Zobo (Nigerian) or Sorrel (Jamaican) is a red coloured drink made from a flower called ‘Hibiscus sabdariffa’.
The Hibiscus drink popularly known as Zobo is a super drink which is slightly thick, colourful, pleasant and tasty. The Hibiscus leaf is used in many parts of the world to make both cold and hot drinks. It contains a high concentration of water-soluble antioxidants and is filled with huge amounts of vitamin C. Zobo, an ancient local drink, which has been consumed in several parts of the world for centuries, is also used to help treat several health problems such as high blood pressure, loss of appetite, liver diseases and fever among others.
Zobo drink contains 15 to 30 percent organic acids which include citric acid, maleic acid, and tartaric acid. It also contains acidic polysaccharides and flavonoid glycosides, such as cyanidin and delphinine. The drink is popular as a natural diuretic and is used traditionally as a mild medicine. Dieters and people with kidney problems often take it without adding sugar for its beneficial properties.
A 2008 United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, study said consuming hibiscus tea or zobo drink lowers blood pressure in a group of prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. According to The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which was published May 2008, hibiscus tea improved the kidney’s ability to filter out waste products which are the uric and oxalic acid, both of which can form kidney stones if they accumulate to excessively high levels.
Also, nutritionists said the drink could be very effective in the management of hypertension because it has some anti-hypertensive properties, which helps to reduce cholesterol level, hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes and constipation. It also helps to retain fluid in the body system and has antibacterial properties which help to kill bacteria and worms in the body system. It is caffeine-free and has riboflavin, niacin, carotene, calcium, and iron, which are all nutritionally necessary.
Health experts have advised people on the health benefits of taking natural drinks such as Zobo. Uche Umeche, a nutritionist in Lagos, said: “Local drinks, from nutritionist point of view, are natural and advise people to go for local beverages than those made with preservatives because it is through the process of fermentation that the local drinks are produced.” Umeche, said that fermentation introduces microorganisms which works on the original product to produce a new product that has more nutrients and nourishes the body.
Abimbola Ajayi, another nutritionist and director, Family Health and Nutrition, ministry of health, Lagos State, said that Zobo drink helps to lower blood pressure as it contains an enzyme inhibitor which blocks the production of amylase. Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down complex sugars and starches. “Drinking a cup of hibiscus tea or zobo after meals is said to reduce the absorption of dietary carbohydrates and assist in weight loss. It is rich in Vitamin C and makes a wonderful herbal remedy to fight off colds and infections,” Ajayi said.
However, although hibiscus seems to be safe for most people, research findings show that it is unsafe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Findings also reveal that the drink has no harmful effect on the liver but when consumed in high doses could be harmful to the kidney. One word of caution though – Zobo drink is not recommended during pregnancy due to the fact that Hibiscus is meant to stimulate blood flow and hence menstruation which could lead to an abortion.