Hibiscus is an ostentatious flower whose lush, vibrant, tropical blooms evoke
images of a Hawaiian beach or wrought iron fences in southern Mexico. On a
recent visit to San Diego, my husband and I walked past walls of thriving
hibiscus lining the street. Many of us recognize hibiscus as a symbol of
tropical paradise and relaxation, but most are totally unsuspecting of its
Hibiscus has been used in the tropics for hundreds of years for both food and
medicine. The vibrant red “zinger” tea made from its calyx is pretty widely
familiar, but what are its health benefits, anyway? And what else might this
plant yield? Its flower petals are edible and delicious. The leaves are also
used medicinally and as food, and the stems have been used to make a
lightweight cording. It is quite a useful plant to have around!
I set up shop at a weekly local farmers market, and I’ve noticed lately there
has been a trend of people asking for herbs to support cardiovascular health
and decreased blood pressure and cholesterol. It is also that time of year
when people are getting summer colds, and they need some extra Vitamin C
and antioxidant love to keep the immune system strong. Hibiscus fits the bill
with all of these, and I don’t have to worry about it interacting with bloodpressure
medication! This gentle, generally safe herb is supportive to the
body, with very little in the way of interactions.
Hibiscus also has a delightfully sour flavor, almost like cherry juice, that pairs
well with citrus and berry flavors. Many cultures drink hibiscus tea with a lot
of sugar, but I find a pinch of stevia leaf from the garden makes it delightful,
without mitigating the health benefits. Enjoy a cup of hibiscus tea, and join
us in getting to know this herb of the month!