Roselle (plant)

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Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa, 2014 01.JPG
Roselle plant at Wave Hill, Bronx, New York, 2014, showing leaf, flower, bud and dark red calyces
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Hibiscus
Species: H. sabdariffa
Binomial name
Hibiscus sabdariffa

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus native to West Africa,[1] used for the production of bast fibre and as an infusion, in which it may be known as carcade. It is an annual or perennial herb or woody-based subshrub, growing to 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft) tall. The leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, arranged alternately on the stems.

The flowers are 8–10 cm (3–4 in) in diameter, white to pale yellow with a dark red spot at the base of each petal, and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) wide, enlarging to 3–3.5 cm (1.2–1.4 in), fleshy and bright red as the fruit matures. They take about six months to mature.


Roselle capsule.
Roselle plant at Wave Hill

The roselle is known as the rosella or rosella fruit in Australia. It is known as 'Belchanda' among Nepalese, Tengamora among Assamese, "mwitha" among Bodo tribals in Assam, "mesta tenga" among Rabha tribe, "hanserong" among Karbi tribals in Assam, চুকর Chukor in Bengali, Sougri in Manipur, గోంగూర Gongura in Telugu, also called as ఆంధ్రమాత "Andhra Matha" or "Andhra Sakhambari Varapradasadam" in Telugu, "புளிச்சைக் கீரை" in Tamil, ಪುಂಡಿ in Kannada, Ambadi in Marathi, LalChatni or Kutrum in Mithila Mathipuli in Kerala, ချဉ်ပေါင် chin baung in Burma, กระเจี๊ยบ krajiab,[2] กระเจี๊ยบแดง krajiab daeng, or กระเจี๊ยบเปรี้ยว krajiab priaw[3] in Thailand, sobolo in Ghana, ສົ້ມພໍດີ som phor dee in Lao PDR,[4] ស្លឹកជូរ /slɜk cuː/, សណ្តាន់ទេស /sɑndan tẹːh/ or ម្ជូរបារាំង /məcuː baraŋ/ in Cambodia,[5] bissap in Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger, Réunion, the Congo and France, dah or dah bleni in other parts of Mali, wonjo in the Gambia, zobo in western Nigeria (the Yorubas in Nigeria call the white variety Isapa (pronounced Ishapa)), Zoborodo in northern Nigeria, karkanji[6] in Chad, foléré[7] in Cameroon, Chaye-Torosh in Iran, karkade (كركديه; Arabic pronunciation: [ˈkarkade]) in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, omutete in Namibia, sorrel in the Caribbean and in Latin America, Sjuru (or Sjoeroe) in Suriname, Flor de Jamaica in Mexico, Saril in Panama, grosella in Paraguay and vinagreira, caruru-azedo or quiabo-roxo in Brazil, Rosela in Indonesia, asam belanda[8] in Malaysia. In Mandarin Chinese it is 玫瑰茄 (méi guī qié). In Zambia the plant is called lumanda in ciBemba, Sindambi in Silozi, katolo in kiKaonde, or wusi in chiLunda. In Garo Hills, Meghalaya it is known 'galda'. In the Philippines, Rizal province, it is known as "Guragod", in Panay- and mainly Ilonggo-speaking parts of Mindanao, as "Labug or Labog". It is "ချဉ်ပေါင်" (Chin-pown) in Myanmar.


The plant is primarily cultivated for the production of bast fibre from the stem. The fibre may be used as a substitute for jute in making burlap.[9] Hibiscus, specifically roselle, has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic and mild laxative.[10]

The red calyces of the plant are increasingly exported to the United States and Europe, particularly Germany, where they are used as food colourings. It can be found in markets (as flowers or syrup) in places, such as France, where there are Senegalese immigrant communities.[citation needed] The green leaves are used like a spicy version of spinach. They give flavour to the Senegalese fish and rice dish thieboudienne. Proper records are not kept, but the Senegalese government estimates national production and consumption at 700 t (770 short tons) per year.[citation needed] In Burma their green leaves are the main ingredient in chin baung kyaw curry.[citation needed]

Brazilians attribute stomachic, emollient, and resolutive properties to the bitter roots.[11]


In Andhra cuisine, roselle is called gongura and is extensively used. The leaves are steamed with lentils and cooked with dal. Another unique dish is prepared by mixing fried leaves with spices and made into a gongura pacchadi, the most famous dish of Andhra cuisine that is often described as king of all Andhra foods.[citation needed]

In Burmese cuisine, called chin baung ywet (lit. sour leaf), the roselle is widely used and considered affordable. It is perhaps the most widely eaten and popular vegetable in Burma.[12] The leaves are fried with garlic, dried or fresh prawns and green chili or cooked with fish. A light soup made from roselle leaves and dried prawn stock is also a popular dish.

