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 edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Subfamily: Malvoideae
Tribe: Hibisceae
Genus: Hibiscus
H. sabdariffa
Binomial name
Hibiscus sabdariffa
    • Abelmoschus cruentus (Bertol.) Walp.
    • Furcaria sabdariffa Ulbr.
    • Hibiscus cruentus Bertol.
    • Hibiscus digitatus Cav.
    • Hibiscus digitatus var. kerrianus DC.
    • Hibiscus fraternus L.
    • Hibiscus gossypifolius Mill.
    • Hibiscus masuianus De Wild. & T.Durand
    • Hibiscus palmatilobus Baill.
    • Hibiscus sanguineus Griff.
    • Sabdariffa digitata (Cav.) Kostel.
    • Sabdariffa rubra Kostel.

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus native to Africa, most likely West Africa. It was in the 16th and early 17th century that it spread to the West Indies and Asia, respectively.[1] It is 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


Roselle is known as karkadeh (كركديه) in Arabic, chin baung (ချဉ်ပေါင်) by the Burmese, luoshen hua (洛神花) in Chinese, kraceī́yb Thai: กระเจี๊ยบ (RTGSkrachiap) in Thai), ສົ້ມພໍດີ /sőm phɔː diː/ in lao,[2] ស្លឹក​ជូរ /slɜk cuː/ សណ្តាន់​ទេស /sɑndan tẹːh/, ម្ជូរ​បារាំង /məcuː baraŋ/,[3] or ម្ជូរ​ព្រឹក /məcuː prɨk/ in Khmer, and cây quế mầu, cây bụp giấm, or cây bụt giấm in Vietnamese.

South-East Asia including Northeastern India and Mainland South Asia[edit]

Roselle is known as Pundi Palle / Pundi Soppu (ಪುಂಡಿ ಪಲ್ಯ / ಪುಂಡಿ ಸೊಪ್ಪು) in Kannada, Hoilfa (হইলফা) in Sylheti and Chukur (চুকুর), Amlamadhur (অম্লমধুর) in Bengali also known as Tengamora by various indigenous ethnic groups of Assam, dachang or datchang by Atongs, mwita among the Bodo(another native ethnicity of Assam), amile among Chakmas mostly in Chittagong, Gal•da among Garos, Hanserong among Karbi (an indigenous group of Asaam), among Lotha of Nagaland Hantserup, mathippuli (മത്തിപ്പുളി) and pulivenda (പുളിവെണ്ട) in Malayalam, ambadi (अंबाडी) in Maharashtra, okhreo among Maos, sillo sougri among Meitei, बेलचण्डा (belchanda) among Nepalese, and khata palanga (ଖଟାପାଳଙ୍ଗ) Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack districts and takabhendi (ଟକଭେଣ୍ଡି) in Odia in the Balasore district of Odisha, pulicha keerai (புளிச்சகீரை) in Tamil and gongura (గోంగూర) in Telugu. Anthur Sen(roselle red) or Lakher Anthur in Mizo, Hmiakhu Saipa(roselle red) or Matu Hmiakhu in Mara in Mizoram, India and Chin State, Myanmar.

It is called Ya Pung by the Marma people.


Among the Yoruba in southwest Nigeria, Roselle is known as isapa, and yakuwa by the Hausa people of northern Nigeria who also call the seeds as gurguzu and the capsule cover as zoborodo or zobo.


Roselle is known as the rosella or rosella fruit in Australia.

Latin America and the Caribbean[edit]

Roselle is known as saríl or flor de Jamaica in Central America and sorrel in many parts of the English-speaking Caribbean, including Jamaica and most of the islands in the West Indies.


In India, the plant is primarily cultivated for the production of bast fibre used in cordage, made from its stem.[4] The fibre may be used as a substitute for jute in making burlap.[5] Hibiscus, specifically roselle, has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic and mild laxative.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] In Myanmar their green leaves are the main ingredient in chin baung kyaw curry.[9]

Brazilians attribute stomachic, emollient, and resolutive properties to the bitter roots.[10]


In Bihar and Jharkhand roselle is also known as "kudrum" in local language. The bright red petal of the fruit is used for chutney which is sweet and sour in taste.


In Satpuda Pradesh (near Maharashtra/Gujarat MP border), roselle is called khate fule by local tribal language. The khate fule leaves are mixed with green chillies, salt, some garlic to prepare a chutney and bhaji which is served with jowar (sorghum) or bajra (millet) made bakho (a flat bread). This is eaten by tribals as breakfast to start their day. A dry dish or sukhi bajji is prepared with khate fule leaves.[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 and Telangana often described as king of all Andhra foods.[citation needed] In Manipuri, it is called Sougri and it is used as a vegetables. It is generally cooked without oil by boiling with some other herbs and dried fish and is a favorite of the Manipuri people. Almost every household has this plant in their homes.

