Sorrel: The Tangy Flavour Leaf with Multiple Health Benefits

Sorrel: The Tangy Flavour Leaf with Multiple Health Benefits

Sorrel is also known as spinach dock. It is a tart flavoured leaf that has numerous medicinal properties because it is a rich source of several nutrients and vitamins. Besides many macronutrients and micronutrients, it is a good source of protein. As a result, sorrel leaves can be a part of various healthy meals and diets. For example, you can use them as a herb or dressing in salads and soups. In addition, the sorrel leaves with a lemony sour flavour are healthy for use as a vegetable and a flavouring.

Sorrel leaves provide various health benefits. For example, they help maintain a healthy heart and healthy skin. In addition, the leaf detoxifies the body and removes all the toxins from the body. People also use sorrel to relieve acute and chronic discomfort and swelling (inflammation) of the nasal passages and respiratory system. Furthermore, it helps treat bacterial infections when combined with other medications and improves urine flow (as a diuretic). 

Essiac, a herbal cancer therapy, contains sorrel as well. In addition, sorrel’s oral consumption can help maintain healthy sinuses and cure sinusitis when combined with gentian root, European elder flower, verbena, and cowslip flower. 

Types of Sorrel

There are wide varieties of Sorrel available in the market. Some of them are as follows:

Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) 

It is the one most readily available sorrel at markets. This is a deep-rooted perennial that lasts for years and years if stored in favourable environments. It has a sharp flavour and large, arrow-shaped leaves.

French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) 

It is not as easily available in the market due to less cultivation. French sorrel has a milder flavour than common sorrel, with smaller and more rounded leaves.

Red-veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus)

As the name suggests, it has deep red veins running through its leaves. It has a very mild, almost un-sorrel-like flavour with very little of the tartness usually associated with this plant. It stands out in a salad due to its colour and taste.

Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) 

Sheep’s sorrel grows wild in many parts of the United States. It is as sour as common sorrel but with smaller leaves.

Nutritional Value of Sorrel

According to USDA, 100g serving of sorrel contains:

  • Energy: 22 kcal
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Water: 93 g
  • Fat: 0.7 g
  • Carbohydrate: 3.2 g
  • Fibre: 2.9 g
  • Calcium: 44 mg
  • Iron: 2.4 mg
  • Magnesium: 103 mg
  • Phosphorus: 63 mg
  • Potassium: 390 mg
  • Vitamin C: 48 mg
  • Vitamin A: 4000 IU

The HealthifyMe Note

Sorrel is a nutrient-dense plant. It’s high in fibre and minerals like magnesium and vitamins C and A. It is also a low-calorie leaf with various health benefits. Sorrel leaves also contain other essential vitamins like vitamin A, which is healthy for your eyes. 

Health Benefits of Sorrel

Supports Heart Health

According to animal studies, sorrel may enhance numerous aspects of heart health. For example, a study shows that sorrel affects specific pathways involved in platelet aggregation. It is a process by which platelets in your blood clump together. Although the study is on rats, it shows a reduction in the development of blood clots.

Other animal studies show that sorrel helps widen blood arteries and lower blood pressure. Finally, sorrel is high in fibre and antioxidants, both beneficial to heart health. Human research on sorrel and heart health, however, is sparse. Therefore, more study is needed to determine the effect of this green on human heart health.

Rich in Antioxidants

Sorrel is an excellent source of antioxidants. The compounds present in sorrel protect your cells from damage by neutralising harmful free radicals. Antioxidants such as glutathione, thioredoxin, ascorbic acid, and enzymes counter oxidative stress and protect lipids, proteins, and DNA. Antioxidants such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, flavonoids, and amino acids are also natural antioxidants in sorrel. These antioxidants scavenge free radical and non-radical oxidants to prevent oxidative stress and damage.

Studies show that antioxidants help cure diseases like cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, etc. One study compared ten plants based on their antioxidant properties and found that red sorrel has the highest number of antioxidants. Another study showed that sorrel fights harmful free radicals. Sorrel is used to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Improves Eyesight

Sorrel contains vitamin A, which is essential for keeping your eyes healthy. Studies show that vitamin A in green leafy vegetables can help improve eyesight. In addition, it helps reduce macular degeneration and cataracts. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, acts as an antioxidant. Combined with the other important antioxidant compounds in the body, it enhances eye health, especially night vision, and prevents age-related degradation.

