While native to the more tropical regions of the world, hibiscus flowers are enjoyed for their flavor and health benefits throughout many parts of the world. Hibiscus also goes by the name rose mallow, rose of Althea, and rose of Sharon (not the same as this rose of Sharon). The flowers are large and showy, and are made even more beautiful by attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
When we consume hibiscus, usually as a tea, we are using the dried petals of the flower. Most often, the red flower is used so that the brew is a vibrant red color. When brewed as a tea, hibiscus has a tart and tangy flavor. If it’s too tart for you, let the petals steep for at least 20 minutes to let it mellow. Hibiscus tea is equally good hot or cold, so feel free to drink it however you prefer.
Brewed hibiscus goes by the name bissap in West Africa, aqua de Jamaica in Mexico and Honduras, Gul e Khatmi in Urdu and Persia, and orhul in India. In many of the Caribbean islands, you’ll find hibiscus called sorrel, or soobolo in Ghana, served with lime juice and sweetener in Cambodia, and kardade in Egypt, Sudan, and some Arab countries.
The petals are also edible, whether fresh or dried, and makes a beautiful garnish for desserts. Or try using it in its powdered form as a natural food coloring. In the Philippines, hibiscus is used as a souring agent for vegetables.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus
Hibiscus is high in Vitamin C, calcium, and chromium, and has high levels of antioxidants. It can be used as a gentle diuretic and laxative.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is known as a cooling herb that can clear internal dampness. Internal dampness is a result of decreased digestion that is caused by stress and eating processed foods, especially foods that contain artificial hormones from animals. This might show up as a phlegmy cough, mucus-lined stools, and audible intestinal rumblings.
In Herbalism, hibiscus flowers are used to:
- control blood pressure
- lower cholesterol
- help the liver
- lower inflammation
- as a natural antibiotic
- relieve menstrual pain
- aid in digestion
- quench thirst – I do love our Hibiscus Quench tea for just this reason, especially iced
- lower your body’s absorption of glucose and starch
Hibiscus as a medicine is not recommended for pregnant women because it can increase the flow of blood.
Spring is a great time to start incorporating more hibiscus into your diet. Start with a little tea, either straight or blended with other herbs, and see how you feel.