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Jamaican Hibiscus
Its Benefits, Origin And a Delicious Tea Recipe

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Jamaican HibiscusJamaican Hibiscus

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Hibiscus is a very popular flower in Jamaica. All across the island, you can see the many varieties decorating homes and gardens. Most Jamaicans don’t call this plant Hibiscus though, the common name is Shoeblack (you’ll hear why), and it isn’t a native plant to Jamaica. But if the plant didn’t originate in Jamaica, where did it come from, and, are there any health benefits we should know about?

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What Is Jamaican Hibiscus?

The scientific name for Jamaican Hibiscus or what we call Shoeblack is "hibiscus rosa-Sinensis". But there are other species of hibiscus as well, in fact, there are 675 known species so far.

One of the most well known and well-loved species for Jamaicans is "Hibiscus sabdariffa" or what we know as Sorrel. The petals are boiled and steeped in hot water to make a delicious drink we often have at Christmas.

In other regions it is known as Chinese hibiscus, China rose, Hawaiian hibiscus and rose mallow.

The bushy, evergreen shrub can grow to a height of 8 ft and can be as wide as 10ft. Its most common form grows a bright red, five-petaled flower with a very obvious stem hanging down and bright orange pollen at the tip.

There are many colour variations of this plant now, including pink, white, purple, yellow and orange. They are mainly used as hedges or arches in people's yards. It was even used as a "fence" to separate neighbouring homes.

As kids, we would strip the petals away to get to the ovary of the plant to put it on our noses. I'm not sure why we did it, or where it started but we quite enjoyed it. The hibiscus flowers planted along the route to school would suffer dearly.

Where is Hibiscus From?

It is still not clear where the specific location of origin for the plant is, but it is believed to be China, India or to a lesser extent Mauritius, Madagascar, Fiji, and Hawaii.

What is clear is that it grows best in tropical weather, something the Caribbean has in common with some of these countries. Some species including the "Hibiscus syriacus", (Rose of Sharon), are able to withstand temperate zones as well. While it has no major cultural significance in Jamaica it is the national flower of our neighbouring Caribbean country, Haiti.

Nutritional Value of Jamaican Hibiscus

Jamaican HibiscusJamaican Hibiscus
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin E
  • Riboflavin

Health Benefits of Hibiscus?

While this is often used as an ornamental plant, there is a lot more to Jamaican Hibiscus when it comes to health. Asian countries have long since been using it as medicine, in India for example, it is crushed with Henna and given to women who wish not to conceive as a contraceptive.  In traditional medicine, it:

Aids in the repair of tissue growth, wound healing, iron absorption, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth.

  • Regulates cholesterol
  • Improves blood pressure.
  • Can be used as a laxative, more specifically the leaves.
  • Can be used to treat coughs
  • Can be used to treat some forms of E.coli

There have been claims that it helps with heart health and diabetes but there is not much scientific research just yet to solidify these claims. It is also said to be great for hair care but this also has not been proven yet.

One non-health benefit is that it can be used to darken/dye shoes, which is what gave it its name in Jamaica, Shoeblack.

Is Hibiscus Tea And Agua de Jamaica The Same?

No they aren't, while they are from the same family of plants and the drinks look quite similar. They are actually made from two different plants. Hibiscus Tea is made from the flower of the "hibiscus rosa-Sinensis" variation and agua de Jamaica is made from "Hibiscus sabdariffa", or sorrel as it is know in Jamaica. It is known as agua de Jamaica is Mexico.

Jamaican Hibiscus Tea Recipe


  • Water
  • Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Flower petals
  • Lime
  • Sweetener


  1. Add water to a pot and remove from heat when it comes to a boil

  2. Allow the flower petals to steep in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. The tea has a very distinct floral, tart taste and so steeping it more than is necessary will produce an undesirable taste.

  3. When it is done steeping, strain and add lime juice and your sweetener of choice.

Serve immediately as a tea or chill and serve over ice as a refreshing drink.

This is one moment when an ornamental can double as medicinal. Yes. Sometimes what looks good is also good for you.

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References & Sources For Jamaican Hibiscus

  1. 7 Shocking Benefits and Risks From Hibiscus Tea |,
  2. Is Hibiscus Tea Good for You? Pros and Cons, Nutrition Information, and More, 
  3. HIBISCUS SABDARIFFA: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews, 
  4. 7 Benefits of Hibiscus Tea,
  5. Hibiscus - Wikipedia,
  6. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis-Shoeblackplant: Medicinal Purposes,,healing%20capabilities%20of%20the%20flower. 
  7. Hibiscus for Hair: Can It Regrow Hair?,
  8. 16 Medicinal Benefits & Effects of Hibicus Rosa Sinensis -, 
  9. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis - Wikipedia,
  10. 7 Benefits of Hibiscus Tea,
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