One plant that is widely distributed and native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions in the world is hibiscus,
or rosemallow. It is a large genus of about 200-220 species of flowering plants in the mallow family, along with members
like cocoa, cotton, okra, baobab and durian.
When we were kids, we used to drink its sweet nectar and eat its petals and then we would gather its petals to make
bubbles. I never thought there are so many wonderful uses and health benefits from hibiscus plants which we call
“gumamela” in our vernacular.
Here are some of the most interesting facts, uses and health benefits from hibiscus.
1. The hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Hawaiian women. A single flower is tucked behind the ear. Which ear is used
indicates the wearer’s availability for marriage.
2. The Carib Brewery Trinidad Limited, a Trinidad and Tobago brewery, produces a ShandySorrel in which the tea is
combined with beer.
3. Hibiscus are popular ornamental plants for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs.
4. One species of Hibiscus, known as Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), is extensively used in paper making.
5. Hibiscus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Chionodes hibiscella,
Hypercompe hambletoni, the Nutmeg moth, and the Turnip Moth.
6. The Hibiscus is used as an offering to Goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha in Hindu worship.
7. The bark of the hibiscus contains strong fibers. They can be obtained by letting the stripped bark sit in the sea in order
to let the organic material rot away.
8. In Polynesia, fibers of hibiscus (fau, purau) are used for making grass skirts.
9. These fibers have also been known to be used to make wigs.
10.The fiber (as well as cuttings or butts) from the Roselle plant has great demand in various natural fiber utilizing industries.
11. The fiber may be used as a substitute for jute in making burlap.
12. The red calyces of the plant are increasingly exported to America and Europe, where they are used as food colorings.
13. Hibiscus syriacus is the national flower of South Korea.
14. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the national flower (Bunga Raya) of Malaysia.
Food and health benefits from hibiscus
15. In Egypt and Sudan, Roselle petals are used to make a tea named after the plant, karkade.
16. The green leaves are used like a spicy version of spinach. They give flavor to the Senegalese fish and rice dish
17. Also in Myanmar their green leaves are the main ingredient in making chin baung kyaw curry.
18. Jarritos, a popular brand of Mexican soft drinks, makes a Jamaica flavored carbonated beverage. Imported Jarritos
can be readily found in the U.S.
19. In Mexico, the drink is known as Jamaican water or agua de Jamaica and is quite popular for its color, tanginess and
mild flavor; once sugar is added, it tastes somewhat like cranberry juice.
20. In Africa, especially the Sahel, Roselle is commonly used to make a sugary herbal tea that is commonly sold on the
street. The dried flowers can be found in every market.
21. In the Caribbean the drink is made from the fresh fruit, and it is considered an integral part of Christmas celebrations.
22. In Thailand, Roselle is drunk as a tea, believed to also reduce cholesterol.
23. It can also be made into a delicious wine – especially if combined with Chinese tea leaves – in the ratio of 1:4 by weight
(1/5 Chinese tea).
24. Jamaica is a drink, popular in Mexico and Central America, which is made from calyces of the Roselle.
25. In Malaysia, Roselle calyces are harvested fresh to produce pro-health drink due to high contents of vitamin C and
26. In Mexico, agua de Jamaica (water of Roselle) is most often homemade. It is prepared by boiling the dried flowers of
the Jamaica plant in water for 8 to 10 minutes (or until the water turns red), then adding sugar. It is often served chilled.
The drink is one of several inexpensive beverages (aguas frescas) commonly consumed in Mexico and Central America,
and they are typically made from fresh fruits, juices or extracts.
27. In Mali and Senegal, calyces are used to prepare cold, sweet drinks popular in social events, often mixed with mint
leaves, dissolved menthol candy, and/or various fruit flavors.
28. The calyces are also processed into sweet pickle, jelly and jam.
29. In the U.S., the calyces are sold in bags usually labeled “Flor de Jamaica” and have long been available in health food
stores in the U.S. for making a tea that is high in vitamin C.
30. The Gumamela or Hibiscus rosa sinensis linn flower has antifungal, emmenagogue, emollient and refrigerant effect.
31. The Roselle plant is considered to have antihypertensive properties.
32. Hibiscus is considered to have medicinal properties in the Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda. Roots
make various concoctions believed to cure various ailments.
33. A simple application involves soaking the leaves and flowers in water and using a wet grinder to make a thick paste,
and used as a natural shampoo.
34. The natives of southern India use the Red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) for hair care purposes. The red flowers
and leaves extract of which can be applied on hair to tackle hair-fall and dandruff on the scalp. It is used to make hair
35. Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico
36. Hibiscus, specifically Roselle, has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic, mild laxative, and treatment for cardiac
and nerve diseases and cancer.
37. The heated leaves are applied to cracks in the feet and on boils and ulcers to speed maturation.
38. A lotion made from leaves is used on sores and wounds.
39. The seeds are said to be diuretic and tonic in action and the brownish-yellow seed oil is claimed to heal sores
40. It can also be found in markets (as flowers or syrup) in some places such as France, where there are Senegalese
41. In East Africa, the calyx infusion, called “Sudan tea”, is taken to relieve coughs.
42. Roselle juice, with salt, pepper, asafetida and molasses, is taken as a remedy for biliousness.
43. In India, a decoction of the seeds is given to relieve dysuria strangury, and mild cases of dyspesia.
44. Brazilians attribute stomachic, emollient and resolutive properties to the bitter roots.
45. Dieters or persons with kidney problems often take agua de jamaica without adding sugar for its beneficial properties
and as a natural diuretic. It is made by boiling the dehydrated flowers in water; once it is boiled, it is allowed to cool and
drunk with ice.
46. This drink is particularly good for people who have a tendency, temporary or otherwise, toward water retention: it is a mild
47. The plants are rich in anthocyanins, as well as protocatechuic acid. The dried calyces contain the flavonoids gossypetin,
hibiscetine and sabdaretine. The major pigment, formerly reported as hibiscin, has been identified as daphniphylline.
Small amounts of delphinidin 3-monoglucoside, cyanidin 3-monoglucoside (chrysanthenin), and delphinidin are also
48. China and Thailand are the largest producers and control much of the world supply.
49. Thailand invested heavily in Roselle production and their product is of superior quality, whereas China’s product, with
less stringent quality control practices, is less reliable and reputable.
50. The world’s best Roselle comes from Sudan, but the quantity is low and poor processing hampers quality.
Be wise, be practical, plant hibiscus now. This plant is very beneficial indeed. You can plant it in your garden and within 6
months you already have a mature hibiscus plant that can provide you pretty flowers and medicinal & health benefits.