Hibiscus sabdariffa, or Roselle, is a shrub belonging to the Malvaceae family. In Iran, it is typically known as sour tea. In English-speaking countries it is called Red Sorrel. Originally from Africa and now widely naturalized in tropical and subtropical regions of the world particularly in India and Southeast Asia. It is widely cultivated in Africa, Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific as a home garden crop. Apart from that it is a major crop of export in Sudan especially in western part where it occupies second place area wise after Pearl millet. It is actually a tropical annual that is also known as Florida Cranberry, Guinea Sorrel, Hibiscus, Indian Sorrel, Jamaican Sorrel, Jamaica tea flower, Java Jute, Jelly Okra, Karkadé, Natal Sorrel, Nubia tea, Pink Lemonade, Queensland Jelly Plant, Red Sorrel, Red Tea, Rosella, Roselle, Royal Roselle, Rozelle, Rozelle Hemp, Sorrel and Sour-Sour. Botanically named Hibiscus sabdariffa, it is a member of the Mallow family and displays the characteristic five petals, funnel-shaped flower. Many parts of roselle including seeds, leaves, fruits and roots are used in various foods. Among them, the fleshy red calyces are the most popular.
Roselle is a broad-leaved, erect and branched annual herb, 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft.) tall. It has a deep penetrating tap root with bulbous, smooth or nearly smooth, cylindrical, typically red stems with spiny hairs. Plant normally grows in a warm and humid tropical climate and is vulnerable to damage from frost and fog. It prefers full sun as it is not shade tolerant. It does best in a well-drained, friable sandy loam soil rich in humus but is adaptable on many soils types— from sandy to clayey soils and can tolerate short periods of flooding.
Leaves are usually alternate, 3 to 5 in (7.5-12.5 cm) long, green with reddish veins and long or short petioles. Leaves of young seedlings and upper leaves of older plants are simple; lower leaves are deeply 3- to 5- or even 7-lobed; the margins are toothed.
Flowers are axillary, solitary, predominantly yellow and red, regular, pedicellate; epicalyx of about 12 reddish bracts, connate at base, 10–12 mm long; calyx 15–30 mm long (enlarging in fruit to 40 mm), 5 reddish, large, accrescent, fleshy sepals, all sepals fused at base.
Fruit of Roselle is normally dehiscent, 5-valved, non-fleshy, bright red ovoid capsule, 18–20 mm long by 15–18 mm wide. Fruit is green when young and turns into bright red as they mature and consists of 5 valves with each valve containing 3-4 seeds. Later capsule turns brown and split open when completely mature and dry. Seeds are normally kidney shaped, light brown, 3-5 mm long and covered with minute stout and stellate hairs. Fruit has tart fruity flavor similar to cranberry, rhubarb and red currant. Roselle is popular for its edible leaves and fleshy red fruit calyces that are used for making fresh salads, tea, juices, jellies, jams, ice cream, and spices for cooking. Roselle is also famous for its high nutritional and medicinal values. It is a wonderful source of antioxidants.
Roselle is probably native to Africa and now widely naturalized in tropical and subtropical regions of the world particularly in India and Southeast Asia. It is widely grown in Africa, Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. China and Thailand are the leading producers and dominate much of the world supply. Mexico, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, Mali and Jamaica are also important suppliers, but production is mostly used domestically.
Apart from their delightful taste, Roselle is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 57 gram of roselle offers 123 mg of Calcium, 0.84 mg of Iron, 6.8 mg of Vitamin C, 29 mg of Magnesium, 6.45 g of Carbohydrate, 21 mg of Phosphorus, 119 mg of Potassium, 0.016 mg of Vitamin B2 and 8 µg of Vitamin A.
Health benefits of Roselle
Roselle has been used as a therapeutic plant for centuries. Traditionally, extracts treat toothaches, urinary tract infections, colds, and even hangovers. In Senegal, the juice of leaves treat conjunctivitis and, when pulverized, soothes sores and ulcers. Root concoctions act as a potent laxative. Natives of various countries drink tea to stabilize blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Listed below are some of the popular health benefits of Roselle
1. Maintains Healthy Teeth and Gums
Calcium present in Roselle protects teeth by keeping the jaw bone strong and sturdy throughout your life, which in turn ensures tight fitting teeth where bacteria cannot thrive. Therefore, before your teeth and gums start giving you any trouble, be sure to maintain a calcium rich diet. Its intake should be high, especially at young ages, so that your children naturally grow up with strong teeth.
2. Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnant women should consume more iron rich foods than anyone else. So including iron rich food like roselle is quite beneficial for pregnant women as they require around 27mg daily and this is often covered in a pre-natal multi-vitamin. Also, pregnant women should consider consuming more healthy fat and folate rich foods during pregnancy.
3. Treatment of the Common Cold
Roselle consists of Vitamin C which helps to enhance the immune system of our body, which protects us from colds and coughs. Apart from that it facilitates the absorption of iron and thus strengthens the body’s resistance to infection. It also fights against viruses.
