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March 2018--Hibiscus


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Hibiscus  rosa-sinensis
BIS-kus RO-suh se-NEN-sis]

Family: Malvaceae 

Names: China Rose, Chinese hibiscus, Rose-of-China, Chinese Rose, Hawaiian Hibiscus; Bunga Raya (Malay), Shoe Flower; Karkade (German); karkadeh (French); carcade (Italian); Japakusuma (Sanskrit); Gurhal (Hindi) 

Description: Hibiscus is an evergreen, growing as a small tree or large shrub which in the wild can grow to 30 feet high, in cultivation it grows to 4-15 feet.  The deep green, glossy, oval leaves are somewhat pointed and slightly toothed on the edges.  Leaves range from one to four inches long.  The flowers are large and exotic looking.  When fully open the flared, five-petaled flower can be four to six inches across with brilliantly hued petals of orange, red or purplish red.  The reproductive parts of the flowers stick out on a long filament.  Usually each flower only lasts for a day or two, but new buds are constantly produced, making the hibiscus almost ever blooming.   

Culture: Hardy in zone 10.  Elsewhere it can be grown in a container and taken outdoors for the summer.  Hibiscus grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.  Protect it from the wind by growing it in a sheltered location.  To achieve a full, lushly formed plant, prune the hibiscus stems back by one-third of their length each spring.  Softwood cuttings can be taken in the summer.  Since most hibiscus are hybrids, growing them from seed does not often result in plants true to the parent.  The fleshy calyces which enfold the ripe fruit are harvested at intervals and dried in the open air. 

History: Hibiscus is from the Greek ibiskos, a form of mallow, but the origin of the specific name is uncertain.  National flower of Malaysia.  Long considered an aphrodisiac.  In Hindu mythology the hibiscus is the flower offered in the worship of the Goddess. 

Constituents: 15-30% plant acides including citric, malic and tartaric acids.  1.5% anthocyans, among them delphinidin 3-sambubioside, delphinidin, cyanidin 3-sambubioside; galacturonic acid, rhamnose, galactose, arabinose, glucose, xylose, mannose. 

Properties: refrigerant, anti-inflammatory, astringent 

Energetics: sour, sweet, cool 

Meridians/Organs Affected: liver, stomach 

Flower Essence: Helps to correct inability to connect with one’s female sexuality; lack of warmth and vitality, often due to prior exploitation or abuse.  Its qualities are warmth and responsiveness in female sexuality; integration of soul warmth and bodily passion. 

Medicinal:  The flowers reportedly serve as an astringent, while the root contains some mucilage, which is known to have a soothing effect on the mucous membranes that line the respiratory and digestive tracts.  In African folk medicine, the drug is considered spasmolytic, antibacterial, chologogic, diuretic and anthelmintic.  Aqueous extracts of hibiscus flowers are said to relax the muscles of the uterus and to lower the blood pressure.  The tincture is good for minor stomach and intestinal disorders.  Used for kidney and reproductive system problems due to heat.  Effective for menstrual difficulties, especially excessive bleeding.  The root yields a drug which Ayurveda believes to be useful in treating venereal disease.  An extract from the hibiscus flower is also used in preventing unwanted pregnancies, inhibiting the flow of semen in men, and bringing on temporary sterility in women.  Ayurvedic physicians believe the anticonception properties of the drug to be effective postcoitally.  In tests on male animals the period of steriliy is too limited to occasion much interest as a male contraceptive, but the findings as regards a possible natural postcoital contraceptive for women have been more impressive.  Helps purify blood.  Good for the heart.  Improves skin complexion and promotes hair growth. 

Dosage is 10-30 drops 3 times per day.   

