Hibiscus flowers have been used in traditional medicine in India, China, Thailand, Jamaica, Africa, Hawaii, the Middle East, the Philippines and beyond.
Often, hibiscus is popular in summers and as an iced preparation. The rumors about it helping to cool down the body are true. In Egypt and Sudan the tea, called karkade, is popular as a “refrigerant”–that is, a beverage that helps lower body temperature. In Ghana, it is prepared as a cooling sobolo drink. (For a taste of tradition, watch this video showing its preparation, which I found by way of the Center for Plants & Culture.)
Modern applications are informed by plenty of research that confirms its benefits on heart health and metabolism, allergies, urinary tract balance, and yes–more.
Research shows that hibiscus can be used to help ease mild hypertension (it acts as a gentle diuretic and vasorelaxant) as well as imbalanced blood sugar and cholesterol levels. An extract of the flower was also shown to reduce waist circumference/body fat ratio and waist-to-hip ratio in people with obesity, making it a promising adjunct treatment for metabolic syndrome.
Another reason to love hibiscus in warm-weather seasons is its anti-allergy action. Hibiscus has been shown to stabilize mast cells (cells that contain immune chemicals like histamine, heparin, and cytokines), which minimizes overactive allergic responses to irritants in general. (If you’re the sensitive type, this is for you!) Sip it preventively (think six weeks ahead of seasonal allergies, for example) or as needed when the sneezing strikes.Regular consumption of hibiscus tea can help reduce histamine production, and the herb works well in blends (look for turmeric, licorice, and functional mushrooms) to balance allergies and lower the overall inflammatory load.
As if those weren’t enough reasons to love it (you see why I’m married to herbs?), hibiscus can be hugely helpful for urinary tract balance. This is due to its soothing diuretic actions. (A soothing diuretic is more gentle and nourishing than others that can strip our systems of good bacteria or hydration. Many herbs are soothing and nourishing diuretics that replenish and rebalance nutrients as they move through.) Hibiscus has even shown promise in protecting against the development of kidney stones.
Last but not least, hibiscus is practically electric with its glowing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant flavonoids and phenolics, plant compounds we want lots of in life.