Delicious, Healthy Hibiscus Tea

Delicious, Healthy Hibiscus Tea

Uniquely flavorful and thirst-quenching, hibiscus tea is beloved throughout much of the world. Immersed in water, the dried hibiscus calyces impart a tart, cranberry-like flavor along with rich plumes of crimson coloration.  Sweetened with honey or sugar, the resulting tea is called karkade in Africa and the Middle East, and served hot or chilled. Weddings and other special events are frequently toasted with a glass of karkade.  In Mexico and Central America, where hibiscus is called jamaica, agua de jamaica is popular as a refreshing drink to help beat the heat. Crisp and light, it also pairs well with the local cuisine. Most often homemade, it is not uncommon to find a large pitcher of jamaica tea in household refrigerators. In the Caribbean, spices such as ginger, clove or cinnamon are often added to the tea and, during the Christmas holidays, its spiking with rum creates a traditional festive beverage.   Hibiscus tea’s appeal also rests in part on its attributed health benefits. The calyces’ high concentration of polyphenols (particularly anthocyanins responsible for the red color) help to reduce oxidative stress in the body, and seem to bring a cascade of positive effects.  In Egypt, preparations from the calyx have long been used for inflammatory disorders as well as for skin abrasions and other superficial wound healing.  It is said that laborers helping to build the pyramids would wrap sore joints and cracked feet with rags soaked in roselle juice. In India’s Ayurvedic system, the tea is considered helpful in treating diabetes, kidney stones and depression. Chinese folk medicine suggests it can alleviate liver disease, fever and fatigue. Of particular note, the value of hibiscus tea in lowering blood pressure is recognized not only by many traditional healing practices, but also by modern scientific research.