Botanical: Hibiscus spp.
Parts Used: leaves, flowers, fruit and bark (The bark contains several medically active constituents, including mucilage, carotenoids, sesquiterpenes and anthocyanidins (an anti-oxidant).)
Actions: leaves: diuretic, expectorant, stomachic – flowers: diuretic, ophthalmic and stomachic, styptic
Common Names: Rose Mallow, Shrub Althea, Rose Althea, St Joseph’s Rod
Rose-of-Sharon is valued for large flowers produced in summer when few other shrubs bloom. It is useful as a garden accent due to its strict, upright habit. The open, loose branches and light green leaves make Rose of Sharon ideally suited to formal or informal plantings, and with a little pruning makes an attractive, small specimen tree. The plant grows in sun or partial shade and in any soil. Rose of Sharon grows 8 to 10 feet tall and spreads 4 to 10 feet. The growth rate ranges from slow to moderate, and transplanting is easy. Pick the color you like, it comes in so very many from reds and pinks, white/cream/gray, blue, to lavender and purple!
Most of us have heard of the “Rose of Sharon”. Many of us have heard of Hibiscus. Did you know that they are cousins? And that (often) being related means you share qualities of others in the family. (My daughter resembles my cousin, her second cousin 😉 ) Well, the same applies to these two plants/herbs.
The Rose of Sharon (most often Hibiscus syriacus) is related to the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, (what most call Hibiscus) and used for tea and a source of vitamin C and truly does share many traits. One is from a temperate climate, one is from a tropical climate.
Many in the lower growing zones (2-7) think they cannot grow their own “Hibiscus”, but guess what? You CAN! It simply has a different name in the more temperate climate zones… “Rose of Sharon”. I was thrilled when I discovered that they are both from the Malvaceae family; the same family as Marshmallow (yes, what the original marshmallow was from!), Okra, Hollyhock, and Cotton.
Both of these plants are native to Asia. Hibiscus syriacus also known as the Korean Rose is the national flower of South Korea. The flower’s name in Korean is mugunghwa. The flower’s symbolic significance stems from the Korean word mugung, which means “eternity” or “inexhaustible abundance”. (ask me how I know – my step-mother is from Korea 😉 ) Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), or Raya Bunga, is the national flower of Malaysia.
Rose of Sharon attracts Humming Birds, Honey Bees and Bumble Bees
Culinary Uses for Hibiscus
Every part of The Rose of Sharon is edible leaves, blossoms and bark- it contains vitamin C and, Anthocyanins which are antioxidants.
The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a very mild flavor, but get tough as they age, good when mixed with a softer leaved lettuce. You can make tea from the leaves or the flowers.
Flowers – raw or cooked. A mild flavor and mucilaginous texture, they are better than the leaves (in my opinion 😉 ) in a salad, both for looking at and for eating.
The root is edible (like its cousin the marshmallow) but very fibery; mucilaginous and without very much flavor.
Rose of Sharon is also is a thickener, use it in bone broth!
You can eat the flower blossoms whole.
Cosmetic Uses for Hibiscus
Paste made of crushed hibiscus leaves and petals of its flower is used as a natural conditioner for hair. It is known to darken hair color and reduces dandruff when applied after shampoo.
Shampoo for hair can be made from the leaves. Hibiscus makes the hair roots and strands stronger & shinier. It is also rich in amino acids that nourish your hair, strengthen your roots, and keep your locks lustrous and healthy.
A blue dye is made from the flowers.
Using Hibiscus for Wellness
Medicinally, Rose of Sharon’s flower buds contain mucilage, a gooey medicinal compound made of polysaccharides, found in most species of the mallow family. Mucilage can be used to heal burns, wounds, gastric ulcers and internal and external inflammation and irritation, such as sore throats or urinary tract infections.
Rose of Sharon is also used in the treatment of itch and other skin diseases. 
Rose of Sharon is used externally as an emollient to soften and soothe the skin, as well as used internally for digestive disorders – decoction of the flowers is diuretic, ophthalmic and stomachic.  It is also used for dizziness and bloody stools together with gas. 
Health Benefits of Hibiscus
Mucilagenous substances soothe, heal, and protect the mucous membranes in your body. Mucopolysaccharides (simple term, mucous with many sugars) when eaten coats the inside of the body. When it reaches your large intestine the Mucopolysaccharides are partially broken down by the bowel flora and soon becomes a “pre-biotic” meaning it feeds the good flora in your gut; providing you with good intestinal health and soothing. In this age of gut and inflammation issues, just think of how that Rose of Sharon could help soothe so many things!
Just think of the benefits of mucilage in internal use.
- Anti-cholesterol: The soluble fiber aids to lower cholesterol in blood. This type of fiber prevents the intestinal absorption of cholesterol produced by the bile for the digestion of food. Soluble fiber forms a gel which traps cholesterol that is expelled to the outside without passing in the the bloodstream. The liver that needs the cholesterol to form fatty acids, needs to take it from the blood which cuts much of it out of the bloodstream.
