Medicinal plants

Hibiscus - ingredients, effects and application

Hibiscus - ingredients, effects and application

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Hibiscus belongs to the mallow family and is known for its magnificent, expansive hibiscus flowers. This flower of the plant, which comes from the tropics and subtropics, is a typical symbol on Hawaiian shirts and a symbol of exoticism. Hibiscus is popular as a houseplant, and the colorful wonder decorates many gardens. However, this is the bush marshmallow (Hibiscus syriacus), also known as garden marshmallow.

The hibiscus species Hibiscus sabdariffa on the other hand, it is known for its sour taste and provides a bright red color in fruit teas. Drunk cold or hot, hibiscus tea is a proven thirst quencher. Due to its high vitamin C content, tea is an excellent help for colds. Less well known is the versatile use of Hibiscus sabdariffa as a natural remedy, which has been tried and tested in North Africa for centuries. Hibiscus tea not only quenches thirst and relieves cramps (menstrual cramps), but also stabilizes blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, prevents tumor formation, heals inflammation, promotes digestion, helps with weight problems and has effective anti-aging properties.

Profile for hibiscus

Scientific name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Plant family: Mallow Family (Malvaceae)
Popular names: Marshmallow, African Mallow, Sabdariff Marshmallow, Sudan Marshmallow, Roselle, Karkade
Occurrence: Tropics and subtropics, especially in India, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan
Parts of plants used: Calyx
application areas:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure)
  • Kidney problems (diuretic)
  • Obesity
  • Eczema
  • Colds
  • Loss of appetite
  • Water retention (edema)

Hibiscus - plant portrait

More than 300 types of hibiscus are known, including herbs (annual and perennial), shrubs and trees. It is controversial whether the plant originally comes from India, Saudi Arabia or from Africa (West Sudan). Today the mallow plants are cultivated in the tropics and subtropics. As a popular ornamental plant in home gardens, the hibiscus, which blooms from June to September, provides plenty of pollen for bees.

Hibiscus is known for its five bright, often red petals. It is believed to have an erotic meaning in Africa because the plant is said to produce pleasure when consumed, and in Hawaii women wear a hibiscus flower behind their right ear to show that they are not in a relationship. Hibiscus sabdariffa, especially known under the name "Roselle", is the most important type of hibiscus for tea or in powder form as a food supplement.

The annual herb grows - in contrast to the garden hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) common to us - rather sparse and not shrubby and becomes up to three meters high. Its branches are red and smooth. The green leaves are about ten centimeters long and have reddish veins. The upper leaves are usually simple, the lower leaves, however, three to seven lobes with serrated edges. The flowers are individual and arise from the leaf axils.

The petals are creamy yellow, deep red in color at the bottom and surrounded by green sepals. The five fruit leaves have grown into an ovary and are surrounded by numerous stamens. Hibiscus sabdariffa has special fibers in its plant stems, which are processed as a jute substitute in developing countries.

Hibiscus flowers - tea

For the exceptionally healthy hibiscus tea, it is not the petals (petals) that are used, but the calyxes, which become fleshy when they have ripened when they ripen and gain many times their size. At this point, they are harvested, dried and ultimately made into tea. During the harvest, the calyxes are cut from the plant and then the sepals are plucked individually, washed and dried in the sun for a few days.

Due to the special taste of the hibiscus flowers with their acidic note and their colorants, which color food and drinks deep red, they are used in desserts, jams or liqueurs. Hibiskus sabdariffa has a long tradition in Chinese medicine and is used in the form of hibiscus tea as a expectorant and to strengthen the circulation, as a natural laxative, appetite stimulator or as a diuretic.

Hibiscus tea is popular in Egypt and Sudan as "Karkadeh" (Arabic word for hibiscus). It is drunk cold or hot and sweetened with sugar. To make the cold drink, a syrup is made by boiling equal amounts of dried calyx and sugar, which is then diluted with cold water. Karkadeh is also used in the production of ice cream and desserts (the pectin it contains is a gelling agent).

