Hibiscus sabdariffa L.

Last updated: 2015 Dec 15

Scientific Name

Hibiscus sabdariffa L.


Abelmoschus cruentus (Bertol.) Walp., Furcaria sabdariffa Ulbr., Hibiscus acetosus Noronha, Hibiscus cruentus Bertol., Hibiscus fraternus L., Hibiscus gossypifolius Mill., Hibiscus palmatilobus Baill., Hibiscus sanguineus Griff., Hibiscus subdariffa Rott., Sabdariffa rubra Kostel. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Asam susur, gamet [2][3]
English Roselle, red serrel, guinea sorrel, hibiscus, Indian sorrel, Jamaica, Jamaica sorrel, Jamaican sorrel, karkadé, red sorrel, roselle, roselle of Rama, sorrel, sour-sour [2][3]
China Lou shen kui [4]
India Lalambari, patwa (Hindi); ambasthaki, ambodi, bilee [2][4]
Indonesia Gamet walanda, kasturi roriha, walanda (Sundanese) [2][3]
Thailand Kachieb priew, khen, krachiap, krachiap-daeng, krachiap-prieo, phak king kheng, phakkengkheng, som keng, som taleng khreng(tak), som unu [2][3][4]
Laos Sômz ph’oox dii [2]
Philippines Kubab, roselle, talingisag [2]
Cambodia Slök chuu [2]
Vietnam B[uj]p gi[aas]m, day nh[aaj]t [2]
Japan Rozeri-sô [2]
Saudi Arabia Karkade [4]
Yemen Kakakad [4]
Brazil Azedinha, caruru-azedo, caruru-da-guine, quibo-azedo, quiabo-roseo, quiabo-roxo, vinagreira (Portuguese) [4]
Central African Republic Kopko, zima, zima mbele [2]
Southern Africa Ufuta, ufuta dume [2]
West Africa Kapan thorr, salui, satoi, sorel, sour sour [2]
Nigeria Adef, amukan, barekata, isapa, isapa funfun, yakuwa, zo’barodo, zobo [2]
France Oseille de Guinea, karkade [4]
Netherlands Roselle, Surinamese zuring [4]
Germany Afrikanische malve, rosella-eibisch, karkade, rama, roselle, sudantee [4]
Italy Carcade, ibisco fiori, flor de Jamaica [4]
Spain Acedera, de Guinea, Agrio de Guinea, hibisco, Rosa de Jamaica sereni [4]
Portugal Rosela, roseta, caruru azedo [4]
Russia Gibiskuc sabdarifa, rosella [4].

Geographical Distributions

H. sabdariffa probably originates from Africa, where it may have been domesticated in Sudan about 6000 years ago, first for its seed and later for leaf and calyx production. In the 17th century vegetable types were introduced to India and the Americans. Selection for fibre production took place in Asia, where cultivation is reported from the beginning of the 20th century, e.g. in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Java. Roselle is now found throughout the tropics. In tropical Africa it is especially common in the savanna region of West and Central Africa. It is often found as an escape from cultivation. However, apparently truly wild plants of H. sabdariffa have been collected in Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Angola. [5]

Botanical Description

H. sabdariffa belongs to Malvaceae family. It is a large annual herb up to 4.5 m tall. The stem is glabrous to sparsely pubescent, sometimes sparsely prickly, green or reddish. [5]

The leaves are alternate, simple; stipules narrowly lanceolate to linear, up to 1.5 cm long; petiole 0.5-12 cm long; blade shallowly to deeply palmately 3-5(-7)-lobed, sometimes undivided, up to 15 cm x 15 cm, margin toothed, glabrous or sparsely pubescent, sometimes with a few prickles on midrib, palmately veined, with a distinct nectary at base of midrib. [5]

The flowers aresolitary in leaf axils, bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel up to 2 cm long, articulate, epicalyx segments 8-12, united at base, subulate to triangular, free part 0.5-2 cm long. The calyx campanulate, up to 5.5 cm long, becoming fleshy in fruit, lobes nearly glabrous to hispid hairy, with a nectary outside; petals free, obovate, up to 5 cm x 3.5 cm, pale yellow or pale pink, often with dark red-purple centre; stamens numerous, united into a column up to 2 cm long, pink; ovary superior, 5-celled, style with 5 branches; calyces and epicalyces fleshy, dry, easily fragmented. [5][6]

The fruits are ovoid capsule up to 2.5 cm long, almost glabrous to appressed-pubescent, enclosed by the calyx, many-seeded. [5]

The seeds are reniform, up to 7 mm long, dark brown; seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons rounded, up to 2.5 cm x 3 cm. [5]


