Despite the fact that the hibiscus flower (rosa-sinensis) blooms for one day only, it can be seen all over the island of Barbados in the form of hedges planted everywhere. In spite of its short-lived existence, their absolute beauty is in the fact that they are able to flower exuberantly all year round.


There are approximately nine (9) main types of hibiscus blossoms that carry a variety of colours.


Unique Usage of the Hibiscus

The hibiscus plant is used in various forms throughout Barbados. Ideal as landscape pieces, these hedges can also be grown to attract butterflies and bees. In some teas across the island, the hibiscus makes up the main ingredient.


In other parts of the world, the hibiscus has various purposes that we in Barbados can learn and benefit from. A few of them are outlined below.


In the Ayurvedic medicine (a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine), both the white and red hibiscus are used extensively for their medicinal properties

The flowers are combined with other spices and boiled together to make a medicated hair oil that aids in the prevention of greying and hair loss

The leaves and flowers are crushed into a fine paste with a little added water and the resulting lather used as a 2 in 1 shampoo plus conditioner
The roots of the hibiscus make a variety of brews that are believed to cure ailments such as coughs
In Mexico, the hibiscus is well known for its color, tanginess and mild flavor. With the addition of sugar is added it tastes somewhat like a more intense herbal and berry (cranberry, raspberry, etc.) infused tea. Dieters or people with kidney problems often drink this tea without adding sugar for its beneficial properties and as a natural diuretic
In Cambodia, the petals are infused in hot water until all the colour is extracted from the petals. Lime juice is added and this process turns the beverage from dark brown/red to a bright red. Sweeteners such as sugar and honey can be used along with cold water as a refreshing drink
A 2008 USDA study shows consuming hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. Three cups of tea daily resulted in an average drop of 7.2 point in their systolic blood pressure, compared to a 1.3 point drop in the volunteers who drank the placebo beverage. Study participants with higher blood pressure readings (129 or above) had a greater response to hibiscus tea with their systolic blood pressure going down by 13.2 points. These data support the idea that drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily incorporated into the diet may play a role in controlling blood pressure, although more research is required
In the Philippines, the gumamela (local name for hibiscus) is used by children as part of a bubble-making pastime. The flowers and leaves are crushed until the sticky juices come out. Hollow papaya stalks are then dipped into this and used as straws for blowing bubbles
Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as a garnish
The red hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Tahitian women. A single flower is tucked behind the ear. It is used to indicate the wearer's availability for marriage
The ash obtained by burning the flower and leaves of this flower can be applied to eyebrows which glazes them black
The oil in this flower can be applied to the skin of patients who are suffering from cellulite which makes the skin to glow
This flower can be used as shoe polish by rubbing it on the shoe
Hibiscus flower can be used as contraceptive. The oil from this flower is used for abortion in some tribes in Jamaica
The juice from these leaves and flowers can regularize the menstrual cycle
Ayurveda says the medicine made from its roots can be used as a prevention of venereal diseases. Another usage of the roots of the hibiscus, is to boil them in oil until the water gets evaporated. The oil can be applied to the wounds caused by cancer. This can be very useful in initial stage of cancer
According to traditional medicine if we eat the buds of white hibiscus flowers early in the morning on empty stomach it should cure all the diseases. We can mix sugar if we are unable to eat directly
This flower improves digestion. Hence raw flowers are eaten by Hawaiian people, and Chinese eat this flower by making pickle
The fiber from this stem is qualitative. This can be used in manufacturing of clothes, nets and paper
According to the traditional medicine, the flowers of white Hibiscus can be dried in the shade of the neem tree. They can then be powdered and used to fight all cancers

It has become clear that the hibiscus plant is not only renowned as an decorative plant but it is also a crucial aspect of the ingredients found in various foods and also in making healthy delicious herbal teas.

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