Scientific Name(S): Hibiscus sabdariffa L. Family: Malvaceae
Common Name(S): Hibiscus, karkade, red tea, red sorrel, Jamaica sorrel, rosella
Hibiscus or Rosemallow is a large genus of about 200-220 species of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae , native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.
Botany: Hibiscus is native to tropical Africa but today grows throughout many tropical climates. This strong annual herb grows to 5 feet or more and produces elegant red flowers. The flowers (calyx and bract portions) are collected when slightly immature. The major producing countries are Jamaica and Mexico.
History: The hibiscus has had a long history of use in Africa and neighboring tropical countries. Its fragrant flowers have been used in sachets and perfumes. Fiber from H. sabdariffa has been used to fashion rope as a jute substitute and the fleshy red calyx is used in the preparation of teas, drinks, jams and jellies, and the leaves have been used like spinach. The plant is used widely in Egypt for the treatment of cardiac and nerve diseases and has been described as a diuretic. It has been used in the treatment of cancers. The mucilagenous leaves are used as a topical emollient in Africa. In western countries, hibiscus flowers are often found as components of herbal tea mixtures.
Uses of Hibiscus
The leaves and calyxes have been used as food and the flowers steeped for tea. Hibiscus has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic, mild laxative and treatment for cardiac and nerve diseases and cancer. Mucilaginous leaves have been used as topical emollient.
Side Effects of Hibiscus
The flowers are considered relatively non-toxic, although an injected extract killed mice within 24 hours.
Toxicology: Hibiscus flowers are generally considered to be relatively non-toxic. However, a 30% aqueous extract of the flowers had an LD-50 of 0.4 to 0.6 ml in mice following intraperitoneal injection. Animals injected with this toxic dose were dull and apathetic and died within 24 hours.
Summary: Hibiscus is a popular plant whose flowers are found in numerous herbal tea preparations. The flowers contribute color and a pleasant taste to beverages. In normal concentrations, the teas would not be expected to exert any pharmacologic action.