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  • Writer's pictureWet Dirt-Alex

Ingredient Spotlight: Hibiscus

Also known as the botox plant. What a strange comparison, toxic goo meant to "freeze" the muscles in your face to achieve artificial youth versus a delicious elixir that feeds the processes of collagen production with skin specific antioxidants packed in. Botox may seem immediately effective and roselle may seem to take too long to satisfy worn out complexions, but it's the difference between cutting a knot out of your hair versus taking the time to unwind it. Your face is left with a chunk missing that is bound to stick out in all directions, aging you more, and hurting your lymphatic system in the process. While yes it does take dedication and effort to benefit from roselle hibiscus, the long term benefits are incomparable. Let's talk about it.

Vitamin C, Iron, and Calcium.

You may have heard that iron and calcium don't get along. Calcium does have some effect on the way your cells import iron that is not well understood. There is speculation that your body is not at risk for developing a deficiency with concurrent supplementation of both calcium and iron due to a "rebound effect" that causes a surge of iron to enter the cells after a period of inhibitory effects of calcium. Its an aggressive swing of the pendulum that I question. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction that can, and usually does, cause ripple effects elsewhere. So how does roselle hibiscus fit into this dynamic? With an abundance of vitamin C, of course! Did you know vitamin C supercharges your intestinal wall's ability to absorb and then the cells ability to uptake and transport both iron and calcium?! It creates a cozy little blanket to tuck those two essential minerals for healthy skin in for the ride through your body away from each other. Preventing that inhibitory and surge effect in the first place. UH-MAZING! Hibiscus is an abundant source of vitamin C and calcium and a sensible source of iron, that you can reap the benefits of one cup of tea at a time.

Collagen, Collagen, Collagen.

The matrix that supports skin cells, keeping things tight and supple. Our body makes this important tissue readily, even in advanced age, so long as the tools of the trade are available. The process of aging is not well understood, and many believe wrinkles are inevitable. I'm on the fence, we will see, of course, as I get older if my theories prove to be correct. But here is my line of thinking, magnesium, iron, vitamin C initiate and feed the process of collagen production. Iron and magnesium are also the most common deficiencies to have as you age. My belief is something along the line messes up the gut's ability to absorb these minerals and the resulting cascade of issues uses up all the vitamin C to counteract that scarcity. A negative feedback loop that cannot resolve itself without a little specialized help from herbal allies. Sure you can take buckets of supplements that can, and usually do create another aggressive pendulum swing, to get the required amounts of these minerals into your body. OR.... you could consume plants chemically divine in their composition to normalize gut function by repopulating necessary microbes and regain absorption slowly, but surely. Don't freeze your muscles and interfere with lymph movement with injections, feed your body and keep your skin working hard, well into your twilight years.

Alpha hydroxy acids.

Skincare buzzwords, but what do they mean? Simply AHA are acids that dissolve the top most layer of dried out skin cells and some of them even hydrate the fresh cells hanging out underneath. You can think of them as different grades of exfoliation if that helps. Roselle is abundant in malic and tartaric acids. Malic acid is a large molecule, so it doesn't penetrate as deeply as say glycolic acid. This is great news for individuals with sensitive skin. You still benefit from a thorough debridement without any destructive inflammation. Malic acid also stimulates your body to produce ceramides (the protective hydrating layer, aka acid mantel). Stimulating ceramide production is different than force feeding your skin supplemental ceramides in that you make your skin work. Remember if you don't use it, you lose it. Tartaric acid is a very gentle acid, barely able to exfoliate on its own, and for this reason makes a great wingman. It's main claim to fame is its humectant qualities. You can see how this plays out, malic acid dissolves the bonds between the dull, dried out, rough textured, outermost skin cells and works in conjunction with tartaric acid to rebuild a hydrated protective layer. Genius skincare formulation made by nature.

I think a quick little rant is necessary, don't fall for the humectant hype.

Humectants hold water, they do not hydrate in the literal sense. If you put humectants on dry skin in dry weather you will find they actually dehydrate your skin. Humectants only benefit when used in conjunction with clean water and are sealed in with an occlusive layer. The skin is hydrophobic, it is very difficult to get water soluble constituents in, so although your skin uses hyaluronic acid internally to hold moisture it cannot penetrate through your skin. Topical application is minimally beneficial at best and quite counterproductive if done incorrectly (not applying an occlusive layer over top). Thank you for your listening to my rant, back to our focus topic.

A little slice of tropical paradise you can grow yourself.

Yes, it grows here in the high desert. From personal experience I can say the native pollinators are fans. It loves our hot summer days and tolerates full sun with irrigation. Roselle has thick waxy leaves that grow in a dense canopy. Perfect for providing shelter to the delicate creamy white flower petals and bright red calyxes. As you can see it is a stunning sight, especially when grown as a hedge. It is simple to start from seed and even does well directly sown into the garden. Our long growing season assures plenty of ripe calyxes will be harvested. If you want to double your production you can start the seeds indoors now to have big healthy plants ready to be planted out after the last frost passes. Be prepared to repot a few time between now and last frost (roughly the first week of May in our town) as roselles grow very quickly. I suggest soaking the seeds for a couple hours in warm water before sowing for faster germination. It is important that the potting mix is freely draining and the air is moving to prevent stagnation. Roselle likes humidity but are prone to stem rot in excessively wet conditions. To harvest wait for the flower petals to fall off and pluck the plump red calyxes off the stem. They should come off easily, be careful not to damage the sporting leaf while harvesting. Allow them to dry in a warm, dark, and well ventilated location until they snap easily and turn a dark almost purple red. It is advised to add a desiccant packet to the jar and open and air out frequently the first few weeks to ensure they are fully dried.

Roselle calyxes can be used fresh and make a delightful jelly. We currently have these seeds in stock too from our favorite medicinal seed provider, Strictly Medicinal seeds.

We love roselle so much it makes appearances all year round in different products. Vital jelly mask, Green Iron herbal tea, summer edition of Spotless Toner, and In the Name of Love herbal tea are available seasonally. But our Essential Face Polish and Bright all over salve are always available and highlight the best attributes of this workhorse herb.

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