Native to Old World Tropics, probably in the East Indies; now cultivated throughout the tropics. Erect, mostly branched; stem to 11ft tall, variously colored dark green to red. Plant exhibits marked photoperiodism, not flowering at shortening days of 13.5 hours, but flowering at 11 hours. In United States plants do not flower until short days of late fall or early winter. Since flowering is not necessary for fiber production, long light days for 3-4 months is the critical factor. It will adapt to a variety of soils. It will tolerate floods, and is very fast growing. For the calyces of fruits, about 3 weeks after tile onset of flowering, the first fruits are ready for picking. Reported to be antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, digestive, diuretic, emollient, purgative, refrigerant, resolvent, sedative, stomachic, and tonic, roselle is a folk remedy for abscesses, bilious conditions, cancer, cough, debility, dyspepsia, dysuria, fever, hangover, heart ailments, hypertension, neurosis, scurvy, and strangury. The drink made by placing, the calyx in water, is said to be a folk remedy for cancer. Medicinally, leaves are emollient, and are much used in Guinea as a diuretic, refrigerant, and sedative; fruits are antiscorbutic; leaves, seeds, and ripe calyces are diuretic and antiscorbutic; and the succulent calyx, boiled in water, is used as a drink in bilious attacks; flowers contain gossypetin, anthocyanin, and glucoside hibiscin, which may have diuretic and choleretic effects, decreasing the viscosity of the blood, reducing blood pressure and stimulating intestinal peristalsis. In Burma, the seed are used for debility, the leaves as emollient. Taiwanese regard the seed as diuretic, laxative, and tonic. Philippines use the bitter root as an aperitive and tonic (Perry, 1980). Angolans use the mucilaginous leaves as an emollient and as a soothing cough remedy. Central Africans poultice the leaves on abscesses. The fruit consists of the large reddish calyces surrounding the small seed pods. Capsules are easily separated, but need not be removed before cooking.
Jamaica Tea flower (Karkade, Roselle) - "Agua de Flor de Jamaica", also called agua de Jamaica and rosa de Jamaica, is popular in Jamaica, Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America and the Caribbean. It is one of beverages made from fresh juices or extracts. It is served chilled, and in Jamaica this drink is a tradition on Christmas, served with fruit cake or potato pudding.
In Panama both the flowers and the drink are called saril (a derivative of the Jamaican word sorrel).
In the United States, hibiscus tea was popularized as "Red Zinger". Flowers are used to make a cold or hot tea sweetened with sugar. There has been some Medical studies which indicate that it lowers high blood pressure and also has diuretic effects. The flavor is on the tart side similar to a cranberry juice. In Mexico, it is also used for granites, ice pops and sangria.
Agua de Jamaica/Hibiscus Flowers Drink Recipe:
1 cup of Jamaica Flowers, 3 cups of water, 4 cups of water to make 2 quarts of the final drink, 1/2 cup of sugar, Ice cubes. Place the flowers in a small pot with the 3 cups of water. Bring them to a boil. Boil them for about 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Set aside for at least 4 hours, you can also make this step overnight. Strain the liquid into a pitcher and add the 4 cups of water and sugar. You can adjust the added water if you feel it is to tart to your palate. Stir, add ice cubes and let it chill. Enjoy!