Botanical: Hibiscus spp.
Parts Used: leaves, fruit
Actions: leaves: diuretic, expectorant, stomachic – flowers: diuretic, ophthalmic and stomachic, styptic
The bark contains several medically active constituents, including mucilage, carotenoids, sesquiterpenes and anthocyanidins (anti-oxidant).
Common Names: Shrub Althea, Rose Althea, St Joseph’s Rod
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 use 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.
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 bone broth!
You can eat the flower blossoms whole.
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.
A blue dye is made from the flowers.
Using Hibiscus for Wellness
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. 
The number one health benefit known to science from consuming Rose of sharon tree is that it lowers blood pressure. The plant is still being studied to determine what other benefits it may hold. It does contain vitamin C, and anthocyanins which are antioxidants.
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.
- No known safety issues.
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.