Sorrel facts and health benefits

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Sorrel facts and health benefits

Sorrel Quick Facts
Name: Sorrel
Scientific Name: Rumex vesicarius
Origin Europe and parts of Africa and Asia
Colors Golden brown
Shapes Three-edged achene filled with miniature seed
Taste Sour, sharp taste
Health benefits Reduces milk flow, Treating Dry Hair, Prevent Scurvy, Reduce Cold Sores and Fever Blisters, Detoxifies the Body, Treats Herpes Zoster, Treat Anemia, Help In Weight Loss, Prevents Cancer, Promotes Healthy Bones, Cure Jaundice and Other Liver Related Diseases, Treats Skin Conditions, Heal Wounds, Circulation and Energy, Helpful In Treating Urinary Tract Infection, Gonorrhea and Hemorrhages, Aids in Digestion, Improves Kidney Health, Boosts Immunity, Improves Eyesight, Regulates Blood Pressure
Rumex vesicarius commonly known as Sorrel is a hardy perennial herbs belonging to the Polygonaceae, or buckwheat, family that are widely distributed in temperate regions around the world. Sorrel is native to Europe and Asia and was grown as a popular herb and vegetable throughout history. Other popular common names of the plant are common sorrel, garden sorrel, Bladder dock, Rosy Dock, ambari, sorrel, bubble dock, spinach dock and narrow leaved dock.  It is a fascinating perennial herb that is used all around the world and is cultivated for a wide variety of uses. Since sorrel was used by the ancient Egyptians and its name stems from the old French word ‘surele’ which actually means sour. Cultures around the world have been growing and using it for centuries, in everything from soups and salads to vegetable side dishes and teas. High content of oxalic acid in sorrel makes it poisonous to a small degree, so consumption should be controlled. Consuming smaller quantities is completely harmless.

Plant Description

Sorrel is an annual, bushy herbaceous perennial plant that grows about 30-90 cm tall. The plant is found growing wild in grasslands, fields, meadows, grasslands, woodlands, areas near the roads and marshes, in open forests, along roadsides and river banks and normally prefers neutral or slightly acidic soil. The plant has slender, fibrous and well developed taproot and reddish, hollow stems that are branching at the top. The plant’s sharp taste is due to oxalic acid, which is a poison. In small quantities sorrel is harmless but in large quantities it can be deadly.

Leaves

Leaves look similar to arrows: they have an overall elongated, narrow shape, slightly larger at the base with the bottom lobes slightly directed downwards. Mature leaves can reach 10-15 cm in length and are usually a medium, green color. Smaller leaves are often a lighter green color and more tender which makes them more palatable. The leaves are a major part of the plant and are eaten or used in culinary preparations. It is also a key element in a number of different tea preparations due to its strong antioxidant compounds, including the famous Essiac tea. The larger and more mature the leaves, the stronger their taste. Smaller leaves are tenderer and have a less pronounced tart flavor.

Flower & fruit

Sorrel is a dioecious plant that means male and female flowers develop on the separate plants. Male flowers are yellowish-green while female flowers are reddish-colored. Flowers are miniature and arranged in whorled spikes. Sorrel is wind-pollinated plant that blooms from May to September. Flowers are followed by golden brown three-edged achene filled with miniature seed. Wind and insects ease dispersal of seed.  All plant parts above the ground are edible and used for therapeutic purposes, many people only eat the leaves. This is because sorrel stems have a meaty, but thick texture which results in them often being discarded. The leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked. It used in culinary preparations and is also a key element in a number of different tea preparations due to its strong antioxidant compounds, including the famous Essiac tea.

History

Sorrel plant is native to Europe and Asia and was grown as a popular herb and vegetable throughout history. Many European gardens contained the plant until the more mild French sorrel was developed in the middle Ages. Today it can be found in most temperate climates throughout the world, and thrives in moist, damp soils. It can easily be propagated by dividing its large deep-reaching root system, and should be frequently clipped back to encourage new tender growth.

Types

There are a number of varieties of sorrel that grow in different regions of the world, and while many of them have slightly different characteristics and related health benefits, they are generally the same. There are several varieties of sorrel, including:

1. Broad-leaf/common/garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

It is the type most readily available at markets and nurseries for planting. It’s a deep-rooted perennial that lasts for years and years if it finds a spot it likes. It has a sharp flavor and somewhat large, arrow-shaped leaves.

2. French or buckler-leaf sorrel (Rumex scutatus)

It is also cultivated, but it has a milder flavor than common sorrel with smaller, more rounded leaves.

3. Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

It is about as sour as the common kind but with smaller leaves. It’s typically foraged rather than cultivated and grows wild in the U.S.

4. Red-veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus)

It is a variety with deep red veins running through its leaves. Some say it’s the least tart variety.

Health Benefits of Sorrel

Apart from being a leafy vegetable, it has a lot of amazing and nutritious qualities. Let’s see the health benefits found in sorrel that makes it such a wonderful addition to your diet.

1. Regulates Blood Pressure

Sorrel plant consists of significant amount of potassium.  1 cup consists of 15% of your daily recommended intake, which is an essential mineral for human health. Since it is a vasodilator, hence is contributory in maintaining fluid balance throughout the body. This means that it decreases stress on the cardiovascular system by calming the blood vessels and arteries. Lowered blood pressure reduces the chances of dangerous blood clotting and extreme strain on the heart that can lead to coronary heart disease and other complications. (1)

2. Improves Eyesight

Vitamin A, another essential vitamin is also found abundantly in sorrel. Vitamin A has been closely associated to the improvement in eyesight and a reduction of macular degeneration and cataracts. Beta-carotene, which is a derivative of vitamin A, acts as an antioxidant, and when combined with the other important antioxidant compounds in the body, it can greatly boost eye health and prevent age-related degradation. (2)

3. Boosts Immunity

The vitamin C content in sorrel is impressive (a single cup of sorrel contains 106% of your daily recommended intake), which means that your immune system can be enhanced. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, encourages the immune system and increases the white blood cell count in the body. White blood cells are the first line of defense against pathogens and other foreign invaders in the body. Vitamin C also helps to reduce swelling, prevent scurvy, and even has analgesic (pain-relief) properties when consumed in high quantities. (3)

4.  Aids in Digestion

High content of dietary fiber that can be found in most varieties of sorrel means that your digestive health can be improved by adding these leaves to your soups and salads. Dietary fiber adds bulk to food as it moves through the digestive system, improving your gastrointestinal health and reducing conditions like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping, as well as other gastrointestinal issues. Dietary fiber helps to reduce total cholesterol in the body, thus protecting heart health, and reducing chances of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. (4)

5. Helpful In Treating Urinary Tract Infection, Gonorrhea and Hemorrhages

Sorrel leaves can help treat various conditions like Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), gonorrhea, and hemorrhage. Diuretic properties of sorrel help in the treatment of UTI. (5)

6. Circulation and Energy

Significant amount of iron in sorrel helps to boost the red blood cell production and prevent anemia (iron deficiency). Increased circulation boosts oxygen levels throughout the body in the vital organs, boosts hair growth, increases energy levels, and speeds up the healing process (in conjunction with the protein content of sorrel). (6)

7. Heal Wounds

Anti-inflammatory properties of sorrel leaves come in handy when you want to treat any wounds. Sorrel leaves treat ulcers, boils, swelling, and scorbutic diseases effectively. They can be used as an antidote for scorpion poison too. (7)

8. Treats Skin Conditions

Leaves of sorrel have been used in two ways to treat skin conditions. The leaves, when dried as an herb, can be eaten, and this has been associated with a reduction in ringworm and itchy, dry skin. When fresh leaves are ground up, the liquid that is extracted can be applied topically to the infected area to reduce rashes and irritation. This is likely due to the vitamin C and vitamin A content in the leaves, as well as the other nutraceuticals found in this herb. (8)

9. Cure Jaundice and Other Liver Related Diseases

Jaundice is a disease that is related to the liver, and it happens when liver malfunctions and its ability to remove bilirubin from the body reduces or stops. This causes bilirubin to get collected in the body which is a substance formed by the breakdown of dead red blood cells. Skin, eyes, and nails start to turn yellow because of bilirubin accumulation. Sorrel is a great hepato-protective which helps the liver heal and resume its functions. Red sorrel contains antioxidants such as protocatechuic acid and anthocyanins which have been proven to protect the liver from chemically induced peroxidative liver damage. (9), (10), (11)

10. Promotes Healthy Bones

Single cup of sorrel consists of 123 mg of calcium. Sufficient amounts of calcium in your diet help keep your teeth and bones strong and healthy. Calcium is also very important for transmitting messages from your brain to the rest of the body. Calcium deficiency increases the risk of abnormal heartbeat and osteoporosis, so make sure to stock up on sorrel and consume it in controlled portions.

11. Prevents Cancer

The antioxidants in sorrel are effective at seeking out free radicals in the body and neutralizing them before they can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells. Antioxidants have a wide range of effects on the body, but cancer prevention is their most high-profile benefit.