In West Africa, a variation of cold hibiscus tea is drunk under the name "Bissap" (see recipe). In Mali, the tea is known as "Dableni" and in Cameroon as "Folleré" and is only drunk on special occasions. In Trinidad, hibiscus is called "Sorrel" and is sold as a soft drink based on a special syrup refined with cinnamon, cloves and sugar. In Northeast Africa, even the protein-containing seeds of the hibiscus are cooked to a pulp and consumed as a meat substitute. Hibiscus flowers can also be eaten fresh and are used in curry dishes in Asia. None of the plant components in Hibiskus sabdariffa is toxic.

Powdered hibiscus

Hibiscus sepals dried and ground into powder are a healthy source of vitamin C and color the smoothie or yogurt bright red. In Ayurveda, hibiscus is used in powder form, diluted with water to prevent hair loss and to strengthen the hair. It makes the hair combable and gives it a special shine. The powder-water mixture is massaged into the hair and washed out again after 15 minutes.

Hibiscus ingredients

Hibiscus sabdariffa contains a variety of valuable ingredients:

  • Citric acid,
  • Hibiscus acid,
  • Malic acid,
  • Tartaric acid,
  • Glycosides (flavonoids, cardiac glycosides),
  • Phytosterols,
  • Lipids (terpenes)
  • and different types of sugar.

Carboxylic acids (citric acid, hibiscus acid, malic acid, tartaric acid) are responsible for the healing effects, which provide for the sour taste, have a blood-forming effect, stimulate digestion, strengthen the immune system and have a draining effect.

The hibiscus contains cardiac glycosides and flavonoids, which are responsible for the effect against cardiovascular diseases. Flavonoids are primarily flower pigments and the anthocyanins belong to them as a special subgroup. Anthocyanins are able to dilate the arteries and prevent plaques in blood vessels. The ability to lower cholesterol is due to the chemical compounds found in the hibiscus, the phytosterols.

Also contains hibiscus sabdariffa

  • Calcium,
  • Potassium,
  • Magnesium,
  • Phosphorus,
  • Vitamin C,
  • Carbohydrates,
  • Vitamin A,
  • Vitamin B1, B2 and B3.


Hibiscus sabdariffa can help with a variety of complaints because the medicinal plant works

  • purifying,
  • laxative,
  • Thirst quenching,
  • antispasmodic,
  • antibacterial,
  • hypotensive,
  • anti-tumor,
  • immune boosting,
  • hematopoietic,
  • hypoglycemic
  • and galling.

The flowers of Hibiskus sabdariffa contain a lot of valuable vitamin C and dissolve mucus processed as tea, help with a cold and are said to work against depressive moods. A scientific study by Tufts University Boston shows that hibiscus tea has been shown to lower blood pressure by consuming three cups a day for six weeks.

Tea made from hibiscus flower heads has a draining effect and water retention is washed out of the body. This is due to the anthocyanins and flavonoids in the hibiscus. A study from Iran with patients suffering from type II diabetes shows that blood sugar fluctuations are reduced by taking hibiscus tea several times a day.

In 2015, scientists from Taiwan discovered in a test with breast cancer tumor cells that the viability of the tumor cells could be inhibited by hibiscus extracts. This effect was also found in leukemia cells in a previous study.

Another study from Taiwan shows that the protocatechic acid contained in hibiscus sabdariffa inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells. In a study with hamsters, the development of obesity (obesity) was prevented by administering hibiscus extract.

Protocatechic acid has an antibacterial effect and fights various pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus stearothermophilus or Escherichia coli in humans. Scientists from Taiwan also report on this in an article in the journal "Phytotherapy Research". It has been known since the 1980s that the dyes (anthocyanins) contained in the hibiscus are fatal to the tuberculosis pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculose. Protocatechic acid is also an antioxidant and protects the liver.

Hibiscus - application and dosage

In order for the positive properties of hibiscus tea to be fully effective, three to five cups a day are recommended. To make tea from hibiscus flowers, a heaped teaspoon of the dried calyx is placed in a tea strainer for a cup and poured with boiling water. The tea can be drunk after five to ten minutes.

