Hibiscus Flower Power: The Health Benefits of Hibiscus Explained
The Hibiscus flower is a paradox of large, delicate petals, framing a proud stem. The beautiful hibiscus has secured itself as a status symbol across many different cultures. Some stories find themselves told and retold over time. The story of Cinderella, for example, exists in various forms within seven different cultures spanning multiple continents.
Nature too, tells its own story. The hibiscus is the national symbol of Haiti, and the national flower of many countries such as The Solomon Islands, Malaysia, South Korea, and Puerto Rico. Their commonality? The sun. Other than that, the meaning of this flower differs from culture to culture.
What Is Hibiscus? Where Does Hibiscus Come From?
Originally from Angola, Africa, it then made its way to Sudan, Egypt, Thailand, Mexico, and China. Hibiscus needs particular growing conditions, and yet it’s found all over the world. Though it is mostly cultivated in tropical regions, it’s definitely made its mark worldwide.
Many cultures use it for the treatment of high blood pressure, liver diseases, and fevers. African folk medicine used it for it’s spasmolytic, antibacterial, cholagogic, diuretic, and anthelmintic properties, which we’ll get into later.
In India, the red hibiscus is often found with depictions of the goddess Kali and is used as an offering to her. The goddess is also depicted with a sword which sculpts order out of chaos and divides injustice from justice. This blossom has a strong connection with the uterus and menstrual issues. This further connects the plant to Kali as the ‘mother’ goddess. It’s the complete package of rebirth.
How Hibiscus Grows Explained
In order to grow healthy hibiscus, you need to aggressively prune this high maintenance plant. Pruning can seem counterintuitive, like when the hairdresser tells you to cut your hair so it will grow faster. But any seasoned gardener will tell you: it’s the only way to ensure healthy blooms in certain flowers.
Hibiscus are big sun chasers. These flowers need full sun exposure and grow in most well-drained soils. Having said that, they also need rich soil. Hence their love of the tropics. If you’re growing hibiscus at home, you’ll need to make sure to frequently water it and keep it in the sun. Your little pot baby will also require fertilization every month with a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Hibiscus In World Cultures Explained
Tahitian and Hawaiian cultures use the hibiscus flower as a code for girls out on the prowl…or not. If a woman wears the flower behind the left ear, it means she is married or has a boyfriend, so interested parties know to keep walking. If she wears the flower on the right, she is single and ready to mingle. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it eliminates the possibility of an awkward misunderstanding. Hibiscus: the best wingman a woman can have.
Other cultures use this perennial as a fun pastime for children. How? You ask? In the Philippines, the flowers and leaves are crushed to release the plant’s natural juices. The sticky substance is then used as…bubble solution to be blown through hollow papaya stalks. Finally, my two biggest loves are combined: bubbles and flowers.
From deep symbolism to social status, to genius children’s pastime, the hibiscus flower is clearly a cultural staple. But what about it’s healing properties?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Hibiscus?
The Ancient Egyptians used hibiscus tea to lower body temperature, treat heart and nerve diseases, and as a diuretic to increase urine production. In Africa, the tea was used to treat constipation, cancer, liver disease, and cold symptoms.
A study showed that hibiscus can help protect the liver from fatty build up. The same study showed that consuming hibiscus tea on a regular basis reduced cholesterol by 8.3% to 14.4% after just 1 month.
Nowadays in Iran, drinking sour tea is still a common treatment for high blood pressure. So there’s a theme here of blood movement and fluid movement in general, with a touch of muscle relaxant.
Studies found that the water extracts of the flowers have a relaxation effect on the uterus and lower the blood pressure. The flavonoids present in its rich color offer soothing antidepressant properties. So the tea can calm the nervous system, reducing anxiety and depression while alleviating menstrual pain and PMS related mood swings.
In other news, did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women? Sorry to drop that on you, but it’s a fact. Another fact is that the studies into hibiscus have found direct correlations between hibiscus tea and heart health. The plant also holds protocatechuic acid, which contains antitumor and antioxidant properties.
Hibiscus For Weight Loss and Fitness Explained
Other than heart, metabolic and liver health, the plant extract lowers the absorption of starch and glucose, potentially aiding in weight loss. Hibiscus blocks the production of amylase, which generally tells our body to hold on to unnecessary carbs and starches. For this reason, you’ll find it in a lot of weight loss products and diets. That’s great and all, but why not go straight to the source? More recent studies have also found that the flower has a positive effect on the metabolism as a whole.
Athletes actually use iced hibiscus tea for its ability to cool down the body very fast. Forget icing your outsides, cool your insides and boost your metabolism at the same time. Gatorade and chemicals or hibiscus tea and antioxidants? Is there even a question?
Hibiscus Tea Explained
When steeped, hibiscus tea has major healing properties. The Sudanese soak the tea in cold water for days to release all the goodness of the hibiscus calyces (the cup-shaped centers of the flowers).
After the flower has bloomed, and the petals fall, the calyces turn into pods. Like floral oysters, the calyces hold the seed of the flower. Calyces are often the main ingredients in herbal drinks containing hibiscus.
Hibiscus tea goes by many names. Agua de flor de Jamaica, or Rosa De Jamaica, as it is known in Mexico, Central America, South America, and of course, the Caribbean. You prepare it by steeping the calyces of the flower with ginger. To dress it up a bit, add a little clove, cinnamon and on special occasions like Christmas, rum.
The acids found in the tea are from the same family of acids found in grapes and specifically wine. The acids malic, tartaric, and citric help to boost immunity, promote better skin, as well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They can also help manage inflammation, and improve digestive issues.
Hibiscus tea has diuretic and choleretic effects, meaning it’s capable of controlling blood viscosity by reducing blood pressure and enhancing digestion.
How To Make Hibiscus Tea
When purchasing the dried herb make sure you’re getting the real deal. Some dried hibiscus may contain added black tea or other teas that may detract from the pure herbal hibiscus goodness.
For 3 cups of water, add ½ a cup of dried Hibiscus or 3 fresh flowers. Let it steep for 10 minutes, and finally, add sweetener, ginger and or lime to taste.
There are many ways to enjoy the benefits of hibiscus. Its refreshing tart taste can be enhanced with cloves and cinnamon, and even rum make it the tropical Christmas drink of choice. That being said, combining it with rum will negatively affect your blood pressure so if you have blood pressure issues, you may want to refrain from doing that.
Its symbolism is only barely outshone by its healing properties. So if you’re looking for a meditation, a date, or a staple for a healthy body, surround yourself with hibiscus!