12. Help In Weight Loss

Sorrel leaves are rich in many vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates. They contain a negligible amount of fat and are low in calories. Therefore, sorrel leaves are a good option for health conscious people who want to lose weight.

13. Improves Kidney Health

Sorrel has been shown to have a diuretic effect, mostly when the leaves are dried and consumed within a few days. As a diuretic, sorrel encourages urination, which cleans out the kidneys, taking with it any extra toxins, salts, water, and even a certain percentage of fat.

14. Treat Anemia

Most women become anemic due to lack of nutrition, heavy bleeding during periods or post pregnancy. Sorrel is a good source of iron, sodium, and phosphorus and also contains chlorophyll. It helps in increasing the hemoglobin level in the body and is hence beneficial for people with anemia.

15. Treats Herpes Zoster

Varicella-zoster virus is a persistent virus that causes herpes zoster that can remain dominant for years. Chinese used red sorrel as a topical and oral treatment for herpes zoster and was found to be very effective.

16. Detoxifies the Body

Our bodies need to be detoxified once in a while in order to keep it functioning properly. Herbal teas are good detoxifiers, but so is red sorrel. Red sorrel plays a key role in metabolism and detoxification of xenobiotic, and its juice is known for flushing the body out of toxins.

17. Reduce Cold Sores and Fever Blisters

Cold sores and fever blisters usually occur around the lips and the mouth and the skin around them is sore and painful. Sorrel leaves are rich in flavonoids and oligomeric and polymeric proanthocyanidins that have proven to be helpful in treating cold sores and fever blisters.

18. Prevent Scurvy

Scurvy is a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin C. Sorrel, being rich in vitamin C, prevents and cures this painful condition

19. Treating Dry Hair

Sorrel consists of vitamins like Vitamin A, B and C in high amounts. All these vitamins help in treating dry and damaged hair. They are also good for preventing as well as curing hair fall. You can also use sorrel leaves for treating baldness.

20. Reduces milk flow

Sorrel is very beneficial for women as it has the power to prevent breast cancer. However, doctors recommend that women should avoid consumption of sorrel when they are pregnant and even after it. This is because sorrel has some side effects, which can cause harm to the baby. Another reason why consumption of sorrel should be avoided is that it can reduce the production of breast milk in lactating mothers. But this property of sorrel leaves is of use when the time for weaning comes.

Traditional uses and benefits of Sorrel

  • Leaf juice has a cooling effect and can also be used in snake bite also.
  • Seed is cooling. It is roasted and used in the treatment of dysentery.
  • Juice of the plant is cooling and is useful in treating heat of the stomach, to allay the pain of toothache and, by its astringent properties, to check nausea.
  • Paste of the leaf of Sorrel is kept in the gums and tooth affected with dental caries to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Paste of the leaf of Sorrel is applied over the affected with scorpion bite to relive pain and inflammation.
  • Seeds of Sorrel is roasted and powdered and is taken internally to treat scorpion bite and diarrhea.
  • Decoction of the plant is given in a dose of 30 ml with supernatant layer of curd and juice of pomegranate to treat diarrhea.
  • Leaf juice of Sorrel is slightly warmed and installed into the ears to treat earache.
  • Decoction of the whole plant is given in a dose of 50 ml to treat hepatomegaly and piles.
  • Fresh juice of the leaf of Sorrel is given in a dose of 10 ml to treat vomiting.
  • Rice gruel boiled with Sorrel and Nagakesara is given to treat bleeding piles and diarrhea associated with blood.
  • Bladder Dock is a good herbal cure for Headache. It is effective in curbing problems like Depression, Fatigue, and Weakness.
  • Bladder Dock is useful in combating Respiratory Ailments like Asthma, Bronchitis, and Emphysema.
  • It is effective in combating Stomach Problems like Bloating, Nausea, and Indigestion.
  • Juice made from its leaves is helpful in promoting appetite.
  • It is a good herbal remedy for Jaundice and Hepatitis.
  • Its roasted leaves are consumed for the treatment of Dysentery.
  • It is an advantageous herb for women. It helps in curbing menstrual conditions like Difficult Menses and Excessive Bleeding and is effective in increasing Fertility.
  • Its blend with Red Clover or Dandelion and is an effective cure for Skin Conditions like Acne, Eczema, Boils, and Psoriasis.
  • It was once believed that if the herb was worn as an amulet around the neck it could offer protection against goiter.
  • The herb was regarded to be helpful for rickets in children.
  • Fresh leaves or decoction made from them were also used externally as a compress on wounds (especially burns) and for various skin problems such as rashes, inflammations, and pimples.
  • Leaves were rubbed into the skin as an herbal treatment for scabies.
  • It was also supposed that sorrel could amazingly heal wounds in the mouth and reattach loose teeth.
  • Sorrel seeds and flowers can be eaten, either fresh, boiled in soups or dried for later use.
  • Seeds can be ground into a powder and mixed with ordinary flour.
  • Roots can also be used in cooking, but they are very bitter if they are not first sliced and watered out.

