This week I am far from home, in a tropical setting, teaching about hibiscus. Close your eyes and come there with me. Listen to the raucous calls of the birds, the splash of the waterfall, and the sound of your own breathing. Smell the fresh green of the oxygen, the exotic scent of the frangipani, and the undertones of mold as the jungle recycles her prolific life.
Open your eyes and look up into the canopy of a hibiscus hedge. Can you see the thin tongues sticking out of the flowers? Hibiscus family members are instantly recognizable due to their elongated style which protrudes out of the flower. (The style lies between the stigma, a sticky place at the end of the style that gathers pollen, and the ovary, or seed pod, at the other end of the style, where pollen and eggs join to become seeds.)
Hibiscus hedges are common and popular in all tropical and semitropical places I’ve visited. Wild hibiscus, which I met in Costa Rica, has a small, pink, closed flower. But the cultivars dear to our heart have large, brightly-colored, wide-open flowers. Red ones, orange ones, yellow ones with ruby throats, white ones with maroon streaks, and more to see I am sure. And new flowers open every day.
Every hibiscus is edible, and every hibiscus makes good medicine. The best hibiscus medicine, the one most closely studied, is made from the calyxes of Hibiscus sabadariffa, known as Roselle. A tea or infusion is a nourishing tonic with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, diuretic, antibacterial, anthelmintic, cholagogic, spasmolytic, and laxative properties.
Hibiscus always brings a smile to my heart. Not only is the flower beautiful, but the tea is beautiful too: bright red and sour. Yummy. Red foods feed the cardiovascular system, and hibiscus proves this rule.
Drinking hibiscus tea is as effective in lowering blood pressure as taking an ACE inhibitor. And it works faster and without side effects. Hibiscus improves lipid profiles as well, raising HDL (17%) and lowering LDL (8%) and triglycerides (15%).
You don’t have to go to the tropics to enjoy hibiscus tea. Bring the tropics home to you with a hot, honeyed mug of bright red hibiscus.
Green blessings are everywhere.
~ Fifty Years of Justine and Susun ~