Commercially available hibiscus powder is versatile. This can be added to muesli, smoothie or yogurt, for example, and it is also ideal for curry dishes.

Side effects

Since interactions with certain medications can occur when taking hibiscus tea, consultation with the doctor is important. Tea is not recommended during pregnancy because hibiscus lowers estrogen levels and increases blood flow to the uterus.

Plant the hibiscus and make tea

Hibiscus sabdariffa can be planted in the tub at home to make your own hibiscus tea. However, the plant should be taken indoors from autumn, as it prefers it warm and sunny. Between July and September, when the calyxes reach five times their size and become fleshy, they can be cut off and dried for a few days, then crushed even more and enjoyed as tea.

The flowers must be stored protected from light after drying. Tea cannot be made from other types of hibiscus, such as garden hibiscus. Even if hibiscus is generally non-toxic, only the dried calyxes of Hibiscus sabdariffa are suitable for the sour-tasting drink.

Hibiscus tea - preparation

Recipe for “Bissap” - folk drink from West Africa:


  • 400 grams of dried hibiscus flowers,
  • 2.5 liters of water,
  • 150 grams of sugar,
  • two packets of vanilla sugar,
  • five centimeters of ginger,
  • a pinch of nutmeg.

Bring the hibiscus flowers and ginger to the boil with 2.5 liters of water in a saucepan and let them steep for half an hour. Then sieve the flowers and ginger. Now add the sugar, vanilla sugar and nutmeg, stir and let cool. Less or more sugar can be used as desired. As an alternative to sugar, maple syrup or agave syrup are suitable as sweeteners. The Bissap can now be filled into bottles and stored in the refrigerator. (ls)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Morton, Julia F .: Roselle, in: Fruits of warm climates, Florida Flair Books, Miami, pages 281-286, 1987, Purdue University
  • Hsu, Ren-Jun; Hsu, Yao-Chin; Chen, Shu-Pin et al .: The triterpenoids of Hibiscus syriacus induce apoptosis and inhibit cell migration in breast cancer cells, in: BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 15:65, March 2015, BMC
  • Tseng, Tsui-Hwa; Kao, Ta-Wei; Chu, Chia-Yih et al .: Induction of apoptosis by Hibiscus protocatechuic acid in human leukemia cells via reduction of retinoblastoma (RB) phosphorylation and Bcl-2 expression, in: Biochemical Pharmacology, 60/3: 307-315, August 2000, Science Direct
  • Liu, Keh ‐ sen; Tsao, Shyh-ming; Yin, Mei ‐ chin: In vitro antibacterial activity of roselle calyx and protocatechuic acid, in: Phytotherapy Research, 19/11: 942-945, November 2005, Wiley Online Library
  • McKay, Diane L .; Chen, C-Y. Oliver; Saltzman, Edward et al .: Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. Tea (Tisane) Lowers Blood Pressure in Prehypertensive and Mildly Hypertensive Adults, in: The Journal of Nutrition, 140/2: 298-303, February 2010, Oxford University Press
  • Mozaffari-Khosravi, Hassan; Jalali-Khanabadi, Beman-Ali; Afkhami-Ardekani, Mohammad; Fatehi, Farhad: (2009): Effects of sour tea (Hibiskus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoproteins in patients with type II diabetes, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15 (8): 899-903, August 2009, PubMed
  • Tsao, Shih-ming; Hsia, Te-chun; Yin, Mei-chin: Protocatechuic acid inhibits lung cancer cells by modulating FAK, MAPK, and NF-κB pathways, in: Nutrition and Cancer, 66 (8): 1331-4120, October 2014, PubMed
  • Kao, Erl-Shyh; Yang, Mon Yuan; Hung, Chia-Hung et al .: Polyphenolic extract from Hibiscus sabdariffa reduces body fat by inhibiting hepatic lipogenesis and preadipocyte adipogenesis, in: Food & Function, 7 (1): 171-82, January 2016, PubMed

Video: Dr. Mercola Discusses Hibiscus Tea and Why You Need to Stop Drinking Soda (October 2022).