The hibiscus or the hibiscus rosa sinensis, or the “Queen of Tropical Flowers,” and — in Malay— bunga raya or “celebratory flower” became the national flower of Malaysia in 1960. The stunning flower is symbolic in that the red petals symbolize courage, and the five petals represent the Rukun Negara or the National Principles.
There are many characteristics of the “celebratory flower” that truly make it suitable to be a National flower – This gorgeous flower is a perennial, in that it blooms throughout the year and because it is a plant that loves the warm temperatures it is perfectly suited for the warm climate that is found throughout the year in Malaysia.
One of the unusual features of this beautiful flower is that the Hibiscus is also used to make delicious tea – Hibiscus tea is popular not only in Malaysia but around the world. Parts of the hibiscus plant can be steeped in boiling water to make a brew that is not only delicious but also extremely healthy. The tea which is even found in popular cafes such as Starbucks can be enjoyed hot, cold and even carbonated! Hibiscus tea has also been found to have a range of health benefits – because it is packed with antioxidants drinking a cup of this tea will boost your immune system ensuring that you are able to fight off diseases. It has also been found to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, promote weight loss and to even contain certain compounds that have been found to help prevent cancer.
The hibiscus plant and in particular the flower has been incorporated into many aspects of life including traditional medicine. Across the world, the Hibiscus flower has been incorporated into cultural and more importantly medicinal aspects. The Egyptians and Sudanese used Hibiscus flowers, in particular the calyx, to make a red tea that was used for treating problems of the nervous system and heart. In other parts of Africa the same tea concoction was used to treat coughs, colds, sore throats, increase appetite and to heal wounds and abscesses. Ayurvedic medicine uses the flower ground into a paste that will help keep the scalp moist, stop hair falling out and give hair a healthy, natural shine. While this is the most common use of Hibiscus in Ayurvedic medicine, another prominent Hibiscus remedy is to help regulate the menstrual cycle and in anti-fertility treatments.
The Hibiscus flower is truly versatile in its many characteristics and this in itself makes it an appropriate national flower to represent the truly versatile nation of Malaysia.