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HIBISCUS are herbaceous, bushy plants, small shrubs or true trees, mainly from tropical and subtropical regions.

They are botanically very close to OKRAS (GOMBOS) and PACIFIC CABBAGE which are now grouped in the genus ABELMOSCHUS.

They are related to MALLOW (MALVA), marshmallow, hollyhock from temperate zones; with cotton and rosewood from Oceania (THESPESIA).

The flower is generally quite large, with 5 petals and twisted pre-bloom, is often very decorative.

The pink hibiscus of China is found everywhere in warm countries, with red, pink, orange-yellow and even white flowers. There are many horticultural varieties.
The dark green foliage is quite dense and makes hedges in gardens and along roads.

Hibiscus syriacus, shrub althea, rose of sharon or Korean mallow, native to Asia, is very often planted as a decorative shrub in temperate zones, it has blue flowers.

Hibiscus sabdariffa, karkade, roselle or guinea red sorrel, native to Africa, is cultivated for its persistent and fleshy red calyx (crassulescent).

The purau or burau (Hibiscus tilliaceus) is spontaneous in Polynesia and in general in the South Pacific, it is a tree with multiple uses.


All HIBISCUS species contain MUCILAGE especially the flowers, the leaves and the roots.

They are branched polysaccharides which have a structural relationship with pectic polysaccharides (apple pectin or linseed or plantain): rhamnogalacturonic chain with ramifications by uronic acids and galactose.

They swell on contact with water, become viscous, a little gelatinous.

They are natural lubricants, softening and protective of the mucous membranes or the inflamed skin.

The flower of the Chinese pink hibiscus is strongly colored in red by anthocyanosides, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, protector of small blood vessels

hibiscus sabdariffa credit wikipedia
The red calyces of Hibiscus Sabdariffa , KARKADE, ROSELLE, or SORREL contain :
- acidic polysaccharides,
- and many phenolic compounds,
- 15 to 30% organic acids (citric, malic, tartaric acid),
- and anthocyanidols (anthocyanin = red pigment)

Anthocyanin pigments and chemically related phenolic compounds are, according to pharmacologists, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and probably allow the regulation of blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) which would make it possible to lower arterial hypertension

A team of researchers from Sudan, where the plant originates from and extensively cultivated, studied the effects of aqueous extracts, revealing:

- an estrogenic power in the rat (500 mg / kg of unpurified extract corresponds to 2/3 of the activity of 2 mg / kg of estradiol),
- and a complex spasmolytic effect: myorelaxation of certain muscles (trachea, aorta, diaphragm), contraction of other muscle groups (bipolar action on the uterus).

In hibiscus rosa sinensis, Indian researchers have found anti-fertilising and abortive properties (effect on the uterine muscle?) associated with secondary hormonal activity.



The hibiscus flower (especially the double variety with red corolla) and the purau flower when it comes off the tree (the color then changes from lemon yellow to reddish yellow), are rich in mucilage and have therefore very interesting emollient and softening properties.

They are used in internal and external inflammatory conditions: abscess, boils, angina, stomatitis, bronchitis and also digestive and hemorrhoidal disorders.

We apply them:

- fresh, or better lightly cooked in water in poultices, (abscesses, itchy dermatological disorders, insect bites),
- in decoction, sitz baths, for anorectal disorders,
- in infusion and gargle, angina, stomatitis,
- in infusion or filtered and sweet decoction: bronchitis, irritative coughs, and, dysenteric disorders, spasmodic colitis.



With the chalices of karkadé we prepare jams, jellies and a "health tea" very well known and rightly in many tropical countries and become a classic far from the country of origin (drink roselle or sorel in the British West Indies) and even in Europe.

In Africa, the country of origin of Hibiscus sabdariffa, the infusion of karkadé chalices is a traditional drink that has many local names: for example BISSAP in Senegal, Congo, Mali or Burkina Faso, ZOBO in Nigeria, SOBOLO in Ghana

This tangy drink, colored bright red, is consumed warm or most often cold or iced.

Karkadr tea is reputed to be HYPOTENSIVE and "refreshing" and it can be considered as angioprotective (protection of blood vessels) by its content in anthocyanosidol.
The estrogenic and spasmolytic effects are not yet exploited in Western medicine.

The Caribbean Creoles recommend the drink "roselle" or sorrel in respiratory infections and also to give tone and appetite.


Hibiscus tilliaceus is a tropical tree, mainly found in the Pacific region, often along seashore.

The Polynesians use it in their traditional medicine:
- the flowers but also the stipules, the ends of the young roots, the bark of the young branches and the bast parenchyma of the purau.
- The flowers are used as an emollient, the other parts are combined with other plants in complex compositions.

It is a plant from which flexible, resistant but coarse fibers are extracted from the inner bark of the branches to make ropes, mats, traditional dance costume (moré), the wood is very light and easy to work.

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Flowers that calm inflamed mucous membranes

Hibiscus species are close relative of the European mallow.
They contain mucilage with very interesting emollient and softening properties when consumed and when applied to inflamed areas.
The karkade or red guinea sorrel gives an infusion, a tea, the bissap or sorrel, very refreshing and which contains compounds which protect the blood vessels and make it possible to limit high blood pressure.