At the dawn
After vanishing darkness,
Inquired the dragon fly
Who said I am beautiful?
Not me, those who expect something from you!
by Jayaratne Weerakkody
Oh, hibiscus, hibiscus, how we admire you, how we love you, how we delight in you!
Is that because we expect so much from you?
Not just the vibrant, trumpet shaped (flamenco style) dresses you wear and hummingbirds you bring to our gardens, but also that tea, that tea, rumored to have so many benefits one would not know where to begin!
Hibiscus tea (either hot or cold, or both) is widely consumed all over the world and is called by different names in different places : karkade in most of Africa, bissap, known as the “national drink of Senegal”, rosa de Jamaica or aqua de Jamaica in Mexico and Honduras, red sorrel in Trinidad, and others.
Dried hibiscus calyces (fruit) , often labelled flor de Jamaica, have long been available in health food shops in the United States for making this tea, especially in California. But it is as easy to pick your own and do what Chef (and writer, and restaurateur) Mario Batali does – he says: ” I put hibiscus flower in every cup of tea I have. It’s sweet, sexy, and cleansing.” Hibiscus plants grow in abundance here, in California. So, you can pick and use the red flowers fresh (remember to remove the stamen from each flower and use only non pesticide treated flowers) or dry them! You can also use the fruit (aka calyces). There are numerous on line resources explaining how to dry them correctly and how to cut and separate seeds out of the seed pod etc. Here is one of them. https://www.tyrantfarms.com/hibiscus-a-tasty-addition-to-your-edible-landscape-or-garden/
There are over 300 species of Hibiscus; Hibiscus sabdariffa and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are the most studied ones, in terms of health benefits, and also the best ones to use in your tea.
Hibiscus tea is similar to cranberry juice in taste and color. It is definitely tart, so, one could add honey to increase the sweetness, or could try adding different spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger) “to play it up” a little. Or one could add some lemon juice and some fresh mint leaves in the hot brew, then (when tea has cooled down a tad) fill the glass water bottles and let them sit in the fridge for the use later – during the day. So, yes, one can use the Hibiscus tea the same way one would use the sports drinks – to satiate thirst! Especially during the very hot summer days. But actually… on any day.
In Egypt and Sudan wedding celebrations are traditionally toasted with a glass of hibiscus tea. The thinking goes that drinking hibiscus tea could increase your lifespan by maintaining good overall health.
Many people drink hibiscus tea to improve digestion. Some people claim that it helps with reducing anxiety and depression by creating a calming sensation in the body and mind. Hibiscus tea is also loaded with vitamin C. It is known for its antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties. It also boasts impressive antioxidant properties. It is said to help lower the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, thereby helping to protect against heart disease. These same antioxidant properties of this herbal brew may also help in treating liver disease. American Heart Association has said that consuming hibiscus tea lowers the blood pressure in pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. It also has stated that it can be beneficial to people suffering from hypertension and those at high risks of various cardiovascular diseases.
The hibiscus flowers are not just a raw material for some tea, they are distinctively unique and breathtakingly magical. And just looking at them, admiring and appreciating them together with the hummingbirds might be all one needs to breathe deeply and calm the mind and bring some peace to the soul.
This article was contributed by Indra Strong, a seasoned Let It Go Yoga teacher. Indra has taught yoga to adults and children for many years. Indra has a passion for healing remedies. She is currently teaching yoga to preschool children at “My Special School” in Santa Barbara. Contact: Indra: at email@example.com