The roselle (Hibiscus
sabdariffa) is a
species of Hibiscus native to the Old World tropics, used for the
production of bast fibre and as an infusion. 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. It takes about
six months to mature.
The roselle is known as the rosella or rosella fruit in Australia.
Its close relative, Hibiscus cannabinus is also known as meśta/meshta on
the Indian subcontinent, Tengamora among assamese and "mwitha"
tribals in Assam, Gongura in Telugu, Pundi in Kannada, LalChatni or
Kutrum in Mithila] Mathipuli in Kerala, chin baung in Burma,
กระเจี๊ยบแดง KraJiabDaeng in Thailand, som phor dee in Lao
PDR, bissap in Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin
and Niger, 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, Chaye-Torosh in Iran, karkade (كركديه; Arabic
pronunciation: [ˈkarkade])[dubious – discuss] in Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
and Sudan, omutete in Namibia, sorrel in the Caribbean and in Latin
America, Flor de Jamaica in Mexico, Saril in Panama, rosela in
Indonesia, asam paya or asam susur in Malaysia. In Chinese it is 洛神花 (Luo
Shen Hua) . In Zambia the plant is called lumanda in ciBemba, katolo in
kiKaonde, or wusi in chiLunda. In certain West Indian islands, Grenada,
for example, it is called Sorrel.
The plant is considered to have antihypertensive properties.
Primarily, the plant is cultivated for the production for bast fibre
from the stem of the plant. The fibre may be used as a substitute for
jute in making burlap. Hibiscus, specifically Roselle, has been used in
folk medicine as a diuretic, mild laxative, and treatment for cardiac
and nerve diseases and cancer.
The red calyces of the plant are increasingly exported to America and
Europe, where they are used as food colourings. Germany is the main
importer. It can also be found in markets (as flowers or syrup) in some
places such as France, where there are Senegalese immigrant communities.
The green leaves are used like a spicy version of spinach. They give
flavour to the Senegalese fish and rice dish thiéboudieune. Proper
records are not kept, but the Senegalese government estimates national
production and consumption at 700 t (770 short tons) per year. Also in
Myanmar their green leaves are the main ingredient in making chin baung
In East Africa, the calyx infusion, called "Sudan tea", is taken to
relieve coughs. Roselle juice, with salt, pepper, asafetida and
molasses, is taken as a remedy for biliousness.
The heated leaves are applied to cracks in the feet and on boils and
ulcers to speed maturation. A lotion made from leaves is used on sores
and wounds. The seeds are said to be diuretic and tonic in action and
the brownish-yellow seed oil is claimed to heal sores on camels. In
India, a decoction of the seeds is given to relieve dysuria, strangury
and mild cases of dyspepsia. Brazilians attribute stomachic, emollient
and resolutive properties to the bitter roots.
In Andhra cuisine, Hibiscus cannabinus, called Gongura, is
extensively used. The leaves are steamed along with lentils and consumed
as Dal. They are also mixed with spices and made into a Pacchadi
In Africa, especially the Sahel, roselle is commonly used to make a
sugary herbal tea that is commonly sold on the street. The dried flowers
can be found in every market. Roselle tea is also 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 drunk as a tea, believed to also reduce
cholesterol. It can also 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.
Cuisine: Among the Bodo tribals of Bodoland, Assam (India) the leaves
of both hibiscus sabdariffa and hibiscus cannabinus are cooked along
with chicken, fish or pork, one of their traditional cuisines
In the Caribbean sorrel drink is made from sepals of the roselle. In
Malaysia, roselle calyces are harvested fresh to produce pro-health
drink due to high contents of vitamin C and anthocyanins. In Mexico, 'agua
de Flor de Jamaica' (water flavored with roselle) frequently called "agua
de Jamaica" is most often homemade. Also, since many untrained consumers
mistake the calyces of the plant to be dried flowers, it is widely, but
erroneously, believed that the drink is made from the flowers of the
non-existent "Jamaica plant". 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 Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica and
Trinidad and Tobago where it is called 'sorrel'. The drink is one of
several inexpensive beverages (aguas frescas) commonly consumed in
Mexico and Central America, and they are typically made from fresh
fruits, juices or extracts. A similar thing is done in Jamaica but
additional flavor is added by brewing the tea with ginger and adding
rum. It is a popular drink of the country at Christmas time. It is also
very popular in Trinidad & Tobago but cinnamon and cloves are preferred
to ginger. 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 various fruit
flavors. The Middle Eastern and Sudanese drink "Karkade"(كركديه) is a
cold drink made by soaking the dried Karkade flowers in cold water over
night 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.In Lebanon, sometimes toasted pine nuts are tossed into the
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 a tea that is high in vitamin C. This drink is particularly good
for people who have a tendency, temporary or otherwise, toward water
retention: it is a mild diuretic.
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 in order to make
Christmas and New Year infusions, which are often made into cocktails
with additional 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.
Jam and preserves
In Australia, 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.
Many parts of the plant are also claimed to have various medicinal
values. They have been used for such purposes ranging from Mexico
through Africa and India to Thailand. Roselle is associated with
traditional medicine and is reported to be used as treatment for several
diseases such as hypertension and urinary tract infections. There is
currently insufficient evidence to demonstrate any beneficial effect of
roselle on raised blood pressure or on blood lipid lowering. although
experimental results seem contardictory. It may lower BP in pre- and
mildly hypertensive adults. A recent (2007)clinical trial demonstrated
important antihypertensive effectiveness Another trial,in 2009,on sixty
diabetic patients with mild hypertension found that Hibiscus sabdariffa
infusion had positive effects on BP in type II diabetic patients with
Hibiscus sabdariffa has shown antimicrobial activity against E. coli.
A recent review stated that H. sabdariffa extract exhibits activities
against atherosclerosis, liver disease, cancer, diabetes and other
The plants 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 also present. Roselle seeds are a good source of
lipid-soluble antioxidants, particularly gamma-tocopherol.
Harvesting roselle planted on bris (sandy) soils in Rhu Tapai,
Terengganu - Sept 02
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, whereas China's product, with less
stringent quality control practices, is less reliable and reputable. 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
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 various natural fibre using
Roselle is a relatively new crop to create an industry in Malaysia.
It was introduced in 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, but had steadily
increased to peak at 506 ha (1,000 acres) in 2000. The planted area is
now less than 150 ha (400 acres) annually, planted with two main
varieties. 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 in the country. To a small extent, the
calyces are also processed into sweet pickle, jelly and jam.
In the initial years, limited research work were conducted by
Universiti Malaya (UM) and Malaysian Agricultural Research and
Development Institute (MARDI). Research work at Universiti Kebangsaan
Malaysia (UKM) was initiated in 1999. In many respect, the amount of
research work is still considered meagre in supporting a growing roselle
industry in Malaysia.
Crop genetic resources & improvement
Genetic variation is important for plant breeders to increase the
crop productivity. Being an introduced species in Malaysia, there is a
very limited number of germplasm accessions available for breeding. At
present, UKM maintains a working germplasm collection, and also conducts
agronomic research and crop improvement.
Genetic variation is important for plant breeders to increase its
productivity. Being an introduced crop species in Malaysia, there is a
limited number of germplasm accessions available for breeding.
Furthermore, 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 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,
respectively. These three new varieties were developed using variety
Arab as the parent variety in a mutation breeding programme which
started in 2006.
Natural outcrossing under local conditions
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.
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)