Broadly speaking, sorghum encompasses a whole genus of grasses that have their origin in the tropical and sub-tropical regions across the globe. Altogether over 30 species of sorghum have been identified so far. Among these, only one species is harvested for consumption by humans. The other varieties are mostly used in the form of animal fodder. As far as humans are concerned, the most important sorghum species is Sorghum bicolour, which has its origin in Africa. However, over the years this species has been naturalized in various parts of the world and now grown in different regions in the form of a staple food. This sorghum species is now cultivated in several countries. These days, sorghum is mainly used in producing sorghum syrup, sorghum molasses and also in the form of a grain. It can also be used for making alcoholic beverages. In many parts of the world, sorghum is currently utilized as biofuels. In present times, sorghum is the fifth most extensively used cereal crop across the world.

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Along with wheat, rice, corn, oats and barley, sorghum is among the top and most widely used cereal crops worldwide. In ancient times, sorghum was first cultivated in Egypt. Even today, Africa is the largest producer of this crop. However, over the years, sorghum cultivation has spread to various countries in south Asia and the two Americas. The traditional sorghum plant grows up to a height of more than 6 feet (2 meters). However, scientists have now developed many dwarf varieties of Sorghum bicolour, which are especially meant for easy harvest. However, people in Africa still continue to grow the tall sorghum variety. They use the long stalks of the plant for various different purposes.

Sorghum is an annually growing grass that possesses the aptitude to endure extreme drought conditions. Hence, this species is an ideal plant for cultivation in places that are dry. This grass also possesses the ability to adapt to different and extreme weather conditions. As a result, sorghum is a highly stable source of nutriments. When ripe, the grains are generally red and hard. Usually, the grains are dried after harvesting with a view to keep them viable for a prolonged period. Sorghum grains are stored as whole. It is possible to harvest this crop mechanically, but there are chances of higher crop losses if it is damp.

The sweet variety of sorghum is mostly cultivated for making syrup. Sorghum that is used for syrup manufacture is harvested along with their stalks, instead of just collecting the seeds. After harvesting, the plants are crushed in the same way as sugarcane or beet to make syrup. Once the plants are crushed, the extracted juice is cooked with a view to intensify its natural sugar content and, subsequently, packaged for marketing.

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Similar to other grain crops that are somewhat exotic, sorghum is also mainly used for feeding animals in the United States. However, with the passage of time, cultivation of this crop is increasing even in this country. The seeds, leaves and stalks of the plant can be fed to livestock. Alternatively, they can also be allowed to remain in the field and used in the form of a forage crop. People in the United States employ a wet milling process to prepare sorghum starch, which has several industrial uses, for instance paper making and manufacture of adhesive. In most of other regions on the world, sorghum is used to feed humans and animals as well.

People suffering from gluten intolerance prefer sorghum and usually the grain of this plant is cooked in the form of porridge for consumption with other foods. Sorghum grains have a somewhat neutral flavour and at times, they have a somewhat sweet taste. The flavour of this grain makes it excellent for adaptation into various dishes. Similar to tofu, sorghum grains can also adjust to different flavours wonderfully. You can also eat sorghum grains plain.

Generally, sorghum grains are consumed along with the hull, because most of the nutrients are found in the bran level of this grain. Sorghum contains elevated levels of iron and dietary fiber along with a reasonably high amount of protein. Presence of these nutrients makes sorghum a perfect staple starch that is widely used across the developing world.

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It is assumed that the African slaves were the first to bring sorghum along with them to the United States. Initially, the slaves cultivated sorghum in the southern states of the country. As various southern recipes include this grain, it is assumed that by the 19th century, sorghum was incorporated in the American cuisine. During this period, people imported additional strains of sorghum from China. Aside from being used as a staple starch, sorghum grains are also used worldwide to brew beer. This plant is a close relative of broom corn and, hence, it is also cultivated for making straw brooms, which have been traditionally used by people in Africa.

Health benefits

Similar to several other healthy foods, apparently sorghum also contains reasonable amounts of dietary fiber, which helps to enhance the functioning of our digestive system significantly. Sorghum is considered to be among the best foods available that improves dietary functions. One serving of this food supplies us with 48 percent of our daily recommended intake (DRI) of dietary fiber, which is over 12 grams. In other words, consumption of sorghum will help to keep the food in your digestive tract moving quickly, thereby avoiding conditions like bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, excess gas, stomach aches and others.

