Hibiscus shampoo - conditioner 0809


Hibiscus Shampoo



 By: Sharon Ahn



Description and Rationale



Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.

In a country with flourishing vegetation, one can make almost anything using the natural resources that surround them. The country of Philippines is well known for the endless variety of flowers and herbs that grow throughout the tropics. Despite these natural advantages the locals here have, they spend unnecessary money buying products that are being advertised. Due to the extremely hot and humid weather, daily showers are a necessity for the Filipino people. However, these constant showers can result to dry, frizzy, damaged hair with split ends.

A significant flower known as the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. (also known as the ‘Gumamela’ in the Philippine language), is a common flower found in cultivation throughout the Philippines. These flowers are used as an alternative medicine by the locals to heal boils, cancerous swellings and mumps, and are also used as a skin softener. Can the Hibiscus also be used for the hair as shampoo and conditioner? Will it be effective in cleansing the hair without damaging it?

According to researchers at the National Institute of Health, shampoos and conditioner contain an ingredient known as ‘methylisothiazoline (MIT)’ that can contribute to cancer, liver disorders, and neurological damage. If this is true, how and in what ways can this ‘methylisothiazoline’ harm you? Does the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have this ingredient as well?

            Some questions one might ask are: What are the main reasons locals here take daily showers? How often should a person wash their hair? Some of the most popular shampoos used in the Philippines include: Head and Shoulders, Suave, and Pantene hair conditioner. Could these shampoos and conditioners contain chemicals or toxins? If so, how can those chemicals or toxins be harmful to the body and the environment?

The initial purpose of this project will be to research the biology and ecology of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis that grow in the Philippines through a research of literature, firsthand observations/experiments, and interviews with experts. These initial findings will help guide the experimental phase, where the benefits of using the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis will be further explored.

It is hoped that the use of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis will improve the health of the people. It is also hoped that this will help conserve money by using the abundant natural resources around them for a healthier life while also keeping the planet clean.



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Common Names and Synonyms


Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. is commonly known as the Tropical Hibiscus or the Chinese Hibiscus. The genus of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is wide and varied and consists of around 300 species. The flower got its name from the Greek words: Hibiscus meaning ‘mallow,’ and rosa-sinensis meaning ‘rose of China.’

These short-lived, showy five petal flowers are distributed throughout the Philippines and are most commonly known by the locals as ‘Gumamela.’ Other synonyms include China rose, Rose of China, shoeblack plant, and shoe black. 






Kingdom:  Plantae (Planta, Plantes, Plants, Vegetal)

Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)

Division: Magnoliophyta (Angiospermes, Angiosperms, Flowering plants, Phanérogames, plants à fleurs, plantes à fruits)

Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicots, Dicotylédones, Dicotyledons)

Subclass: Dilleniidae

Order: Malvales

Family: Malvaceae (Mallows, Muaves)

Genus: Hibiscus L. (Hibiscus, Rosemallow)

Species: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. (Chinese hibiscus, Shoebackplant)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. was first discovered and named by Carolus Linnaeus.  

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Morphology and Physical Description


The Hibiscus flowers have prominent columns and lobed leaves with proper stems. They are erect with many branches and smooth shrubs which are about 1 to 4 meters in height. The toothed leaves are ovate and are 7 to 12 centimeters long. The flowers are solitary, very large and are around 10 centimeters long and 12 centimeters in diameter. Some of these flowers can be compact and dense while others are open and thin. They have a long, central tube with stamens and pistils at the tip. Their petals are seen in brilliant shades of color from white, pink, yellow, peach, red, orange, purplish-red or rose white. Although these lush flowers may look fragrant, they generally lack any scent and last for only a day or two.

A quality that makes these flowers unique is that they have a genetic characteristic known as polyploidy, which means that they have a number of chromosomes far greater than the two ‘x’and ‘y.’ It is a condition where the genetic characteristics of the offspring differ greatly from their parents and ancestors. This allows many possible random expressions of any of the characteristics of all generations before them.

Cutting and grafting are the two most common ways of propagating Hibiscus plants. Cutting is performed by removing parts of plants for vegetative propagation. Tip cutting is the most preferred type of propagation in warmer areas.





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Cultivation Practices



The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. can grow in almost any tropical climate. The soil is the most important factor when it comes to the growth of these flowers. The soil should be well-drained, in which water can easily seep through the soil and reach 30 to 45 centimeters deep into the roots. It is best preferred that the soil’s pH be 5.5 to 6.5.

When newly planted, these flowers will need an abundant source of water and fertilization to keep the plant growing healthily. In periods of drought, the flowers will need to be irrigated regularly with water, allowing the soil to be moist at all times. The Hibiscus grower must be careful that they water the plants thoroughly but not too frequently or the excessive amounts of water may cause the flowers to develop droopy leaves.

