoxification, one of those teas can be made with red sorrel as it plays important role in detoxification and metabolism of xenobiotic. Juice of the leaves of red sorrel has also shown a good antioxidant activity which helps in detoxification of the body by flushing out the toxins.
20) Treats Herpes Zoster
Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the virus that causes herpes zoster, is a very stubborn virus. It comes in contact with your body when you suffer from chicken pox, and can remain dormant for years. It causes a disease named herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles. Acute Shingles can cause postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) which can be very expensive to treat. Topical treatment of herpes zoster has been done traditionally by the Chinese with red sorrel. It is considered as a very safe grade 1 herb which can be used topically and orally (32). Refer the recipes given below for a better understanding of how to include sorrel in your diet.
21) Bone Marrow Survival
A study was conducted where the effects of hibiscus sabdariffa or Jamaican sorrel were studied on bone marrow cells culture, and it was found out that bone marrow survival was enhanced with the use of red sorrel extract. It increased the glutathione (GSH) level, increased the superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, and it showed compelling cellular genoprotective (gene protecting) potency against H2O2-induced DNA damage. This means that sorrel consumption is good for bone marrow protection and survival enhancement (33). Learn below about different ways to make your diet healthier by including sorrel.
There can be some side-effects, if sorrel is consumed in a very high quantity, so it is suggested that you do not consume it on a regular basis. Once in a while use of this herb is recommended to avail its health benefits and avoid the side-effects. This is not a very big concern as there are some insignificant side-effects of every herb. Below are some things you need to keep in mind when using sorrel in your diet:
- If you are already on any medication, you must consult with your doctor before consuming sorrel because it may affect your medicines’ effects (34).
- Sorrel leaves contain oxalic acid which is not suitable in pregnancy, so it is advised that you don’t consume this herb if you are pregnant (35).
- It is also not suggested for a lactating mother as it enhances the milk flow. It is not advised until there is a need to increase the milk flow (36).
- Even when it is beneficial for people with diabetes, it can be the reason to decrease your blood sugar levels if you are still continuing your diabetes medication. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor if you are adding sorrel in your diet (37).
- People with low blood pressure are not advised to consume sorrel as it reduces blood pressure, so if your blood pressure is already low, it will decrease it even further causing problems (38).
- If you have any surgery scheduled within two weeks, it is important that you stop the consumption of sorrel because it complicates the surgery by affecting the blood sugar levels (39).
Jamaicans use red sorrel to make a drink which is very famous around the world. Indians have used this herb in many preparations, and we have come up with the best recipes which use sorrel to give you all the health benefits of this herb while keeping it delicious. We’ll start with the most simple and effective ones:
NOTE: Most of the recipes will use red sorrel or Roselle which is the highest used variety of sorrel for medicinal and therapeutic purposes.
1) Sorrel Tea: This is a very easy tea to prepare and works like a charm. You will need the following ingredients:
i. Half a cup sorrel leaves
ii. 2-3 cinnamon sticks
iii. 10-12 cloves
iv. 1 tablespoon honey
v. 2 cups of water
Boil the water in a pot and turn off the flame. Add all other ingredients (crushed) in the pot and let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain the tea into a cup and enjoy it while it’s hot.
2) Caribbean Sorrel Drink: This is a drink which has been made famous by the Caribbeans all around the world. Zobo drink is what they call it in Jamaica, and it is known as sorrel drink around the world. Here’s what you will need to make it:
i. 2 cups dried sorrel leaves
ii. 1 tbsp white rice (uncooked)
iii. 1 tbsp orange juice
iv. A pinch of ground cinnamon
v. 8 allspice berries
vi. 6 cloves
vii. 1 tsp grated ginger
viii. 1 cup sugar
ix. 4 cups of water
Boil the water in a saucepan and add sugar, cinnamon, allspice berries, cloves, orange juice, rice, and ginger. Remove from flame after the rice is cooked completely and add the sorrel leaves. Leave this covered for a day and let it settle. Strain this mixture and chill it before serving.
