9 Surprising Sorrel Benefits

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Emily Borth(MS, RDN)

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The health benefits of sorrel include its ability to improve eyesight, slow the aging process, reduce skin infections, strengthen the immune system, and improve digestion. It also builds strong bones, increases circulation, increases energy levels, lowers blood pressure, increases appetite, and strengthens heart health.

What is Sorrel?

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a fascinating perennial herb that is used all around the world and is cultivated for a wide variety of uses. Although it is primarily grown for use in food, due to its sharp, tangy taste, it also has a vast array of health benefits associated with it.

There are many varieties of sorrel that grow in different regions of the world, and while many of them have slightly different characteristics and associated health benefits, they are generally the same. Common sorrel, which is the most commonly cultivated and used variety, is also referred to as sorrel, spinach dock, and narrow-leaved dock. It may be easy to confuse it with roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), which is known as Jamaican sorrel or Guinea sorrel. The latter is used to make sorrel tea or hibiscus tea.

A wooden bowl filled with fresh sorrel leaves placed on a wooden table

Sorrel leaves have an intense lemony tang. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The plant itself has broad green leaves that comprise a majority of the surface area, but the roots stretch deep into the ground. The red and purple flowers that annually bloom are one of the best ways to identify sorrel.

Cultures around the world have been growing and using it for centuries, in everything from soups and salads to vegetable side dishes and teas. The high content of oxalic acid in sorrel makes it poisonous if consumed in large quantities, so intake should be limited. In smaller quantities, eating sorrel is completely harmless. The oxalic acid is also responsible for the tart and tangy taste that is almost reminiscent of wild strawberries or kiwi. The leaves are a major part of the plant and are eaten or used in culinary preparations. Sheep’s sorrel is also a key element in some different tea preparations due to its strong antioxidant compounds, including the famous Essiac tea.

Nutrition Facts

Dock, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]93
Energy [kcal]22
Energy [kJ]92
Protein [g]2
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.7
Ash [g]1.1
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3.2
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.9
Calcium, Ca [mg]44
Iron, Fe [mg]2.4
Magnesium, Mg [mg]103
Phosphorus, P [mg]63
Potassium, K [mg]390
Sodium, Na [mg]4
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.2
Copper, Cu [mg]0.13
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.35
Selenium, Se [µg]0.9
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]48
Thiamin [mg]0.04
Riboflavin [mg]0.1
Niacin [mg]0.5
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.04
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.12
Folate, total [µg]13
Folate, food [µg]13
Folate, DFE [µg]13
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]200
Vitamin A, IU [IU]4000
Threonine [g]0.09
Isoleucine [g]0.1
Leucine [g]0.17
Lysine [g]0.12
Methionine [g]0.04
Phenylalanine [g]0.11
Tyrosine [g]0.08
Valine [g]0.13
Arginine [g]0.11
Histidine [g]0.05
Alanine [g]0.13
Aspartic acid [g]0.18
Glutamic acid [g]0.22
Glycine [g]0.11
Proline [g]0.12
Serine [g]0.08
Sources include : USDA

Sorrel Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, one cup of raw sorrel (dock) contains 29 calories, 4.3 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.6 grams of protein. It also provides a significant amount of fiber (3.8g). In terms of vitamins and minerals, it is rich in vitamin C and also contains vitamin A, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. In terms of beneficial organic compounds, it contains polyphenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins.

Health Benefits of Sorrel

Let’s look at the health benefits found in sorrel that make it such a wonderful addition to your diet.

Rich in Fiber

The high content of dietary fiber that can be found in most varieties of sorrel means that your digestive health can be improved by adding these leaves to your soups and salads. Dietary fiber adds bulk to food as it moves through the digestive system, improving your gastrointestinal health and reducing conditions like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping, as well as other gastrointestinal issues. Soluble dietary fiber can also help reduce total cholesterol in the body, thereby protecting heart health, and reducing the chances of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

Aids In Regulating Blood Pressure

Sorrel has a very significant level of potassium (1 cup contains 15% of your daily recommended intake), which is an essential mineral for human health. Potassium is a vasodilator, hence it is instrumental in maintaining fluid balance throughout the body. This means that it reduces stress on the cardiovascular system by relaxing the blood vessels and arteries. Lowered blood pressure reduces the chances of dangerous blood clotting and excessive strain on the heart that can lead to coronary heart disease and other complications. It can reduce the risks of hypertension and even possibly stroke, as seen by preliminary data conducted in a rat model.

May Help Maintain Vision Health

Vitamin A, another essential vitamin found in sorrel, has been closely connected to the improvement in eyesight and a reduction of macular degeneration and cataracts. Beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A, acts as an antioxidant, and when combined with the other important antioxidant compounds in the body, it can greatly boost eye health, especially night vision, and prevent age-related degradation.

Good Source of Iron

The significant levels of iron in sorrel boost the red blood cell production and prevent iron deficiency anemia. Iron is necessary for your red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Increased circulation of oxygen throughout the body in the vital organs, boosts hair growth, increases energy levels, and speeds up the healing process (in conjunction with the protein content of sorrel).

Boosts Immunity

The vitamin C content in sorrel is impressive. A single cup of sorrel contains 106% of your daily recommended intake, which can optimize your immune system. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, supports the skin’s function as a barrier against pathogens and protects against environmental oxidative stress by optimizing oxidant scavenging activity of the skin.

May Help Soothe Skin Conditions

The leaves of sorrel have been used in two ways to soothe skin conditions. The leaves, when dried as an herb, can be eaten, and this has been connected with a reduction in ringworm and itchy, dry skin. When fresh leaves are ground up, the liquid extracted can be applied topically to the infected area to reduce rashes and irritation. This is likely due to vitamin C and vitamin A content in the leaves, as well as the other nutraceuticals found in this herb.

Heart Health

Apart from other heart-related benefits, it is important to remember that sorrel belongs to the oxalis family, which has been closely associated with boosting heart health in general. Again, this is likely due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of anthocyanins and other compounds found in sorrel, which can reduce oxidative stress thereby protecting the cardiovascular system and helping to reduce chronic disease.

How To Use Sorrel?

Due to its unique tart taste, sorrel is best enjoyed in a salad or as a herb in salad dressings. It can also be used in soups or stews. While the lemony taste of the leaves does become milder once cooked, it still packs as a punch as a side dish to fish or a roast chicken.

For a simple sorrel herb dressing, you can blend a handful of sorrel leaves and a handful of basil leaves with ½ cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. You can drizzle this over fresh salad leaves or grilled fish. Enjoy!

Word of Caution: Oxalic acid is a toxin, so eating sorrel in a moderate amount is important. Also, oxalic acid contributes to the growth of kidney stones, so if that is already a health concern, you should avoid eating oxalic acid-rich foods like sorrel. Also, when cooking it, do not use cast iron or aluminum cookware, as the metal will interact with oxalic acid and cause the herb to take on a very unpleasant metallic taste.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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