Culinary Uses

  • Leaves are eaten raw or cooked, which have a sour taste.
  • Leaves are used like sorrel as a flavoring in salads or as a spinach.
  • It is used to make a famous drink called Karkade (Popular drink of Egypt).
  • Different parts of this plant are also used to prepare sauces, soups, spices, jams, and medicines.
  • Leaves can be added to sandwiches, rice, pasta, lentils, beans and chickpeas dishes or used as pizza topping, in pastries or omelets.
  • Common sorrel can be also consumed in the form of tea or lemonade-like drink.
  • It is used to make a soup called green borscht in Russia and Ukraine.
  • It is used for soups or with mashed potatoes, or as part of a traditional dish containing eel and other green herbs in Croatia and Bulgaria.
  • In rural Greece, this herb is used with spinach, leeks and chard. 
  • Preserved pureed variety is mixed with mashed potatoes and eaten with sausages, meatballs or fried bacon as a traditional winter dish in Flemish part of Belgium.
  • It is added to lettuce and in salads for Bánh Xēo in Vietnam.
  • It is typically eaten raw in salads or used to make soups in Brazil and Portugal.
  • Leaves are used in soups and curries in India.
  • Leaves are simmered and served cold marinated in olive oil in Albania.

Different methods of using Sorrel Leaves

Sorrel is most commonly used to prepare sauces and soups. Sorrel soup is a famous dish made with eggs, chicken stock, and cream. Its pureed sauce is served with fish. Young, fresh sorrel leaves are also mixed in salads because of their lemon-like taste. In Jamaica, sorrel leaves and flowers are used to make tea, which is served both hot and chilled. It is also mixed with buttermilk or used to prepare smoothies and juices.

Let’s take a look at a few recipes now.

Sorrel Leaves Tea

Sorrel Leaves Tea

Ingredients

  • A handful of sorrel leaves
  • Cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Sweetener of your choice (sugar syrup or honey)

Directions

  1. Boil water and transfer it to a pitcher. Add dried sorrel leaves and spices to the pitcher.
  2. Strain the mixed water after five minutes into a cup and add sweetener. Your hot tea is ready to be served.

Sorrel Leaf Drink – Caribbean Style

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Add sugar, spices, juice, rice, ginger, and four cups of water in a saucepan and let it boil.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the dried sorrel leaves. Cover the mix and let it set for a day.
  3. Strain the mix and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Sorrel Soup

Sorrel Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sorrel leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 chopped sweet onion
  • 5 to 6 small potatoes (cut into chunks)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (your choice)
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishing with an ingredient of your choice (coriander, yogurt or cucumber slices)

Directions

  1. Cut the sorrel leaves in ribbons and place them aside.
  2. Heat the butter on medium flame in a large saucepan.
  3. Add onions and cook until they turn brown.
  4. Add sorrel and potatoes to the pan. Add enough broth to cover the potatoes.
  5. Bring the mix to a boil. Lower the heat and cook till the potatoes are soft and well cooked. This will take you another 15 minutes.
  6. Now, blend half the content into a smooth puree. Repeat until all the content gets pureed.
  7. Transfer it back into the pan and whisk the eggs with a portion of the soup.
  8. Add the egg to the pan and cook till the mix thickens.
  9. Your soup is ready! Add salt and pepper, and garnish with ingredients of your choice.

Sorrel Sauce

Sorrel Sauce

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Chop the shallot finely, and add it into a saucepan with sorrel leaves and wine.
  2. Keep the heat medium while you stir this mixture, because the leaves will start wilting after 2 minutes.
  3. This is when you add cream and lime juice, and boil it for about 12 minutes.
  4. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Puree this mixture in a blender and add salt and white pepper according to your taste.
  6. Your rich and scrumptious sorrel sauce is ready.

Sorrel Pesto

Sorrel Pesto

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Finely chop almonds and garlic or put them into a blender with lemon zest, 1/2 cup oil, and the salt.
  2. Blend the mixture keeping it coarse.
  3. Chop the sorrel leaves very finely and add it to the mixture and mix nicely with a spoon.
  4. You can add parmesan cheese to this mixture to make it more delicious.
  5. Use this sauce to make pasta or pizza, and you’ll love it.

