Hibiscus, more popularly known as shoe flower in India, is not only a beautiful flower to look at, but also a very useful one. It has numerous medicinal values, and it has been used for centuries by Indians, Mexicans, Egyptians, Malaysians, Chinese, Africans … practically the whole world, for its therapeutic properties. When incorporated into the diet, hibiscus tea emits high levels of antioxidants such as flavonoids, which help our bodies fight the free radicals that can lead to cell damage and disease.
This miracle flower is rich in vitamin C, and has been widely used as a herbal method of controlling high blood pressure, controlling bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also used to control fever, alleviate digestive problems, as well as improving circulatory disorders. And the best part is, it is caffeine-free and herbal. It was my most-preferred drink during pregnancy. In Ayurveda, hibiscus, especially the white and red varieties, is considered to have wonderful properties. The roots are used to make various concoctions believed to cure ailments such as cough, hair loss or hair greying. As a hair treatment, the flowers are boiled in oil along with other spices to make medicated hair oil. Back in the days, the leaves and flowers were ground into a fine paste with a little water, and the resulting lathery paste was used as shampoo-plus-conditioner.
There are many ways you can have Hibiscus, depending on your mood and weather—hot or cold, sweet or tangy. You can compare the flavour to that of cranberries. This deep crimson drink can entice just about anyone. When having it hot, make your own tea bag with a muslin cloth. Put a few slices of ginger, a few cloves and a handful of dried hibiscus leaves. Pour over boiling water, with a little honey to sweeten, and let the flavours infuse for a couple of minutes. Two cups of tea a day can reduce hypertension and have a calming effect. So drink away to a healthier life. And as if just being a tasty relaxing drink wasn’t enough, it aids in weight-loss too. If you want to increase your satiety, drink hibiscus tea after a meal. It’ll not only make you feel fuller, it’ll also help in digesting starch and sugar. Moreover, since it has a diuretic effect, it’ll help in getting rid of excess water in the body (and that will make you look less bloated).
And then there’s my favourite way—the iced tea. Famous all over Mexico and Jamaica, this is probably the best way you can consume this drink.
Boil a cup of flowers with two cups of water, and sugar to your taste. Strain and chill. When ready to serve, add some more chilled water, as the juice would be a bit concentrated. Bring it to life with some lime juice and pour over ice. Perfect for margaritas, sorbets, ice creams and jellies. This one, I promise you, will be a regular in your household once you try it.