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Hibiscus also called as Rosemallow or China rose is commonly cultivated as an ornamental shrub in the gardens because of its colourful flowering. Apart from being a beautiful plant, the uses of the plant are of huge importance in the medicinal field. The 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 name Hibiscus has its origin in the Greek literature and has been derived from ‘Hibiskos’. The evergreen shrub with glossy leaves usually growing up to 5 metres upon which the flowers are borne solitarily. The part of the plant mostly employed in medicinal uses is the Hibiscus flower. 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, is a shrub bearing bright red flowers. Hibiscus or China rose, as it is commonly known, has many beneficial uses when consumed internally. 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 the variety are glossy in appearance. The flowers are edible and thus, used for garnishing salads. The extract from the flower is utilized in many hair care and skin products. This variety has been known to impart lustre (shine), a quality which 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 this variety 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. The roots and barks are usually 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 this variety are used in the preparation of Hibiscus tea which has a wide range of applications. Flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa and mint are mixed together and used in the preparation of other refreshing beverages as  The leaves are used as vegetables in many cultures. The fibres from the stem of the plant are used along with jute fibres to produce products that are more durable. 

The wide variety of Hibiscus flowers contain a range of phytochemicals (bioactive compounds that are useful for medicinal purposes). The essential oils extracted from various parts of the Hibiscus flower have a wide range of 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.
  1. Hibiscus benefits for hair
  2. Hibiscus extract for diabetes
  3. Hibiscus flower extract as analgesic and anti-inflammatory
  4. Hibiscus for blood pressure
  5. Hibiscus for wound healing
  6. Hibiscus flower extract for medicinal uses
  7. Hibiscus flower extract as antitoxin
  8. Hibiscus flower extracts for obesity
  9. Hibiscus flower extract for diarrhoea

Hibiscus benefits for hair

Extracts from the flower and leaf of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have been used in preparations 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 amino acid responsible for enhancing hair strength, collagen. This property helps in hair growth, in addition to strengthening hair roots and increasing hair volume.
     
  • Hibiscus Shampoo:
    Considering its effect in the improvement of hair quality, different proportions of infusions of the flower are also used in preparing Hibiscus shampoos. Replacing the 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 have deep conditioning properties. Dry, frizzy hair can be smoothed out by the application of conditioners infused with Hibiscus extracts.
     
  • 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. Also, masks prepared by combining Hibiscus flowers and fenugreek seeds acts as an effective dandruff treatment and promotes restoration of a healthy scalp. Similarly, Hibiscus masks prepared with the combination of the flower and amla results in the strengthening of hair follicles and softer 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 symptoms)

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 extract from roots, when ingested orally, was found to have increased the reaction time (analgesic) and inhibition of edema (anti-inflammatory) properties. The effects are, however, dependant on the amount of dosage given.  

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 have been found to 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 upon patients with hypertension, it was discovered that when these patients were given polyphenol extracts from the flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa, it improved their metabolism and significantly lowered their blood pressure. 

Hibiscus for wound healing

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

Hibiscus flower extract for medicinal uses

The flower extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa are rich in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The Hibiscus extract from the sepals of flower demonstrates 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.

Hibiscus flower extract as antitoxin

Plant extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa are found to have lowered the degree of toxicity resulting from exposure to environmental pollution. In a study, it has been found that regulated dosage of Hibiscus flower extract in humans results in a decreased concentration of toxic compounds such as uric acid, tartrate, calcium, sodium, citrate, potassium, creatinine, and phosphate by enhancing the production of urine (diuretic).

Hibiscus flower extracts for obesity

Flower extracts from the variety Hibiscus sabdariffa have been found to have immense potential to fight 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 study conducted, patients with obesity and similar disorders were given regulated dosage od the polyphenols extracted from Hibiscus sabdariffa and it was observed that the oxidative stress factor contributing to obesity was decreased to a notable extent in these patients. 

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 extract obtained from the variety is antimicrobial and function and can be used to effectively treat diarrhoea. The extract, however, should be taken after 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 the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The ideal conditions for growth of hibiscus, therefore, require an ideal mixture of sunlight and moisture conditions. Different varieties require alterations within the temperature, sunlight, and humidity range resulting in optimal growth.
     
  • Quality of soil:
    The soil quality required to grow Hibiscus should be well-aerated and contain a lot of moisture. The soil should be also rich in 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 on to the plant once it has reached the required height.

Hibiscus Plant Care

The constantly moist soil is a necessary requirement for the Hibiscus plant to grow. An absence of such 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 addition of organic mulch, which will also help in the killing of weeds and controlling plant nematodes. The plants should be occasionally trimmed to maintain 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 with along with palpitations in the heart. If you experience any of the above, stop the use of Hibiscus and consult a physician if palpitations persist. 
     
  • Hibiscus flowers were found to have higher levels of aluminium content in it. High aluminium intake can lead to its deposition especially in patients with kidney problems. Aluminium is also found to have negative effects on the development of embryo during pregnancy and several nervous disorders. 
     
  • In certain individuals, Hibiscus use may produce some 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. 
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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