Sorrel, Corn and Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sorrel leaves
  • ½ cup sweet corn
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons refines/all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cold milk
  • 5 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese
  • A pinch of salt, white pepper, and oregano each

Directions

  1. Boil the sweet corn if you are using the raw one, because canned corn is already boiled.
  2. Finely chop the sorrel leaves. Add the garlic in a pan with melted butter on a medium flame, and as soon as it starts to turn golden in color, add the sorrel leaves.
  3. Stir and sauté for 2-3 minutes and add the corn and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the flour and mix it nicely before adding the cold milk.
  5. Keep stirring while the flame is medium, till it thickens to a spread-like consistency.
  6. Once you achieve this consistency, switch off the flame and add the cheese, salt, pepper, and oregano.
  7. Mix the thoroughly and let the mixture cool a little before using it to make a sandwich.
  8. Use your favorite bread and make a sandwich with this filling.

Sorrel Juice

Sorrel Juice

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sorrel Leaves and/or Petals
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 liter of water

Direction

  1. Boil the water with leaves and/or petals and switch off the flame once you see fumes coming out of the water.
  2. Add sugar and honey, and mix until all the sugar dissolves.
  3. Now pour this mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain and chill before serving.

How to choose sorrel

When selecting sorrel, look for smaller leaves which are tenderer. Paler color indicates a milder taste, while larger, darker leaves will have a stronger taste and a somewhat tougher texture. Avoid leaves with holes in them, yellow or brown discoloration as well as wilted leaves. Once harvested, sorrel has a short shelf life of a maximum of 3-4 days. The leaves are best eaten as soon as possible after being picked and should be kept in the refrigerator unwashed until ready to be eaten. They are best consumed in 1-2 days and should always be washed prior to consumption to avoid heavy metals contamination, bacteria or parasites. Also, avoid picking sorrel from the side of the road, former industrial areas or anywhere where there is or was a high level of pollution.

Other Fact

  • Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots of many species in this genus.
  • Juice of fresh sorrel leaves has been used to remove rust, mold and ink stains from linen, wood, wicker baskets and silverware.
  • Ancient Romans used leaves of sorrel to ease thirst when water was not available.
  • Ancient Chinese used juice squeezed from the sorrel for the removal of stains on the linen cloth.
  • Stem and leaves of this plant are used as source of yellowish-brown dye.
  • Large leaves of broad-leaved dock (species of sorrel) were used for wrapping of butter in the past.

Side effects

Sorrel side effects may include the following:

Kidney problems

Because of a high content of oxalic acid, eating too much sorrel can cause toxic effects and affect primarily the kidneys, causing kidney stones and kidney failure. The vegetable is best avoided by children, the elderly and anyone with kidney problems.

Blood clots

Sorrel consists of high amounts of vitamin K which encourages blood clots. While to a healthy person it’s safe to eat in moderate amounts, anyone with a predisposition to blood clots or anticoagulants should avoid sorrel and other leafy green vegetables.

Miscarriage

Sorrel in pregnancy is particularly dangerous because of the plant’s strong purgative properties which may create stomach upset and increase the risk for a miscarriage, especially in early pregnancy.

Birth defects

Oxalic acid in sorrel is believed to hold the potential to cause birth defects, which is why it’s not compulsory to avoid eating excessive amounts of any green leaf vegetable during pregnancy.

Other Side effects

  • Leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies.
  • People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.
  • Due to the presence of oxalic acid, sorrel must not be cooked in aluminum or iron cookware as the acid reaction with the metal makes it toxic and inedible.
  • Consuming high amounts of sorrel can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and liver diseases.
  • People suffering from skin diseases or asthma should avoid sorrel.
  • Sorrel leaves contain oxalic acid which is not suitable in pregnancy, so it is advised that you don’t consume this herb if you are pregnant.
  • It is also not suggested for a lactating mother as it enhances the milk flow. It is not advised until there is a need to increase the milk flow.
  • Even when it is beneficial for people with diabetes, it can be the reason to decrease your blood sugar levels if you are still continuing your diabetes medication. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor if you are adding sorrel in your diet.
  • People with low blood pressure are not recommended to consume sorrel as it reduces blood pressure, so if your blood pressure is already low, it will decrease it even further causing problems.
  • If you have any surgery scheduled within two weeks, it is important that you stop the consumption of sorrel because it complicates the surgery by affecting the blood sugar levels.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=20986#null

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/175297/

https://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rumex+vesicarius

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/116822

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=RUVE8

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-2424478

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorrel

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