Hibiscus as the Herb of the Week.
There may now be over 10,000 named varieties of tropical hibiscus, with 6 distinct forms of flowers (singles, doubles, crested, etc.), and more colors and combinations of colors than one can easily imagine. These hibiscus have a species, "rosa-sinesis" meaning "rose of China," as part of their botanical name. This could be far more correctly termed the "rosa-sinesis complex," since the original species described by Linnaeus (a red double from China) was itself a cultivated hybrid to begin with.
A large group of hibiscus species native to the Indian Ocean islands, Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, and Hawaii are genetically close enough to hybridize naturally and as people began to migrate through the region, they apparently carried their favorite hibiscus with them, in some cases thousands of years ago. Most of the modern hybrids are created in Florida, California, Hawaii, and Australia, but hibiscus are immensely popular all over the warmer parts of the world. Most of the breeding is done by hobby growers, often retirees who are active in the American Hibiscus Society or its overseas affiliates.
The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus native to the Old World tropics, used for the production of bast fiber and as an infusion. It is an annual that can grow as a perennial, growing to 7–8 feet tall. The leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 3–6 inches long, arranged alternately on the stems.
The flowers are 3–4 inches in diameter, white to pale yellow with a dark red spot at the base of each petal, and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base, less than an inch wide, enlarging to 1.2–1.4 inches, fleshy and bright red as the fruit matures. It takes about six months to mature which is why I grow it for the show but do not have a season long enough for the fruit to mature on the stem.
Dig a hole at least twice the size of the rootball. At a minimum, make the hole 2 feet in diameter and 1 foot deep. Work in a 50/50 mix of compost to soil. Be sure to mix the compost and soil as thoroughly as possible. It also is a good idea to finish with the hole an inch or two recessed so that a watering basin is formed.
Most of the year hibiscus do well on a grass watering schedule. This schedule equals a watering frequency of every other day in the hottest part of summer and every one to two weeks in the coldest part of winter. During winter the plant will be green but is almost dormant so it needs very little water and can be switched to a citrus watering schedule. Citrus like to dry out between watering and in the winter once every four to six weeks is plenty. Watering a hibiscus too much during winter will make it nutrient deficient causing the leaves to yellow.
In an issue of Alternatives by Dr. David Williams, Dr. Williams reaffirms the medicinal use of Hibiscus stating simply that "After centuries of traditional use around the world, hibiscus tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) has been officially proven in clinical research to be yet another effective method of lowering high blood pressure."
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has a number of medical uses in Chinese herbology. In the Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda, hibiscus, especially white hibiscus and red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), is considered to have medicinal properties. The roots are used to make various concoctions believed to cure ailments such as cough, hair loss or hair greying. As a hair treatment, the flowers are boiled in oil along with other spices to make a medicated hair oil. The leaves and flowers are ground into a fine paste with a little water, and the resulting lathery paste is used as a shampoo plus conditioner. You can use hibiscus as a hair rinse to bring out the red highlights in darker or auburn hair.
• ¼ cup fresh or dried hibiscus flowers
Boil water and pour over hibiscus. Let mixture cool and then strain out all solids before using.
To use: Pour over clean hair as a final rinse and do not rinse out.
Rose & Hibiscus Lemonade
8 tsp. Backyard Patch Rose Blush Tea or Mexican Hibiscus Black Tea (or just 8 tsp of dried Hibiscus flowers)
about 8 cups cold water
8 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate
fresh lime wedge, garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Take water off the heat and add the tea. Steep 5-10 minutes. Strain out the herbs and flowers. Pour tea into a large pitcher. Add about 2/3 of the can (or 8 ounces) of frozen lemonade concentrate. Stir to dissolve and let cool a bit before refrigerating until completely chilled. Pour over ice in a glass decorated with a fresh lime wedge. Enjoy! Serves 8
This recipe from the Herb Companion Magazine was first published back in 2006.
• 1/4 cup dried jasmine flowers
• 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
• 4 cups lemonade
• Lemon slices for garnish
Boil 2 quarts water and steep jasmine and hibiscus flowers in water. Strain out flowers and allow to cool. Add 4 cups of prepared lemonade. Serve over ice with a lemon slice garnish.
Makes about 5 quarts
1 gallon water
1 cup dried red clover blossoms
2 cups dried hibiscus flowers
5 whole cloves
1/3 cup cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup honey
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
1 cup apple juice