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For millennia, people across the world have been enjoying the benefits of deep ruby-red hibiscus tea, made from the beautiful flowers of this exotic plant. And today, it’s perhaps more widely appreciated than ever. Masses of people in Ghana, Mexico and Caribbean countries like Jamaica all love to brew hibiscus drinks, enjoyed hot or even ice cold. But unlike the delicacy of many flowers, hibiscus packs a very full flavour: sumptuously tart with a pleasing sourness sometimes likened to cranberries. And it's extremely healthy. No wonder its culinary uses are expanding far beyond the scope of beverages!

What is hibiscus?

Red sorrel flowers or ‘Hibiscus sabdariffa flos’, more commonly known as “hibiscus” come from an exotic flowering plant which grows in a wide range of (mainly tropical) countries. It’s also sometimes referred to as ‘rosemallow’, and interestingly, it’s actually part of the same family as both cocoa and cotton.

How to use hibiscus

Different cultures use hibiscus in a variety of ways. In Mexico, hibiscus often finds its way into “agua frescas” – non-alcoholic drinks made with hibiscus juice. Jamaica upholds its glory in iced tea. It’s also used halfway around the world, where Ghanaians have warmly welcomed the hibiscus flower into their hearts and homes. And in many countries, dried hibiscus leaves are used to garnish and flavour all manner of dishes.

Health benefits of hibiscus

Hibiscus: “is there anything it can’t do?” The bodily benefits of this wonderful plant have been championed across the UK, Europe and far beyond for many centuries. But much more recently in human history, science has begun to uncover a whole host of impressive bodily benefits:

  • Helps to protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress because of a rich combination of vitamin C, catechins, flavanols, polyphenols and ascorbic acid
  • Supports gastrointestinal health, bowel function and all-round digestive comfort
  • Hibiscus actually helps us to optimize our mental and physical functions for better performance. This not only helps you cope calmly with stress, supporting the body’s many activities even in ‘overdemanding’ conditions, but has been linked with improved motivation. A mixture of hypericin, polyphenols, flavonoids, xanthones, ginsenoside and volatile oil are responsible for these impressive effects.
  • Assists in physical relaxation and obtaining emotional comfort. This is down to a combination of nutrients, including polyphenols, vitamins and ‘monoterpene aldehydes’
  • Can help reduce fatigue, making you feel more energetic
  • Is cardioprotective: serving to protect the heart, especially from heart disease
  • Helps to provide respiratory comfort. Hibiscus has been found to help maintain optimal functioning of the upper respiratory tract, streamlining bronchial secretions and protecting the respiratory tract mucosa (mucous membrane).
  • Used to improve circulation in veins and micro-vessels throughout the body. This may help to explain hibiscus’s widely reported ability to reduce the discomfort of tired and heavy-feeling legs. Multi-skilled nutrients such as anthocyanins, coumarins, flavonoids and ginkgolides are largely credited for this.
  • Polysaccharides, caffeic acid, vitamin C and essential oils support the immune system
  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight, largely due to lesser-known nutrients like anthraquinone, catechins, teophyllines and flavones
  • Has a positive diuretic effect and helps to enhance the drainage of water from our kidneys, as well as promoting efficient waste elimination from the urinary tract

Wow. What an amazing all-rounder! As fellow food lovers, it certainly leaves us pondering what nutritive wonders science is still to uncover above our beloved wholefoods…

Did you know…?

Hibiscus is the official national flower of Haiti. And in Hawaii young women often decorate themselves by wearing the famous flower behind their ear.


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