Soil Suitability and Climate Requirement

In Malaysia, H. sabdariffa or known as ‘rosel’ grows well on most soils from sandy loam to sandy bris or other soils with good drainage. However, it is not suitable on clayey or poorly drained soils. The plant is not suitable for wet season planting since diseases easily infest it. [7][8]

Field Preparation

Land Preparation

Normal operation such as land clearing, disc ploughing and rotovation are conducted. If the soil is acidic (pH is less than 5.5), liming using Ground Magnesium Limestone (GML) at the rate of 2-4 t/ha is done at least two weeks before planting. Field drainage system also needs to be established to avoid waterlogged problem after heavy rain. [7][8]

Production of Planting Materials

H. sabdariffa is propagated by seeds as the seeds can be easily obtained from mature fruits. The collected seeds are usually used for the immediate season planting since seed quality easily deteriorates with storage. Prior to planting, seeds are sown in seedling trays. After 14 days, the seedlings (15-20 cm tall) are ready for field planting.[7][8]

Field Planting

In areas where flash flood is pertinent, planting is done on raised beds. H. sabdariffa seedlings are planted at a distance of 150 cm between rows and  60 cm within row which is equivalent to 11,110 plants/ha. Large scale planting can be mechanised. [7][8]



Figure 1: Planting ofH. sabdariffa by transplanter.



Figure 2: Fruiting H. sabdariffa crops on bris sandy soil.

Field maintenance


For sandy bris soils, organic fertiliser or soil amendment such as chicken manure at 10-20 t/ha or POME at 20-40 t/ha are used to improve soil fertility. For mineral soils, only half of the rates are recommended. The fertiliser is applied and mixed into the soil 5-7 days before planting Inorganic fertiliser at 350 kg/ha (NPK=15:15:15) is given at the early growth stage. While at the flowering stage onward, the rate is 1,200 kg/ha (NPK=12:12:17:2). The rate of inorganic fertiliser is reduced by 10-30% for mineral soils. [7][8]

Weed Control

Weed problem can be overcome by using pre-emergence herbicide at planting. Then after 40 days or as the plants are tall, it is followed by a single round of roto-tillage operation. Later on, the weed is controlled by careful sprays of contact herbicide. [7][8]

Water management

A supplementary irrigation system is needed to provide optimum water supply to the crop throughout the growing period. Sprinkler or rain-gun irrigation system is suitable to be used on ‘rosel’ crop. Excessive irrigation must be avoided to avoid disease problem and to minimise nutrient losses as well. [7][8]

Pest and Disease Control

Green plant hoppers (Nephotettix sp.) and stink bugs (Dysdercus cingulatus) are the main pests for H. sabdariffa crop. The pests are controlled by spraying insecticides such as imidacloprid or deltamethrin. On the other hand, Coneilla musaiaensis and Phoma sp. are the main diseases, and can be controlled by spraying fungicides such as carbendazim or mancozeb. These diseases are only serious when the crop condition is hot and wet. [7][8]


Harvesting of H. sabdariffa fruits is done 6-9 times with 7-10 days intervals beginning at 70 days until 140 days after planting. The fruits are plucked individually and only full-grown fruits are harvested. At this stage, the calyces are still tender and the seeds inside the seed pods are still whitish in colour. Harvesting operation is done manually and very labour intensive. The fresh fruit yield is 12-25 t/ha depending on soil types and cropping seasons. [7][8][9][10]


Figure 3: Harvesting of the H. sabdariffa fruits by using scattier.

Postharvest handling

To ensure freshness and good quality, harvesting is done in the morning. Fruit injury and contamination of foreign materials are strictly avoided. While in the field, the harvested fruits must always be kept under shade. The fruits are quickly sent to collection centre for further operations such as washing, grading, removing seed pod and storing in cool storage rooms awaiting processing. [7][8]



Figure 4: Separation of seedpod from the calyx

Estimated cost of production

The total production cost for a H. sabdariffa crop is estimated at RM 10,800/ha. It is made up of RM 5,260 for agricultural inputs, RM 4,200 for labour, RM 360 for contract and RM 980 for other costs. Thus, the production cost for a 16 t/ha of fresh fruit yield is RM 0.70/kg. The production cost was estimated based on the cost of current inputs during writing of this article. [7][8]

Chemical Constituent

Methanol extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes have been reported to contain hexadecanoic acid methyl ester and 1,1,2-ethanetricarboxylic acid-1-hydroxy-1,1-dimethyl ester. [11]

Methanol extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes have been reported to contain glycoside, alkaloid, flavonoid and phenol. [12]

Aqueous extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes have been reported to contain glycoside and steroid. [12]

Ethanol extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes have been reported to contain glycoside, alkaloid and flavonoid. [12]

Petroleum ether extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes have been reported to contain glucoside and tannin.