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 Myanmar.[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 Paites tribe of the Manipur Hibiscus sabdariffa and Hibiscus cannabinus locally known as anthuk are cooked along with chicken, fish, crab or pork or any meat, and cooked as a soup as one of their traditional cuisines.[13] In the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, it is known as galda and is consumed boiled with pork, chicken or fish. After monsoon, the leaves are dried and crushed into powder, then stored for cooking during winter in a rice powder stew, known as galda gisi pura. In the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, the plant is locally known as jajew, and the leaves are used in local cuisine, cooked with both dried and fresh fish. The Bodos and other indigenous Assamese communities of north east India cook its leaves with fish, shrimp or pork along with boiling it as vegetables which is much relished. Sometimes they add native lye called karwi or khar to bring down its tartness and add flavour.

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

In Vietnam, the young leaves, stems and fruits are used for cooking soups with fish or eel.[14]

In Mali, the dried and ground leaves, also called djissima, are commonly used in Songhaï cuisine, in the regions of Timbuktu, Gao and their surroundings. It is the main ingredient in at least two dishes, one called djissima-gounday, where rice is slowly cooked in a broth containing the leaves and lamb, and the other dish is called djissima-mafé, where the leaves are cooked in a tomato sauce, also including lamb. Note that djissima-gounday is also considered an affordable dish.

In Namibia, it is called mutete, and it is consumed by people from the Kavango region in northeastern Namibia.

In the central African nations of Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon the leaves are referred to as oseille, and are used puréed, or in a sauce, often with fish and/or aubergines.


Roselle, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy205 kJ (49 kcal)
11.31 g
0.64 g
0.96 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv.
14 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.011 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.028 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.31 mg
Vitamin C
12 mg
MineralsQuantity %DV
215 mg
1.48 mg
51 mg
37 mg
208 mg
6 mg

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

In the Caribbean, a drink is made from the roselle fruit (the calyces with the seed pods removed). It is prepared by boiling fresh, frozen or dried roselle fruit in water for 8 to 10 minutes (or until the water turns red), then adding sugar. Bay leaves and cloves may also be added during boiling.[15] It is often served chilled. This is done in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Antigua, Barbados, Belize, St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, the US Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis where the plant or fruit is called sorrel. 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. In Mexican restaurants in the US, the beverage is sometimes known simply as Jamaica (Spanish pronunciation: [xaˈmajka] HAH-MY-CAH). It is very popular in Trinidad and Tobago especially as a seasonal drink at Christmas where cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves are preferred to ginger.[16] It is also popular in Jamaica, usually flavored with rum.

In Ghana, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast 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.[17] In Lebanon, toasted pine nuts are sometimes added.

Roselle is used in Nigeria to make a refreshing drink known as Zobo and natural fruit juices of pineapple and watermelon are added. Ginger is also sometimes added to the refreshing drink.[18]

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 US, a beverage known as hibiscus cooler is made from the tea, a sweetener, and sometimes juice of apple, grape or lemon. The beverage is sold by some juice companies.[19]

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, 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,[20] 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.

In Dodoma Tanzania the Roselle juice is brewed to make Roselle wine famous by the name of choya.

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.[citation needed]

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.

In India, Roselle is commonly made into a type of pickle.

"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.[21]

Herbal medicine (high blood pressure)[edit]

Although a 2010 meta-analysis using 14 databases and hand searching journals conducted by the Cochrane hypertension group concluded "No studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria"[22] a more recent meta-survey (2015) in the Journal of Hypertension suggests a typical reduction in blood pressure of around 7.5/3.5 units (systolic/diastolic).[23]


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.[24] The world's best roselle comes from Sudan and Nigeria, b. Mexico, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, Mali and Jamaica are also important suppliers but production is mostly used domestically.[25]

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.

Hibiscus Acid has been isolated from its calyx which is done by the Institute for Integrated Programmes and Research In Basic Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University Kerala. Recently, gallic and protocatechuic acids were identified using solvent extraction, column chromatographic fractionation, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy as the antidiabetic and antihypertensive principles of the calyxes.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]



  1. ^ "Roselle - plant". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ Reinhorn, Marc, Dictionnaire laotien-français, Paris, CNRS, 1970, p. 688.
  3. ^ Pauline Dy Phon, 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, pp. 343-344; Mathieu LETI, HUL Sovanmoly, Jean-Gabriel FOUCHÉ, CHENG Sun Kaing & Bruno DAVID, Flore photographique du Cambodge, Toulouse, Éditions Privat, 2013, p. 360.
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  16. ^ "Sorrel Drink". Simply Trini Cooking. 16 December 2008.
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  22. ^ Ngamjarus C, Pattanittum P, Somboonporn C (2010). "Roselle for hypertension in adults". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010 (1): CD007894. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007894.pub2. PMC 7182310. PMID 20091658. CD007894.
  23. ^ Serban C, Sahebkar A, Ursoniu S, Andrica F, Banach M (2015). "Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on arterial hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials". Journal of Hypertension. 33 (6): 1119–27. doi:10.1097/HJH.0000000000000585. PMID 25875025. S2CID 19042199.
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  29. ^ 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]