Research: Three 240 mL servings a day of tea made with hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) were associated with a 7.2 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 3.1 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure, compared to 1.3 and 0.5 mmHg in the placebo group, according to findings published in The Journal of Nutrition.  
         Researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University report that this is the first placebo-controlled clinical trial to study if hibiscus tea, in an amount easily attained from the diet, may affect blood pressure.  
         Dr McKay and her co-workers recruited 65 adult with pre- and mild hypertension, and aged between 30 and 70, to participate in their randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.  
        Subjects were randomly assigned to consume either three servings of brewed hibiscus tea per day or a placebo drink for six weeks. At the end of the study people in the hibiscus tea group displayed an average reduction of 7.2 mmHg in their systolic blood pressure, compared to 1.3 mmHg in the placebo group. A slight but not significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure was also recorded in the hibiscus tea group.          
        The benefits of hibiscus tea appeared to be greater in people who had higher systolic blood pressure at the start of the study.  
         Previous studies indicated that hibiscus may act by relaxing blood vessels, and this may be linked to calcium channels, or inhibition of the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), thereby preventing the conversion of angiotensin I to the potent vasoconstrictor, angiotensin II.  
           There is also evidence in the scientific literature that hibiscus may act as a diuretic. Another possible explanation for the apparent benefits is related to the anthocyanin content of H. sabdariffa.  

Cosmetic Uses:
Chinese and Indian women have traditionally boiled the flowers and leaves of the hibiscus, then mixed the infusion with herbal oil before applying it to their hair as a stimulant to the growth of luxurious tresses.  Indians include hibiscus flower juice in a famous herbal oil and conditioner which is now bottled and sold throughout eastern India under the brand name Jaba Kusam.  One reason for the widespread popularity of this oil is its effectiveness against dandruff.   

Hibiscus Rinse to Redden Hair

Make an infusion by boiling a handful of hibiscus heads in 1 pint of water and simmering for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and leave for one hour.  Strain and bottle.  After shampooing, rinse the hair in the infusion to highlight the reddish tones in brown hair. 

Other Uses: The hibiscus is also the source of a black dye that was used for varying purposes in the Far East, from blackening shoes to tinting women’s hair and eyebrows.   

Culinary Uses:  Mild citrus/cranberry flavor.  The flowers contain citric acid, tartaric acid, vitamins and mineral salts.  They are mainly used in a deep red, aromatic infusion that can be drunk hot or cold as a tonic stimulating the intestinal and kidney functions.  The fleshy dried calyx of jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is boiled to make an exotic, deep garnet-colored beverage, served over ice.  Fresh hibiscus petals can be added sparingly to salads, or they can be very lightly cooked.  They also make gorgeous containers for diced fruit or vegetables.  The calyces are also used in jellies and ice creams, and to color foods and cosmetic products.  The best varieties are the African, which contain a higher proportion of citric acid to tartaric acid.  The leaves, eaten raw or cooked, have a rhubarblike flavor.  Seeds are eaten roasted or made into an oily sauce. 

Hibiscus and Orange Finger Cookies with Cinnamon

  cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
5/8 cup butter, plus a little for greasing
5/8 cup caster sugar
grated zest 1 orange
2 Tbsp purple hibiscus petals, torn
1 large egg, beaten
1/ 4 tsp ground cinnamon
confectioner’s sugar and fresh hibiscus petals, to decorate

               Heat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.  Sift the flour and baking soda into a large, warmed bowl.  Set aside. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until very pale and creamy.  Add the grated orange zest, hibiscus petals and the beaten egg and mix thoroughly.  Add the cinnamon, then fold in the flour mixture, mixing well to form a firm dough.  Wrap in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut into fingers.  Place these on the greased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly colored.  Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and leave to cool a little.  Serve slightly warm, dusted with confectioner’s sugar and decorated with fresh hibiscus flowers.  (Cooking With Flowers)

California Roll—Hawaiian Style

16 hibiscus flowers
1 cup cooked sushi rice
1 avocado, cut into ½  inch cubes
¼  pound crab meat, cut into small pieces
black and white sesame seeds
soy sauce or tamari

                 Place a teaspoonful of rice into each flower.  Add a piece of avocado and a piece of crab meat.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  If desired, have soy sauce or tamari and wasabi for dipping.  (Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate)


Hawaiian Fruit Salad with Hibiscus
1 mango
small papaya  
1 small pineapple
lime juice to taste
2 Tbsp candied ginger, finely diced
2 Tbsp banana or macadamia nut liqueur
2 hibiscus flowers, petals only, chopped
4 large hibiscus blossoms, stamen removed
mint leaves, for garnish
whole hibiscus for garnish