Ethyl acetate extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes have been reported to contain glucoside and tannin. [12]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, young shoots, calyxes. [13]

Traditional Use

Traditionally, the whole plant and calyx is diuretic, tonic and antiscorbutic in decoction. Meanwhile, the leaves are emollient and a poultice is used on abscesses and ulcers. [13]

Preclinical Data


Protective effect of diabetic nephropathy

Polyphenol isolated from methanol extract of H. sabdariffa dried flower (200 mg/kg) was administered orally to streptozotocin-induced diabetic male Sprague Dawley rats daily for a duration of 8 weeks. The extract showed high levels of creatinine and albumin with low level of blood urea nitrogen. The histological examination also showed lower hydropic change of renal proximal convoluted tubules in the rats. The levels of catalase and glutathione were increased whilst the levels of malondialdehyde and lipid peroxidation were lowered in the induced rats. [14]

Antioxidant activity

Anthocyanins of ethanol extracts of H. sabdariffa dried flower (0.50 mg/mL) showed antioxidant activity with 1, 1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity with inhibition concentration at 50% (IC50) of 0.02 mg/mL. Whilst the lipid peroxidation which induced by tert-butylhydroperoxide (up to 0.20 mg/mL) on hepatocytes (pre-treated with the same extract) was significantly being inhibited (lowered concentration of malondialdehyde, p≤0.01). [15]

Ethanol extract of H. sabdariffa calyces (0.05 mL) showed antioxidant activity with inhibition of lipid peroxidation (71.3 %) compared to curcumin (46.69%) using thiobarbituric acid (TBA) assay. [16]

Hepatoprotective activity

Anthocyanins extracted from H. sabdariffa dried flower (100 and 200 mg/kg) was administered orally to male Sprague Dawley rats (200 ± 10 g) before treated with tert-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BHP). The extract showed significant (p<0.05) decreased in hepatotoxicity activity after five days of treatments. [15]

Anticholesterol activity

Hot aqueous extract of H. sabdariffa flower (1% w/v extract) administered orally to males New Zealand White rabbits daily for 10 weeks showed decreased in the level of serum cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoprotein-cholesterol. [17]

Polyphenol from methanol extract of H. sabdariffa dried flower (00 mg/kg) administered orally to streptozotocin-induced diabetic male Sprague Dawley rats daily for 8 weeks showed decreased in the serum levels of lipid such as total cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoprotein-cholesterol. [14]

Antimicrobial activity

Methanol extract of H. sabdariffa calyces inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus with minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 0.30 ± 0.2 mg/ml, Bacillus stearothermophilus (0.63 ± 0.2), Micrococcus luteus (0.30 ± 0.2), Serratia mascences (0.30 ± 0.4), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (1.30 ± 0.2), Clostridium sporogenes (1.30 ± 0.2), Escherichia coli (1.30 ± 0.2), Klebseilla pneumoniae (0.30 ± 0.2) and Bacillus cereus (0.30 ± 0.2) using disc-diffusion assay. [18]

Brine shrimp lethality toxicity

Methanol extract of H. sabdariffa calyces (1000 µg/mL) showed toxicity effect on brine shrimp with lethal dose at 50% (LD50) of 55.7 ± 4.02 ppm. [18]


Acute toxicity

Aqueous extract of H. sabdariffa dried calyces administered orally to female Sprague Dawley rats (aged between 8 and 12 weeks old) showed no toxic effect on the parameters observed which includes behaviours, body weight, food and water intakes. All rats were observed for 14 days prior to necropsy. No death was found throughout the study period. Necropsy revealed no significant abnormality. LD50 > 2000 mg/kg. [19]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

In a human clinical trial, 10 healthy hospital staffs (5 adult per gender, aged 23-50 years) were ingested a single dose of 10 g of freeze-dried water extract of H. sabdariffa before measured levels of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) in the plasma specimen and collected their venous bloods and plasma specimens at 0, 1.5, and 3 hour after consumption of the extract. Results showed some anti-oxidant activity in plasma. Whilst the levels of interleukin-6 and interleukin-8 remained low but level of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 in each subject was decreased. [20]

A study of 36 healthy male Thai medical students (aged 20-30 years) who consumed daily 16-24 g/day of H. sabdariffa juice for seven days showed a decreased excretion of salts in urine such as creatinine, uric acid, citrate, tartrate, calcium, sodium, potassium and phosphate, except oxalate. [21]


Caution use in individuals on diuretics, renally excreted medications, and/or narrow-therapeutic medications (such as digoxin, theophylline and phenytoin), as H. sabdariffa extracts have been reported to have a natriuretic effect. [22]

Side effects

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation

Interaction with drug

No documentation

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation


No documentation

Case Report

No documentation


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 5: The line drawing of H. sabdariffa


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