Sun | Dec 10, 2023

Sorrel - great for many health ailments

Published:Wednesday | December 11, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Tracey-Ann Brown, Complementary & Oriental Medicine

A few months ago, excited by the emerging health benefits of sorrel (hibiscus sabdariffa), I decided to grow two rows of red sorrel in my backyard. After my ecstatic amazement at having them reach maturity without being attacked by slugs, I was able to offer to friends and family a healthy, fresh brew of sorrel tea.

Sorrel has now become a year-round drink here in Jamaica, and for good reason. It is the subject of ongoing research, yielding some very positive results.


Sorrel is in fact used in many parts of the world for a number of health ailments. In India, Africa and Mexico it is used as a diuretic, to lower blood pressure and to stimulate the production of bile by the liver. In some parts of Africa the red calyx is used to relieve coughs, while the leaves are made into a poultice to relieve boils and abscesses. In Guinea it is used as a diuretic and sedative. In parts of Asia it is used as a tonic for weakness in the body and as a laxative as it stimulates intestinal peristalsis.


Research suggests that sorrel may be used as a deterrent against certain kinds of cancer due to the presence of a group of compounds called flavonoids, now thought to be powerful antioxidants which scavenge the body of disease-causing free radicals.

Studies at the Northern Caribbean University have revealed that sorrel could kill certain types of cancer cells.

Sorrel has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease by significantly reducing elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as it helps to prevent the clogging of arteries. It also has benefits as a diuretic and a weight loss aid when taken daily.

Ongoing research in Britain is investigating its use in the reduction of high blood pressure, with positive results thus far, suggesting that daily consumption of sorrel tea/drink may help to prevent or reduce high cholesterol, high blood pressure and some cancers.


The red sorrel calyx has been found to have a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, calcium, niacin, riboflavin and a group of compounds known as flavonoids.

We know that calcium helps to build and maintain strong bones. It also helps your heart, muscles and nerves to function properly. Niacin is a B vitamin and has long been used to increase HDL 'the good cholesterol'.


So how can you incorporate sorrel in your diet? The list is endless and as far reaching as your creativity and sense of culinary adventure will take you. Aside from our popular sorrel drink and tea, it can be used in sauces and chutneys eaten with meat dishes, soups, salads and pies. Do I need to continue?

Perhaps it's time to plant a patch in your backyard.

So let's eat and drink to your health!

Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an Oriental Medicine Practitioner of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine at Revamp Comprehensive, and adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology in Oriental/Chinese Medicine. Email: