Great Gongura: Health Benefits

Great Gongura: Health Benefits

Gongura or sorrel leaves is a perennial leaf that has many culinary and medicinal uses. It is very popular in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in India and is used for making a large variety of dishes such as gongura pachadi, gongura chicken, gongura pickle, gongura dal, gongura pappu and many more. It has a very distinctive tangy taste and constitutes one of the main ingredients in Indian Andhra food recipes. Because of its sour taste, it is also known as sour leaves or sour grass / grabs. Gongura is a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are beneficial to your overall health.

Gongura Nutrition Facts

All varieties of gongura provide several nutritional benefits. It is a great choice for low-calorie and low-fat diets. It is a good source of carbohydrates, fiber and protein. It is also an excellent source of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin C.  Gongura is rich in essential minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It also provides you with many beneficial organic compounds such as flavonoids, anthocyanins and polyphenolic acids.

Gongura leaves health benefits

Although gongura is mainly grown for culinary purposes, herb sorrell also has a wide range of health benefits associated with it. Packed with nutrients and antioxidants, gongura is great for improving your health and also in preventing many diseases. Some of the benefits offered by this herb are explained below:

Antioxidant benefits of gongura

jamaican sorrel drink

jamaican sorrel drink

Free radicals form in your body as a result of metabolic processes, exposure to sunlight and exposure to environmental toxins such as industrial chemicals and cigarette smoke. These free radicals can cause damage your cellular membranes and mutate your DNA, leading to an increased risk of life threatening diseases such as cancer, and heart disease. Antioxidants help in stabilizing the harmful free radicals, thus preventing these diseases. The intake of gongura is extremely beneficial to your body as it contains high amounts of antioxidant flavonoids that help get rid of the free radicals from your body.

Gongura improves digestive health

Gongura is high in dietary fiber that can help improve your digestive health. Dietary fiber promotes easy digestion by adding bulk to food as it passes through the digestive system. By normalizing the bowel movements, gongura helps in preventing digestive problems like constipation, bloating and diarrhea. Gongura also contains active antioxidant compounds known as anthraquinones that provides additional support to your digestive health. These compounds increase fluid secretion and muscular activity in the intestines, which in turn stimulates the passage of food through your digestive tract. This helps in preventing constipation.

Did you know? Hibsicus Cannabinus is scientific name for Gongura. Gongura in tamil is Pulichai Kerrai.  Ambadi is what Gongura called in Marathi or Gujarati. In Hindi it is called Pitwa. In Bengali it is known as Mestapat. Sorrel leaves in Kannada means Pundi. 

Pulicha keerai prevents anemia

Anemia is a condition caused by decreased levels of hemoglobin or red blood cells leading to symptoms such as fatigue, weariness, heart palpitations, weakness and shortness of breath. Gongura, being a rich source of iron, helps in increasing the production of red blood cells, thus preventing anemia caused by iron deficiency.

Gongura for heart health

In addition to lowering high blood pressure, gongura also has the remarkable ability to lower the bad cholesterol or low density lipoproteins (LDL) levels and increase the good cholesterol or high density lipoproteins (HDL) levels in the body. The cholesterol lowering properties of this green leaf can be attributed to the presence of high amounts of fiber. By keeping the blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, gongura plays a key role in reducing the risks of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

[Read more about health benefits of horse gram]

Gongura lowers high blood pressure

Studies suggest that increasing your intake of potassium and magnesium can help regulate blood pressure levels. Gongura is a great source of potassium and magnesium, making it a suitable remedy for hypertension. Potassium is a mineral that functions as a vasodilator and diuretic. It relaxes the arteries and blood vessels, thus reducing the stress on them and reducing blood pressure.

Gongura prevents cancer

Free radicals are responsible for converting the normal and healthy cells in our bodies to cancerous cells. Gongura is full of antioxidant compounds like polyphenolic compounds, anthocyanins and flavonoids, all of which have the amazing ability to scavenge the free radicals and protect your body from oxidation damage. Gongura has also been found to promote apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death of tumor cells.

Gongura improves eyesight

Gongura contains high levels of vitamin A that helps in improving eyesight and preventing night blindness. The antioxidants in gongura are beneficial in preventing age related macular degeneration and cataract.

Gongura strengthens the immune system

Gongura leaves are an excellent source of vitamin C and so its consumption helps in optimizing your immune system. Vitamin C, popularly known as ascorbic acid plays a major role in enhancing the immune system and in increasing the number of white blood cells in the body. The white blood cells are responsible for defending the body against pathogens, germs and other foreign invaders.

Gongura aids in weight loss

Gongura leaves are low in calories and fat. They are rich in fiber that satiates your hunger and makes you feel full for a long period of time. They also have diuretic properties that prevent fluid retention by increasing the frequency of urination. This helps in preventing weight gain due to water retention. The nutrients in gongura provide the essential nourishment to your body without adding extra calories.

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Gongura detoxifies the body

Gongura is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants that promote detoxification and cleansing of your body. It has purgative and diuretic properties that help in flushing out the harmful toxins formed in the body. The protocatechuic acid found in gongura leaves also aids in the detoxification of the body. For this reason, gongura infused water or gongura tea are often used for cleansing the body.

Gongura and skin benefits

Gongura is found to have anti-microbial and anti-allergic properties. It is high in Vitamin C that benefits the skin in many ways. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that destroy the free radical and prevent early aging. It also increases the production of collagen that improves the elasticity and smoothness of the skin. When used as a face pack, gongura tightens the skin and prevents the formation of wrinkles and fine lines. Dried gongura leaves are beneficial in treating many skin problems like itching, rashes and ringworms.

