Hibiscus, also called Rosemallow or China rose, is commonly cultivated as an ornamental shrub because of its colourful flowering. 

Hibiscus plant belongs to the family Malvaceae of the order Malvales. It is indigenous to the tropical and subtropical regions of the world where the genus is widely distributed.

The evergreen shrub with glossy leaves usually grows up to 5 metres upon which the flowers are borne solitarily. The flowers of Hibiscus plant are usually large and have bright colours such as red, yellow, orange, white and purple. The most common variety, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, bears bright red flowers. 

Apart from being beautiful, hibiscus plants find a variety of uses in traditional medicine. The part of the plant mostly employed in medicinal uses is the Hibiscus flower. Diseases and conditions such as indigestion, anxiety, scurvy and even fever are treated by the consumption of the flower as directed by an Ayurveda professional.

Some Basic Facts About Hibiscus

  • Botanical Name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • Common Name: China rose, Rosemallow
  • Sanskrit Name: Javaa, Rudhrapushpa, Japaa, Arunaa, Odrapushpa
  • Parts Used: Flowers (Petals)
  • Native Region and Geographical Distribution: Native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
  1. Classification and varities of Hibiscus
  2. Hibiscus flower extract benefits
  3. How to grow Hibiscus
  4. Hibiscus side effects

Classification of Hibiscus

Kingdom: Plantae
  Division: Angiosperms
    Class: Eudicots
      Order: Malvales
        Family: Malvaceae
           Genus: Hibiscus

Hibiscus Varieties

Several varieties of the Hibiscus flower provide different health benefits. There are over 100 known varieties of Hibiscus, the most commonly used of which are:

  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
    It is commonly known as the Chinese Hibiscus and is the most abundantly found variety. The plant usually has bright red flowers and grows as a shrub or a small tree. The leaves of this variety are glossy in appearance. The flowers are edible and thus, used for garnishing salads. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis extract is utilized in many hair care and skincare products. This variety is known to impart lustre (shine), a quality that is employed while preparing shoe polishes. 
  • Hibiscus syriacus
    This variety of Hibiscus is native to China and is mostly found in the southwestern parts of the country. The plant grows as a bushy shrub, and the flowers are usually white, blue or light purple in colour. The variety has been used as an infusion in herbal tea by indigenous people. It has been found that Hibiscus syriacus can be used to increased appetite and treat cough
  • Hibiscus tiliaceus
    This variety of Hibiscus is found to mainly grow in the coastal regions of the tropical countries in Asia and Africa. The flower of Hibiscus tiliaceus is usually bright orange in colour and changes to red when mature. The plant usually grows as a tree and thus produces valuable wood that is utilized to make durable ropes and fix cracks in boats. Roots and barks of this hibiscus variety are boiled down to use as an infusion to treat fevers. 
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa
    This variety is commonly called Roselle and majorly found in West Africa. The effects of this variety have been most widely studied. The flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa are used in the preparation of hibiscus tea, which has a wide range of applications. Hibiscus sabdariffa leaves are used as vegetables in many cultures and fibres from the stem of the plant are used along with jute fibres to produce durable products.

Hibiscus flowers contain a range of phytochemicals (bioactive compounds that are useful for medicinal purposes) that provide them with an array of therapeutic properties and uses. The details of the same have been discussed below.

  • Beneficial for hair: Hibiscus makes the perfect hair care supplement for people looking for longer, shinier and healthier hair. It can be used in the form of oil, shampoo, conditioner or as a face mask to soothe your scalp and restore the strength and lustre of your hair shafts.
  • Reduces blood pressure: HIbiscus possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which is suggested to reduce blood pressure. It also contains some polyphenols, which have been found to exhibit hypotensive (reduces blood pressure) action in clinical settings.
  • Promotes wound healing: Hibiscus flower extracts improve wound healing process and skin breaking strength. It also prevents bacterial infection at injury site.
  • Fights obesity: Hibiscus has a stimulatory effect on metabolism, which, in turn, helps combat obesity and overweight problems. The various active compounds present in this flower revert free radical damage and reduce oxidative stress that is one of the major factors contributing to obesity.
  • Detoxifies the body: Hibiscus has a diuretic and detoxifying effect on your body. It helps eliminate toxic compounds and chemicals from your blood by flushing it out with urine.
  • Anti-diabetic: Research studies indicate that hibiscus tea has a positive effect on insulin-producing cells, which improves the levels of insulin. It also reduces insulin resistance and oxidative stress in diabetic individuals, thereby helping manage blood sugar levels.

