Some plants have undergone years of careful breeding to maximize their uses for humans, while others are naturally helpful to the environment around them. The Hibiscus is unique in being one of the few plants that offer both simultaneously. Many varieties of Hibiscus were carefully bred for beauty and medicinal use, while others have grown wild for years and still contribute to soil health and overall biodiversity. Learn more about the dozens of potential uses and benefits of Hibiscus, and you just might decide to add one or more varieties to your home garden.
There are hundreds of plants known as Hibiscus, most of them falling into the genus of the same name. All members of the Hibiscus genus are part of the larger Mallow family, specifically Malvaceae. This means that they’re distantly related to Okra, Cacao, and even Cotton plants.
Most Hibiscus varieties sport large flowers in bright shades of pink, red, purple, or white. This is the primary reason for planting and breeding for many species. The large and showy flowers often attract pollinators like bees, moths, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Most Hibiscus plants prefer warmer climates and are native to tropical or subtropical areas, but there are also temperate varieties that easily handle growing back from the roots after cold winters.
Some varieties don’t have Hibiscus in their common name at all, such as the Rose of Sharon. Yet you’ll still find that it’s part of their scientific name. Tropical varieties tend to be more widely used for medicinal and herbal tea purposes than their temperature counterparts. Yellow and purple flowering types are among the rarest, but they are found in some tropical environments.
Depending on their range and habitat, Hibiscus plants tend to flower in the late spring through summer. Some varieties bloom year-round if planted in proper tropical conditions. In more temperate areas, it’s more common only to see their blooms in the hottest part of the summer.
32 Amazing Uses and Benefits of Hibiscus
Depending on the specific variety, there are dozens of benefits from Hibiscus plants. Here’s a round-up of some of the essential uses they have worldwide.
Potential Health Benefits of Hibiscus
1) Hibiscus are Rich in antioxidants
Many varieties of Hibiscus are used for making tea, specifically with dried flowers and buds. This tea is a powerful source of antioxidants like beta carotene, Vitamin C, and even anthocyanin. Adding more antioxidants to your diet could help you fight many health problems caused by cellular damage over time.
2) Relieves headaches
Thanks to the anthocyanin, in particular in the Hibiscus flower, there’s a good chance that drinking the tea regularly could help reduce your chances of headaches and migraines. This is because that antioxidant, in particular, is known for having anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
3) Lowers blood pressure
Another reason that you might find Hibiscus tea helpful in reducing headache pain because it’s linked to lower blood pressure measurements. If you’re experiencing headaches due to spikes in blood pressure, daily cups of tea made with this plant could help smooth out those issues. Even limited clinical trials show that Hibiscus sabdariffa, in particular, can lower blood pressure measurements.
4) Boosts immune system
It’s the Vitamin C in Hibiscus that has the potential to help you maintain a strong and healthy immune system. Some studies have also demonstrated that compounds in the plant may have antibacterial effects as well, although these studies involved mice rather than humans. It’s certainly worth trying if you seem susceptible to every cold going around.
5) Hibiscus May reduce the risk of cancer
This potential benefit has only limited research behind it, but it’s not too far of a stretch to assume the high levels of antioxidants could convey protection against cancer. Many forms of cancer have been linked to free radical damage in the cells, which could be prevented by consuming more antioxidants from Hibiscus tea.
6) Hibiscus May help with weight loss
Several studies involving concentrated extracts from Hibiscus have shown evidence that it could help promote weight loss. While these products were more potent than your average tea made from flowers, there’s still a chance that even tea can help control your weight.
7) Regulates menstrual cycles
One of the most popular folk uses for Hibiscus is to help regulate late or early menstrual cycles. It’s known for helping to boost estrogen levels in a minor way, just enough to help add stability to this important part of life.
8) Hibiscus Tea Soothes Sore Throat
When enjoyed warm or cold, tea made from Hibiscus flowers has a mild astringency and tartness that really soothes a sore throat. It can loosen mucus that accumulates during illness or allergies to make it easier to cough up as well.
9) Enhances brain function
Anything you drink that is caffeine-free and low in sugar helps hydrate you, which in turn boosts your brain function. Hibiscus may give you more of a boost than plain water thanks to its antioxidants, specifically beta carotene which has been studied for its ability to improve cognitive function.
10) Hibiscus Acts as a Diuretic
One reason that Hibiscus can help with weight loss and reduce headaches is its mild effect as a diuretic. It helps add more water from the body into the bloodstream, which can flush out your kidneys and support overall health. Just be sure not to take the tea while you’re already using a medication with the same effect.
11) Promotes liver health
The same study that discovered a link between weight loss and Hibiscus extract also found that liver steatosis was improved by its use. Also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, this condition can lead to fatigue and difficulty losing weight. Again, this was linked to a concentrated extract rather than just tea.
12) Hibiscus Reduces Inflammation
Ingesting more antioxidants like the flavonoids found in Hibiscus may reduce inflammation throughout your body.
13) Improves digestion
One reason to consider eating the Hibiscus flower rather than just using it for tea is the potential for improved digestion. Digesting the flower material adds valuable polyphenols to the body while giving you a boost of fiber that enhances the elimination process.
