The Hemp Connection + power

Food of the week: hibiscus

It's getting hot outside, and that likely means you're getting thirsty.

A consistency I've noticed, in the years of examining food diaries, is how we seem to write off what we drink as far as its influence on our health. Calories, caffeine, sugar, even healthy ingredients such as antioxidants, get far less credit for what they do, than similar items that we chew! This can get us in trouble when the mercury climbs, and we start to bore of plain water. It's often not the food I try to tweak in a diet, but the juice, soda, or latte that's adding extra calories and promoting an overall imbalance.

If you look in the herbal tea section of your grocery store, you'll see lots of great alternatives. One of my personal favorites is hibiscus. It's not just a beautiful flower! It makes a delicious tea with quite a few health benefits:
--it has diuretic properties, which makes it perfect for PMS
--it is a mild antihypertensive
--one study suggested that it can help to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides
--it contains anthocyanins, those powerful antioxidants we tend to associate with blueberries
--it may have some anti-obesigenic properties

In my part of the country, especially in Spanish-speaking sections of town and REAL Mexican restaurants, we see a drink called Jamaica, which is a hibiscus-based beverage. The restaurant versions are likely too sweet to be consumed on a daily basis; here is a recipe from, which you can probably make with far less sugar than the recipe calls for. I'd start with 1/3 of what is listed and gradually add until you like it.

Agua de Jamaica

3 quarts (12 cups) water

1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 cups dried Jamaica flowers (also known as hibiscus or flor de Jamaica)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 large lime)

Combine water and ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Remove from heat and stir in Jamaica flowers and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Let steep 10 minutes.

Strain through a chinois or fine mesh sieve into a large, heat-resistant bowl or pot. Stir in lime juice and set aside to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve over ice.

Gosain S, Ircchiaya R, Sharma PC, Thareja S, Kalra A, Deep A, Bhardwaj TR. Hypolipidemic effect of ethanolic extract from the leaves of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in hyperlipidemic rats. Acta Pol Pharm. 2010 Mar-Apr;67(2):179-84.

McKay DL, Chen CY, Saltzman E, Blumberg JB. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea (tisane) lowers blood pressure in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. J Nutr. 2010 Feb;140(2):298-303. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

Alarcon-Aguilar FJ, Zamilpa A, Perez-Garcia MD, Almanza-Perez JC, Romero-Nuñez E, Campos-Sepulveda EA, Vazquez-Carrillo LI, Roman-Ramos R. Effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa on obesity in MSG mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Oct 8;114(1):66-71. Epub 2007 Jul 27.

Chang YC, Huang KX, Huang AC, Ho YC, Wang CJ. Hibiscus anthocyanins-rich extract inhibited LDL oxidation and oxLDL-mediated macrophages apoptosis. Food Chem Toxicol. 2006 Jul;44(7):1015-23. Epub 2006 Feb 13.

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Food of the week: hibiscus + power