Hibiscus plants have been used as sources of food, medicine, as decorations, in textiles and for experimental and ornamental purposes. From the fragrant flowers to the seeds and leaves the hibiscus plant has proven to be a beneficial plant.
All parts of the hibiscus plant have been used worldwide for medicinal or health benefits. Notably the hibiscus plant has been used to treat hypertension, lice, diabetes, cancer, for gallbladder attacks, skin afflictions, dry coughs, toxin removal, to lower cholesterol, and as a laxative and to reduce fevers.
Hibiscus flowers and roots have been used to make a tea or tonic that has been noted to have a tart flavor with cranberry like undertones. In China, hibiscus is used as a coffee substitute, while in the West Indies a wine is made from the calyxes of the hibiscus plant.
According to the Centre for Nigerian Cultural Studies, Hibiscus canibinus known as "rama" is used in thatch grass weaving for roofing material. In addition, the fibers of the hibiscus plant have been used to make twine known as "rosella hemp", ropes, nets and burlap cloths.
Okra, the seed pods of Hibiscus esculenta, is enjoyed in soups and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable. Other hibiscus species and parts of the hibiscus plant including the leaves and flowers have been used in yogurts, ice creams , butter, syrup, jellies, sauces and teas, puddings, cakes, salads, seasonings and tarts. In China, the seeds of the hibiscus plant are used for vegetable oil.
Polyphenol-rich extracts from hibiscus plants, according to George Mason University, caused apoptosis (cell death) in human liver and gastric carcinomas. Another study using the extracts from dried hibiscus calyxes were shown to be effective as an antihypertensive. Experiments using rats and rabbits demonstrated that hibiscus plants extracts can have hypolipidemic effects and can lower blood pressures. In addition, anthocyanins present in hibiscus plants have proven to help with liver toxicity. In chickens, hibiscus extracts decreased the rate of alcohol absorption.
With its beautiful, fragrant flowers and hard, dense wood hibiscus plants are also used in gardens as ornamental plants or to attract wildlife such as deer, iguanas, red-footed tortoises and hummingbirds. The flowers are used in perfumes, sachets and necklaces while the calyxes are used to make a dye for eyebrows and tattoos. The wood can be transformed into bowls, dishes and platters.
Historically, Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis, according to Boston University School of Medicine, has been used as a purgative and for diarrhea, inflammations, prostate and menstrual problems, burns, boils, ear and toothaches, asthma, as an anti-inflammatory, and for tumors, hematomas and trauma.
- Photo Credit hibiscus image by Gratien Jonxis from Fotolia.com
- Purdue University Extension: Hibiscus sabdariffa L.
- Wayne's World : Hardwoods
- University of Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife: Wildlife Plants
- University of Florida Extension Department of Agriculture Forest Service: Hibiscus syriacus: Gilman and Watson
- University of Illinois Extension: Okra