It’s common knowledge that dried hibiscus flowers make a great tea. It’s actually the sepals of the flowers that are used to make the infusion; sepals are the less conspicuous leaves hidden below the petals. Moreover, the most common species of hibiscus used in hibiscus tea is Hibiscus sabdariffa, also called roselle, native to the old world tropics and used in the production of bast fiber in addition to tea. Hibiscus tea has been drank both hot and cold by people all over the world from Latin American and the Caribbean, to inhabitants of Egypt, Sudan, and West Africa, and throughout Asia.
Hibiscus is an excellent source of Vitamin C and organic acids such as citric acid, tartaric acid, and maleic acid, as well as acidic polysaccharides and the glycoside flavonoid family; the latter is what gives the hibiscus flowers their rich color. Other research points to hibiscus being a source of calcium, niacin, riboflavin and iron. Medical studies have shown hibiscus tea to help lower high blood pressure in people with Type 2 Diabetes and in studies including participants with prehypertension and mild hypertension. The high blood pressure reducing properties have been attributed to the hibiscus flower’s diuretic effects and its ability to inhibit certain enzymes.
Hibiscus tea can be rather tart, almost flavored like cranberries, and sugar is commonly added to sweeten it up. Throughout the world it is prepared in various ways, sometimes with ginger and rum, sometimes with clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and sometimes with mint or lemon juice. Historically, it holds many awards; in Egypt it is regarded the drink of the pharaohs, in Jamaica and Mexico “Flor de Jamaica” is considered a natural diuretic, and in Thailand it is thought to be an agent in reducing cholesterol. People all around the world have found it to add a pleasant taste to alcoholic beverages while in Guatemala hibiscus is used in a hangover remedy.
With their beautiful deep red color, medicinal effects, and great taste, it’s no wonder hibiscus flowers have been grown and harvested by people for centuries.
Common Names: Hibiscus, roselle, flor de Jamaica, karkade, bissap, sorrel
Latin Names: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Benefits: Vitamin C supplement, anti-oxidant, diuretic, reduces blood pressure and cholesterol
Fun Fact: Hibiscus flower seeds are considered to be excellent feed for chicken and cattle