4. Prevents constipation
Magnesium present in Roselle provides quick relief from constipation, and a high dose of water-soluble magnesium supplements is known to bring sound relief for even the most severe constipated state. The laxative property of this vitamin help to relaxes the intestinal muscles, thus helping to establish a smoother rhythm while passing bowels. It also has another property of attracting water, which in turn softens the stool and helps it to pass easily. Roselle consists of 29 mg of magnesium which is actually 6.90% of the daily recommended value.
Roselle consists of Phosphorous that has the ability to remove minor health problems like muscle weakness, numbness, fatigue and other similar ailments. Normal levels of phosphorous in the body are a great way to remain fit and active. A normal amount can be around 1200 mg for adults, according to experts and from suggestions of various health practitioners. Sexual weakness can also be cured with healthy supplementation of phosphorous into the body, so issues like loss of libido, frigidity, impotence, and sperm motility can be boosted by having an adequate supply of phosphorus in your system.
How to Eat
- Fleshy flower calyces are rich in citric acid, pectin, anthocyanin pigments and vitamins and are used fresh in salad and for making roselle wine, syrup, gelatin, refreshing beverages, puddings, chutneys, pickles, cakes, herbal teas, jellies, marmalades, ices, ice cream, sherbets, butter, pies, sauces, tarts and other desserts.
- Roselle has been recommended as a source of pectin for the fruit-preserving industry in Pakistan.
- Calyces are used for food coloring in America, Asia and Europe.
- Calyces are used to color and flavor rum in the Caribbean and to add color and flavor to herbal teas and beverages.
- Drink is made from the fresh fruit, and it is considered an integral part of Christmas celebration in Caribbean.
- Inexpensive beverages are commonly consumed and are typically made from fresh fruits, juices or extracts in Mexico and Central America, aguas frescas.
- Refreshing and very popular beverage can be made by boiling the calyx, sweetening it with sugar and adding ginger.
- Calyx infusion, called ‘Sudan tea’, is taken to relieve coughs in East Africa.
- Roselle calyces are commonly used to make a sugary herbal tea that is commonly sold on the street in Africa especially Sahel.
- Calyces are used to make cold, sweet drinks popular in social events, often mixed with mint leaves, dissolved menthol candy, and or various fruit flavors in Mali and Senegal.
- Carib Brewery Trinidad Limited produces a Shandy Sorrel in which roselle tea is combined with beer in Trinidad and Tobago.
- Agua de Jamaica (water of roselle) is most often homemade and drank chilled, and Jamaica Ipa is another popular drink in Mexico and Central America, which is made from calyces of the roselle in Mexico and Central America.
- Roselle calyces are sold in bags usually labeled Flor de Jamaica in health food stores in the United States for making a tea that is high in vitamin C, an anthocyanin.
- Jarritos, a popular brand of Mexican soft drinks, makes a Jamaica flavored carbonated beverage.
- Imported Jarritos is commonly available in the United States.
- Green leaves are used as spinach in a fish and rice dish called thiéboudieune in Senegal.
- Green leaves form the main ingredient in making chin baung kyaw curry in Myanmar.
- Leaves and calyces are acidic, eaten as cooked vegetable, good with fermented fish and pork in Assam.
- Jelly is prepared from calyces.
- Tender young leaves and stems are consumed raw or cooked in salads; as a potherb and as a seasoning in curries; they have acid, rhubarb- like flavor.
- Calyx is rich in citric acid and pectin and so is beneficial for making jams, jellies, etc.
- It is also used to add a red color and to flavor to herb teas.
- Using marinades of roselle calyx extract for fried beef patties was found to reduce the formation of carcinogenic heterocyclic aromatic amines.
- Calyces are gathered for sale either fresh or dried; they are whole in preparing melon soup together with other soup ingredients and in the production of roselle jams in Nigeria.
- A pleasantly flavored beverage produced as an infusion from the calyx has been widely cherished in Nigeria and is used for refreshment and entertainment in home and public gatherings and also sold as a local drink.
- Calyx has been chewed to alleviate thirst on long desert tracks of Moslems.
- Dry calyx is used to produce a flavorsome and healthy drink rich in vitamin C, and dried calyces are used for tea, jelly, marmalade, ices, ice cream, sorbets, butter, pies, sauces, tarts and other desserts in Sudan.
- Iced red hibiscus tea is consumed daily in Sudan; in Spain it is called ‘quimbombe chino’.
- Roselle herbal tea is normally drunk in Thailand on its own or mixed with normal tea to reduce cholesterol.
- Roselle calyces are harvested fresh to produce pro-health drink due to high contents of vitamin C and anthocyanins in Malaysia.
- Young leaves and shoots cooked as vegetables and the calyces used to flavor fish and in curries in Malaysia.
- Young leaves, stems, calyx and fruits are used for cooking fish or eel in Vietnam.
- Tender young leaves and stems eaten raw or cooked in Nepal and elsewhere.
- Leaves used as food complement in Angola.
- Seeds have been reported to be eaten in some parts of Africa.
- Furundu, a meat substitute, is traditionally prepared by cooking Hibiscus sabdariffa seed and then fermenting it for 9 days.
- Yanyanku and Ikpiru, made by the fermentation of Hibiscus sabdariffa seeds, are used to produce food condiments in Benin.
