Everything You Need To Know About Hibiscus

It’s no wonder, for every tropical scene from books to movies to art never misses out a hibiscus. It’s fascinating what this simple flower which we see around has got. From a simple garden attraction to a bioactive antioxidant rich plant, hibiscus is a nature’s gift.

Everything you need to know about hibiscus is here. You might definitely find it interesting because who would have thought this simple flower has a long trail since history till now.

Hibiscus – Name Of Origin

The ancient Greek has the reference ‘Hibiskos’ but it’s quite a story behind ‘Hibiscus’! Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 AD), a well known botanist and a doctor in the historic roman army actually gave the name Hibiskos to Althea officinalis – whose roots were used in making confection which evolved into present day marsh-mallows.

Few of quite exciting names of hibiscus across globe is a definite look out. The Egyptians knew hibiscus by the Arabic name ‘Karkade’ or ‘Karakdih’. Hibiscus is known as ‘mugunghwa’ by the South Koreans. The Hawaiians call them ma ‘o hau hele.

You can sometimes hear the hibiscus as shoe flower, flower-of-the-hour (Hibiscus trionum). It’s ‘Bunga Raya’ meaning ‘flower of celebration’ by Singapore locals. Indonesians call them ‘kembang sepatu’. When it comes to Indian culture alone, the hibiscus has lots of names like Sembaruthi, Japa kusum, dasavala, jaswand, dosni phool and goes on. Here you can see the health benefits of hibiscus from lots of books and literatures too.

Read: Herbal Remedies for Relaxation that Might Already be in your Garden

Cultural Significance

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis was crowned the national flower of Malaysia and can be seen on the nation’s currency. It as well serves as a logo for Tourism Malaysia. The hibiscus is the national flower of Puerto Rico. H.syriacus is the national flower and national symbol of South Korea.

The hibiscus adorns as the national symbol of Haiti while Solomon Islands and Niue took the hibiscus as their national flower. A variety of yellow hibiscus species which is not native to Hawaii but known commonly as Hawaiian hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei) became the official state flower of Hawaii around 1988.

It’s interesting that this is Hawaii’s second official state flower while first being Red hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio) which was native to Hawaii. Clearly the Hawaiians seems to love hibiscus a lot!

Plant Species

Belonging to the genus of flowering plants under the mallow family, Malvaceae, the hibiscus genus is quite large and holds hundreds of species. They flourish well under warm and tropical climates. They tend to be both annual and perennial herbaceous plants.

Hibiscus Colors & Meaning

Hibiscus, with their beautiful colored flowers holds different meanings. White takes up beauty and purity. Pink hibiscus shows the symbol of friendship and warmth, love towards your partner, friends, and families. Color Purple represents mystery, extravagance and special in own way. You could use yellow hibiscus for joy, happiness and optimism. Red is for love and passion.

Benefits Of Hibiscus From Cuisine To Medicine

In Cuisine

Hibiscus can be seen in many cuisines in variants of jams, jellies, soups, salad dressings, as infusions, as beverages. Some cuisines use it for pickling. Sun-dried and finely ground hibiscus powders are used in culinary and people add it with their herbal tea mix. Dried hibiscus (especially the red petals) is edible and can be seen with delicacies in Mexico.

Dried red petals can be used in garnishing the dishes.  Syrups and sauces prepared from H.sabdariffa are added to puddings, cake-frostings, over ginger bread, pancakes, and waffles.

As Natural & Organic Dyes

Hibiscus comes with an array of shades and colors which are preferred as an excellent choice to extract natural dyes. These healthy natural dyes are safe to be used in foods, fabrics, in skin care, for hair care and also in traditional medicines.

When crushed or ground, the red hibiscus petals leaves nice shades of deep red to purple red to mild red or pinkish red depending upon the actual red shades of the flower. You can use it as a natural hair dye, which is 100% safe and nourishing for your hair. You can see some varieties of hibiscus when crushed turns black and gives you a dark purplish dye which can be used as shoe polish.

Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea is made as an infusion from red or deep magenta colored calyces (sepals) of the H.sabdariffa aka Roselle. It can be consumed either hot or cold and tend to have a sour or tart taste, people add sugar or honey for sweetness.  For once, you should never miss to try the ‘Agua de flor de Jamaica’ aka ‘Agua de Jamaica’ or ‘Rosa de Jamaica’.

This famous hibiscus tea is prepared with steeping red calyces along with ginger, sugar/honey and sometimes clove, cinnamon and little rum. The hibiscus tea is said to contain healthy anti-oxidants. They help to manage blood pressure levels and have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties within them. Iced hibiscus tea can satiate the feeling of thirst easily.

It does come with certain backlogs in case of pregnancy and lactation, in which case you should avoid it completely. Hibiscus tea is generally well tolerated by everyone but though it has good benefits, it is advisable to take at regular intervals and not as a daily drink.

Health Benefits Of Hibiscus

Hibiscus has been used traditionally for a long time in Indian ayurveda. The H.rosa-sinensis extracts have great benefits for skin and the flower has been used for their soothing properties to relieve spasms and cramps. The plant roots and even the whole flower are beneficial and used in making concoctions that cure hair loss, premature-graying.

The hibiscus extracts or the dried hibiscus powder are added in traditional medicine for both external application or taken internally for curing ailments.  Hibiscus infused tea or water has mild diuretic properties which is good for your stomach.

Garden Aesthetics

Hibiscus is wonderful addition to your garden and requires very low-maintenance. The bright color attracts lots of butterflies, humming birds. You can line them up in your garden as landscaping, bordering or as shrubs. You can adopt them to your small space by having them in a pot, as a creeper or in a hanging pot. Either ways, they are good colorful member to your space.

In Modern Medicinal Science

Modern medicine uses many levels of research and bioassay methods into isolating and studying bio active components of hibiscus. Especially the H.rosa-sinensis is found to be loaded with high levels of anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. H.sabdariffa shows anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties. H.platanifolius, H.cannabinus, H.mutabilis, H.esculentus, H.tiliaceus are other hibiscus species that showed considerable anti-oxidant properties, small amount of hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activities and free radical scavenging activity.

The leaves, stem and root of H.rosa-sinensis contain remarkable quantities of flavonoids that are associated with reducing ailments like fever, pain. Medical research journals and literature seems to never stop in publishing about the abundance of health quotient in hibiscus.

Interesting One-Liners About Hibiscus

  • Hibiscus is called as the ‘Queen of Tropical Flowers’
  • ‘Rose mallow’ is the less commonly used name for Hibiscus
  • A Nigerian author chimamanda ngozi adichie named her first novel ‘Purple Hibiscus’ in fondness over hibiscus.
  • Bissap (Hibiscus tea) is the National drink of Senegal.
  • Hibiscus cannabinus knows as ‘Kenaf’ is extensively used in the paper-making process.
  • China and Thailand are the largest producers and control much of the world supply. The hibiscus from Thailand offers superior quality.

With all the above, it is without second thought that the hibiscus is the true queen of the tropics.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

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