           Peel and finely dice the mango and papaya, discarding the seeds.  Peel and finely dice the pineapple (about 2 cups).  Place the diced fruit in a large bowl.  Add lime juice, diced ginger, and liqueur.  Refrigerate the fruit to chill.  Just before serving, toss in chopped petals.  To serve, remove stamens from the whole hibiscus flowers.  Set on dessert plates and spoon some of the fruit salad inside, letting the rest spill onto the plates, as you would a cornucopia.  Decorate with mint leaves and additional petals.  Serve immediately.  (Edible Flowers a Kitchen Companion)

Peach-Filled Hibiscus  
3 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup peach yogurt
¼ cup sugar
1 cup chopped fresh peaches
16 slices fresh peaches
8 hibiscus blossoms
Mix well cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, and chopped peaches. Place a scoop of mixture in each blossom and top with 2 peach slices.  (Edible Flowers: a Recipe Collection) 

Hibiscus, Rosemary and Cardamom Sorbet
3 or 4 whole cardamom pods
1/3 cup dried hibiscus flowers
large sprig fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped or 1/2 tsp dried
Toast the cardamom pods in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes, until lightly toasted.  Smash the pods open with the bottom of the skillet.  Combine the cardamom, hibiscus and rosemary in a saucepan with 4 cups water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Let it boil a minute.  Remove it from the heat and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.  Stir ¼  to 1/3 cup sugar or honey and 1/3 cup fresh lemon or lime juice into the tea.  Let it cool to room temperature and then chill.  Process it in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  (Tonics) 

Hawaiian Fruit Salad with Hibiscus
1 tablespoon coriander seed
2 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon cardamom seed
1 cup honey
1 star anise flower
2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers
6 whole cloves
3 teaspoons orange zest
6 rose hips
1 cup 100-proof vodka
½ cup brandy
       Coarsely grind coriander, cardamom, star anise, cloves and rose hips in coffee grinder or food processor.  Bring 1 cup water and honey to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add spice mixture and boil for 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Place hibiscus flowers in bowl. Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain syrup into bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes, then strain into a clean 1-quart container. Add orange zest, vodka, and brandy. Top off with remaining water. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark place for 1 month. Use a coarse sieve or colander to strain out orange zest. Discard.  Rack or filter liqueur into final container and age for 1 month before serving. (Cordials from Your Kitchen)

1 part licorice root, powdered
2 parts hibiscus
2 parts alfalfa
1 part lemon verbena
2 parts red clover 

Cooking with Flowers
, Jenny Leggatt, Ballantine Books, 1987; ISBN: 0-449-90252-8
Cordials from your Kitchen
, Pattie Vargas & Rich Gulling, Storey, 1997; ISBN: 0-88266-986-9
Edible Flowers a Kitchen Companion
, Kitty Morse, Ten Speed Press, 1995; ISBN: 0-89815-754-4
Edible Flowers: A Recipe Collection
, Marilyn Lande, 1994, Lan-Design Publications; ISBN: 0-9637596-1-2
Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate
, Cathy Wilkinson Barash, Fulcrum, 1993; ISBN: 1-55591-164-1
Flower Essence Repertory
, Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz, Flower Essence Society, 1994; ISNB: 0-9631306-1-7
The Garden of Life
, Naveen Patnaik, Doubleday, 1993; ISBN: 0-385-42469-8
An Herbal Feast
, Risa Mornis, Keats, 1998; ISBN: 0-5625-0080-1
The Natural Beauty Book
, Anita Guyton, Thorsons, 1991; ISBN: 0-7225-2498-6
Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Herbs and Spices
, edited by Stanley Schuler, Fireside Books, 1990; ISBN: 0-671-73489-X
Thorne’s Guide to Herbal Extracts Volume II
, Terry Thorne, Wisteria Press
onics, Robert A. Barnett, Harper Collins, 1997; ISBN: 0-06-095111-7 

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