When my cousins and I first heard about hibiscus tea, we were amazed and perplexed at the same time. For us, hibiscus, locally known as gumamela, are just ornamental flowers in bright red and yellow (and sometimes pink) that would always remind us of past summers filled with youthful imagination and playfulness.
When they bloomed in our neighborhood, we would pluck the flowers and wear them on our right ears, pretending to be princesses. Apparently, in Tahiti and Hawaii, wearing the hibiscus flower is a tradition. If a woman wears it behind the left ear, it indicates she is married or in a relationship. When worn on the right, it means she’s single and ready for love.
Back then, we would pick the blooms, along with the leaves, to create bubbles. Using a smaller stone, we would crush the flowers and leaves on a rock with a smooth surface. When the green, slimy juices come out, we put it in a bowl, added some water and some liquid detergent. Then all afternoon, we would be blowing bubbles using the hollow papaya stalks.
Though I remember my grandmother would use gumamela to treat boils, we had little knowledge about how wonderful a plant it is. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie must have known, for she dedicated her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, to the delicate flower. The Indians offer hibiscus to Hindu goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha.
More than its aesthetics, hibiscus is prized for its medicinal properties. Its flowers and other parts of the plant can be used in herbal medicine. Studies show that hibiscus can help increase breast milk production, reduce swelling and fight infections.
Early researches show that drinking hibiscus tea for two to six weeks may decrease blood pressure by a small amount in people with normal or slightly high blood pressure. Other researches look into the other chemicals in hibiscus that might be able to reduce levels of sugar and fats in the blood, decrease spasms in the stomach, intestines and uterus. Its fruit acids are found to possibly work like a laxative.
Chemists working with beauty brand Kiehl’s, for their part, have formulated a leave-on firming mask infused with hibiscus and ginger leaf ingredients. For the Ginger Leaf & Hibiscus Firming Mask, they use the hibiscus seeds to provide an immediate firming effect and a smoother-looking skin by morning.
Cultivated in Southern India, the hibiscus seeds are separated from their nutshells before they are ground. The active fraction, constituted of hydrolyzed proteins, is then extracted from the seeds, purified and filtered to keep the efficacious benefits. The hibiscus seeds, whose flower is known to close during the night to preserve its nectar, provide the formula with instant and overnight firming benefits.
To maximize its potential, Kiehl’s chemists added ginger leaf to the formulation. “While the ginger plant is very popular for its roots, its leaves are usually discarded. Our chemists know that the properties of its leaves can be beneficial for skin,” said Kiehl’s product manager Joan Hwang.
Native to Vietnam in tropical Asia, the ginger leaf traces its roots to traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. It is often used as a spice and flavoring agent in Southeast Asia cuisines.
Hwang shared that Kiehl’s sustainably-sourced their ginger leaf in Hoa Binh and Bac Giang province of Vietnam, working with local Vietnamese women who carefully collected the leaves between March and October.
“At present, we are currently working with 14 local women. At Kiehl’s, it is in our heritage to give back to the community in which we served our patrons. We provided education on sustainable and environmentally friendly farming techniques to the surrounding local community farmers in Vietnam, contributed to providing women collectors with tools to improve their work conditions and productivity, and helped to identify new crops to diversify/increase their activities and strengthen their revenues,” Hwang shared.
Formulated for all skin types, the Ginger Leaf & Hibiscus Firming Mask has an instant firming effect. It softens the look of fine lines and unveils a younger-looking complexion. Its velvety texture yet firming and smoothing properties make it beneficial for skin that shows signs of aging. Essential oils add a soothing, calming aroma to the paraben-free formula.
“It is not really an addition to your beauty routine. You can actually use it as a substitute for your moisturizer,” said Hwang, who recommends using the firming mask regularly, up to five times a week after the application of a toner and a serum.
To apply. massage the mask on clean skin at night with an upward motion and feel the formula begin to work instantly. Leave it on overnight and cleanse your skin in the morning to remove it. It is best paired with the Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner and Midnight Recovery Concentrate.
Kiehl’s has been in the country for more than a decade — and rooted in its science and nature-driven heritage as an apothecary, the brand itself has been around for over 150 years now. And although Kiehl’s has always been about tradition, it’s always making moves to keep up with the times. Previously found only in its 14 stores across Metro Manila and Cebu, the skincare brand’s no-frills and highly effective products are now accessible to the rest of the country for the first time: It launched on Beauty MNL last 9 November 2018.
Kiehl’s Customer Favorites will all be available, including cult favorite Midnight Recovery Concentrate, which replenishes and restores skin overnight; the Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner, which soothes sensitive skin; and the Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado, which provides a quick burst of hydration for the under-eye area.