Have you ever feasted your eyeballs on a Hibiscus smoothie in all your wonder years?
“Rosa-sinensis”, which means “Chinese rose” is the actual species name of the plant colloquially known as the beautiful hibiscus plant, which produces brilliant deep red flowers. It is also called “shoe flower” because the flowers were traditionally used to polish shoes in Jamaica and some African countries.
I remember being blown away by the beauty and abundance of Hibiscus flowers in Hawaii, an island renown for the diversity of its flora and fauna (I’m talking to you sea turtles bathing in the ocean right beside me as I swim in the waters of Waikiki beach). However, Hibiscus flowers can grow in many places, like in India for instance. Here, the Hibiscus is considered a propitious flower, meaning a symbol that future success is likely and is part of Hindu religious ceremonies to worship the Goddess.
Ayurveda, the Ancient Indian system of medicine, has recognized the importance of the Hibiscus to treat and prevent various medical ailments. Modern medicine seems to be catching up as a 2008 study at Tufts University in Boston showed that Hibiscus tea can reduce prehypertension and mild hypertension. This study was carried out on 65 adults with high blood pressure taking no medications for blood pressure and showed that consuming 3 cups of hibiscus tea (made with 3.75 g hibiscus) per day for 6 weeks yielded beneficial results as opposed to taking a similarly flavoured and similarly colored placebo. The result? Systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading, so for example if a blood pressure reading is 120/80, “120” is the systolic pressure) dropped 7.2 mmHg and diastolic (the bottom number of a reading) dropped 1.3 mmHg. In patients with the highest blood pressures to begin with, the blood pressure lowering effect was even greater (13.2 mmHg for systolic and 6.4 mmHg for diastolic). This therapeutic effect was equivalent to that of ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors, medications commonly prescribed for high blood pressure (Source here: Passeportsanté.net)
In Ayurveda, there isn’t much that hibiscus flowers can’t do. They help for blood pressure, liver disorders and to fight colds and coughs PLUS they contain antioxidants and vitamin C. However, in Ayurvedic medicine, Hibiscus flowers are reported to possess anti-fertility properties, and an extract from the hibiscus flower is used in preventing unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it is best you avoid this tea. Hibiscus should also be avoided if you are taking chemotherapeutic drugs (the antioxidant content can interfere with the chemotherapy). Hibiscus can decrease estrogen levels so if you are taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, you should also avoid hibiscus.
Hibiscus tea is great to use as a substitute for cranberry juice in smoothies, iced teas, etc. for its bright pinkish red hue as well as for its sweetness and tartness. Added bonus: the tea does not provide the sugar and empty calories that cranberry juice does. SCORE!!!
Summer Hibiscus “Smoovie” (my British accent just popped out 🙂 )
1 cup hibiscus tea
1 cup fortified soy milk (or almond milk)
1 cup raspberries
1 tsp. honey
Slurp, slurp! “Future success is likely”, says my tea. Yup, they call me the tea whisperer.
Nota bene: I’m well aware the above photo looks like an American Apparel ad but alas, it is an ad for hibiscus tea. No photoshoot with Dov Charney involved.