14) Hibiscus Reduces Anxiety and Depression
It’s possible that the antioxidants found in Hibiscus may even ease depression and anxiety symptoms. Data is still limited on this connection, but there have been promising studies in mice hinting at the potential for relief.
15) Improves skin health
Not all of the benefits from Hibiscus are internal. Thanks to the boost of Vitamin C and flavonoids, you may see improvements in acne, eczema, and other skin conditions.
Benefits of Hibiscus Flowers in Nature
1) Hibiscus Attracts Beneficial Insects
If you’d like to see more beneficial insects in your garden, along with fast-moving hummingbirds, you’ll want to plant more Hibiscus. The large flowers attract bees, butterflies, pollinating flies, and much more.
2) Soil erosion prevention
Erosion is a significant problem in which rainfall and wind wash away the top layer of soil. When the soil is lost, it can clog up drainage areas and generally destabilize even mildly sloped areas. Many types of Hibiscus grow well in challenging situations where erosion has been an issue or is becoming one.
3) Ornamental Value
Don’t overlook the value of a quick-growing shrub or tree with large and colorful blooms. Hibiscus can add a lot of beauty to an outdoor space where the ground might be too soggy or the heat too strong for other flowering plants.
4) Aromatic properties
Most Hibiscus species have no particular scent, at least not that humans can enjoy. The ones that do feature a scent tend to be fragrant and worth planting if they can grow in your area. The Hibiscus arnottianus tends to offer the most pungent scent and is native to Hawaii.
5) Hibiscus Can Assist in Soil Remediation
Remediation is the process of dealing with soil that has been damaged by a chemical spill or has simply lost organic material due to erosion. Hibiscus varieties often thrive in poor soil and challenging areas, making them ideal for remediation. Kenaf, or Hibiscus cannabinus, is widely used for removing heavy metals from damaged soils.
6) Essential Food for Pollinators
There’s a reason that many Hibiscus plants are known for attracting pollinators. They’re a good source of nectar for adult bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Some species also provide food for these pollinators in a larval form as well, in addition to creating hiding places for growing insects.
7) Hibiscus Can Help to Improve Soil
Organic matter keeps the soil loose, encourages better root spread, and releases micronutrients that plants need to thrive. Hibiscus plants can contribute to this cycle by dropping lots of leaves that break down into organic material to enrich the soil. Pruning and chipping extra branches increases this effect even more for fluffy, dark soil that is full of life.
Hibiscus plants help increase a garden’s or yard’s biodiversity by encouraging a wider range of birds, animals, and insects to visit. The larger varieties offer shelter and habitat space for wildlife, encouraging predators to move in that can keep pests under control with less effort on your part.
9) Hibiscus Can Help to Improve Air Quality
Like all green plants with plenty of leaf surface area, the Hibiscus can improve air quality around your home and for the entire planet. These plants absorb carbon dioxide and many gases that can pollute our air supply, in exchange, releasing oxygen for us to enjoy. Planting dense hedges of Hibiscus can also trap dust and improve air quality in a courtyard or patio.
10) Erosion Control
Many Hibiscus plants, including those native to North America, feature deep roots that help stabilize the soil below them. You’ll find Kenaf and other tall-growing varieties used to stabilize banks in areas where the soil is prone to erosion and landslides as well, but even the fibers from the plant can help hold together steep slopes.
There are Hibiscus varieties that thrive in soggy and wet soils, while most of them prefer sandy and dry areas. Many types of this plant are not-so-picky and grow regardless of how poor or dry the soil gets during certain seasons. Few plants offer as much versatility when it comes to dealing with challenging conditions.
12) Water conservation
Despite thriving in tropical areas that receive a lot of rain, most Hibiscus species are drought-tolerant for at least short periods. Thanks to deep root systems, you’ll find that they hold a lot of water for themselves.
13) Hibiscus is a Natural Insecticide
Some Hibiscus species contain natural compounds in their leaves that discourage pests from eating them. This reduces the need for treatment in your garden, protecting beneficial insects that are sensitive even to organic sprays.
14) Carbon Sequestration
Like many other plants, Hibiscus helps absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When dead materials like old leaves are composted and returned to the soil, the CO2 is sequestered and kept out of the atmosphere.
15) Biofuel production
Some species of Hibiscus contain the right mix of oils to produce biofuels like biodiesel. With no need to drill for this fuel and much less processing needed compared to petroleum products, biofuels offer a more environmentally friendly way to create liquid fuel.
Other Uses and Benefits of Hibiscus
1) Sustainable Dyeing
Hibiscus is used in sustainable dyeing to add a pink-to-magenta color to textiles.
2) Hibiscus has Rich Meaning and Symbolism
Hibiscus has rich cultural meaning, symbolizing beauty, youth, love, and romance worldwide.
Hibiscus Uses and Benefits FAQs:
Are Hibiscus plants capable of growing in colder areas?
Temperate Hibiscus plants can handle freezing temperatures and grow back from the roots yearly.
Can you make your own Hibiscus tea?
If you know your Hibiscus is an edible variety, and you don’t spray the plant, you can gather the flowers and dry them for tea.
Embrace a plant capable of enriching your life and the environment around you by planting a few new Hibiscus.
For more, see our in-depth guide to growing hardy hibiscus in your garden.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew’s a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.