With mid-February upon us, many are finalizing preparations for the hearts-and and-roses-themed extravaganza that is Valentine’s Day. While the tradition of giving flowers to a love interest or significant other dates back a few centuries, flowers have been used for an even longer time as a source of bodily nourishment and healing. Today, edible flowers are most often used as decoration for dishes, but the following flowers have health benefits that may cause one to reconsider throwing away the bouquet:
This purple-budded herb has become increasingly popular as a flavoring in the past few years; lavender lattes, cookies, teas, and ice cream are among the items trending at specialty food and beverage shops. In addition to its bright and fresh flavor, lavender has been found to help relieve nausea, headaches, and anxiety when consumed. Lavender also contains Vitamin A and is a good source of iron, containing 2 mg per serving. Lavender may interfere with some anti-anxiety medications, however, so consult your doctor before consuming the herb if you take these medications.
Rose is another popular flavoring for teas and desserts such as ice cream and French macarons, providing a delicate fragrance to dishes that use the flower’s oil or petals. Rose petals contain vitamin C, and they are also a source of antioxidants as they contain phenolic acids and flavonoids. They have even been found to have antimicrobial properties, protecting against bacterial infection. While most people would not simply eat rose petals from a garden or bouquet, rose petal tea and foods that incorporate oil from the petals may help provide these health benefits to your diet.
This brightly-hued flower, common in tropical climates, is mainly consumed in the form of tea. The striking pink-red color of hibiscus tea is matched by its brightly tart and fruity flavor. Made from the dried flowers of the hibiscus plant, this tea is naturally free of caffeine and calories. Hibiscus tea has also been shown in studies to increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels, which can decrease risk of heart disease. The anthocyanins (antioxidants) that hibiscus flowers contain are believed to be the source of its heart-healthy benefits.
Adorned with playfully vibrant, purple-blue flowers, violets are used seasonally as edible garnishes at some restaurants, but they can also be consumed as tea made from the flower’s petals and made into candies and syrups. Violets have also been used medicinally against pain and inflammation. Their petals provide vitamin C, which is beneficial for the immune system, and also contain rutin, a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory effects. So the next time you are looking to add color to a salad or edible decoration to a cake, consider violets as an option that is both beautiful and nutritious.