Nutrients, Benefits, Downsides, and Recipes

Also referred to as spinach dock, sorrel is a plant known for its tart taste and powerful health benefits.

This vibrant leafy green and its fruit are used to add a sharp, citrusy flavor to soups, sauces, salads, and beverages. Certain varieties are also used to make herbal teas, tinctures, and supplements.

This article explores some of the benefits, downsides, and uses of sorrel.

Sorrel is a type of leafy green used as an herb and a vegetable.

It’s cultivated in Europe, Central Asia, and certain parts of North America, Australia, and New Zealand (1).

It has a sour, lemon-like flavor and is often featured in dishes like soups, stews, and curries. It’s also used medicinally, as it’s touted to promote healthy digestion, decrease inflammation, and treat mouth ulcers.

The two most commonly grown types are known as French and common sorrel. Compared with common sorrel, the French version is less bitter and grows taller with smaller, more rounded leaves.

Other species of sorrel include:

  • sheep sorrel
  • arctic dock
  • patience dock
  • broad-leaved sorrel
  • red-veined sorrel

Certain plants and foods share a similar name but are unrelated. For example, wood sorrel is a type of edible weed found throughout North America. Similarly, in Jamaica, the term sorrel refers to roselle, a type of hibiscus plant.

summary

Sorrel is a type of leafy green with a sour, lemon-like flavor. It’s used as an herb and a vegetable. There are two main types of sorrel — French and common — which differ slightly in terms of taste and appearance.

Sorrel is highly nutritious. In addition to being low in calories, it’s high in fiber and micronutrients like magnesium and vitamins C and A.

One cup (133 grams) of raw sorrel contains (2):

  • Calories: 29
  • Protein: 2.5 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 71% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Magnesium: 33% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 30% of the DV
  • Manganese: 20% of the DV
  • Copper: 19% of the DV
  • Iron: 18% of the DV
  • Potassium: 11% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 10% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 10% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 7% of the DV

Sorrel is especially high in vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin that fights inflammation and plays a key role in immune function (3).

It’s also high in fiber, which can promote regularity, increase feelings of fullness, and help stabilize blood sugar levels (4).

Additionally, it’s loaded with magnesium, a mineral that’s essential for bone and heart health (5).

summary

Sorrel is low in calories but high in essential nutrients like fiber, magnesium, and vitamins C and A.

Sorrel has been linked to several powerful health benefits.

Rich in antioxidants

Sorrel is a great source of antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that protect your cells from damage by neutralizing harmful free radicals.

Antioxidants may help prevent many chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes (6).

In particular, studies show that sorrel is rich in the following antioxidants (7):

  • phenolic acids
  • flavonoids
  • triterpenes
  • carotenoids
  • anthraquinones
  • naphthalenes
  • stilbenoids

One test-tube study compared the antioxidant properties of 10 plant extracts and found that red sorrel exhibited the highest antioxidant activity (8).

Another test-tube study showed that Rumex hastatus, a specific species of sorrel, scavenged harmful free radicals. This indicates that it might be useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease (9).

May decrease cancer cell growth

Although research in humans is lacking, some test-tube and animal studies have found that sorrel may block the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells.

For instance, a test-tube study showed that several species of sorrel killed breast, cervical, and skin cancer cells (10).

Furthermore, in one study in rats with leukemia, a mixture containing sorrel extract and other ingredients like greater burdock, slippery elm, and Chinese rhubarb prevented weight loss and improved white blood cell levels (11).

Still, more studies are needed to determine how sorrel may affect cancer growth in humans when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Supports heart health

Animal research suggests that sorrel may improve several aspects of heart health.

In one study in rats, sorrel extract was shown to modify certain pathways involved in platelet aggregation — the process in which platelets in your blood clump together — to decrease blood clot formation (12).

Other animal studies have also found that sorrel extract could help dilate blood vessels to prevent high blood pressure (13, 14).

Lastly, sorrel is rich in fiber and antioxidants, both of which promote heart health (15, 16).

Nevertheless, human studies on sorrel and heart health are lacking. More research is needed to explore this green’s effect on human heart health.

summary

Sorrel is rich in antioxidants. It may support heart health and hinder cancer cell growth.

Most healthy adults can enjoy sorrel in moderation as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Yet, some people may be allergic to sorrel. If you experience any adverse symptoms after eating it or are allergic to other plants in the same family, such as rhubarb, buckwheat, and knotweed, you may need to avoid it.

It’s also worth noting that sorrel contains oxalate, a common plant compound that can block the absorption of minerals like calcium (17, 18).

Calcium and oxalate can also bind together. This may contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones, which are hard mineral deposits in the kidneys that can cause symptoms like pain, nausea, and vomiting (19).

However, rather than eliminating oxalate-rich foods like sorrel from your diet, try to increase your intake of calcium, limit your salt consumption, and drink plenty of water to help prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones (20, 21, 22).

summary

Some people may be allergic to sorrel. It also contains oxalate, which can impair calcium absorption and contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

Sorrel is available both fresh and dried at many specialty stores and online retailers.

Sheep sorrel is also found in some herbal tea blends, including Essiac tea, which is often touted as a natural treatment for cancer (23).

Sorrel can also be purchased in tincture or capsule form, with most supplements offering doses of 400–800 mg.

Although these products are claimed to enhance detoxification, boost immune function, and reduce inflammation, there’s no research available on their efficacy, safety, or side effects.

If you have any underlying health conditions or take medications, it’s best to talk with your doctor before using any herbal supplements.

summary

Sorrel is available fresh and dried and can be found in certain supplements. It may also be used in herbal tea blends like Essiac tea.

Sorrel has a tart, lemony flavor that works well in a variety of recipes.

It’s especially popular in soups and stews and often paired with ingredients like potatoes, carrots, chicken, and sour cream.

You can also use sorrel greens to spice up salads or mix them into vinaigrettes for an extra burst of flavor.

Sorrel sauce is another popular recipe that uses these greens. It’s usually served alongside seafood dishes like salmon.

Most recipes combine the tart taste of sorrel with ingredients like chives, heavy cream, butter, and chervil — a type of herb that’s related to parsley.

summary

Sorrel can be used in many recipes, including soups, stews, salads, dressings, and sauces.

Sorrel is a leafy green plant that can be used as both an herb and a vegetable. In certain parts of the Caribbean, its fruit is used to make beverages.

It’s rich in antioxidants and nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium. It may support heart health and fight cancer, although more human research is needed.

It can be used to make herbal tea, taken as a supplement, or enjoyed in dishes like soups, salads, and sauces.

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