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Hibiscus sabdariffa

Hibiscus is a member of the mallow family, which gives us many useful and edible plants. Hibiscus is at home in tropical and subtropical regions though it is no longer possible to determine its true home - today it is truly pantropical and can be found in Australia, China, India, Africa as well as in the Caribbean. It is not very demanding, except for the fact that it does not tolerate frost, which means that it will not do well as a perennial garden plant in northern climes. Although we are mostly familiar with the dried calyces that are used to make a refreshing, sour summer beverages in tropical countries the flowers, seeds and leaves are also used for food and medicine, while the stems, like its close relative, Kenaf, are a source of plant fibre.

Hibiscus has a pleasant acidic flavour and is rich in vitamin C. It is mildly diuretic and stimulates intestinal activity. It reduces the viscosity of the blood and there may be an interaction with blood thinning medication. It also reduces the blood pressure and may be helpful in cases of arteriosclerosis. It is a febrifuge and can be used as a refreshing and cooling drink for fevers. Hibiscus can be regarded as a mild tonic for the digestive system that gently stimulates the action of stomach, kidneys and liver. In folk medicine it is considered a remedy for cancer, though this has not been scientifically verified. It also has been shown to reduce the absorption of alcohol, thus reducing the less than pleasant effects of alcohol poisoning.

The suggestive hibiscus flowers are often used in charms for love and lust, but the dried calyces suggest another use: they can be used as a cleansing and strengthening aid, refreshing exhausted minds and tired spirits and providing fresh zest and energy. They can also be used to cool overheated tempers and to help release stagnant energy blockages.