Among the Bodo tribals of Bodoland, Assam (India) the leaves of hibiscus sabdariffa and hibiscus cannabinus are cooked along with chicken, fish, crab or pork, as one of their traditional cuisines.[citation needed]

In the Philippines, the leaves and flowers are used to add sourness to chicken dish "Tinola" (chicken stew).[citation needed]

In Vietnam, the young leaves, stems and fruits are used for cooking soups with fish or eel.[13]


See also Hibiscus tea
Roselle, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 205 kJ (49 kcal)
11.31 g
0.64 g
0.96 g
Vitamin A equiv.
14 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.011 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.028 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.31 mg
Vitamin C
12 mg
215 mg
1.48 mg
51 mg
37 mg
208 mg
6 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
A roselle drink

In the Caribbean, sorrel drink is made from sepals of the roselle. In Mexico, 'agua de Flor de Jamaica' (water flavored with roselle) frequently called "agua de Jamaica" is most often homemade. It is prepared by boiling dried sepals and calyces of the sorrel/flower of Jamaica plant in water for 8 to 10 minutes (or until the water turns red), then adding sugar. It is often served chilled. This is also done in Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago where it is called 'sorrel'. (In Jamaica, it was introduced by Akan slaves in the late 1600s.) The drink is one of several inexpensive beverages (aguas frescas) commonly consumed in Mexico and Central America; they are typically made from fresh fruits, juices or extracts. Something similar is done in Jamaica but flavor is added by brewing the tea with ginger and adding rum, making a popular drink at Christmas time. It is also very popular in Trinidad and Tobago where cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves are preferred to ginger.[citation needed]

In Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Benin calyces are used to prepare cold, sweet drinks popular in social events, often mixed with mint leaves, dissolved menthol candy, and/or fruit flavors.

The Middle Eastern and Sudanese "Karkade" (كركديه) is a cold drink made by soaking the dried Karkade calyces in cold water overnight in a refrigerator with sugar and some lemon or lime juice added. It is then consumed with or without ice cubes after the flowers have been strained.[citation needed] In Lebanon, toasted pine nuts are sometimes added.

Roselle is used in Nigeria to make a refreshing drink known as Zobo.[citation needed]

With the advent in the U.S. of interest in south-of-the-border cuisine, the calyces are sold in bags usually labeled "Flor de Jamaica" and have long been available in health food stores in the U.S. for making tea. In addition to being a popular homemade drink, Jarritos, a popular brand of Mexican soft drinks, makes a Flor de Jamaica flavored carbonated beverage. Imported Jarritos can be readily found in the U.S.

In the UK, the dried calyces and ready-made sorrel syrup are widely and cheaply available in Caribbean and Asian grocers. The fresh calyces are imported mainly during December and January to make Christmas and New Year infusions, which are often made into cocktails with rum. They are very perishable, rapidly developing fungal rot, and need to be used soon after purchase — unlike the dried product, which has a long shelf-life.

In Africa, especially the Sahel, roselle is commonly used to make a sugary herbal tea that is sold on the street. The dried flowers can be found in every market. Roselle tea is quite common in Italy where it spread during the first decades of the 20th century as a typical product of the Italian colonies. The Carib Brewery Trinidad Limited, a Trinidad and Tobago brewery, produces a 'Shandy Sorrel' in which the tea is combined with beer.

In Thailand, roselle is generally drunk as a cool drink,[14] and it can be made into a wine.

Hibiscus flowers are commonly found in commercial herbal teas, especially teas advertised as berry-flavoured, as they give a bright red colouring to the drink.

Rosella flowers are sold as Wild Hibiscus flowers in syrup in Australia as a gourmet product. Recipes include filling them with goats cheese; serving them on baguette slices baked with brie; and placing one plus a little syrup in a champagne flute before adding the champagne — the bubbles cause the flower to open.

Jam and preserves[edit]

In Nigeria, rosella jam has been made since colonial times and is still sold regularly at community fetes and charity stalls. It is similar in flavour to plum jam, although more acidic. It differs from other jams in that the pectin is obtained from boiling the interior buds of the rosella flowers. It is thus possible to make rosella jam with nothing but rosella buds and sugar.

In Burma, the buds of the roselle are made into 'preserved fruits' or jams. Depending on the method and the preference, the seeds are removed or included. The jams, made from roselle buds and sugar, are red and tangy.

"Sorrel jelly" is manufactured in Trinidad.

