Hibiscus is a type of flowering plant in the “mallow” family. There are several hundred species native to warm, temperate, tropical and sub-tropical regions all over the world. With large showy flowers, hibiscus have many names including “Rose of Sharon” “Rose Mallow” and “Tropical Hibiscus.” This is a most auspicious flower serving as the national symbol for the nation of Haiti, as well as the national flower the Solomon Islands, South Korea and Malaysia. Hawaii has adopted the Hibiscus as their state flower.
When dried, the flowers of this ornamental plant, are edible and used in cooking and to make a popular tea. The tea made from Hibiscus flowers has a luscious red color, tart flavor and is full of Vitamin C. It is called by many names, depending on where in the world you are drinking it. In West Africa, Hibiscus tea is called “bissap,” in Mexico and Central America it is called “agua de Jamaica.” When ordering Hibiscus tea in Jamaica, Trinidad or other Caribbean Islands, ask for “sorrel.”
Some cultures use hibiscus in cooking. The roselle, a particular hibiscus, is dried and used as a vegetable. A different species is present in Visayas of the Philippines where it is used to sour vegetables and to make chicken soup.
Hibiscus is not just “a pretty face” it has health benefits as well. Daily consumption can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve insulin function for type 2 diabetics. The antioxidants protect the liver, reduce the risk of cancer and boost the immune system. Taken as an extract, Hibiscus can aid weight loss and its flavonoids help reduce depression and anxiety.