Hibiscus sabdariffa


Hibiscus gossypifolius, Hibiscus fraternus, Hibiscus acetosus, Hibiscus digitatus, Sabdariffa rubra, Sabdariffa digitata, Abelmoschus cruentus, Hibiscus sanguineus, Hibiscus palmatilobus, Hibiscus rosella[10]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia Asam Susur, Rosel
English Indian Sorrel, Jamaica Sorrel, Red Sorrel, Roselle, Sorrel

Asam Susur (Melayu), Asam Jarot (Minang), Gamet Walanda (Sunda), Kasturi Roriha (Ternate)


Lou Shen Kui

India Lalambari, Patwa (Hindi)
Thailand Krachiap Daeng
Japan Rohzelu
Arab Karkade
Yemen Kakakad
Brazil Azedinha, Caruru-azedo, Caruru-da-guine, Quibo-azedo, Quiabo-roseo, Quiabo-roxo, Vinagreira (Portuguese)
Netherlands Roselle, Surinamese Zuring
France Oseille de Guinea, Karkade
Germany Afrikanische Malve, Rosella-Eibisch, Karkade, Rama, Roselle, Sudantee
Italy Carcade, Ibisco Fiori, Flor de Jamaica
Portugal  Rosela, Roseta, Caruru Azedo
Russia Gibiskuc Sabdarifa, Rosella
Spain Acedera de Guinea, Agrio de Guinea, Hibisco, Rosa de Jamaica Serene [3][8][9]

General Information


Hibiscus sabdariffa belongs to Malvaceae family. It is an erect, mostly branched, annual shrub. The stems are reddish in colour and measure up to 3.5m tall. The leaves are variable in shape, deeply three or five lobed, lobes oblong to lanceolate. They are dark green to red, alternate, glabrous, long-petiolate, with serrate margins. The flowers are red to yellow with a dark center containing short-peduncles. The flowers have both male and female organs. The fruit is ovoid, pointed, hairy, enclosed by the enlarged, fleshy, acidic calyx. [7][11]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, seeds, root, flower. [1][4]

Chemical Constituents

Cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside; delphinidin-3-O-sambubioside; gossypeptin; glucoside; hibiscin; Hibiscus protocatechuic acid; vitamin A; vitamin C. [9][24][60]

Traditional Used:

H. sabdariffa is a healing tonic for kidney and digestive diseases. The following properties have been attributed to it: antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, digestive, diuretic, purgative and sedative. Based on this it has found use in the treatment of many diseases by traditional practitioners throughout the areas where it could be found. 

Gastrointestinal Diseases

The juice of the calycies called Karkade by the Middle Eastern community is taken to ease indigestion and loss of appetite. Tea made from the calices is a remedy for constipation, abdominal colic and intestinal worm infestation. The seeds and leaves are mild laxatives. 

Respiratory Diseases

The Africans take H. sabdariffa drinks to relieve cold and respiratory inflammation. The leaves and flowers are used in the treatment of bronchitis and cough. The flowers are considered expectorant and are used also to treat nasal catarrh and productive cough. 

Circulatory Diseases

As a diuretic the plant is useful in the treatment of hypertension, oedema and cardiac congestion. The crushed leaves is used to reduce hypertension. The flower is believed to decrease viscosity of blood thus reducing blood pressure and stimulate circulation. 

Urinary Tract Diseases

H. sabdariffa is used as an internal tonic to treat kidney diseases. The diuretic effects of the calices and leaves are used to help ease passage of urine, relieve oedema due to renal disorders, and also treats urinary tract infection. 

Other uses

The leaves are used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like abscesses, carbuncles and infected wounds. It is used in the form of a poultice. The heated leaves are applied to the heel to help heal cracked skin. The flowers helps to clear the body of alcohol. [1][2][4][5][6][9]

Pre-Clinical Data


Uricosuric and antilithiasis activity

Patients given twice daily H. sabdariffa calices tea showed increased excretion of oxalates and citrates (in non-renal stone and renal stone groups) and uric acid (in renal stone group). There was increased uric acid excretion and clearance observed in the renal stone group and this returned to baseline values in the washout period. It is evident that the tea has uricosuric activity. In another study it was found that H. sabdariffa significantly decreased serum oxalate and glycolate and caused significant excretion of oxalates in rats. Histological examination showed less calcium oxalate crystal deposition in the kidneys. [12][13] 

Delayed puberty activity

A number of studies on rats had shown that consumption of H. sabdariffa extracts during pregnancy and lactation has resulted in increases postnatal weight gain, delayed onset of puberty and elevated body mass index at onset of puberty in the offsprings. [14-16] It was found that dams given Hibiscus sabdriffa extract during lactation caused decreased maternal fluid and food intake with increased maternal Na+ and corticosterone concentration. The accelerated growth and delayed puberty observed in their offsrpings could be due to the increased corticosterone and decreased leptin delivery through breast milk. [17] 

