Ingredient Spotlight: Hibiscus

Ingredient Spotlight: Hibiscus

Hany's first memories of hibiscus were before he even knew what it was - as a young child on his family's farm in Egypt,  relishing in a sweet, dark red drink called "karkadae" - a delightfully quenching respite from the intense summer heat. 

Fast forward to the 2010s, while living in Brooklyn in a heavily West Indian neighborhood, he discovered Sorrel - and it instantly invoked those old childhood memories. That same magical ingredient formed the base of this popular beverage in a totally different environment.

Hibiscus is a transcendent herb that exists across multiple cultures, particularly in the warmer latitudes. Its cooling properties suit such climates well, especially in agrarian societies where long days working in the fields call for a counterbalance to the dangerous hot sun. In these climates, hibiscus is widely used to maintain a normal body temperature, balance the body’s fluid levels, and support heart health amidst sometimes relentless heat. 

In cooler climates, traditional usages include supporting respiratory health, stimulating multiple dimensions of digestion and circulation, and mitigating insomnia. It is rich in amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants – including anthocyanins, flavonoids, and phenolic acids – that support comprehensive health in any environment. 

Additionally, several recent randomized control studies found a significant effect of an optimal dose of hibiscus on both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Specifically, hibiscus was shown to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in individuals with pre-existing high cholesterol and metabolic challenges, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels without some usual side effects.  Several studies have also indicated that hibiscus may support liver function via the effects of polyphenol and flavonoid antioxidant. Details of these research studies are captured in detail here.

Our Hibiscus Ginger Oxymel is a celebration of this mighty herb as well as a personal throwback for me. It's intensely flavorful straight and can also be added to seltzer to make a healthy herbal soda or used as a drizzle to sweeten up a salad or dessert.