Hibiscus or Gudhal is a flowering plant commonly known as China rose. Hibiscus, also known as Japa in Ayurvedic texts, is less widely referred to as Rose Mallow. It is an evergreen plant which is approximately 150-270 cm in height. The leaves are alternate and have an ovular outline (also known as ovate to lanceolate) often having a toothed or lobed margin. The flowers are large and have a trumpet shape. There are five or more petals to a flower making it 4 to 18 cms broad. Flowers are seen in different colours from white to pink, red, orange, peach, yellow or purple. Its fruit is a five-lobed dry capsule which contains several seeds in each lobe. These are released when the capsule dehisces (splits open) at maturity and are of red and white colours.
The plant consists of citric, malic, tartaric and hibiscus acid apart from glucose, xylose, mannose and rhamnose. Hibiscus grows in 2 varieties:
- Tropical – which grow only a certain part of the year not being able to tolerate cold temperatures.
- Perennial -which grows throughout the year, need less care and is very less demanding as compared to the Tropical variety.
Hibiscus flowers are also offered to Durga Mata, a Hindu Goddess and Lord Ganesha in Indian Rituals. This evergreen plant is a basket of benefits and nutrients. Hibiscus Sabdariffa, which bears typical red flowers, is the most useful variety of Hibiscus which is being widely used for medicinal purposes.
Ayurvedic Properties Of Hibiscus
- Rasa(Taste) – Kashaya (Astringent), Tikta(Bitter)
- Guna(Qualities) – Laghu(Light for digestion), Rooksha(Dry in nature)
- Vipaka – Katu(Undergoes pungent taste after digestion)
- Veerya – Sheeta(Cold)
- Karma – Kaphapitta shamaka(reduces vitiated kapha and pitta doshas)
- It has anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties.
- Remember that dosages differ in different preparations and different extracts by differing pharmaceutical companies. Hence medical supervision is advised for different preparations.
- It is recommended to uses 10 to 20 Gms if leaf paste has been prescribed for the cure. If taken in the form of flower powder, then it is advised to take up to 10gm only.
- For adults, it is recommended to consume Hibiscus tea 3 times daily before meals and an empty stomach.
- The flowers or the plant itself can make a decorative addition to a home or garden.
- Its fragrant flowers have been used in sachets and perfumes.
- This plant has been used to treat constipation in Africa.
- Fibre from H. Tiliaceus has been used to make ropes as a jute substitute.
- Its fleshy red calyx is used in the preparation of jams, jellies, cold and warm teas and drinks.
- Egyptians have used the flowers for lowering fever and induce diuresis (increased excretion of urine).
- Used for treatment of cardiac and nerve disease.
- Tea and hibiscus extracts are useful to lower cholesterol levels and hypertension.
- Used as a remedy against hypertension.
- Used in preventing renal stone formation.
- Used to maintain weight as it lowers the absorption of glucose and starch from the gut. Hibiscus extracts have been thought to prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver and hence reduce central obesity.
- Tender buds of this plant are used as a contraceptive at some places.
- Used to treat bleeding piles, when used mixed with buttermilk.
- Used to control Diabetes.
- A tropical variety of Hibiscus is used in a herbal mixture to treat the problem of head lice.
According to Ayurveda, it is used for treating the following Doshas:
- Visha – toxic condition developed in the body
- Pitta and Kapha Disorders
- Indralupta – alopecia areata
- Ranjana – colours hair
- Stambhana – styptic (capable of causing the bleeding to stop when applied)
Ayurvedic Benefits Of Gudhal
Heavy menstrual bleeding is known as Raktapradar or excessive secretion of menstrual blood during periods in women. This is caused by aggravated Pitta dosha. Hibiscus balances the pitta dosha by its cooling property. This property also referred to as Sheeta (cold) and Kashaya (astringent) properties in Ayurveda act together as a great coolant for the body and effectively controls menorrhagia.
Tips to use during heavy menstrual bleeding:
- Make 1-2 cup of Hibiscus tea.
- Add honey to enhance the taste if desired.
- Have it once or twice a day to control heavy menstrual bleeding.
