(Hibiscus sabdariffa L.)
Hibiscus, also known as Sudanese Roselle or Roselle, is commonly referred to in Poland by the Polonised name ‘kwiat malwy sudańskiej’, after the name of the family Malvaceae to which this plant belongs. This species is naturally widespread in central and western Africa and Southeast Asia. It can also be found in tropical and subtropical regions, for example in Central America, Brazil, Australia, Hawaii, Florida or the Philippines.
Hibiscus is a one-year bush that reaches about 2.5 metres in height!
Today, hibiscus is grown in tropical climate, mainly in Sudan and Egypt, but also in Mexico, China and Thailand, from where it is imported, among others, to European countries. The leaves of this plant come in a variety of shapes, from simple circular to lanceolate, with serrated leaf margins. Hibiscus has wonderful, large flowers with five petals that resemble the shape of a cup. Although hibiscus flowers have only a slight fragrance, they are characterised by an amazing colour from pink through red to yellow.
In Poland, a hibiscus shrub is grown in home gardens, and it does not only look beautiful, but also shows a range of very valuable benefits for the human body.
Roselle flower infusion is of a characteristic, acidic and refreshing taste. Among other things, because of the colour that it gives to the water after brewing, as well as because of its taste, hibiscus is used as a basic ingredient of many fruit teas. The main group of active compounds that hibiscus flowers contain is organic acids, flavonoids and anthocyanins, although they also contain mucilage, pectins, sugars, and vitamin C. The rich chemical composition of the flower calyces is what determines their versatile range of activities.
Hibiscus tea is an excellent means of strengthening the body’s immunity.
In folk medicine, hibiscus has long been used primarily as an aid in cleansing the body of toxins, and as an agent to stimulate the metabolism. It also shows a slight laxative and diuretic effect, helping to remove accumulated water from the body. Infusion of hibiscus flowers also shows protective action on liver cells. Thanks to its high vitamin C content it also supports the functioning of the immune system. It is also a valuable material lowering cholesterol and strengthening the heart and the function of the circulatory system.
Talking about hibiscus, you cannot fail to mention its positive impact on the skin.
The considerable amount of antioxidants contained in hibiscus contributes to delaying the skin ageing processes, increasing flexibility and firmness. Extracts of hibiscus flower are found in ingredient lists of many skin care products, and they are also used in the production of shampoos and hair conditioners.
Dried hibiscus flower calyx doubles in volume when soaked!
The pleasant, acidic taste of dried hibiscus raw material is perfect for the preparation of refreshing drinks called Karkade, although this name is used mostly in Egypt. Interestingly, Karkade can be prepared as a hot drink, by pouring hot water over hibiscus, and as a cold drink, by pouring cold water over hibiscus and allowing it to stand for 1-3 days – lemon and honey can also be added to make the beverage even tastier.
Hibiscus infusion was prepared already in ancient Egypt, and it is for good reason that it was called ‘red gold of the pharaohs’.