What is Hibiscus Flower?
Hibiscus Flower is native to tropical regions around the world such as Angola, West Africa, and Asia, and has been used medicinally for centuries. The hibiscus flower has been used for medicinal purposes in many cultures, and it is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, making it a great addition to any diet. The hibiscus flower is most commonly found in shades of red and pink, but can also be white or purple. There are two main varieties of hibiscus flower, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and H. sabdariffa, both of which can be used interchangeably as they all have edible flowers and have similar medicinal properties.
H. sabdariffa (also known as Roselle) has a long history of use in Egypt, Sudan, Iran, and North Africa for treating constipation, respiratory issues, and liver disease. A pulp made from leaves was used to apply to the skin to heal wounds. The plants were brought to the Caribbean islands with the slave trade, and they were not only memories of home for African slaves but were a source of food and medicine the African slaves already knew how to make use of. The flower in Black culture is a symbol of joy, culture, and survival.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is known as China hibiscus or China rose, or Mei Gui Qie in Chinese. In China, the flower symbolizes the fleeting nature and beauty of fame or personal glory. The flower was given to both men and women. This variety is also the national flower of Malaysia.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hibiscus belongs to the ‘Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing’ category. If phlegm overly accumulates, it thickens and becomes pathological phlegm, which causes stagnation. Furthermore, Hibiscus is cool in nature, which means the flower tends to help people who have too much ‘Heat’ in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in Asian culture. Hibiscus also tastes sour, and according to the Five Phases theory in Chinese medicine, sour ingredients like Hibiscus helps with digestion and restrain abnormal discharges of fluids from the body, such as diarrhea or heavy sweating.
In recent years, Hibiscus has gained popularity for its potential health benefits. Here are 6 science-backed benefits of this deep red and tart tasting flower.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus Flower
1) Rich in Antioxidants
Hibiscus Flower is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can build up and contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. One study found that hibiscus extract was able to reduce the proliferation of breast cancer cells in vitro. Another study found that hibiscus tea was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal women.
2) May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Hibiscus flower is high in anthocyanins, which are compounds that have been shown to lower blood pressure. A systematic review of 11 studies found that hibiscus tea was effective in lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Hibiscus tea may also boost heart health by reducing cholesterol levels and protecting against oxidative stress, which can damage cholesterol particles and lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. A study in rats found that hibiscus extract reduced cholesterol levels and protected against atherosclerosis.
3) Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
Chronic inflammation has been linked to several chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Some studies have found that hibiscus extract may help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the activity of inflammatory enzymes. Hibiscus Flower contains several anti-inflammatory compounds, including anthocyanins and quercetin. Inflammation is your body's natural response to injury or illness and plays a key role in many chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer's.
4) May Improve Liver Health
The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the body. Hibiscus tea contains compounds that may help protect the liver from damage. Hibiscus has been shown to increase important liver enzymes crucial in our natural detoxification, decrease fatty liver, and reduce markers of liver damage.
5) Aid Weight Loss
Hibiscus tea may help promote weight loss by boosting metabolism and aiding digestion, as it contains several compounds that may promote digestive health. For example, hibiscus tea contains enzymes that can help break down food, as well as acids that may stimulate digestion. In a study in rats, hibiscus extract increased the rats' metabolic rate and helped reduce fat accumulation and helped protect against weight gain by reducing inflammation and improving gut health. With obesity’s association with major health problems, hibiscus may be an effective addition to weight management protocols.
6) Skin Health
With high amounts of antioxidants, Hibiscus helps your skin cells recover from the premature aging and damage caused by skin ailments, wounds, pollutants such as chemicals and makeup, and UV rays from the sun. In addition, its high Vitamin C content helps with collagen production. And an antioxidant in Hibiscus called myrecetin can help to decrease collagen degradation and decrease wrinkles by supporting skin elasticity.
Hibiscus flower is a versatile ingredient with a long history of traditional use in various cultures. There are many potential health benefits associated with this brightly colored flower including improved cardiovascular health, better liver function, and reduced cancer risk. More research is needed to confirm these potential benefits but hibiscus flower is generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts.
Hibiscus Flower can be enjoyed through adding dried petals, extract, or powder to water as tea. It provides a deep-red color when brewed as a herbal infusion yielding a tangy and tart flavor with distinct cranberry-like undertones. In Chinese medicine, rock sugar or honey is often added for additional sweetness and to cut the tart flavors of the rich flower. Try adding this floral flavor to your next cup of tea!
Sources: White Rabbit Institute, Me and Qi, National Library of Medicine, Vedix