Rosella jam is made in Queensland, Australia as a home-made or speciality product sold at fetes and other community events.[15]

Herbal medicine[edit]

A meta-analysis conducted by the Cochrane hypertension group found there was insufficient evidence of a demonstrable benefit from roselle in reducing blood pressure for hypertensive patients.[16] Other reviews have made similar conclusions.[17][18]


Harvesting roselle planted on bris (sandy) soils in Rhu Tapai, Terengganu (September 2002)

China and Thailand are the largest producers and control much of the world supply. Thailand invested heavily in roselle production, and their product is of superior quality. China's product, with less stringent quality control practices, is less reliable and reputable.[citation needed] The world's best roselle comes from the Sudan, but the quantity is low and poor processing hampers quality. Mexico, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, Mali and Jamaica are also important suppliers but production is mostly used domestically.[19]

In the Indian subcontinent (especially in the Ganges Delta region), roselle is cultivated for vegetable fibres. Roselle is called meśta (or meshta, the ś indicating an sh sound) in the region. Most of its fibres are locally consumed. However, the fibre (as well as cuttings or butts) from the roselle plant has great demand in natural fibre using industries.

Roselle is a relatively new crop to create an industry in Malaysia. It was introduced in the early 1990s and its commercial planting was first promoted in 1993 by the Department of Agriculture in Terengganu. The planted acreage was 12.8 ha (30 acres) in 1993 and steadily increased to peak at 506 ha (1,000 acres) by 2000. The planted area is now less than 150 ha (400 acres) annually, planted with two main varieties.[citation needed] Terengganu state used to be the first and the largest producer, but now the production has spread more to other states. Despite the dwindling hectarage over the past decade or so, roselle is becoming increasingly known to the general population as an important pro-health drink. To a small extent, the calyces are also processed into sweet pickle, jelly and jam.

Crop research[edit]

In the initial years, limited research work was conducted by University Malaya and Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI). Research work at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was initiated in 1999. In many respects, the amount of research work is considered[by whom?] meagre in supporting a growing roselle industry in Malaysia.

Crop genetic resources and improvement[edit]

Genetic variation is important for plant breeders to increase crop productivity. Being an introduced species in Malaysia, there is a very limited number of germplasm accessions available for breeding.

UKM maintains a working germplasm collection and conducts agronomic research and crop improvement.

Mutation breeding[edit]

Conventional hybridization is difficult to carry out in roselle due to its cleistogamous nature of reproduction. Because of this, a mutation breeding programme was initiated to generate new genetic variability.[20] The use of induced mutations for its improvement was initiated in 1999 in cooperation with MINT (now called Malaysian Nuclear Agency) and has produced some promising breeding lines. Roselle is a tetraploid species; thus, segregating populations require longer time to achieve fixation as compared to diploid species. In April 2009, UKM launched three new varieties named UKMR-1, UKMR-2 and UKMR-3. These new varieties were developed using Arab as the parent variety in a mutation breeding programme which started in 2006.

Natural outcrossing under local conditions[edit]

A study was conducted to estimate the amount of outcrossing under local conditions in Malaysia. It was found that outcrossing occurred at a very low rate of about 0.02%. However, this rate is much lower in comparison to estimates of natural cross-pollination of between 0.20% and 0.68% as reported in Jamaica.


The Hibiscus leaves are a good source of polyphenolic compounds. The major identified compounds include neochlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid, cryptochlorogenic acid, caffeoylshikimic acid and flavonoid compounds such as quercetin, kaempferol and their derivatives.[21] The flowers are rich in anthocyanins, as well as protocatechuic acid. The dried calyces contain the flavonoids gossypetin, hibiscetine and sabdaretine. The major pigment, formerly reported as hibiscin, has been identified as daphniphylline. Small amounts of myrtillin (delphinidin 3-monoglucoside), chrysanthenin (cyanidin 3-monoglucoside), and delphinidin are present. Roselle seeds are a good source of lipid-soluble antioxidants, particularly gamma-tocopherol.[22]