Hibiscus benefits for hair

Extracts from the flower and leaf of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have been used in the preparation of oil. Hair growth aspects such as length and cyclic phases of hair follicles have been determined under a study conducted and it has been found that leaf extracts of Hibiscus show better results as compared to extracts from the flower.

Hibiscus Plant Products For Hair

  • Hibiscus Oil:
    The second most manufactured Hibiscus plant product is the Hibiscus hair oil. Hibiscus hair oil infusions are particularly rich in vitamin C, which boosts the protein responsible for enhancing hair strength, that is collagen. This property helps in hair growth in addition to strengthening hair roots and increasing hair volume.

Read more: How to make your hair grow faster and longer

  • Hibiscus Shampoo:
    Considering its effect in the improvement of hair quality, different proportions of infusions of hibiscus flower are also used in preparing shampoos. Replacing your regular shampoo with that of a shampoo containing hibiscus infusions can result in hair with a better lustre.
  • Hibiscus Conditioner:
    The gel-like substance extracted from the flowers and leaves of Hibiscus has deep conditioning properties. Dry, frizzy hair can be smoothed out by the application of conditioners infused with Hibiscus extracts.

Read more: Dry hair treatment

  • Hibiscus Masks:
    A mask prepared with the combination of hibiscus flowers, leaves and yoghurt helps in promoting hair growth. It also nourishes hair roots from within and improves the quality of hair. Masks prepared by combining Hibiscus flowers and fenugreek seeds act as an effective dandruff treatment and promote restoration of a healthy scalp. Similarly, masks prepared with the combination of the hibiscus flower and amla results in the strengthening of hair follicles and makes the hair softer.

Read more: Home remedies for thicker hair

It is also important to note that combining Hibiscus with appropriate portions of coconut oil, olive oil, ginger, eggs, onion, aloe vera, and neem individually can result in quicker regrowth of hair.

Hibiscus extract for diabetes

Flavonoid-rich extracts from the ethyl acetate fraction of the petals of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are found to have therapeutic anti-diabetic properties. The petal extracts help in the protection of the pancreatic beta-cells in patients with diabetes mellitus.

In a study conducted on diabetic people, it has been found that consumption of about 150 ml tea with Hibiscus sabdariffa flower infusions could help in managing diabetes by decreasing oxidative stress and resistance towards insulin

Read more: Diabetes diet

Hibiscus flower extract as analgesic and anti-inflammatory

The root extract of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is found to possess analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory activities. Hibiscus root extract, when ingested orally, was found to increase reaction time (analgesic) and inhibit oedema (anti-inflammatory). The effects are, however, dependant on the amount of dosage given.

Read more: Inflammatory disease symptoms

Hibiscus for blood pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common health condition affecting the majority of people globally. Research hints that hibiscus possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, which helps lower blood pressure. In addition, Hibiscus flower extracts have also been found to have diuretic properties ie, it lowers blood pressure by increasing the rate of urination.

In a study conducted on a group of patients with hypertension, it was discovered that consumption of polyphenol extracts from the flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa improves metabolism and significantly lowers blood pressure. 

Read more: Ayurvedic treatment for high blood pressure

Hibiscus for wound healing

Ethanol-extract of hibiscus flower is found to have wound healing and antimicrobial properties. In a study, treatment with this extract showed a significant (about 11%) higher rate of wound healing as compared with the controls. Properties such as hydroxyproline (required for the formation of skin proteins) content, skin breaking strength, were also found to be significantly higher upon treatment with hibiscus flower extracts. 

Read more: Open wound treatment

Hibiscus flower extract for medicinal uses

The flower extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa are rich in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Extracts obtained from the sepals of the hibiscus flower demonstrate pharmacological properties which induce strong antioxidant reactions in vitro and in vivo. Anthocyanins and protocatechuic acid (phytochemicals) extracted from Hibiscus sabdariffa could also be employed to produce products that are beneficial therapeutically.

Read more: Antioxidants benefits

Hibiscus flower extract as antitoxin

Extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa are found to be effective in reducing the toxicity resulting from exposure to environmental pollution. In a study, it has been found that regulated consumption of hibiscus flower results in a decreased concentration of uric acid, tartrate, calcium, sodium, citrate, potassium, creatinine, and phosphate by enhancing the production of urine (diuretic). Excess of any of these compounds in the body may have severe health impact.