- Anti-constipation: Constipation is caused by retention of stool in the bowel and intestine. The insoluble fiver intake helps to increase stool that causes increased peristalsis (the movement of the bowel to push poop out). also, without the presence of soluble fiber, stool consistency is often too hard, making going number two a number one thing you put off doing. The intake of foods rich in soluble fiber helps to soften the stool and facilitate elimination. Eating foods rich in both types of fiber is the most positive way to avoid constipation.
- Anti-diabetic: Eating food rich in fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels in the blood. Fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates which helps reduce the typical and sudden sugar highs in the blood stream in people with diabetes.
- Stomachic: Mucilage has the ability to protect internal mucous membranes, so it is helpful to help sooth irritations of the digestive system.
Hibiscus tea, otherwise known as roselle or sour tea, has many health benefits. One of the few that is actually supported by clinical trials is the impact of hibiscus tea on blood pressure. This is the number one health benefit known to science from consuming Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus). The plant is still being studied to determine what other benefits it may hold. It does contain vitamin C and anthocyanins which are antioxidants.
How does hibiscus lower blood pressure? Recent research suggests a combination of reasons: It has diuretic properties, it opens the arteries, and it appears to act as a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which means it slows the release of hormones that constrict blood vessels. In addition, hibiscus boosts immune function and provides valuable antioxidants.Hibiscus tea has been repeatedly shown to lower blood pressure in those with existing high blood pressure by around 10% systolic and 12% diastolic. The effect may be noticeable after just two weeks. Click To Tweet
Hibiscus Tea for Blood Pressure: What Do the Studies Say?
Many past studies have illustrated the link between hibiscus tea and the lowering of blood pressure.
A study conducted in 2008 by the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and privately-funded organization, tested around 65 volunteers from 30 to 70 years of age for the effects of hibiscus tea on their consistently high systolic blood pressure.
For about six weeks, half of the randomly selected people in this group drank three cups of hibiscus tea daily. The other half had a placebo drink with artificial hibiscus flavor and color. After the trial period, the results were evident.
Results of the Study
All those drinking hibiscus tea showed a 7.2-point drop in their systolic levels, while those who were given a placebo drink had only a 1.3-point drop. In a subgroup of 30 volunteers, drinking hibiscus tea showed about a 13.2-point drop in the systolic pressure and about a 6-point drop in the diastolic pressure. In this group, the average reading of arterial pressure dropped by around 8 points.
The study clearly points to the positive effects of hibiscus tea on blood pressure, and shows the tea’s potential to lower it in a natural way with consistent use in the required quantities. 
Current studies are showing promising results with the root bark for inhibiting the proliferation of lung cancer. The root bark is used by the Chinese as an anti fungal remedy. It is also said to calm the nerves.
Tea: use 1 teaspoon flowers or leaf (for a stronger tea use 2 teaspoons) per cup of tea (about 8 ounces). Add the water, boiling to your herb. steep for 5-10 minutes. If you would like additional flavor add a large slice of orange or lemon or three slices of fresh juicy peaches. Sweeten with honey to suit your taste.
Dose: The safety profile of hibiscus is excellent, with no proven adverse reactions. It is difficult to clarify dosing recommendations when different preparations are used in different studies. However, positive studies used the following dosages:
- For cholesterol maintenance: 1,000 mg dried herb 3x daily, one cup of hibiscus tea 2x daily, or 100 mg of standardized extract 2x daily
- For blood pressure maintenance†: One cup of hibiscus tea 2x daily or dried powdered hibiscus extract providing 250 mg anthocyanins per day
With any herb, there is the risk of an allergic reaction. Small children and pregnant women should use additional caution when considering the use of herbal remedies.
- Hibiscus interferes with blood sugar levels and may cause difficulty in maintaining the required levels during surgery.If you are going for a scheduled surgery, stop hibiscus intake at least two weeks beforehand to avoid any complications during the surgery.
I am the Rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys. As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. Beloved ~ Song of Solomon 2:1
Scientific interest in hibiscus has grown in the last several years, thanks to a small burst of published research studies — especially regarding to cholesterol and blood pressure maintenance.
- Rose of Sharon – Bring Me a Medicinal Shrubbery! « Feral Botanicals – Herbs Gone Wild. Retrieved November 05, 2016, from https://feralbotanicals.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/rose-of-sharon-bring-me-a-medicinal-shrubbery/
- Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. 1986
- A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual: The American Translation of the Official Chinese Paramedical Manual ISBN-10: 091429492X
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Hibiscus Syriacus: Rose-of-Sharon
- Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
- “Study Shows Consuming Hibiscus Tea Lowers Blood Pressure” https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2008/study-shows-consuming-hibiscus-tea-lowers-blood-pressure/, last accessed August 7, 2017.