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Roselle is a kind of hibiscus that grows with white to pale yellow flowers that have a deep red spot on each petal. The plant produces bright red fruit as it matures, which takes about six months. Roselle is often used as an herbal remedy for many different symptoms and ailments. Herbal remedies should not be used without consulting with a doctor first.
The roselle plant is used as a diuretic and laxative. The flower may also protect cardiac function in some patients. Herbal medicines and teas containing roselle may lower blood pressure because the plant is thought to have antihypertensive qualities. Other medicinal uses of roselle include teas to relieve coughs, aid digestion, encourage healthy kidney function, and soothe colds and sinus infections.
Roselle essential oil made from the plant's seeds has been used to help heal sores and other skin problems. Lotions made from the leaves are also thought to help heal sores and wounds. The leaves of the plant can be heated and applied to the skin to bring boils and ulcers to maturity so that they can be treated.
Roselle flowers are commonly used in herbal teas. The flowers give a bright red color to berry-flavored teas. Roselle tea is commonly sold on the street by vendors in Africa. This tea is an important part of Christmas celebrations in many parts of the Caribbean, and a Trinidad and Tobago brewery makes a beer combined with roselle tea. In Thailand, the tea is often used as a treatment for high cholesterol.
The fruits are used in many different dishes and condiments, and are often used in fruit salad. A side dish made of the fruit and peanuts is common in Africa. Jams, jellies, and sauces often contain roselle fruit, especially when used as a pastry filling. Syrup made with the fruit is often added to frosting, pudding, and gelatin.
Cold drinks made from the leaves and flowers of the plant are popular in Africa and the Caribbean. The drinks are often bottled and sold chilled, similar to lemonade. Liqueurs and wines made from the plant and its extracts are produced in Europe and the United States. Roselle seeds can be ground and roasted as coffee; roselle coffee is more common in Africa than in other parts of the world.
The residue left behind after the essential oil is extracted from the plant can be soaked in water with ashes for three to four days. The seeds are then crushed and boiled for use in soups or patties with bean meal because of the high protein content.