Detoxifying Agent

As Sorrel consists of vitamin C, its consumption can remove toxins from the body. Furthermore, the flavonoids and antioxidants in the sorrel act as purgatives and diuretics. Therefore, it aids in the elimination of toxic poisons from the body. 

Protocatechuic acid, found in sorrel leaves, assists in bodily detoxification. Therefore, people use sorrel tea and sorrel-infused water to aid body cleansing.

Reduces Blood Pressure

Sorrel has a significant amount of potassium which can help maintain good heart health. Potassium is a vasodilator. You can consume potassium-rich foods to maintain a fluid balance throughout the body. It reduces blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels and arteries. Lowering blood pressure reduces the chance of cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, Coronary Artery Heart Disease, stroke, etc.

Improves Digestive Health

The high fibre content found in all sorrel species can improve your digestive health. Dietary fibre adds bulk to your food and helps it move through the digestive tract. Therefore, it helps to improve gastrointestinal health and reduces disorders like constipation, indigestion, acidity, bloating, cramping, etc.

Prevents Iron Deficiency

With 2.4 mg of iron per hundred grams, sorrel is a good source of iron. Iron boosts the production of red blood cells and prevents anaemia. 

Red Blood Cells are responsible for transporting oxygen molecules from the lungs to other body parts. Iron is necessary for their production. An increase in the circulation of blood causes an increase in hair growth, increased healing process, etc.

Helps Soothe the Skin and Cure Skin Infections

Sorrel contains vitamin C, which is essential for skin health. It reduces the itchiness of the skin and clears the skin. The liquid extracts by grounding sorrel leaves can be applied topically to the infected area to reduce rashes and irritation. In addition, it is soothing for the skin due to the presence of vitamin C and A.

Sorrel leaves play an important role in treating various skin infections. The abundance of antioxidants in the potent herb is highly effective in removing harmful free radicals from the body. Furthermore, it is antipruritic in nature. Hence, it alleviates the itching sensation caused due to allergic conditions like eczema, scabies, patchy skin, acne, sunburn, etc. 

Several studies have shown that sorrel has potent antibacterial properties, so they are extensively used for removing bacteria from the body. Its bioactive compounds like flavonoids, naphthalenes, and anthraquinones prevent worm infestation, treat wounds, and improve healing. A paste of the sorrel leaves over an insect bite or any skin infection can be applied to relieve pain and inflammation and reduce redness and itching.

May Prevent Cancer

Sorrel is a healthy source of antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage caused by oxidative stress. Unfortunately, these free radicals are responsible for the growth and development of cancer cells. Sorrel’s antioxidant properties can potentially prevent radical damage and protect against cancer-causing free radical damage.

Although human research is sparse, certain test-tube and animal studies have discovered that sorrel can inhibit the development and spread of cancer cells. For example, in a test tube research, several kinds of sorrel destroyed breast, cervical, and skin cancer cells. However, more research is needed to discover how sorrel consumption as part of a balanced diet affects cancer development in people.

The HealthifyMe Note

Sorrel has a rich nutritional profile, making it a healthy leaf. It is one of the reasons that people use sorrel for medicinal purposes as well. The low-calorie vegetable contains multiple nutrients and minerals. An essential vitamin in sorrel is vitamin C, which fights inflammation, boosts your immunity, and helps stabilise blood sugar levels. Sorrel also contains magnesium, which is good for bone and the heart.

Sorrel Recipes 

Although sorrel has a unique tart taste, you can enjoy it as a salad or herb in salad dressings and soups. Here are some of the recipes you can try.