Pulicha keerai health benefits for hair

The various nutrients like vitamins and minerals present in gongura provide many benefits to your hair. These nutrients strengthen the hair and prevents hair fall. Gongura prevents the hair from becoming dry and dull. It is often used as a remedy for preventing baldness.

Gongura eliminates cold sores

The active component in gongura such as flavonoids, oligomeric and polymeric proanthocyanidins have been found to help in getting rid of cold sores and fever blisters.

Gongura prevents scurvy

Scurvy is a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin C in the body. It is characterized by symptoms like anemia, tiredness, swelling in certain parts of the body, loss of appetite, bleeding of gums etc. Scurvy can be prevented by incorporating foods rich in vitamin C in your diet. Gongura is one such food that is high in vitamin C and hence is an effective remedy for scurvy.

Gongura benefits the bones

Gongura is high in minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, all of which are important for maintaining strong and healthy bones. A diet rich in these minerals can help in preventing bone loss and conditions like osteoporosis.

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A few gongura recipes

As mentioned before, gongura is a main ingredient in Andhra cuisine. Here are some of the tasty dishes that you can prepare with the gongura leaves or flowers:

Gongura chutney- Ingredients: Chopped gongura leaves – 2 cups, Coriander powder – ½ tsp, Chili powder – ½ tsp, Powdered peanuts – 1 tbsp, Sugar – 2 tsp, Oil – 1 tbsp, Mustard seeds – 1 tsp, Asafoetida – a pinch, Salt to taste. Method: Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they start to crackle, add coriander and chili powders, asafoetida and the gongura leaves. Stir for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook well. This chutney can be served with parathas, roti or rice. Andhra style is dominated by used of hot chilli powder and groundnut/peanuts

Gongura pickle recipe: Ingredients: Gongura leaves – 4 bunches, Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp, Coriander seeds – 1 tsp, Green Chilies – 4, Sesame seeds – 3 tsp, Urad dal – 3 tsp, Cumin seeds – 1 tsp, Dry Red Chilies – 4 0r 5, Oil, Salt to taste. Lets understand how to make gongura pickle: In a pan deep fry the gongura leaves, whole seeds and 3 chilies. Season with salt and grind them into a paste and keep aside. Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. As they crackle, add 1/2 tsp of urad dal and rest of the dry red chilies.  Add the gongura paste to this and fry. Gongura pickles are best enjoyed with roti / bread or rice.

Gongura chicken: Ingredients: Chicken pieces, Chopped gongura leaves – 1 bowl, Ginger – garlic paste – 2 tsps, 2 chopped Onions, 2 chopped Tomatoes, Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp, Red chili powder – 1 tsp, Coriander powder – 1 tsp, Oil – 3 tbsps, Salt – as per taste, Curry Leaves, Chopped coriander leaves– a handful Method: Heat oil in a pan, add the onions and ginger-garlic paste and sauté well. Then add the chicken, chopped tomatoes, spice powders, salt, and curry leaves. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Now add the chopped gongura, some water and again cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves.

Gongura Pappu is an Andhra’s speciality Dal/lentil recipe. This involves cooking lentils with sour sorrel leaves. It is also known as khatta dal bhaji in other parts of India. Here is Gongura Pappu recipe from Sreevalli.

Ambadi flowers Chutney – Just like leaves, gongura flowers are sour in taste. These flowers are rarely available in market. In case you have Gongura plant in your garden, you may want to enjoy the delicacy made from its flowers. Making it is simple. Take fresh 3 handful gongura flowers. Wash and removes seeds. In a pan, add a tsp of oil, and roast a tsp of urad dal and chana dal each. Add ¼ tsp of cumin seeds or jeera. Use these roasted ingredients and grind them with fresh flowers. Add jaggery and salt as per taste. Serve this as side dish.

Salmon with sorrel sauce recipe – Sour Sorrel sauce makes salmon taste great. Marinate salmon with sorrel sauce and pepper. To make sorrel sauce you can grind fresh sorrel leaves and flowers with parsley, walnuts, capers and pepper. Try this salmon with Sorrell recipe with Julia.

Sorrel drink recipe – Jamaican sorrel drink is quite popular and served during Christmas. This exotic deep red sorrel punch offers wild tanginess of sorrel and is good appetizer and has cooling effect on body. Dried or Fresh sorrel flowers are used to make this drink. In 6 cups of water, boil about 3 cups of dried sorrel, 1 tsp of crushed ginger paste and about 4-5 pimento berries. Boil for 2 minutes. Allow the ingredients to cool and let it steep for about 12 hours. Strain the liquid and squeeze the ingredients with a spoon to extract juice out. Salt, sugar can be added as per taste. Often Rum or wine is added for a punch. This Jamaican sorrel recipe is served with ice. Making of sorrel tea in other parts of world is very similar.

[Read more about similar Himalayan Burans flower drink]

Know more about Gongura mutton recipe by Rajani. Read this gongura prawns or Gongura royallu curry recipe by Vajra. Various types of gongura pachadi recipe are available with various combinations. Rather than answering how to make gongura pachadi, you rather try experimenting with various ingredients and its taste.

Gongura has been widely used all over the world for making tea, soups, salads and other dishes. The tart and tangy taste of this leaf is due to the presence of oxalic acid. High amounts of oxalic acid in the body can lead to the development of kidney stones and so it is important to consume gongura in moderation.

Image Credits: Sarita, Flickr - Soma Rathore

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