Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Roselle, is a member of the mallow family and not only are its blooms pretty to look at but it also has quite a few medicinal and culinary uses. Although it’s in the same family as the more ornamental Hibiscus (like ‘Midnight Marvel’ and ‘Parapalu Violet’) it’s important to note that these are not interchangeable plants. If you want to learn more about Hibiscus x ‘Midnight Marvel’ click here.

Hibiscus sabdariffa has large green foliage with red veining and white to yellow flowers in the fall that fade to pink. The edible calyces in the middle of the flowers are large and can range in color from red to green to almost black. They do have a long growing season especially if growing from seed so it’s important to start the seeds early if you want them to flower and fruit if you’re not in a subtropical region.

Hibiscus sabdariffa Photo Courtesy of World of Flower Plants

Roselle is known as a demulcent which means that it can help relieve inflammation and irritation. Its heart health and cardiovascular benefits include helping to reduce high blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, and supporting healthy iron levels. There are also studies that point towards possible benefits for those with cancer.

The main parts of the plant that are used for medicine and food are the calyces (this is what’s used mostly in the US), leaves, seeds, petals, and whole flowers. The leaves contain iron and B-carotene and the seeds have high levels of fat and protein and many minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The calyces (which includes the green seed capsule) can be dried and used to make a cooling and refreshing tea (recipe below) that tastes great combined with mint. This tea is especially helpful around this time of year when we have really smoky skies due to wildfires.

Hibiscus calyx Photo Courtesy of Herb Mentor

Hibiscus Mint Tea

What You’ll Need

  • 5 grams dried hibiscus (about 2 tbsp)
  • 20 grams fresh spearmint, peppermint, or tulsi (holy basil)
  • 15 grams fresh herbs such as lavender, thyme, lemongrass, or violet leaves (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of honey (or to taste)
  • 1.5 quarts boiled water
  • 2-quart jar

How to Make It

  1. Finely mince the fresh herbs (if using) and place in your 2-quart jar with your dried hibiscus and mint.
  2. Boil 1.5 quarts of water and then pour over the herbs, hibiscus, and tea mixture.
  3. Cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Once it’s done steeping, strain out the herbs, hibiscus, and mint.
  5. While the tea is still warm, add honey to taste and stir to combine.
  6. You can let it cool on the counter or in the refrigerator and should be drank within 24 hours.

Dried Hibiscus Photo Courtesy of Herb Mentor

Hibiscus can also be used in other foods and drinks like desserts, jams, and syrups. What recipes have you used Hibiscus in? We’d to see those recipes and give them a try!