3) Sorrel Soup: It is not important to make soup with just sorrel, you can add sorrel in any soup that you like, the purpose is to extract the nutrients. Here is a recipe that has worked very well, and the following are the ingredients:
i. 3 cups sorrel leaves
ii. 2 tbsp butter
iii. 1/2 sweet onion
iv. 5 to 6 small potatoes
v. 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
vi. 1 lightly beaten egg
vii. Salt and pepper to taste
viii. Coriander for garnish
First of all, you need to wash the sorrel leaves thoroughly, dry them, and shred them into thin ribbons. Chop the sweet onion and cut the potatoes in small chunks. Heat butter on medium flame in a saucepan and add the onion. Let them turn brown before adding the sorrel and potatoes, pour enough broth to cover everything, and boil. When the potatoes are al dente, remove from the flame, puree the whole mixture and strain it. Beat the eggs and add them to the soup and cook it till it thickens. Salt and pepper need to be added now before you serve the soup piping hot.
4) Sorrel Sauce: You can make a sauce with sorrel. While it is very easy to prepare with the following recipe, you can also look for it in the market if you want to avoid the hassle of cooking. You will need very few ingredients which are listed below followed by the method:
i. 1/2 cup fresh sorrel
ii. 2 tablespoons dry white wine
iii. 1 shallot
iv. 1 cup whipping cream
v. 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
vi. Ground white pepper
Chop the shallot finely, and add it into a saucepan with sorrel leaves and wine. Keep the heat medium while you stir this mixture, because the leaves will start wilting after 2 minutes. This is when you add cream and lime juice, and boil it for about 12 minutes. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes. Puree this mixture in a blender and add salt and white pepper according to your taste. Your rich and scrumptious sorrel sauce is ready.
5) Sorrel Pesto: Sorrel makes for a great pesto sauce because of its sourness and the flavor it provides to the sauce, which is almost as good as basil but a little less sharp and a little tangier. Use the recipe given below to make a great and a healthy pesto, you will need:
i. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
ii. 1/2 cup toasted whole almonds
iii. 2 medium garlic cloves
iv. 1 teaspoon lemon zest
v. 3 cups sorrel leaves
vi. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
vii. Parmesan cheese for grating
Finely chop almonds and garlic or put them into a blender with lemon zest, 1/2 cup oil, and the salt. Blend the mixture keeping it coarse. Chop the sorrel leaves very finely and add it to the mixture and mix nicely with a spoon. You can add parmesan cheese to this mixture to make it more delicious. Use this sauce to make pasta or pizza, and you’ll love it.
6) Sorrel, Corn And Cheese Sandwich: Just like spinach, you can use sorrel in this renowned sandwich recipe. Sorrel will not just give you the benefits listed in this article, it will make the sandwich tangier too. You will need all these ingredients:
i. 1 cup sorrel leaves
ii. ½ cup sweet corn
iii. 2 cloves of garlic
iv. 1 tablespoon butter
v. 2 teaspoons refines/all purpose flour
vi. ½ cup cold milk
vii. 5 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese
viii. A pinch of salt, white pepper, and oregano each
Boil the sweet corn if you are using the raw one, because canned corn is already boiled. Finely chop the sorrel leaves. Add the garlic in a pan with melted butter on a medium flame, and as soon as it starts to turn golden in color, add the sorrel leaves. Stir and sauté for 2-3 minutes and add the corn and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour and mix it nicely before adding the cold milk. Keep stirring while the flame is medium, till it thickens to a spread-like consistency. Once you achieve this consistency, switch off the flame and add the cheese, salt, pepper, and oregano. Mix the thoroughly and let the mixture cool a little before using it to make a sandwich. Use your favorite bread and make a sandwich with this filling.
7) Sorrel Juice: You can make this juice with the flower petals and/or leaves. This juice gives you a refreshing kick in summers and comes with all the health benefits to maintain your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Following is the list of ingredients required:
i. 4 cups sorrel Leaves and/or Petals
ii. 1 cup sugar
iii. 2 tbsp honey
iv. 1 liter of water
Boil the water with leaves and/or petals and switch off the flame once you see fumes coming out of the water. Add sugar and honey, and mix until all the sugar dissolves. Now pour this mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain and chill before serving.
There are numerous benefits of this herb, and it is easily available in the herbs section of your nearby supermarket. And while you are at the herbs section, why not buy some more healthy herbs and combine them with sorrel to make your own recipes so you can get advantages from both the herbs together?
Be careful when combining herbs because if two herbs have a similar effect, they may cause a conflict in your body, as Susan Lynn Peterson of Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contact Athletes said, “Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you can be as stupid as you want with it.”
Herbs have proven to be a natural alternative for medicines. They work slow, but they do a lot less harm to the body in the long run. Sorrel has proven to be one of the most important herbs not only to herbalists but also to western medicine as its extracts are used in several medicines. So you can be sure that with all the scientific backing, it is going to be the top herb in your cupboard.
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