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What is Hibiscus Extract?

By N. Phipps
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants. Most are native to tropical regions, but many species are commonly grown indoors as houseplants or within warm temperate areas outside. In addition to being admired for their ornamental beauty, these flowers have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Hibiscus extract and tea have been produced from the blooms and used worldwide.

Although there are numerous varieties within the genus, hibiscus extract is most often obtained from the red flowers of H. sabdariffa, also known as Roselle. This particular species is generally cultivated in areas in and around China, Thailand, Egypt, and India but may be grown in other regions as well. The history of its use, including the tea produced from the plant, dates back for centuries.

Hibiscus extract was a commonly used folk remedy. Many cultures have used the extract to treat dandruff, stimulate hair growth, and darken eyebrows. Others thought the plant contained aphrodisiac qualities. According to some historical records, the hibiscus was referred to as shoe black, as its extract was occasionally used to polish shoes.

The plant has been shown to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Hibiscus extract also contains properties that are believed to reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or bad cholesterol. This is not only good for the heart and circulation, but may help reduce blood pressure as well. Additionally, the plant provides cooling relief by dilating pores. It is also good for the skin, improving its elasticity and helping to heal sores and wounds.

Hibiscus acts as a mild laxative and may aid in alleviating problems with indigestion. Drinking the tea is thought to provide relief from kidney ailments as well. Hibiscus extract relaxes the uterus, which makes it a suitable remedy for treating urinary tract infections. It has even been a popular remedy for the treatment of hemorrhoids. Other remedies include the treatment of colds and respiratory problems.

In addition to making herbal tea from hibiscus, its culinary uses include syrups, jams, relish, salad dressings, and sauces. Hibiscus extract is also used as both a coloring and flavoring agent for a variety of baked foods and beverages—providing a dark red color and mild taste. Other parts of the plant, including the leaves, stalks, seeds, and roots, have been used in many cultures for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes as well.

Other than minor skin irritation in sensitive individuals, there are no known precautions associated with the use of hibiscus. However, according to some studies, drinks produced from Roselle could produce alcoholic effects in some people.

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Discussion Comments

By serenesurface — On Aug 12, 2012
@SarahGen-- I don't know about diabetes, but there are scientific studies which show hibiscus extract to reduce cholesterol like the article said. I've just started taking hibiscus extract for this reason. I have no idea if it's reducing my cholesterol. I will find out when I next go for a check up.

But if you can't have the tea, the extract seems like a good alternative. I haven't even tried the tea but I think capsules are much easier to take. I also haven't had any side effects, no stomach ailments or anything like that so that's good.

By literally45 — On Aug 11, 2012

@feasting-- Oh yeah. Hibiscus is very much edible. My cousin did the same thing your friend did for her wedding. She wanted pink champagne for her wedding but it was going to cost a lot. Instead, she bought regular champagne and served them in glasses with edible hibiscus. The hibiscus turned the champagne pink and people ate the flower. It looked really nice in the glass and it tasted pretty good too.

I'm sure the extract is more beneficial than just eating the hibiscus flower since it's concentrated. So for culinary purposes, I think using hibiscus flower is good. And for health purposes, the extract.

By cloudel — On Aug 11, 2012

@kylee07drg – I am just amazed at the variety of problems that hibiscus extract can treat. I know people who have used it to treat allergic reactions that caused rashes on their skin, as well as menstrual cramps.

Since it relaxes the uterus, it makes sense that the tea would be good for relieving cramps. My friend drinks hibiscus tea every month during her period, and she says it has made a big difference.

I have seen hibiscus leaf extract in the ingredient list on my dandruff shampoo bottle. I imagine that it contributes a good bit to the shampoo's effectiveness.

By SarahGen — On Aug 10, 2012

I was told by my friend that hibiscus flower tea is good for lowering blood sugar. I have type two diabetes and have been looking for a natural herbal tea that can balance my blood sugar. So I got some loose hibiscus tea.

The color of the tea is a beautiful red but the tea itself is quite sour. I drank it a couple of times and I had stomach upset after both times.

Now I'm wondering if it would be better to take hibiscus flower extract instead. Has anyone here used hibiscus extract?

By feasting — On Aug 10, 2012

I never knew that hibiscus flowers were edible until my friend served them inside of glasses filled with alcoholic beverages at a party. I was a bit reserved about eating one at first, but she told me that she bought the hibiscus flowers in syrup inside a jar and that they were intended to be consumed.

The syrup is just sugar and water. I suppose this acts as a preservative, and I know that it acts as a sweetener.

I had heard of people using hibiscus extract before, but I never knew that you could just eat the entire flower like that. I thought it had to go through some elaborate extraction process to be made safe for consumption.

By healthy4life — On Aug 09, 2012

I have heard that hibiscus flower extract can also keep your arteries from getting clogged. My dad has started drinking hibiscus tea, because his doctor told him that he needed to do something about his arteries.

They weren't so badly clogged that he needed surgery or anything, but they were on their way to that. He is hoping that the tea will prevent any additional buildup of gunk.

He says that the tea is a bit tart, but he adds honey to it to make drinking it more enjoyable. I've never tasted it, but I've heard that it grows on you.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 09, 2012

My neighbor has a gorgeous tropical hibiscus plant growing in her yard, and I have often admired its blooms. I had no idea that hibiscus extract could have so many benefits!

Since hers is a tropical plant, its extract probably wouldn't have the same benefits as the one mentioned in the article. Still, it's pretty cool that you can get a remedy for high blood pressure and cholesterol from a big, beautiful flower.

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