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In addition, when there is excessive dietary fiber in your body, it helps to eliminate the harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. In this way, dietary fiber also helps to augment the health of the heart and, at the same time, protects the body from several conditions including strokes, heart attacks and atherosclerosis.

It has been found that sorghum grains' bran layer enclose vital antioxidants that are not present in several other varieties of foods. In fact, these antioxidants have been directly associated with reducing the risks of a variety of cancer forms, counting esophageal cancer. This is especially true for people who regularly consume sorghum wheat and corn compared to those who don't. Most of us are aware that antioxidants are very helpful for our body, as they counteract as well as get rid of the harmful free radicals from the body. Often, free radicals are responsible for attacking the healthy cells and mutating them into carcinogenic cells.

When there is too much of carbohydrates in our body, it breaks down into different simple sugar forms, thereby raising the blood glucose levels sharply. This often results in development of diabetes or creates further disorder in people who are already enduring this condition. Nevertheless, consuming sorghum can not only prevent this from happening, but also improve the condition. It has been found that the bran of sorghum grain is rich in tannin content contains certain enzymes that slow down the body's pace of absorbing starch. This, in turn, can aid in controlling the glucose and insulin levels in our body. As the levels of insulin and glucose are balanced, patients often do not suffer frequent incidences of spikes and plunges in the glucose levels in their blood stream. This helps to prevent diabetes shock as well as other health problems.

Celiac disease is a relatively new health condition, but it appears that people across the globe are becoming aware about this health issue. Celiac disease can be defined as a serious allergic reaction to gluten, which is mostly present in products based on wheat. In fact, gluten/ wheat is present is numerous food items that we consume normally and, hence, it is responsible for worsening the condition of people already suffering from celiac disease. However, we are lucky that alternative grasses and grains, for instance sorghum, are safe for consumption even by people who are suffering from celiac disease, which is turning out to be a common condition day by day. Unlike gluten, consumption of sorghum or other similar substances does not cause nausea, painful inflammation and/ or damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) system.

Sorghum contains elevated amounts of magnesium. In other words, it ensures that the calcium levels in your body will be maintained properly, because magnesium enhances the body's ability to absorb calcium. In fact, calcium and magnesium are essential for bone tissue development. At the same time, these two minerals accelerate the healing process of the aging or damaged bones. As a result, certain conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis can be prevented. In this way, one can remain healthy as well as active even when they are quite old.

Sorghum also contains copper and iron and like calcium and iron, copper aids in increasing the absorption as well as uptake of iron by our body. In other words, it means that the chances of developing diseases like anemia reduce significantly. As most of us are aware, deficiencies of iron results in anemia. When there are sufficient levels of iron and copper in our body, it promotes the development of red blood cells (erythrocytes). In this way, consumption of sorghum helps to improve blood circulation and, at the same time, promote cellular growth as well as repair. Regular consumption of sorghum also helps to promote growth of hair on the scalp. In addition, it also perks up the energy levels in our body. One serving of sorghum supplies our body with about 58 percent of our daily recommended intake (DRI) of copper.

Sorghum also contains satisfactory amounts of niacin (vitamin B6), which is a vital element that converts ingested food into energy and fuel that is used by the body to carry out various functions. Hence, the break down as well as metabolism of nutrients in ingested food helps to keep the energy level in your body constant all through the day, instead of having irregular peaks and plunges that are attributed to excessive consumption of carbohydrates or sugar. Chemical analysis of sorghum has revealed that this healthy food provides us with 28 percent of our daily recommended intake of niacin.

Side effects and cautions

As of now there are no adverse side effects or concerns of adding sorghum to one's regular diet. Like in the case of grass, some people may possibly have allergic reactions to sorghum. Nevertheless, allergies caused by sorghum consumption are extremely rare. In addition, sorghum consumption may actually lead to receiving many good things in excess, because it is loaded with specific vitamins and minerals. This may sometimes prove to be dangerous. Hence, it is advisable that you should always consume sorghum in moderation so that you are able to enjoy the entire wonderful health benefits offered by this super cereal crop.


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