Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hibiscus – A Healthy Red Brew to Celebrate the Red, White & Blue



The hibiscus plant is a favorite among gardeners and landscapers because it produces showy flowers that enhance the beauty of any garden. As a bonus, the hibiscus flowers attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Another bonus? Hibiscus flowers offer therapeutic benefits to people!
     Hibiscus tea is an herbal infusion made with the crimson colored calyces (sepals) of the hibiscus flower. It brews a bright red-colored tea with a tart flavor. Hibiscus can also be taken as an extract or in capsule form.  The benefits of hibiscus may come from its antioxidant compounds, including anthocyanins and quercetin, but it also contains several plant acids, including citric and malic acids, which may explain the tart flavor. 
     Hibiscus has a rich history of medicinal use in other parts of the world. In Africa, it has been used for skin health and to treat constipation. In Egypt, hibiscus is used as a diuretic to support fluid balance, and to support heart health. In Iran, drinking hibiscus tea for the treatment of hypertension is not uncommon. 
     It is this last use that has given rise to real interest in hibiscus over the last few years. Studies from 1999 and 2009 found that people with high blood pressure who drank three or more cups of hibiscus tea per day had significant reductions in their blood pressure, on average a 10% reduction. In a study of Type 2 diabetic patients, participants who were not taking any blood pressure medicine, and who drank hibiscus tea each day, saw a 16% decrease in their systolic blood pressure. 
     While research has demonstrated potential benefits of hibiscus on blood pressure, it may also help reduce cholesterol. Research has shown that in people with metabolic syndrome who took hibiscus extract, cholesterol and glucose levels reduced significantly. 
     To use hibiscus, you can take the extract in capsule form, or enjoy the tea hot or iced, or use hibiscus in jams or tea cakes. Here is an easy recipe from the kitchn for Cold-Brewed Jamaica, a refreshing hibiscus iced tea that would be perfect for July 4 celebrations! Enjoy and be safe out there!


Cold Brew Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Makes 1 quart
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (about 1/2 ounce or 4 tea bags)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons honey or agave, or to taste
Lime wedges (optional, for serving)

Place the hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a large jar or bowl. Add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours). Add honey or agave to taste. Strain out any solids and serve over ice with a squeeze of lime, if desired.
Store the brewed jamaica covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.