Two species of Hibiscus named H. Sabdariffa and H. Rosa-Sinensis have been shown to have contraceptive effects and action of emmenagogue (one which can induce menstruation in females). Thus these verities of Hibiscus are contraindicated for use in Menorrhagia.
Haemorrhoids are a clinical condition commonly known as Piles. This condition essentially arises from the development of swollen vein or a group of veins in the anal region that occur either Internally or Externally. Frequent hardened stools are a prominent cause of bleeding haemorrhoids. To control this bleeding during piles, hibiscus has been used.
An aggravated pitta dosha is the reason for bleeding during piles, according to Ayurveda. Hibiscus reduces bleeding by increasing the cellular proliferation and gives cooling effect in case of bleeding piles. This is due to its Pitta balancing and Kashaya (astringent) properties.
- Make 1-2 cup of Hibiscus tea.
- Add honey to enhance the taste.
- Have it once or twice a day to manage bleeding piles.
Take 5g of japa flower and mix it to one glass of buttermilk
Diarrhoea is known as Atisar in Ayurveda. It is due to ingestion of improper food and water, environmental toxins, mental stress or weak digestive fire (or Agnimandya). All these factors lead to the aggravation of Vata dosha. This aggravated Vata brings fluid in the intestine from various tissues from the body and mixes it with the stool. This leads to loose, watery motions or diarrhoea. Thus it is recommended to include Hibiscus tea in your diet if you are suffering from diarrhoea. Hibiscus may help your body absorb more nutrients and control diarrhoea due to its Grahi (absorbent) property.
- Make 1-2 cup of Hibiscus tea.
- Add honey to enhance the taste. One can also use Kesar saffron milk.
- Have it once or twice a day to control diarrhoea.
Against Hair Loss And For Hair Growth
Hibiscus helps to control hair fall and promote hair growth by providing nourishment to the scalp. Hibiscus leaves also prevent premature greying of hair due to its Sheeta (cold) nature.
Hibiscus has amino acids that promote hair growth. These acids produce keratin which is the most important protein for hair growth. China rose also contributes to increasing the overall thickness of the hair strands and also strengthens the link between hair root and the scalp.
The high amount of mucilage present in flower and hibiscus leaves make it a natural conditioner. This substance is what that makes the leaves and flower of the plant slimy and slippery to touch.
Hibiscus acts like an astringent and reduces the oil secretion by the glands. Using Hibiscus leaves for hair maintains the pH balance of hair in addition to providing an overall soothing and cooling effect. Other than this, the melanin present in the flower prevents the hair from turning grey.
Tip to use against hair loss:
- Take a handful of Hibiscus leaves and grind it to make a paste by adding little water to it.
- Apply the paste on the scalp.
- Leave it for 1-2 hours and wash with lukewarm water.
- Repeat this at least once a week to control hair fall.
A few hair care products are as following:
- Kama Ayurveda’s Sanobar Hair Cleanser: it is a hair and scalp cleanser which is available to use for your hair care.
- Kama Ayurveda’s Rose and Jasmine Conditioner is another such Ayurvedic product made from hibiscus extract mixed with Rose and Jasmine to provide proper nutrients to the hair.
Hibiscus and yoghurt hair mask for stronger and denser hair:
- Simply grind about 3-4 Hibiscus leaves and one Hibiscus flower to make a paste.
- To this add about a cup of yoghurt to make a smooth and consistent hair mask.
- Apply this mask on your hair and leave it on for an hour.
- Then, wash off the mask with lukewarm water and shampoo your hair using a mild cleanser.
Applying this mask for 2 to 3 times in 2 weeks prevents the hair from changing their colour. Also, it strengthens the root of the hair preventing them from falling so easily.
According to Ayurveda, sunburn occurs when the sun rays increase the Pitta present in the skin and reduce the Rasa Dhatu, a fluid which is responsible for colour, complexion and glow of the skin. Applying a paste of Hibiscus leaves imparts a cooling effect and reduces the burning sensation. This is due to its Sheeta (cold) and Ropan (healing) nature.
- Take a handful of Hibiscus leaves or as per your requirement and grind it by adding little water to it to make a paste.
- Apply the paste on the affected area.