Read more: Detox diet benefits

Hibiscus flower extracts for obesity

Flower extracts from the variety Hibiscus sabdariffa are suggested to have immense potential in fighting obesity and related disorders. The bioactive compounds called polyphenols extracted from the flowers of the plant have been found to act on certain digestive enzymes and hormones, which causes the process of metabolism to be regulated more effectively.

These properties of polyphenols can contribute majorly towards reducing obesity and also checking disorders that arise as a result of it. In a research study, patients with obesity and similar disorders were given a regulated dosage od the polyphenols extracted from Hibiscus sabdariffa and it was observed that oxidative stress, a factor contributing to obesity was decreased to a notable extent in these patients.

Read more: Obesity profile test

Hibiscus flower extract for diarrhoea

Traditionally, in Japan, Haiti and Mexico, the extract from the flowers and leaves of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has been used for the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea. The effect is attributed to the antimicrobial effects of the extract. However, do not take hibiscus extract without consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner. 

Read more: Diarrhoea treatment

Hibiscus can readily be cultivated when provided with the right growing conditions. The following steps are to be followed in order to grow hibiscus at home and maintain its growth.

  • General conditions:
    Hibiscus is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Therefore hibiscus requires an ideal mixture of sunlight and moisture conditions to grow. Different varieties of hibiscus need alterations within the temperature, sunlight, and humidity range for optimal growth.
  • Quality of soil:
    To grow hibiscus, the soil should be well-aerated and contain a lot of moisture and organic nutrients.
  • Season:
    The ideal season to grow hibiscus is during summer, spring or fall. Cuttings after rooting are allowed to harden on holding branches. The young plants then begin to take shape upon pinching, which is important for the determination of bud count of the plant and its density.
  • Growth regulators:
    Depending upon the nature of the desired plant product, growth regulators are applied to the plant once it has reached the required height.

Hibiscus Plant Care

Constantly moist soil is a necessary requirement for the Hibiscus plant to grow. An absence of such a condition may cause the plant to wilt, which should be prevented by watering the plant on a regular basis. Water can also be conserved by the addition of organic mulch, which will further aid in killing weeds and controlling plant nematodes. Hibiscus plants should be occasionally trimmed to maintain their size. During winters, hibiscus requires severe pruning. In case of severe infestation by insects, insecticidal soaps or horticultural soaps should be applied.

Hibiscus flower extract has several valuable properties due to which it has many uses in day-to-day life. Certain people may, however, experience some side effects, which have been listed below. 

  • Hibiscus intake by patients with hypotension (low blood pressure) may produce several derogatory effects on health. Some people may experience, dizziness, nausea along with palpitations in the heart on using hibiscus. If you experience any of the above symptoms, stop the use of Hibiscus and consult a physician. 
  • Hibiscus flowers were found to have high levels of aluminium. Excess aluminium may deposit in the body, especially in patients with kidney problems. Aluminium is also found to have negative effects on the development of the embryo during pregnancy and several nervous disorders.
  • In certain individuals, hibiscus use may produce allergic reactions. If allergic reactions occur, the intake of hibiscus tea must be ceased immediately and a physician should be consulted to prevent aggravation of allergy

Medicines / Products that contain Hibiscus

References

  1. María Herranz-López et al. Multi-Targeted Molecular Effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa Polyphenols: An Opportunity for a Global Approach to Obesity. Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 907. PMID: 28825642
  2. McKay DL, Chen CY, Saltzman E, Blumberg JB. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea (tisane) lowers blood pressure in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. J Nutr. 2010 Feb;140(2):298-303. PMID: 20018807
  3. Frankova A et al. In Vitro Digestibility of Aluminum from Hibiscus sabdariffa Hot Watery Infusion and Its Concentration in Urine of Healthy Individuals.. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2016 Dec;174(2):267-273. Epub 2016 Apr 23. PMID: 27107884
  4. Shivananda Nayak B, Sivachandra Raju S, Orette FA, Chalapathi Rao AV. Effects of Hibiscus rosa sinensis L (Malvaceae) on wound healing activity: a preclinical study in a Sprague Dawley rat. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2007 Jun;6(2):76-81. PMID: 17558005
  5. Adhirajan N, Ravi Kumar T, Shanmugasundaram N, Babu M. In vivo and in vitro evaluation of hair growth potential of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Oct;88(2-3):235-9. PMID: 12963149
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