Antihypertensive activity

H. sabdariffa has been used traditionally to treat hypertension especially amongst people of Africa and South Asia. Studies done on various animal models had shown that extracts of the calyx indeed reduced both the systolic and diastolic pressures. [18-25] It was found that the antihypertensive activity was due to vasodilatation effects on arterial vessels. This is mediated via inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzymesand via acetylcholine-like and histamine-like mechanism as well as direct vaso-relaxant effect. A number of bioactive compounds in the anthocyanin group had been identified to be responsible for the ACE inhibition and they include delphinidin-3-O-sambubioside and cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside. [18][24][25] 

Antioxidant activity

A number of studies both in vitro and in vivo had shown that extracts of the calyx of H. sabdariffa has a potent antioxidant activity. [41-43]  This potent antioxidation formed the basis of many of the other healing activities of the calyx including hepatoprotective and nephroprotective activities. Amongst the compound proven to have this antioxidant activity include the polyphenols in particular the anthocyanins and protocatechuic acid. [32-40] 

Hepatoprotective activity

Extracts of H. sabdariffa has been shown to have a significant hepatoprotective activityagainst hepatic toxins including carbon tetrachloride, acetaminophen, lipopolysaccharide, ter-butylhydroperoxide and irradiation. [32-40] This is effected through its strong antioxidant activity which reduces cellular damage through reduction of oxidative stress. The anthocyanin compounds in the plant seem to be the ones responsible for this effect. [37] Protocatechuic acid is another compound identified to have this effect. [32][36] 

Nephroprotective activity

Two studies were reported on the nephroprotective activity of extracts of H. sabdariffa on diabetic nephropathy models in rats. [44][45] It was found that the extract could reduce kidney mass induced by STZ significantly, and improved oedematous changes in renal proximal tubules. There was an upregulation of Akt/Bad/14-3-3 gamma and NF-kappaB-mediated transcription. These studies showed that the extract ameliorate diabetic nephropathy via improvinf oxidative status and regulating Akt/Bad/14-3-3gamma signaling. 

Lipid metabolism activity

Studies have shown that the aqueous extract of H. sabdariffa has lipid lowering activity and prevents atheroscelrosis. [46-56] The extract was able to reduce levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c). In addition to this it also showed ability to reduce foam cell formation, inhibit smooth muscle cell migration and calcification in the blood vessels of rabbits. This is effected through antioxidant activity against LDL oxidation and a hypolipidemic effects. The content of polyphenols and flavanols in both the leaves and calyx had been implicated as the compounds responsible for these effects. [53] 

Antiobesity activity

It was reported that extract of calyx of H. sabdariffa was able to reduce the body weight gain in obese mice while at the same time increased liquid intake in healthy and obese mice. [58] This is achieved probably through the modulation of PI3-K/Akt and ERK pathway that play pivotal roles during adipogenesis. [59] 

Anticancer activity

The calyx of H. sabdariffa is rich in polyphenols which have been found to have antioxidant properties. Amongst these polyphenols is Hibiscus protocatechuic acid which has been found to have the ability to inhibit 12-O-tetradecanolyphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced skin tumour formation in CD1-mice and inhibit the survival of human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells. [60][61] Protocatechuic acid caused DNA fragmentation and morphological changes characteristic of apoptosis. Cytometric analysis of the DNA showed that the cells were distributed mainly in the hypodiploid phase (46.7%), less in G(1) (34.2%, and S phase (14%), and few in the G(2)/M phase (5.1%). The RB phosphorylation and Bcl-2 protein is believed to play a crucial role in this early stage. [61] Similar effects were seen in Human Gastric Carcinoma cells and the investigators suggested that this may be mediated via p53 signaling and p38 MAPK/Fasl cascade pathway. [62][63] Delphinidin-3-sambubiosied is another compound isolated from the calyx proved to have almost similar effects as protocatechuic acid on human leukemia cells. [64] 

Anti-inflammatory activity

The presence of flavanoids, polysaccharides and organic acids has been implicated to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory activity of H. sabdariffa. [65] These polyphenols probably act by down-regulating cyclo-oxygenase-2, p-c-Jun N-terminal kinase (p-JNK) and p-P38. [66] There is also the believe that a direct inhibition of inflammatory and/or metabolic pathways responsible for MCP-1 production could be responsible for the anti-inflammatory activity. [67]



No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

Five clinical trials were carried out to show the effects extracts of H. sabdariffa in hypertensive patients. [26-30] Their results were encouraging but more studies need to be done before it could be recommended for use in the treatment of primary hypertension in adults. [31] 

The effects of H. sabdariffa extract on patients with metabolic syndrome were studied. It was found that in patients given the extracts alone there was a significant reduction in glucose and total cholesterol, increase in HDL-c levels and improved TAG/HDL-c ratio (marker for insulin resistance). [57]

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation.

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

It is rather disturbing to note that several investigators found that in animal models the consumption of water extract of calyx of H. sabdariffa during pregnancy and lactation could cause delayed puberty and accelerated growth. While this may not happen in humans it would be wise that pregnant and lactating mothers avoid or minimize the consumption of roselle tea. [14-16]

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation.


No documentation.

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation.


Interactions with drugs

No documentation.

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation.



No documentation.

Case Reports

No documentation.

Read More

1) Botanical info

2) Cultivation

3) Western Herbs


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