Vinegar plant: what is it for and recipes

This content is part of the Alternative Medicine category and may contain information that lacks scientific studies and/or medical consensus.

Characteristic plant of the flora of the state of Maranhão, the vinegar is cultivated due to the interest in its leaves, cups and seeds with culinary and medicinal purposes.

Also called sorrel , this herb is rich in benefits for the body. A study carried out at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) ( 1 ), revealed that the plant and its extracts are effective as a medicine against hypertension disorders, as a diuretic, for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and liver infections.

Its kinship with a well-known plant in the health world, the hibiscus , often confuses those who use it. Both come from the same plant, scientifically known as Hibiscus Sabdariffa. The difference is that the hibiscus corresponds to the sepals that surround the fruit, whereas the vinegar represents the leaves.

Now that you’ve figured out which plant we’re talking about, let’s get to know its benefits better and, in addition, learn how to prepare a typical dish from the North of the country, the famous Cuxá Rice .

Learn about the benefits of vinaigrette

In traditional medicine, Hibiscus Sabdariffa leaves are used to balance blood pressure, treat liver disorders and cure digestive system diseases such as gastritis, ulcers and constipation.

Also according to Fiocruz ( 1 ), the leaves and cups are usually the most used parts, the latter being characterized by its red color and acid taste, which attracts the attention of pharmaceutical industries.

Solves digestive problems

The vinegar is widely used to treat gastrointestinal disorders ( 1 ). Inflammations of the organs of the digestive system, such as: gastroenteritis , colitis, esophagitis and cholecystitis can be resolved with the consumption of tea from the plant. As well as  poor digestion  and constipation .

The intake of the plant extract acts as a digestive tonic, increasing appetite, balancing gastric juices and facilitating the digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Its consumption before meals acts as an appetite stimulant and, after, serves to prevent heavy digestion and flatulence . A survey carried out in 2016 by the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro – UFRRJ ( 2 ), pointed out that vinegar has this effect on the body due to the presence of some acids, such as tartaric, malic, oxalic and succinic.

it’s laxative

Also according to the research carried out by the UFRRJ ( 2 ), the species is among the 100 plants of greatest interest to the pharmaceutical industries for presenting an efficient action when it comes to regulating intestinal transit.

But how does the vinaigrette achieve this result? Unlike many synthetic laxatives that irritate the intestinal mucosa, forcing the body to act, this plant extracts water from the intestinal walls to the center of the organ. This action makes the fecal cake more hydrated and pasty, favoring its elimination.

prevents cancer

According to the Brazilian Association of Lymphoma and Leukemia (Abrale), our body is made up of cells with different functions and that work in an organized way. In a healthy organism, these particles develop, break apart, die and are replaced, in a natural process called cell division.

Free radicals modify the DNA of these cells that start to duplicate themselves disorderly, starting a series of problems. This uncontrolled multiplication leads to a clustering of cells, which gives rise to a mass, known as a tumor .

A study carried out by the Federal University of Grande Dourados, in Mato Grosso do Sul ( 3 ), reported the antioxidant activity of vinegar extract on free radicals, unstable molecules that damage healthy body cells.

The research pointed to anthocyanin as responsible for more than 50% of the plant’s antioxidant capacity. This defense capacity of the body is able to block or delay the action of free radicals, which are the precursors of some diseases, the main one: cancer .

Fights high blood pressure

It is also thanks to the anthocyanins present in the plant that the balance of blood pressure is achieved. Those suffering from high blood pressure should consume foods rich in this type of antioxidant, as it provides a vasodilator and angioprotective effect, protecting blood and lymphatic vessels.

But how does this happen?

Anthocyanins increase the circulation of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good cholesterol”. This increase in circulation favors the reduction of LDL, or “bad cholesterol”, which allows the removal of free radicals that can lead to the oxidation of fats in the bloodstream. It is this oxidation that resists the passage of blood through the arteries.

Given this situation, blood pressure, responsible for “pushing” the blood pumped by the heart to other organs, needs more strength and therefore gets higher. This force can lead to damage to the walls of the arteries, resulting in a stroke , for example.

Improves liver functions

Liver fat, hepatitis and cirrhosis are diseases that can be attenuated, or even remedied, with the consumption of vinegar extracts. The scientific community also highlights the role of this plant in the treatment of liver infections.

According to the Federal Council of Pharmacy ( 4 ), this species is mainly used for its anti-inflammatory property , capable of combating agents that cause organ dysfunctions. The antioxidants in vinegar prevent harmful agents from degrading the liver, preventing inflammation from triggering or developing.

How to consume the vinaigrette

The vinegar is a plant that can be used to the full. Its leaves can be used in salads or to make an excellent medicinal tea, while its chalices and seeds are used in cooking.

Dry or fresh goblets are used for the production of sweets, juices and jellies, giving a very attractive red color. From the seeds, there is the possibility of extracting the oil, and when they are ripe, they can be roasted or ground and used as an ingredient in the manufacture of bread ( 5 ).

The plant is also the basic ingredient in the cuxá rice, a typical dish from the state of Maranhão, which you will learn to make here.

vinaigrette tea


  • 1 tablespoons of chopped plant leaves
  • 250 ml of water.

Preparation mode

Boil the water, then add the leaves of the vinaigrette. Let it sit for 10 minutes, strain and consume. The indication is to drink up to 3 cups of this infusion a day.

Cuxá rice


  • ½ kg of cooked rice
  • 400 g of cooked shelled shrimp
  • 2 bunches of cooked vinaigrette without the stalk
  • ½ tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ onion
  • ½ chopped pepper
  • ½ chopped skinless tomato
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • Salt to taste.

Preparation mode

In a pan, saute the onion in oil. Then add the peppers, tomatoes, parsley, vinaigrette, shrimp and salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Add a little water. Mix it with the cooked rice and it’s ready. This recipe can accompany your favorite salad, and fried fish.

Contraindications and Care

There are no reports of contraindications in the consulted literature. However, excessive consumption can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Therefore, any and all treatments, whether natural or not, must be supervised by a doctor.

Pregnant and lactating women should not use it without medical advice. As it is a diuretic, this tea increases the production and drainage of urine, which may interfere with the effect of medication. No reports of side effects were found.

Characteristics of this plant

Popularly, this herb receives several names, such as: sorrel, guinea sorrel, sour weevil, guinea pigweed, allspice, poppy, poppy, poppy, two-colored poppy, sour okra , okra -sour , guinea okra, pink okra , purple okra and roselia .

This shrub plant can reach up to 3 meters in height and is  originally from India, Sudan and Malaysia. It was later spread in tropical and subtropical climate regions, such as Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America.

Curiosity: For occupying a prominent place in the cuisine of Maranhão, in 2000, the vinegar entered the list of Intangible Goods of the Brazilian Cultural Heritage.


In Brazil there are two types of this plant: purple and green . The purple one actually has reddish foliage, while the green one has green leaves with red veins. Both have edible leaves and goblets. ( 2 )

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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