Robust, refreshing and restorative, the roselle flower is gaining popularity for its health benefits as we understand more of its great . The roselle plant, or hibiscus sabdariffa, is a shrub that was probably native to the region from West Africa to Sudan, but is now grown in many tropical countries.
Known as luoshen hua (洛神花) in Chinese, the roselle plant has many uses today. Its leaves, seeds and roots are cooked in traditional dishes across Asia and Africa, while its calyces are used to make red food colouring, james, juices and craft beverages. When dried, the roselle flower can be eaten as a fruit or used to make tea.
In a 2015 interview with The Star, chef and healthy eating advocate Mohana Gill shares her love for roselle and all that it has to offer. She says the roselle plant is often compared to the cranberry, another superfood, when it comes to nutritional value but is much cheaper and easier to obtain. In addition to being a culinary ingredient, roselle has many other uses.
The roselle flower and plant have been used traditionally for its medicinal value — it’s believed to help with high blood pressure, wounds and ulcers and colds; in some cultures, roselle juice is used to treat conjunctivitis.
So, what are roselle’s health benefits?
1. Need Vitamin C? Roselle’s got it.
The calyces of roselle flowers are rich in Vitamin C. You may know that Vitamin C is good for you, but do you know just how good? It’s essential to keep our bodies functioning well. Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C helps in producing collagen, wound healing and of course, maintaining strong bones and teeth.
2. Could fight bacteria
Studies have shown roselle to have properties that could fight harmful bacteria. A 2013 test-tube study showed that the plant’s extract was able to hinder or inhibit E.coli, a bacterial strain that can cause diarrhoea and cramping.
Most of the studies have been confined to lab work so we have to wait and see how this translates to humans, but at least we know there’s good stuff to be found in the roselle plant, flowers and even seeds.
3. May help lower blood pressure
There have been studies showing how the roselle plant could help lower blood pressure in both systolic and diastolic patients. High blood pressure has been known to weaken the heart over time, and is also linked to heart disease.
One meta-analysis of several randomised control tests showed promising results, that roselle did indeed have a ‘significant effect’ in lowering systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Interesting stuff.
A word of caution: roselle isn’t recommended for those who are on hydrochlorothiazide, a form of medication used to deal with high blood pressure. Apparently, roselle and the medication may interact in the body.
4. Packed with iron and protein
So apparently, we don’t realise how much our bodies need iron until we don’t have enough. Iron helps us in many ways, from immunity boosting to gastrointestinal systems, reducing fatigue and moving oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
If you’re a pregnant lady, you need iron because your body is working really hard right now and iron helps to produce more blood (hemoglobin) for both you and your baby.
Protein, on the other hand, is another essential macronutrient your body needs to stay healthy. It doesn’t just help build muscle, bones, tissue, cartilage, skin and blood; it also helps to repair tissue and keep your body’s immunity strong.
The roselle plant is packed with iron and protein, so all the more reason to make it part of your diet, whether it’s as a cooling beverage or in your food.
5. What about calcium? Roselle has it too!
Growing up, we’ve all heard about the importance of calcium in building strong bones, but did you know that our bodies also use calcium to keep our nerves, heart and muscles healthy?
With around 215mg of calcium per 100g in red roselle (USDA Nutrient Database), the flowers are definitely calcium-rich. What makes it amazing is that there are so many ways to enjoy roselle leaves, flowers and seeds and get all these great nutrients, which is great news for those who get bored of eating the same food all the time.
6. Rich in antioxidants
The roselle plant is packed with antioxidants, chemicals that help fight free radicals (compounds in our bodies that damage our cells). Free radicals may play a role in cancer and heart disease. They are produced when our bodies break down food or if we are exposed to harmful elements such as tobacco or radiation.
Studies conducted in animals have shown a marked increase in antioxidants after consuming hibiscus extract, but bear in mind that more tests have to show how this will affect us humans.
So, where can I get roselle?
If you’re in Kota Kinabalu, you can buy fresh or dried roselle flowers from the local tamu or grow your own. Most local markets also sell roselle leaves, shoots, flowers and seeds. If you’re not up to cooking, though, you can have a dose of all-natural roselle in the form of a delicious craft beverage, UINAH Roselle Paradise.
Crafted with ginger and lemon, UINAH Roselle Paradise is a premium craft beverage that’s perfect for a hot day or if you’re looking for a rejuvenating, flavourful soda. The ultimate tropical cooler, UINAH Roselle Paradise is made from natural roselle flowers grown by local farmers in Sabah and doesn’t use any artificial flavouring or colouring.
So if you’re looking for a cool-me-down, thirst quencher or gift for your family or loved one, try UINAH Roselle Paradise. Healthy and flavourful, it bursts with the taste of the tropics!
If you’re curious about the ginger UINAH uses, it’s sourced from Tambunan, Sabah, known for producing some of the region’s spiciest ginger. Head over to Amazing Benefits of Ginger to find out more!