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Dried hibiscus usually refers to dried petals and other dried flower parts from a species of hibiscus with the scientific name Hibiscus sabdariffa. This hibiscus plant is also known as roselle, flor de Jamaica, sorrel, and red sorrel. Both dried and fresh Hibiscus sabdariffa can be used to make hibiscus tea, hibiscus cordial, and jam, and the flowers can also be eaten cooked or raw, such as in a salad. Dried hibiscus contains vitamin C, various minerals, several kinds of organic acids, and other substances such as polysaccharides and flavonoids that give edible hibiscus products a characteristic deep red color. Some scientific studies indicate that drinking hibiscus tea can help lower blood pressure, though it is not known exactly how this is achieved.
The dried flower parts that make up dried hibiscus can either be the actual petals of the hibiscus flower or more commonly the calyces, also known as the sepals, which are the petal-like leaves right beneath the flower itself. Both calyces and petals provide the distinctive hibiscus flavor. Stems of the hibiscus plant do not have the same flavor or nutritional content, and it is recommended to discard them.
The most common way to ingest dried hibiscus is in the form of hibiscus tea, which has a tart, intense flavor reminiscent of cranberries. To make the tea, boiling water is poured over fresh or dried hibiscus and the mixture is allowed to steep for several minutes before it is strained. The tea can be served hot or cold, and is often sweetened with honey or sugar. It is important to note that hibiscus contains natural dyes that can stain clothes, skin, and surfaces.
Hibiscus tea and other dried hibiscus products are popular in many parts of the world, including Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and are prized both for their flavor and supposed health benefits. In natural medicine, hibiscus is ascribed several beneficial properties, such as reducing stress, improving digestion, and preventing various degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. However, not all of these medicinal properties have been scientifically proven.
There are many hundreds of species of hibiscus, and the plant is often grown as an ornamental shrub. Many species of hibiscus also have edible flowers, but Hibiscus sabdariffa is the preferred species when making dried hibiscus. This hibiscus is grown in various countries, including Thailand, China, Mexico, and Sudan. To buy dried hibiscus, one can order it online or look for it at Middle Eastern grocers and herbal specialty stores.