Lentil Salad with Sorrel & Asparagus

Ingredients

  • Green lentils: 1 cup
  • Fresh sorrel: 2 cups
  • Cup parsley: ⅔ cup
  • Mint: A small handful (30 g)
  • Olive oil: ½ cup
  • Red wine vinegar: 2 tbsp
  • Clove: 1
  • Garlic: 1
  • Coarse salt and pepper: As per taste
  • Honey or agave: 1 tbsp
  • Asparagus: 1
  • Goat feta: 1 cup

Directions

  • Wash the lentils in cold water and boil them in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentil holds its shape.
  • While the lentils cook, Add sorrel, herbs, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and honey in a food processor. Blend it until it becomes smooth.
  • Boil water and add salt to it. Then, boil asparagus for a few minutes. Strain under water to cool for a minute.
  • Pour the lovely green dressing over warm lentils.
  • Add the cooked asparagus and toss.
  • Sprinkle with feta and serve warm.

Green Sorrel Soup Recipe

You can prepare sorrel soup from fresh sorrel leaves and natural seasonings. It is healthy!

Ingredients

  • Sorrel leaves: 1 bunch (100 g)
  • Medium onion: 1
  • Large garlic clove: 2
  • Medium potato: 1
  • Carrot: 1
  • Celery root: 48 g
  • Leek 20 g
  • Butter or olive oil: 1 tbsp
  • Water: 2 ½ cups
  • Black pepper: ¼ tbsp
  • Grated nutmeg: A pinch 
  • Turmeric ground: ½ tsp
  • Salt: As per taste

Directions

  • Rinse the fresh sorrel leaves, onion, garlic, carrot, and celery.
  • Slice the onion and chop the garlic. Peel the potato, carrot, leek, and celery.
  • Dice the Potato, slice the carrot and celery, and cut the leek and sorrel into fine strips.
  • Add the butter to the pan, fry the translucent onions and continue adding the garlic. Fry for 3 min on medium heat.
  • Add the other veggies, carrot, potato, celery, and leeks, and mix and fry for a minute.
  • Add the cut sorrel leaves and stir-fry for 2-3 min on medium to slow heat. The sorrel will lose some of its green colours and turn brown.
  • Season the veg mix with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and turmeric.
  • Pour the water and let it boil for 2 minutes.

Storage and Safety

  • If you’re going to use it within a day or two, wrap the sorrel leaves in plastic and store them in the refrigerator. 
  • For more extended storage, rinse it clean, pat it dry, and roll the leaves up in paper towels before putting them in the plastic. Otherwise, they may rot. The paper towels will soak up all the excess liquid and keep the leaves at once dry but in a damp-enough environment. 
  • Like most fresh herbs, sorrel can also be frozen, although the texture may change when you freeze it. There are a couple of freezing methods. You can chop the leaves and place them into sections of an ice cube tray, then fill it with water to freeze, or place them in a bag and remove the extra air, so it is vacuum sealed before placing it in the freezer.

Precautions and Things to Keep in Mind

Allergy

While there are no known adverse responses to sorrel, any food might trigger an allergic reaction. Hives, vomiting, teary eyes, sneezing, and breathing problems are common food allergy symptoms. If you think you might have a food allergy, consult your doctor for an assessment and diagnosis.

Kidney Stones

Sorrel includes oxalate, a common plant chemical that can prevent minerals like calcium from being absorbed. Unfortunately, both calcium and oxalate can bind together. As a result, it might lead to the development of calcium oxalate kidney stones. These stones are hard mineral deposits in the kidneys that cause discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. To help avoid calcium oxalate kidney stones, instead of eliminating oxalate-rich foods like sorrel from your diet, consider increasing your calcium intake, limiting your salt intake, and drinking lots of water.

Conclusion

Sorrel is a high-fibre, low-fat source of carbohydrates and protein and a good source of other nutrients. Vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and iron are all abundant in sorrel. In addition, potassium, manganese, and B vitamins are also present, along with antioxidants. As a result, sorrel consumption can potentially improve heart health and slow the development of cancer cells. 

Sorrel is a versatile ingredient that you can use in various dishes, including soups, stews, salads, dressings, and sauces. However, sorrel can cause allergic reactions in certain persons. It also includes oxalate, which can interfere with calcium absorption and lead to kidney stone development.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is sorrel good for?

