Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer Tea is naturally Pitta pacifying. This means its cooling and refreshing in the hot summer months, especially in the late summer Santa Ana conditions here in San Diego with the dry dusty weather. At the same time, because of its slight sour flavor, it helps to preserve Agni, which weakens naturally in the hot weather.
Hibiscus, the leading ingredient in Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer Tea, also known as Sorrel in Caribbean English (unrelated to the leafy green known as Sorrel, or Rumex Acetosa), and Jamaica (Ha-mai-ka) in Mexican and Honduran Spanish, is a deep red flower that makes a naturally cooling beautifully red colored tea, notable for its refreshingly sour, slightly astringent flavor. It is brewed and drunk at room temperature any time of year at meal time, as a cooling refreshment between meals especially in the hot weather, and is drunk in winter as a hot tea, to both prevent and treat colds. The below recipe adds carminative herbs that protect our Agni digestive fire from the damage that comes from excessive cold foods and beverages, and two other great tasting herbs packed with health benefits, Tulsi and Sarsparilla, both suitable for summer cool tea drinks.
Summer in Ayurveda
Summer is the time where everyone’s Pitta (Fire Element) elevates. Not only are days and in some places nights hot, but the days are long. The major external source of Pitta on earth is the sun. Longer days means more sun, even in places like San Diego that may not get really hot until the days begin to shorten in late August. Our Pitta elevates from both the heat and the extra sunlight. And, too, in San Diego, the sun is very bright because we are significantly south compared to Seattle or Vermont. Everyone’s Pitta elevates in Summer, but all the more so if you are Pitta dosha dominant. But even Vata and Kapha types can suffer from the Pitta aggravation of summer.
The problem is that when you remedy Pitta with iced beverages, ice cream, and frozen yogurt, and too much fruit and salad, you risk overwhelming and damaging your digestive fire. Symptoms will be a thick greasy coating on the tongue and increased colds and allergies. My goal is to provide people with naturally cooling beverage recipes, like the below Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer Tea, that can take the place of big gulps and giant sodas crammed with ice that restricts the flow of blood, acids, and enzymes to the gut leading to digestive issues over time. Never in history did humans drink large beverages with ice. In summer, more water, more cooling foods, yes, but balance is the key, Not overdoing.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus Flower Tea
The health benefits of Hibiscus flower tea are many. According to Web MD hibiscus flower tea is used for treating loss of appetite, colds, heart and nerve diseases, upper respiratory tract pain and swelling (inflammation), fluid retention, stomach irritation, and disorders of circulation; for dissolving phlegm; as a gentle laxative; and as a diuretic to increase urine output. There is much more info out there on the health benefits of Hibiscus, the above is a short list, but very instructive, as follows:
Ayurvedic Hibiscus Tea as a Summer Drink
You can see from the above list why people drink Hibiscus tea in hot summer weather from India and Egypt to Ghana and Mexico. People in very hot climates often lose their appetite in the extreme heat. Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer tea, besides being naturally cooling to remedy summer heat can also restore the appetite. Promoting urination with Hibiscus tea is also a strategy when treating heat exhaustion and the fluid retention that can come with it. And parasites in foods are a big issue in hot tropical climates. There are chemicals in Hibiscus tea that work like antibiotics to kill bacteria and worms.
Hibiscus as a “Surrogate Vegetable” in Meat Diets
People also can become constipated with internal heat conditions, and also in meat rich cultures like Mexico. In fact in certain parts of the world like parts of Afghanistan or dry, mountainous regions of Mexico, like Puebla, dried flowers and plants often take some of the place of fruits and vegetables in the diet, especially in winter when little is in season, providing the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, refreshing and cleansing affect fruits and vegetables play in the diet normally. In the case of Hibiscus, though it is a flower and not a fruit, it does contain fruit acids, which may be why it has a mild laxative effect.
Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer Tea as a Natural Cleanse
What people in the USA have come to refer to as “toxins” from their meat, wheat, sugar, alcohol, and dairy heavy diets, is what Chinese Medicine says develops when there is insufficient vegetables to “keep you clean.” This is what Ayurveda calls “Ama, or ‘toxic sludge” in the gut. One does not have to react with radical cleanses. The middle way is to have cleansing foods on a regular basis in the diet like Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer tea, and stop overeating the heavy foods that make sludge. Green, oolong, and black tea help to eliminate this from the gut, and so do many different kitchen medicine food grade herbal beverages, and Hibiscus tea is one of them. That is why it goes so well with Mexican food, which is rich in corn and meat, and not so rich in green vegetables.
Hibiscus, Pitta, and Heart Disease
In Ayurveda heart disease is a function of elevated Pitta. And hibiscus tea, due to its combined cooling and astringent properties, is a good mild Pitta pacifier, as are most red fruits in general. And like red and yellow fruits and green vegetables, Hibiscus is rich in antioxidants, which scavenge free radicals and is very important for cardiovascular health. Specifically, the flavonoid (a substance found in fruits and other plants) cyanidin is found in Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer tea, which accounts for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It is claimed that the anti-oxidants in Hibiscus tea help prevent fatty deposits from being built up in the arteries. Again, this could explain the popularity of Hibiscus tea in meat eating cultures like Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Ghana, Mexico, and Honduras.
Hibiscus Tea for Colds and Bronchitis in Winter
In winter, drunk as a hot tea, Hibiscus is valuable for its ability to treat colds and the phlegm and mucus that comes with colds. Hibiscus is an expectorant, which means it helps to loosen phlegm lodged in the lungs or bronchial tubes. In this case it is good to add honey, or other expectorant herbs like Fritillariae/Chuan Bei Mu and Aged Tangerine Peel/Chen Pi.
Hibiscus, because of its cooling properties is especially good for that sticky green phlegm that is hard to expectorate, which is due to internal heat. It is also good for the pain in the chest that occurs with this kind of cough, especially with bronchitis. This is different from the profuse clear phlegm with some allergies and colds that need very hot drying herbs like dry ginger and mustard seed to clear up.
Hibiscus Tea for Menstrual Cramps
Another benefit of regular Hibiscus drinking is its effect on relaxing the uterine muscle makes it good kitchen medicine for menstrual cramps. It could also contribute to abortion, so do not drink Hibiscus if trying to conceive.
Ayurvedic Hibiscus Summer Tea
- 1 tsp Licorice Root
- 1 tsp Golden Raisins (great source of potassium, key ingredient in electrolyte beverages like gatorade)
- 3 tbsp Dried Hibiscus Flowers (Jamaica in Spanish)
- 2 tsp Dried Tulsi Leaf
- 3 large slices Fresh Ginger Root
- 1/4 inch Ceylon Cinnamon stick, or 1/4 tsp powder
- 1 tsp Cardamon seed, or ½ tsp powder. If whole pod, use 2-3
- 2 quarts Water
- 1 packet Stevia in the Raw
- 1-2 tsp Coconut Sugar or Raw Honey
- Place Licorice, Cinnamon, Ginger, and Raisins in 2 cups of water and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn off flame.
- Add all the other ingredients except the honey, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Pour liquid out through a strainer into a 2 quart vessel.
- Now add the rest of the water.
- Your punch should be a lovely red color.
- If you want it more or less red or sour, increase or decrease the Hibiscus
- Drink room temperature, or slightly cooled in the frig.
Feel free to ignore the other herbs and spices, and just boil water, turn off the flame, add Hibiscus flowers, steep, and strain. Sweeten as you like. That’s how they make Jamaica in Mexico, generally with piloncillo, Mexican raw sugar, and sometimes with canela, Mexican cinnnamon.
If using honey, mix it in some very small bit of water forst (never heat honey) so you can successfully mix it into your punch, after the punch has cooled.
Try sweetening with a little white grape juice, or even simmer grapes in at the beginning. Grapes and grape juice are high in potassium a vital electrolyte, like sodium, lost with sweating.
For more on the use of Spices in Ayurveda to protect your Agni digestive fire, see here
Winter Hibiscus Tea
In Winter you can make almost the same recipe and drink it hot as tea, as follows:
Double the Tulsi
Increase the Ginger
Add 3-4 Cloves
Add some Long Pepper or Black Pepper
copyright Eyton Shalom, L.Ac. San Diego, CA June 2016 All rights reserved, use with permission