When they arrive in Hawaii, tourists are greeted with garlands of hibiscus flowers, the symbol of Hawaii but also as a sign of good luck. In fact, the hibiscus is considered the flower of opportunities. But hibiscus does not only bring good luck, as emerges from numerous scientific researches, in fact, hibiscus flowers, used to prepare tasty and thirst-quenching herbal teas, are a precious source of beneficial substances for health.
Hibiscus, scientific name hibiscus sabdariffa, belongs to the Malvaceae family. The corollas of its flowers are a precious source of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, quercetin and luteolin, capable of fighting free radicals, aging processes and cellular degeneration (Zhou et al, Nutrients, 2016). Not only that, the substances contained in hibiscus have proved useful in protecting the heart, since they counteract hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and arteriosclerosis (Bakhtiari et al, Avicenna J Phytomed, 2015 - Serban et al, J Hypertens, 2015). It is believed that the hypotensive effect of hibiscus is due to its action on the endothelium, which is the lining of blood vessels, through the activation of nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide is a substance that works by dilating the walls of blood vessels and thus the consequence is a lowering of blood pressure (Abubakar et al, Nutrients, 2019). Not only that, it also seems that extracts of hibiscus flowers are able to inhibit the angiotensin converting enzyme, also called ACE, which in turn favors the production of another enzyme with vasoconstrictive action, thus leading to an increase in blood pressure (Abubakar et al, Nutrients, 2019). Therefore, inhibiting ACE also means inhibiting its indirect effect of pressure increase. Hibiscus also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties (Herranz Lopez et al, Nutrients, 2017). This aspect is noteworthy since chronic inflammation, in the long term, can lead to the development of obesity, but also diabetes, heart problems and cellular degeneration. Finally, the anthocyanins of the hibiscus have an anti-obesity action, helping to reduce body weight, the accumulation of lipids, abdominal fat and also improving the condition of the fatty liver (Ojulari et al, Molecules, 2019 - Chang et al, Food Funct, 2014).
How to prepare hibiscus tea
From hibiscus flowers, a very popular drink is obtained by infusion, to be drunk both hot and cold, rich in antioxidants, cardioprotective and refreshing. Bring one liter of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add two tablespoons of dried hibiscus flowers, let them brew for about 6-8 minutes. Filter and drink hot or cold.
Hibiscus for the skin
The hibiscus infusion can also be used for compresses on burnt and irritated skin. Simply dip a gauze pad in the infusion and apply it to the affected area. The hibiscus infusion shows anti-inflammatory, soothing, healing, antimicrobial, anti-aging properties, useful to counteract the DNA damage of the sun's rays and the formation of dark spots (Li et al, J Sci Food Agric, 2020 - Builders et al, Indian J Pharm Sci, 2013).
Hibiscus, side effects
Hibiscus is generally considered safe. However, you should never overdo it, as with other foods or drinks. In fact, the intake of hibiscus extracts at very high doses can prove to be hepatotoxic. In any case, if the intake concerns hibiscus tea and at doses achievable with a healthy and balanced diet, this risk does not exist (Hopkins et a, Phytotherapy, 2013).