Hibiscus flowers come in many colors. They can be red, yellow, white, or peach-colored, and can be as big as 6 inches wide. The most popular variety is Hibiscus sabdariffa. The red flowers of this variety are most commonly cultivated for medical purposes, and are available as dietary supplements.

Hibiscus tea, also called sour tea because of its tart taste, is made from a mixture of dried hibiscus flowers, leaves, and dark red calyces (the cup-shaped centers of the flowers). After the flower finishes blooming, the petals fall off and the calyces turn into pods. These hold the plant’s seeds. Calyces are often the main ingredients in herbal drinks containing hibiscus.

In 2017, Nigeria exported 1,983 containers of hibiscus to Mexico alone, earning $35 million in nine months, according to the Association of Hibiscus Flower Exporters of Nigeria (AHFEN).

It takes an average of 3 to 4 months to grow and mainly cultivated in the northern states with Jigawa, Kano and Kastina leading the pack.

The extracts from hibiscus flowers and leaves have many uses and benefits, either medically or in industrial production.

Dry hibiscus flower, locally known as Zobo, can be processed into hot and cold herbal beverages, jellies and confectioneries, among others.  The leaves are used extensively for animal fodder and fibre.

  • Abnormal levels of cholesterol or blood fats (dyslipidemia). Some early research shows that drinking hibiscus tea or taking hibiscus extract by mouth can lower levels of cholesterol and other blood fats in people with metabolic disorders such as diabetes. However, other research shows that hibiscus does not improve cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
  • Infections of the kidney, bladder, or urethra (urinary tract infections or UTIs). Early research has found that people with urinary catheters living in long-term care facilities who drink hibiscus tea have a 36% lower chance of having a urinary tract infection compared to those not drinking tea

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