A. Sorrel is a nutrient-rich green leafy vegetable that offers several health benefits. Sorrel can be effective for people who are suffering from heart disorders. It may also help people suffering from skin disorders. Since sorrel is rich in vitamin C, it helps boost immunity and detoxifies the body. In addition, the vitamin A in sorrel can help improve your eyesight. Furthermore, the antioxidants in sorrel may help prevent cancer.

Q. Can you drink sorrel every day?

A. Sorrel contains a significant amount of oxalic acid, which may concentrate urine and form crystals. These oxalate crystals bind with the calcium ions present in the body and may accumulate on the interior surface of the kidney. Hence, an excessive intake of sorrel or drinking every day may lead to severe concerns or kidney damage, like the formation of kidney stones.

Q. What are the side effects of sorrel?

A. Although there are no significant side effects, people with food allergies should be careful and consult a doctor if they observe food allergy symptoms. In addition, excessive consumption can harm the kidney and lead to the formation of kidney stones. 

Q. Is sorrel a detox?

A. Sorrel can be used as a detoxifying food as it is rich in vitamin C. Sorrel is an excellent diuretic and purgative since it contains flavonoids and other antioxidants. This aids in the elimination of toxic poisons from the body. Protocatechuic acid, found in sorrel leaves, assists in bodily detoxification. Sorrel tea and sorrel-infused water help cleanse the body.

Q. How much sorrel can you eat?

A. The recommended dosage of sorrel is around ½ cup of sorrel leaves, which provides about half of your daily vitamin C and vitamin A needs. It is also rich in potassium and magnesium. However, remember that excess consumption of sorrel can lead to side effects.

Q. Does sorrel have vitamin C?

A. Yes, sorrel is a rich source of vitamin C. According to USDA, a 100g serving of sorrel contains 48 mg of vitamin C. Due to its high vitamin C content, sorrel can help detoxify the body and help improve skin health. It also boosts immunity and benefits overall health. 

Q. How long is sorrel drink good for?

A. Sorrel drinks taste best after three days. After that, you can refrigerate it for a year. However, you should only consume ½ cup daily to fulfil your daily vitamin A and C requirements. Excessive consumption may lead to kidney failure.

Q. Is sorrel the same as hibiscus?

A. Sorrel and hibiscus are different. Usually, sorrel is a herb or a vegetable. However, Sorrel is referred to as the Hibiscus flower in the Caribbean. But, unlike hibiscus, sorrel has a tart-like or lemon-like taste, differentiating it from hibiscus.

Q. Is sorrel good for kidneys?

A. In moderation, sorrel is beneficial for the kidney as it is a detoxifying food. However, excess consumption can harm the kidneys. It is because sorrel contains oxalate that absorbs minerals like calcium. Calcium and oxalate can bind together to develop kidney stones. 

Q. Can I eat sorrel stems?

A. Yes, you can eat sorrel stems. However, it is essential to cook them adequately in the same way as rhubarb. 

Q. Is sorrel good for iron deficiency?

A. Sorrel is a healthy source of iron since it promotes red blood cell formation and prevents anaemia. Red Blood Cells transport oxygen to other body parts. An iron deficiency can hamper RBC production, leading to anaemia. However, since sorrel contains iron, it can prevent such issues. 

Q. Is sorrel good for acid reflux?

A. No research supports sorrel consumption for acid reflux. Although sorrel is healthy for indigestion, it does not have acid reflux preventing properties. In addition, it is abundant in oxalic acid, the primary component of kidney stones. So, if you are prone to these stones, you may need to avoid sorrel. Also, consult your doctor for advice on this. 

Q. Does sorrel cause constipation?

A. No. Instead, sorrel can relieve constipation because of its high fibre content. Dietary fibre adds bulk to food and helps move through the digestive tract. As a result, it helps to improve gastrointestinal health and reduces disorders like constipation, indigestion, acidity, bloating, cramping, etc.

Q. Is sorrel high in potassium?

A. Although it is not the best source of potassium, sorrel is pretty abundant in potassium. One hundred grams of sorrel contains 390 mg of potassium, making sorrel a potassium-rich green. 

Q. Is sorrel acidic or alkaline?

A. Sorrel contains a high amount of vitamin C, making it acidic. In addition, it contains oxalic acid. Hence, it is safe to say that sorrel is acidic.

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