If you have never realized that the hibiscus is a shy garden beauty, often more intriguing than the everybody’s favorite rose, it is not going to bother to tell you this truth.
But the other day I went to Lal Bagh and headed for the rose section as usual to find them all dried up and gone. But it had rained, and the rainy days are when the hibiscus drinks up some secret magic from the planet in Lal Bagh! There is a large square filled with this flower and they were all waiting to dazzle the camera with their iridescent shades of purple, blood red, orange, yellow, white and pink. Butterflies hovered over them and alighted on them, adding to the joy.
With those large fluted designer petals, and that little bell in its its centre, the hibiscus always reminds me of an overdressed, stunning model, waiting to get into the movies. Especially the dizzying yellow ones with that heart thumping red center could easily be hiding the dangerous secret of someone’s illicit love affair or storing a love letter to be delivered!
The hibiscus flower is shaped like what the heart of an angel might look like, solemn and decorated with a swirl of bright prayer and a deep mysterious centre where peace lives. And if there are two or three flowers hanging out like good friends or sisters, they are almost too gorgeous to take in. Each of them lures you with a dab of serenity and simplicity that is very calming. They cost around Rs. 100 and attract butterflies and other insects very easily.
They are also edible and are put in dals and curries. The Chinese loved this flower in the olden days where it was known as the September flower. The very gorgeous dark red hibiscus native to Hawaii (Hibiscus kokio) and other shining colours were worn by men for a somewhat silly message! A man wearing the red hibiscus behind his right ear was saying he was married, and if it was stuck behind his left ear, he was single! And if he wore it behind both ears it meant he was married but was looking for a new lover!
Well Hibiscus flowers don’t seem to have suffered much from this stupidity by men and bloom gloriously as always, everywhere, and especially during the rains, they begin to glimmer and blossom and can shine away your boredom or bruises like angels!
Surprisingly this awesome flower is used by herbal doctors for treating the problem of difficulty in urination! You should grind and give one tablespoonful of the root of this flower to the patient!
Dried hibiscus flowers can be used to make a tasty herbal tea as well. It is good for treating mild fevers or for drinking on a hot day. It also heals minor stomach complaints says Barbara Griggs in her book The Green Witch.
There is also a complicated medicine using the shoeflower or hibiscus for treating menstrual problems. Take several hibiscus flowers, dry ones, put the petals and jaggery in a container in alternate layers in the ratio of 3:2. Close the container properly and keep it aside for 21 days. Strain out the juice and preserve. Dose: two teaspoonfuls twice a day!
For general menstrual problems: eat 3 to five buds or flowers, or boil them in milk and drink!
The best thing about the hibiscus is that it never fails to stop us in our tracks to gaze at it and discover whose secrets it is holding in its gorgeous red center!