The flower called the hibiscus is represented by several varieties found in many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world. The Roselle hibiscus or Roselle, sometimes called Sudanese tea, the red tea, or the Jamaica sorrel are all names used to designate the hibiscus flowers - in fact the calyces and bracts - of the variety called the Hibiscus sabdariffa L. found in all old world tropics. The plant which is cultivated and found in most old world tropical climes is a red flowered annual herb belonging to the family Malvaceae, that can reach heights of four to five feet or more and is prized for its flowers. The main use of the flower is as an herbal source of highly prized jams, jellies and sauces, as well as refreshing juices and acid beverages - the floral heads mostly in the immature stage are harvested each season for this purpose and are sometimes dried for future use. A very pleasant herbal tea is also made from the floral parts of the hibiscus and these are used at times by themselves or they are mixed with other herbal teas to make refreshing drinks of all kinds.
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Though the flowers of the hibiscus are widely used in many herbal preparations, there is a need for scientific verification of all the traditionally held pharmacological properties pertaining to the plant. There is a need for studying the effects induced by this herb, as an example, the hypertensive or blood pressure reducing property of the herb was sufficiently observed only under test conditions where the extract of the flowers was directly injected into the vein of a test dog. During this laboratory test, the perceived effect of the herb on the physiology of the dog was of a short duration, this was true even when larger dosages were injected into the test animal. At the same time, the need from critical re-evaluation of all the experiments carried out in the laboratory during which hibiscus extracts were said to inhibit growth of the tubercle bacillus are also necessary - these results have to be studied before a pronouncement of the powers of the herb can be confidently expressed.
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The seemingly contradictory reports attributing stimulatory as well as inhibitory effects of the hibiscus on various in vitro muscle preparations can also be largely seen as being mere preliminary observations carried out by primary observers - these tests need to be repeated for consistency. Many people obviously enjoy the drinks and other food items made from the hibiscus as it is so widely used throughout the world - being a preferred beverage and food flavor in many tropical countries. Hibiscus is said to impart a distinct taste to food preparations. As far as its usage for purposes of food is concerned, there is simply no reason or necessity to discourage anyone from using the herb - being a traditional herbal food in many parts of the world.
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The flowers of the hibiscus are mostly utilized in the preparation of herbal teas and juices, it is also used as a wholesome sweet and sour, caffeine free herbal health drink, but the most common use of the hibiscus is in the form of herbal tea mixtures and as a tasty and colorful additive in food preparations. The popularity that the tea enjoys in many parts of the world is therefore not necessarily due to the health properties attributed to the flowers. Even while, many cultures have traditionally used the herb in the treatment of appetite loss, in treating various colds, as well as in the treatment of catarrh affecting the respiratory tract, and in the treatment of various circulatory problems, as well as a gentle expectorant, and in the laxative and diuretic roles. At the same time, extracts made from the hibiscus flower are also included in many herbal ointments and herbal decoctions which are to be used as a topical application in the treatment of allergic problems and eczema, besides other skin problems affecting patients.
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The particular species of hibiscus which is discussed here is a native of the African continent primarily the region of present day Angola. However, the plant is now cultivated in all tropical regions of the old world and in the neo-tropical realm as well. Major producers of this variety of hibiscus are countries along North Africa, Mexico in the new world, and India, Thailand and China in Asia.
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Compounds such as organic anthocyanins and other plant pigments are found in the hibiscus, in addition, relatively large amounts of the oxalic, malic, citric-12% to 17%, and tartaric acids are also found. Lastly up to 28% of hibiscic acid - which is a lactone of a hydroxycitric acid, is also seen in hibiscus extracts. The tart and refreshing taste of the various hibiscus beverages and food products are induced by the presence of these organic plant compounds in the flowers of the hibiscus. At the same time, the mildly laxative and diuretic effects attributed to the hibiscus plant are also believed to be due to the presence of these compounds. The herb also contains very appreciable quantities of many water soluble mucilaginous polysaccharides in high proportions to the total volume. At least some of the many physiological effects attributed to the hibiscus are also believed to be influenced by these mucilaginous substances.
Dosage for the herbal hibiscus tea prepared using 1.5 g of the herb in a cup of boiling water can be about five to ten doses daily during the treatment regimen.