LOCAL (VERNACULAR) NAMES:
English: Hibiscus, shoe-flower, Chinese rose
DESCRIPTION: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 30m in ideal conditions. More generally, it is about 2.5m. The leaves are bright green, ovate and coarsely toothed above. The solitary, bell shaped flowers are 4-8 inches across with pistil and stamens projecting from the centre; the capsules are round with seeded. The flowers are also hermaphrodite with pollination by insects. In cultivated varieties, the flowers may also be white.
DISTRIBUTION: It is generally accepted that Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. grows naturally within the South East Asia and China region although there are no known records of it being found in the wild . It is widely cultivated in a variety of forms across the world. It is frost tender, which determines its range. Plants are often used for hedges and screens.
PROPAGATION: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. will grow either from seed, layering or cuttings. With seeds, germination is usually fairly rapid. The seedlings can be pricked out into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Cuttings can be taken from half-ripe wood. The plant requires moist but well-drained soil and does not thrive in the shade.
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS: Taraxeryl, acetate, beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, cholesterol, erogosterol, lipids, citric, tartaric and oxalic acids, fructose, glucose, sucrose, flavonoids and flavonoid glycosides, hibiscetin, alkanes, cyaniding and cyanin glucosides.
ACTIONS: Flowers – anodyne, antispasmodic, aperient, aphrodisiac, astringent, demulcent, emmenagogue, emollient, refrigerant. Leaves – anodyne, aperient, emollient, laxative. The root is a good source of mucilage and can be used as a substitute for Althaea officinalis (marsh mallow).
TRADITIONAL USES: The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. flowers are used in the worship of Hindu deities, especially Goddess Kali. They are also very important in Hindu devotional ceremonies, being sacred to the Elephant God, Ganesh. The juice extracted from the flowers is used in a variety of ways including hair-care (growth stimulant and dye), mascara and to shine shoes, hence the English name of shoe flower. In parts of India this herb is not used to clean the shoes as it is considered honoured and offered to the Goddess. Fibres from the plant can be up to 3m long can be. These are obtained from the stems and these are used for coarse fabrics, nets and paper. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads.
TRADITIONAL RECIPES: There is a wide range of traditional medicinal uses for Hibiscus including the treatment of excessive and painful menstruation, cystitis, venereal diseases, fevers, bronchial catarrh and coughs.
FEVER A decoction of leaves is used as a lotion in the treatment of fevers. This is particularly applicable to fevers from exertion and heat exposure. Soak 4 flowers overnight in cold water, strain and take three times a day for 3 days . Flowers can also be used in the same way.
URINARY Scanty urination with burning (cystitis) benefits from boiling 4 flower buds in 2 glasses of water until the water is reduced by half. Strain and add a teaspoon of sugar. This should be taken twice a day for one week.
MENSTRUAL DISORDERS Dysmenorrhoea (painful) - grind 4 flowers into a paste and take on an empty stomach each morning for one week. This could also be taken in the form of a powder . Alternatively a 4 inch piece of the stem, a white flower, a handful of leaves and 2 teaspoons Cuminum cymimum (cumin) seeds. Grind together and take three times daily before meals in milk. Take for the first 3 days of the period and repeat for the following two cycles . Also used for excessive bleeding. For menorrhagia, 12 flowers should be ground into milk. Take twice daily on an empty stomach . Alternatively, the powdered root can be used. Leucorrhoea – a paste made from 4 flowers should be taken on an empty stomach followed by warm milk for 7 days . Where there is also abdominal pain, take a mixture of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. with Rosa spp. (rose), Moringa pterigosperma (drumstick) and Carica paaya (papaya) in jaggery.
MUMPS and CANCEROUS SWELLINGS The leaves and flowers are beaten into a paste and used as a poultice . HAIR Apply a paste of fresh leaves on the hair for healthy and black hair .