The Hibiscus will bloom best if fertilizer is present. Fertilizer is essential to maintain healthy and vigorous plants. The fertilizers should be applied 3 to 4 times a year during spring, midsummer and winter depending on the amounts of fertilizer and the size of the plant. To apply fertilizer on the plant, get half an ounce of fertilizer for small plants or half a pound or one pound of fertilizer for mature plants, and spread it evenly beneath the canopy and beyond the branches, avoiding areas near the stem.

The Hibiscus herbs, shrubs, and trees are distributed widely in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. The proper frequency of these flowers will depend on the characteristics of the soil, rainfall, air temperature, and degree of cloud cover.

The Philippines has the perfect weather for a Hibiscus to grow all year-round.

It is most important that these flowers be planted in a warm environment. The Hibiscus can be grown in full sun or dappled shade, yet prefers a sunny location with temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees. 


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Hibiscus flowers reproduce sexually and pollination is assisted by insects such as bees or by the wind. The flowers are the reproductive structures of the Hibiscus. Once the pollen has been transferred from one flower to another, reproduction begins taking place.

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. has even become popular with hobbyists who enjoy experimenting with flowers. They can cross and re-cross these flowers, thus creating new seedlings and strikingly unique varieties. The progeny of these crosses are often sterile, yet some are fertile. This increases the complexity of possibilities of a virtually unlimited number of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis varieties.

Cutting and grafting are the two most common ways of propagating Hibiscus plants. Cutting is performed by removing parts of plants for vegetative propagation. Tip cutting is the most preferred type of propagation in warmer areas.


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Environmental Factors


There is a great chance that flowers will not bloom if the temperature is 30 degrees or under. Although the Hibiscus can survive at temperatures as high as up to 115 degrees, it is best to keep the flowers below 95 degrees.


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Origin and Distribution


The endless varieties of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are widely spread throughout the world. Yet the exact origin of the plant is unknown. Although it has been in cultivation throughout the Philippines, China, and Japan for a very long time, it is generally thought to have originated from South China. The deep-red Hibiscus is believed to have an Asian origin, while the white-colored Hibiscus is believed to be native to Hawaii.


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Importance to People



There are many uses for a Hibiscus flower other than ornamental purposes. The Hibiscus can be used for hair care as an alternative for shampoo. With an addition of coconut milk, the Hibiscus can even be used for conditioner and can help to safely remove dirt particles from the hair, while cleansing the scalp.

Many florists and hobbyists from around the world enjoy creating new species of Hibiscus flowers. When crossing two different species of the flower, the offspring usually differs from the parents and thus, creates a variety of new species.

In some areas in the Philippines, a paste made from the Hibiscus flower buds are applied as a poultice to boils, cancerous swellings, and mumps. The roots, barks, leaves, and flowers are even used as a skin softener. The Hibiscus petals are even edible, and some are added in salad bowls.


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Survivability and Endangered Status


The Hibiscus plants are found throughout the Philippines. They are seen in gardens, orchards, as potted plants, and almost any place with sunlight and soil. They are considered a popular flower for ornamental and medicinal uses in the Philippines.

It is highly unlikely that these flowers will become endangered. These flowers are so widely planted all over the world that only a severe drought will be able to destroy these flowers.


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Potential Solutions


Can the locals here in the Philippines benefit from the presence of Hibiscus flowers? Or are these flowers merely used for ornamental purposes?  Although ornamental uses have been shown to be of great value and currently the most used, could there be other unique uses for these plants? These flowers seem to have many possible uses that the locals here could benefit from. Below are three possibilities with an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages for each. Along with each possibility is a current status report of progress made to date on each of the possibilities.


Possibility 1 - Medicinal Uses


Many countries from around the world have different uses for the Hibiscus flower that are used for the health of their people. In Jamaica, people sprinkle the petals in warm water and drink it as an herbal tea as it contains a variety of minerals and vitamins. In Hawaii and China, the flowers are eaten raw because it is known that the flowers improve digestion. In some tribal areas, it is even believed to fight cancer.


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Possibility 2 - Shoe Polishing


In countries like India, the Hibiscus petals and leaves are used to shine shoes.


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Possibility 3 - Hibiscus Shampoo


These flowers have been proven to be an alternative for shampoo and a good source for hair care. With hot temperatures, pollution and dust particles floating about, it has been a daily routine that locals here take showers. But little do they know that everyday showers using shampoo can damage the hair follicle and scalp.



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Adams, Mike. “Popular shampoos contain toxic chemicals linked to nerve damage.”

     NaturalNews.com: Natural Health, Natural Living, Natural News. 11 January 2005.


“Hibiscus Leaf and Flower for Hair care.” Natural Homemade Beauty Care Tips.

     08 December 2007.


 “Hibiscus rosasinensis.” Wikipilipinas: hip ‘n free Philippine Encyclopedia.

     12 March 2009.


“Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 03 April 2009.


“Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.” ITIS Report. 25 April 2009.


Pfeiffer, Charles F., Vos, Howard F., Rea, John. Wycliffe Bible encyclopedia. 1983.

Valli. “15 Unique Uses of the Hibiscus Flower.” HealthMad. 25 September 2007.


Zondervan. The Holy Bible New International Version. 1984.


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