SORREL is the drink of choice in Jamaica during the holidays. While some people blend and strain the blood-red sepals of the plant, others prefer to 'draw' their sorrel, by steeping the sepals in hot water, then removing them and sweetening the drink which is served chilled, with or without added sugar and alcohol.
While the bold taste and festive colour are reasons enough for almost everyone to chug down sorrel in the holidays, there are also many health benefits to be derived from consuming the Jamaican sorrel.
Registered nutritionist and researcher Shannon Grant says the consumption of sorrel can aid in the lowering of high blood pressure, and it also acts as a blood thinner and diuretic.
“The Jamaican sorrel is high in vitamins and minerals and contains flavonoids (hibiscus anthocyanin), which accounts for the rich colour of the herb and the powerful antioxidant properties,” she says.
“When consumed, these flavonoids fight against free radicals and can help in the prevention of a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and other heart complications, as well as cancer.”
She notes that sorrel is held in the same regard as the juices of cranberries and pomegranates, because of its antioxidant properties.
“Sorrel consumption can also be beneficial for the health of the kidneys due to the diuretic properties that it possesses,” she adds. “It is also said to help with regularising bowel movements when consumed.”
Cold and flu viruses are rampant in the cooler holiday months, but the high vitamin C content in sorrel can help to protect you from them, she says.
“Studies have also shown some weight loss effects caused by the lactone acid that the sorrel contains,” she notes.
But that's not all. Grant says that women can drink sorrel tea in the days leading up to their periods, as it is said to help ease menstrual cramps.
“However in light of all the benefits, the preparation of the sorrel drink is of paramount importance,” she warns. “Adding too much sugar and alcohol to the sorrel beverage can lead to counter effects.”
She advises that in order to reap maximum benefits, it is better to have the drink without any additives.
“Or if people opt to add sugar and alcohol, they should have the beverage in moderation and increase water consumption.”
She also recommends finding creative ways to incorporate sorrel in our diets while it is in abundance.
“Making sauces with sorrel and using it in fresh salads, such as fruit salads, can be explored while sorrel is plenty and in season,” she says.