A Few Facts About The Hibiscus Sabdariffa Plant
If you do a search for information about the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, also known as the Roselle plant, you'll undoubtedly come across a number of websites extolling its virtues and benefits. This will no doubt lead you to wonder whether or not this isn't just the latest in a long series of claims about various medicinal herbs that have come on the market and are supposed to cure all ills. After all, if a little taste of the plant is good for you, won't a concentrate made from it be even better?
A Food Staple In Many Countries
As it turns out, this plant is grown as a food staple in many parts of the world. One can make salads using its leaves, make tea from its blossoms, and even make twine and rope from the fibers in the stem. The tea made from this plant, whether served hot or iced, is high in vitamin C, and has mild diuretic properties. The calyxes, the green outer leaves of the flower, find their way into cocktails. They are said to go particularly well with rum. In Jamaica, rum is often added to the tea that has been brewed, yielding a very popular drink .One can also make a jam from the flowers. It is usually referred to as roselle jam, and it tastes something like plum jam. In some countries, wine is made from the flowers of this hibiscus plant.
There is little doubt about the value of hibiscus sabdariffa as a source of food, or for that matter as a substitute from hemp in making twine, rope, or burlap. The blossoms are also used to make food coloring products. In addition, the plant has a long history of use for based on its medicinal properties. It has been widely used in the treatment of hypertension. It is when one starts reading about how valuable the extracts of the plant can be in fighting diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer, that one may begin to wonder where the truth ends and commercial promotion begins.
There have been studies done to measure the effect of drinking hibiscus sabdariffa tea on a daily basis to treat high blood pressure. Tests have indeed indicated that people having a relatively mild case of high blood pressure seem to benefit from drinking the tea, though the results of a number of other tests have either been inconclusive, or the tests were improperly conducted. The tea does however have a fairly solid reputation for effectively treating high blood pressure. It has also been fairly well established that drinking the tea on a regular basis can help lower bad cholesterol - LDL, while increasing good cholesterol - HDL, sometimes significantly. As far as diabetes is concerned, the tea has been found to on occasion help lower the blood pressure of those with the disease, but it cannot be said to treat the disease itself in a meaningful way. It would seem then, that drinking hibiscus tea on a regular basis can't hurt, and may even be helpful to those having certain medical issues.
When Not To Drink The Tea
Or can it hurt? While hibiscus sabdariffa tea does not appear to have any harmful effects, as far as the majority of the population is concerned, there are those who should not drink it, at least under certain circumstances. Sometimes, when we eat or drink something that is normally good for us, it turns out to not be good for us, either because of some medication we are taking, or because of our physical condition. Those having low blood pressure, to the extent it is a problem, should not drink the tea, as it may lower the blood pressure even further. Similarly, since hibiscus tea has a tendency to lower estrogen levels, people undergoing hormone replacement therapy should avoid drinking it. It's also suspected that drinking the tea can possibly interfere with a woman's fertility and childbearing ability.
Growing And Harvesting
The plant can be grown for individual use if one lives in the southern part of the United States (Florida, Texas, California), or it can be grown anywhere a greenhouse is available. The leaves can be harvested as a food item, or the flowers and fruit can be harvested for tea, jams and beverages, or both. The plant is grown commercially on a large scale in Florida, California, and Puerto Rico, though most of what we purchase is apt to come from south of the border, where it is by the way, widely used in south-of-the-border (i.e., Mexican) dishes. Several hibiscus sabdariffa farms can also be found in Hawaii. The fresh flowers usually do not keep well, and need to be consumed shortly after they are harvested and placed on the market. If the flowers are carefully dried however, they have a relatively long shelf life. They can also be frozen. Dried or frozen flowers, while making excellent tea and other beverages, do not impart the same intense colors to food or drink as the fresh flowers do. Nutritionally, the plant (flowers and leaves) is high in fiber, calcium, phosphorous, thiamin, niacin and iron, and as mentioned previously, is also a very good source of vitamin C.