- Leave it for 2-3 hours and wash with lukewarm water.
- Repeat it once or twice a day to manage sunburn.
For Skincare And Protection
Hibiscus inhibits the activity of elastase (an enzyme that causes ageing). This helps in combating the ageing process by firming and lifting your skin. Thus it is also called an anti-ageing plant. It also evens out the skin tone, because of the presence of Citric acid and Malic acid.
Hibiscus has anthocyanocides which is an anti-oxidant. These fight the free radicals which are produced in the skin when pollutants such as UV radiation and air pollution make contact with the skin. This results in premature skin ageing. Plus Hibiscus also soothes inflamed skin as it contains anti-inflammatory properties thus making Hibiscus suitable for those prone to very sensitive skin.
Skin Care Products: – Age defy + Purify and Hydrate Cream Cleaner, Age defy + Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator, Age defy + Line Eraser Lip and Eye Serum are some of the names that skincare products use to market their creams and lotions. These products are infused with hibiscus extracts and have proven to be very effective.
UTI also known as urinary tract infection is an infection affecting any part of the urinary system of the body. Most infections involve Lower urinary tract (that is urethra and bladder) mostly involving E.Coli as the causative agent. Hibiscus has been demonstrated to remove this bacteria and up to 95 per cent from the infectious site. Hence, hibiscus is used to detoxify and cleanse the urinary system. It also boosts the immune system thereby preventing any bacterial infections.
Fighting Against Diabetes
Diabetes is a disorder having high blood sugar. Diabetes has two forms. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body itself destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone responsible for breaking down glucose in the body for its utilization. In Type 2 diabetes, however, the body stops responding to the normally produced insulin or produces less of it.
Tests for reducing diabetes were performed first on rats which showed that Ferulic acid (FRL) helped in the improvement of glucose (sugar) levels in diabetic rats within 15 days of oral administration. The polyphenol found in the plant removes blockages and enables insulin to perform its normal function of clearing glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream. Hence this plant is useful for fighting against diabetes.
Cardioprotective Action Of Hibiscus
Research has suggested that China rose has been proved effective against myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury. This was tested on rats which were given 3 different doses (125, 250 and 500 mg/kg in 2% carboxymethylcellulose). It was found that it augmented the antioxidant compounds of rats’ heart and prevents the myocardium from isoproterenol-induced myocardial injury.
Hibiscus tea has been taken to reduce blood pressure since ages with some benefits. But its use should be avoided while taking Hydrochlorothiazide diuretic (used for the treatment of high BP) as it interacts with Hibiscus extracts and its action is altered.
Polyphenols are found in Hibiscus in good quantities and are known to have potent anti-cancer properties. Research is still in progress to assess its proper use in humans.
Side Effects & Precautions
- It can cause skin rash and can lead to allergic reactions.
- It is also harming the liver in some conditions.
- Lowers the blood pressure. So undesirable in patients of low Blood pressure.
- Not advisable for lactating mothers. Hibiscus may excrete some components of its composition into the milk which may be harmful to the child.
- Hibiscus may lower blood glucose level, making it difficult to control sugar during and after surgeries. So it is generally advised to avoid Hibiscus supplements at least 2 weeks before surgery.
- Though Hibiscus tea is generally considered safe, safe dosage levels need to be considered in conditions like Pregnancy, breastfeeding women, liver and kidney patients and children.
- People who are allergic to the members of the Malvaceae family may be allergic to Hibiscus. In such cases, consult your doctor before taking Hibiscus or its supplements.
- The supplements may interfere with the activity of analgesic and antipyretic drugs.
- It is generally advisable to monitor the blood glucose level regularly if you are taking Hibiscus supplements along with anti-diabetic drugs
- Avoid Hibiscus or its supplements during pregnancy. Some varieties of Hibiscus have anti-implantation property due to which it may cause miscarriage.
- Hibiscus may cause allergic reactions in hypersensitive people. Advised to apply gudhal juice in a little amount over the small just to test the reaction that it has with the area and the surrounding.
- Should not be consumed with alcohol.
- Overdosing of this flower or leaf may lead to headache, nausea or gas.
- Advised to be stored in a cool and dry place.