Hibiscus, a widespread category of annuals whose lush, showy flowers are nearly synonymous with tropical beauty, includes more than 200 species of plants. Most of them are believed to have some medicinal properties; different species are used in Ayurvedic (Hindu), Chinese and Western herbal medicines. Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as roselle or Jamaica sorrel, is valued for its mild laxative effect and for its ability to increase urination, attributed to two diuretic ingredients, ascorbic acid and glycolic acid. Because it contains citric acid, a refrigerant, it is used as a cooling herb, providing relief during hot weather by increasing the flow of blood to the skin's surface and dilating the pores to cool the skin.
Hibiscus seeds, leaves, fruits and roots are used in various folk remedies, and tea is made from the flowers, in particular, the calyx, the leaflike segment that makes up the outermost part of the flower. Its flowers are also used in jams and jellies, to impart a tart, refreshing taste.
Taken internally for:
Applied the herb or extract externally for:
Over the counter:
Fresh or dried hibiscus flowers and teas are available in health food stores.
Tea: 2 tsp. crumbled, dried blossom or 1 tbsp. fresh, chopped blossom used per cup of boiling water and steeped for 10 minutes.