Diet diary: Hibiscus, the garden remedy


From the dawn of time humans have used plants as healing remedies.The plant world is a storehouse of active chemical compounds and nearly half of the medicines we use today are derived from plant chemicals.
Hibiscus is one among many which found use in Ayurveda and now validated through modern science. A beautiful flowering plant native to warm climates, it is the national flower of South Korea and Malaysia, and considered auspicious in India where it is often offered to the Gods. Its leaves and bright red flower are used for treating several ailments, including cough, cold, hair, skin, menstrual and digestive problems, high blood pressure and heart disease. Tea made from the flower is loaded with antioxidant, nutrients and vitamins, including vitamin C and A, zinc and phytonutrients like bioflavonoids.
The vibrant red colour is due to a bioflavonoid called anthocyanins which has numerous health benefits. With a distinct tart cranberry-like flavour and bright red colour, this tea is served hot or cold.
In a comparison of the antioxidant content in 280 common beverages, hibiscus tea ranked first. Its bioavailablity is demonstrated by the sharp rise in antioxidant within an hour of consumption. Its use in treating high blood pressure is particularly noteworthy. In a double blind placebo-controlled study by Tufts University showed that three cups of the tea significantly lowered blood pressure. The Tufts study and several others concluded that a cup of this tea with each meal managed to lower systolic blood pressure by six to ten points. A meta analysis published in 2015 found that drinking hibiscus tea significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Some studies also showed a drop in blood cholesterol levels upto 12 per cent. Some of its benefits could be due to its powerful diuretic, extraordinary manganese content ,antioxidant and anti -inflammatory properties.
Other benefits of hibiscus include its antibiotic and antiviral properties believed to effective against influenza viruses, including the H5N1 virus that causes bird flu. Its benefits in digestion, treating constipation and IBS are also documented in traditional medicine. It is also popular among athletes as it helps to flush out toxins and excess fluid from the body and cool the body. People with nervous system disorders and depression and anxiety may also benefit from the tea. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology 2012, this tea has anti-depressant properties and can help calm the nervous system. According to traditional medicine and some preliminary studies in animals, the high antioxidant properties in hibiscus tea can effectively treat acne, sunburns, eczema and skin allergies. A paste made of crushed hibiscus leaves and flower petals is used as natural hair conditioner for treating dandruff, hairfall, alopecia and darken hair colour.
All in all this ordinary flower in the garden has some extraordinary benefits which are worth exploring. Meanwhile, making use of available literature, it would be great to introduce hibiscus tea as part of your diet to boost your antioxidant reserve. It will certainly improve your wellbeing and delay ageing as well. Remember not to over do it and inform your doctor if you are taking medication or are pregnant.

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