  1. ^ "Roselle" Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ So Sethaputra, New Model Thai-English Dictionary, Bangkok, Thai Watana Panich, 1965, p. 20, 357.
  3. ^ มติชน Matichon,พจนานุกรมฉบับมติชน, Matichon Dictionary of the Thai Language, Bangkok, พิมพ์ครั้งแรก ๒๕๔๗, first edition 2004, p. 17.
  4. ^ Reinhorn, Marc, Dictionnaire laotien-français, Paris, CNRS, 1970, p. 688.
  5. ^ Dy Phon, Pauline, វចនានុក្រមរុក្ខជាតិប្រើប្រាស់ក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា, Dictionnaire des Plantes utilisées au Cambodge, Dictionary of Plants Used in Cambodia, ភ្នំពេញ Phnom Penh, បោះពុម្ពលើកទី ១, រោងពុម្ព ហ ធីម អូឡាំពិក (រក្សាសិទ្ធិ ៖ អ្នកគ្រូ ឌី ផុន) គ.ស. ២០០០, ទំព័រ ៣៤៣-៣៤៤, 1st edition: 2000, Imprimerie Olympic Hor Thim (© Pauline Dy Phon), 1er tirage : 2000, Imprimerie Olympic Hor Thim, p. 343-344; Mathieu LETI, HUL Sovanmoly, Jean-Gabriel FOUCHÉ, CHENG Sun Kaing & Bruno DAVID, Flore photographique du Cambodge, Toulouse, Éditions Privat, 2013, p. 360.
  6. ^
  7. ^,le-jus-de-folere-boisson-tres-prisee-au-cameroun.html
  8. ^ "Asam belanda" (in Malay). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  11. ^ Purdue University, Center for New Crops, Roselle
  12. ^ Hansen, Barbara (1993-10-07). "Uncommon Herbs : In a Burmese Garden". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ Tanaka, Yoshitaka; Van Ke, Nguyen (2007). Edible Wild Plants of Vietnam: The Bountiful Garden. Thailand: Orchid Press. p. 91. ISBN 9745240893. 
  14. ^ Thai Roselle cool drink
  15. ^ ezimerchant Professional. "Rosella Jam 120g". Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  16. ^ Ngamjarus C, Pattanittum P, Somboonporn C (2010). "Roselle for hypertension in adults". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007894.pub2. CD007894. 
  17. ^ Wahabi, H.A.; Alansary, L.A.; Al-Sabban, A.H.; Glasziuo, P. (2010). "The effectiveness of Hibiscus sabdariffa in the treatment of hypertension: A systematic review". Phytomedicine. 17 (2): 83. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2009.09.002. PMID 19801187. Randomized controlled studies identified in this review do not provide reliable evidence to support recommending Hibiscus sabdariffa for the treatment of primary hypertension in adults 
  18. ^ Hopkins, Allison L.; Lamm, Marnie G.; Funk, Janet L.; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl (2013). "Hibiscus sabdariffa L. In the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: A comprehensive review of animal and human studies". Fitoterapia. 85: 84–94. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2013.01.003. PMC 3593772Freely accessible. PMID 23333908. More high quality animal and human studies informed by actual therapeutic practices are needed to provide recommendations for use that have the potential for widespread public health benefit 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  20. ^ "FNCA 2005". 
  21. ^ Zhen, Jing, et al. "Phytochemistry, antioxidant capacity, total phenolic content and anti-inflammatory activity of Hibiscus sabdariffa leaves." Food chemistry 190 (2016): 673-680
  22. ^ Mohamed R. Fernandez J. Pineda M. Aguilar M.."Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) seed oil is a rich source of gamma-tocopherol." Journal of Food Science. 72(3):S207-11, 2007 Apr.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chau, J. W.; Jin, M. W.; Wea, L. L.; Chia, Y. C.; Fen, P. C.; Tsui, H. T. (2000). "Protective effect of Hibiscus anthocyanins against tert-butyl hydroperoxide-induced hepatic toxicity in rats". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 38 (5): 411–416. doi:10.1016/S0278-6915(00)00011-9. PMID 10762726. 
  • Mohamad, O., Mohd. Nazir, B., Abdul Rahman, M. and Herman, S. (2002). Roselle: A new crop in Malaysia. Buletin PGM Dec 2002, p. 12-13.
  • Mohamad, O., Mohd. Nazir, B., Azhar, M., Gandhi, R., Shamsudin, S., Arbayana, A., Mohammad Feroz, K., Liew, S. K., Sam, C. W., Nooreliza, C. E. and Herman, S. (2002). Roselle improvement through conventional and mutation breeding. Proc. Intern. Nuclear Conf. 2002, 15-18 Oct 2002, Kuala Lumpur. 19 pp.
  • Mohamad, O., Ramadan, G., Herman, S., Halimaton Saadiah, O., Noor Baiti, A. A., Ahmad Bachtiar, B., Aminah, A., Mamot, S., and Jalifah, A. L. (2008). A promising mutant line for roselle industry in Malaysia. FAO Plant Breeding News, Edition 195. Available at
  • Pau, L. T.; Salmah, Y.; Suhaila, M. (2002). "Antioxidative properties of roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) in linoleic acid model system". Nutrition & Food Science. 32 (1): 17–20. doi:10.1108/00346650210413951. 
  • Vaidya, K. R. (2000). "Natural cross-pollination in roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (Malvaceae)". Genetics and Molecular Biology. 23 (3): 667–669. doi:10.1590/S1415-47572000000300027. 

External links[edit]