- Seeds are roasted, ground into a powder and used in oily soups and sauces.
- Roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute that is said to have aphrodisiac properties.
- Roots are edible but very fibrousy, mucilaginous and rather bland, lacking flavor.
Other Traditional uses and benefits of Roselle
- Roselle flowers, leaves and to a lesser extent seeds and roots have been used in traditional medicine in the tropics as antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, digestive, diuretic, emollient, purgative, dysuria, fever, hangover, heart ailments, hypertension, neurosis, scurvy, antipyretic, refrigerant, resolvent, sedative, mild laxative, stomachic and tonic and as a folk remedy for abscesses, bilious conditions, cancer, cough, debility, dyspepsia and strangury.
- Roselle drink made by placing, the calyx in water, is supposed to be a folk remedy for cancer.
- Medicinally, leaves are emollient and are much used in Guinea as a diuretic, refrigerant and sedative; fruits are antiscorbutic; leaves, seeds and ripe calyces are diuretic and antiscorbutic; and the succulent calyx, boiled in water, is used as a drink in bilious attacks; flowers contain gossypetin, anthocyanin and glucoside hibiscin, that may have diuretic and choleretic effects, reducing the viscosity of the blood, reducing blood pressure and stimulating intestinal peristalsis.
- Seeds are used for debility and the leaves as emollient in Burma.
- Taiwanese regard the seed as diuretic, laxative and tonic.
- Angolans use the mucilaginous leaves as an emollient and as a soothing cough remedy.
- Roselle is an aromatic, astringent, cooling herb that is much used in the Tropics.
- Leaves are antiscorbutic, emollient, diuretic, refrigerant and sedative.
- Bitter root is used as an aperitif and tonic in Philippines.
- Hibiscus sabdariffa is a traditional Chinese rose tea and are effectively used in folk medicines for treatment of hypertension and inflammatory conditions.
- Hibiscus sabdariffa, a local soft drink material and medicinal herb, is commonly used effectively in native medicines against hypertension, pyrexia and liver disorders.
- Hibiscus sabdariffa popularly known in Mexico as ‘Jamaica’, ‘flor de Jamaica’, has been widely used in Mexican Traditional Medicine as antihypertensive and diuretic.
- Beverages of the calyces are extensively used in Mexico as diuretic, for treating gastrointestinal disorders, liver diseases, fever, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.
- Calyx extracts are used for the treatment of several complaints, including high blood pressure, liver diseases and Fever in folk medicine.
- Different parts of this plant have been recommended as a remedy for various ailments like hypertension, pyrexia and liver disorders in Ayurvedic literature of India.
- Roselle is used as antidotes to poisonous chemicals (acids, alkali, and pesticides) and venomous mushrooms in traditional medicine.
- Leaves are occasionally used as medicine in dysentery of man and domestic animals in Assam.
- Powdered calyces are used as an aphrodisiac on the penis, leaf juice is used as eye drop and oxytocic and pulp of the roots is used as local application for abscess and administered for bronchitis in Brazzaville.
- Finely powdered dried fruit is applied to sores and wounds in Togo.
- An infusion of the calyx is used to treat haematuria and headache and decoction used for snake bite and scorpion sting in Sudan.
- Powdered roselle fruit mixed with powdered tamarind bark is used as local application for old wounds; powdered macerated roselle flowers are similarly used in Dogonland, Mali.
- Roselle tea is used as a diuretic, cholagogue and diaphoretic in Saloun Island, Senegal.
- Tea from crushed leaves soaked in water is taken orally for epilepsy in Temeke district, Tanzania.
- Decoction of fresh leaves is taken orally for anaemia in Uganda.
- Leaves are used for tuberculosis in Ogun State, Nigeria.
- Infusion of roselle calyx is taken orally for urinary problems and to treat colibacillosis; roots are used as a purgative or laxative, dried leaves used as sudorific and leaf decoction is used for measles, roots pulped and used as poultice to mature abscesses and for bronchitis in Senegal.
- Juice from pounded leaves is used as coagulant with latex in Madagascar.
- Macerated and pounded leaves, flower concoction is taken orally for scurvy and heated leaves used externally for sand-crack feet in Sierra Leone.
- Decoction or infusion of roselle flowers are administered for hypertension and also used as an antimicrobial in Egypt.
- Roselle flowers are used in traditional treatment of malaria in Cameroon.
- Roselle leaf decoction is used to treat anaemia in Uganda.
- Leaf decoction is used as mouth gargle in Central African Republic.
- Crushed seeds are used as veterinary medicine in Burkina Faso.
- sabdariffa aqueous extract, rich in several polyphenols, is effectively used in native medicines against hypertension, diabetes and liver disorders.
- Roselle is an annual multi-use crop used in food, animal feed, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
- The strong bast fibre obtained from the stem is used for various household purposes including making sackcloth, gunnies, twine, ropes, cord and cordage and as a substitute for jute in the manufacture of burlap.
- Yellow dye is obtained from the petals and used in medicine, etc. . . .
- Seeds are fed to cattle in some parts of Africa and poultry.
- Seed yields 20 % oil which is useful as a lubricant.