Herbal Medicine: Hibiscus

herbal medicine

I went to a really interesting Herbal Medicine class with my mom last weekend!  The instructor showed us and let us taste several different seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, and flowers used to remedy all kind of ailments.  She showed us how they can be made into tea, tincture (a medicine made by dissolving a drug in alcohol), capsules, mixed with honey, and used in recipes.  The class made me realize how much more there is to learn about using herbal medicines to treat a condition or illness.  This is something I would like to practice  for myself and my family as a healthier alternative to store bought medications.  I would definitely recommend taking a class such as this to anyone interested.

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op holds several classes for different topics such as cooking, gardening, herbal medicine, and other health related topics.  They have one coming up later this month on herbal medicine.

Here is the link to the class:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2725878

Here is the link to the entire list of classes held at the Co-op:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/1451218

One of my favorite tasting items that inspired me at the class I went to was hibiscus.  It is actually a flower that is commonly used in tea and adds a  bright red color to whatever it is used.  The flower is small and chewy in texture, and has a tart taste similar to a cranberry.  It makes a beautiful ruby red cup of tea.

cup of hibiscus tea

The health benefits of hibiscus include relief from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as digestive, immune system, and inflammatory problems. It is said to help cure liver disease and reduce the risk of cancer. It can also speed up the metabolism and help in healthy, gradual weight loss.  It is rich in antioxidants similar to red wine and can help reduce cholesterol levels.  It is rich in vitamin C and can help cure minor cold related symptoms like sore throat, cough, and headache.  It also helps speed up metabolism and acts as a natural diuretic, helping to reduce excess water retention in the body.  That’s a lot of good stuff for my body!

So for my first experiment I simply went to the Natural Foods Co-0p in Sacramento and purchased a bunch of dried hibiscus petals to make my own tea.  Here is the recipe I used:

  • Boil about 2 cups of water and then put 3 tablespoons of the petals in the water to steep.

  •  If desired, place a cinnamon stick in water to steep as well  for a sweet and spicy addition (plus cinnamon has it’s own set of health benefits).

  • Let steep in the water for about 5 minutes.

  •  Optional:  Add a splash of lime juice and one stevia packet (you can use any sweetener you’d like, but I wanted to keep the calories low so I went with stevia).

  • This tea is great hot or cold!  I’ve been drinking it every day since last weekend just because I love the taste, all benefits aside!  It tastes like spiced cranberry juice, but without the calories or sugar found in juice.

I definitely felt the diuretic properties of drinking this! It seemed to help reduce the puffiness I get after eatihibiscus teang salty foods, so I drank it after I made an Asian stir fry for dinner (soy sauce always makes me retain water).  It seemed to help flush the sodium out of my body.  If nothing else it helps me get my water quota for the day!  I plan on experimenting with making herbal medicines  in the future for things such as cough, congestion, inflammation, constipation, sore throat, and increased energy.

The class also inspired me to experiment with a lot more spices in my cooking because there are all kinds of medicinal properties  you can get from using spices too!  I’ll write a separate blog in the near future on my experimentations with using spices for this purpose.