Edible flowers? That’s right! You probably have seen flowers at the dinner table in vases but never on plates as part of the food, so it may sound odd that flowers can actually be edible.
While there are more than 400,000 flowering plants across the globe, not all of them are edible. And although having flowers in the meal seems foreign, they are a perfect way to add natural flavor and additional benefits to your meals.
So what flowers are edible, and how can you benefit from them? Let’s find out below!
Edible flowers and their benefits
1. Rose petals
Scientific Name: Rosa Rubiginosa
Origin: Central Asia (most species)
Rose flower is among the most popular flowers across the globe. While they are often used to show love, affection, and appreciation, you will be surprised to know that roses are edible.
All roses are edible. However, roses with the sweetest fragrances often have the most flavors. You can eat the petals, the leaves, the hips, and the bugs. You can toss them in salads, use them as garnishes, and make herbal teas. Depending on your culinary desire, you could also use them in making jellies, sauces, and jam.
Coming from the Rosaceae family, roses have a high amount of polyphenols. These powerful antioxidants reduce the oxidative stress that comes from free radicals.
Other minerals and nutrients in roses include vitamins C, B, A, E, and K and minerals such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus. This gives the flower anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties hence supporting your immunity.
Since it is rich in vitamins A and E, the flower hydrates and tightens the skin, thus reducing wrinkles and frown lines. Additionally, research shows that it supports the body’s collagen production and promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Side Effects of Rose and Drug Interactions
When consumed in moderate amounts, rose flower is safe. However, excess intake could lead to nausea, headache, and stomach cramps.
Additionally, if you have had an allergic reaction to rose hips or rose plants, you should avoid the flower.
The consumption of rose petals may also interact with particular medications such as antidepressants and blood thinners.
So avoid it if you’re on these medications.
2. Dandelion flower
Scientific name: Taxacum officinale
Origin: Eurasia and North America
I’m sure you’ve heard about dandelion root, a common natural remedy for liver detoxification that can prevent and treat liver conditions, among other benefits. However, did you know that its flowers are also edible and beneficial?
Dandelion is a typical stubborn lawn weed that you can find almost anywhere worldwide. From gardens to parks and even across the road, you can easily recognize this plant from its vibrant yellow flowers.
These flowers can be eaten straight from the plant, added to salads, or made into tea. You can also fry them or add them to your jelly recipe.
The leaves are generally high in antioxidants, which are plant compounds that help neutralize free radicals in the body.
Besides the root and flowers, the stem and leaves of dandelions can also be consumed.
Overall, the plant has been shown to have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which may help your body fight infections. It has also been shown to slow the skin’s aging process and treat diabetes and even cancer, among other conditions.
Side effects of dandelion and drug interactions
Dandelion is safe for most people, especially when added to food.
However, it may cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals or allergic reactions in people allergic to other plants like ragweed.
Dandelion may also interact with certain medications, including those used to treat diabetes, certain antibiotics, and anticoagulants. So if you’re on any of these or any other prescribed medicine, it’s good to consult your doctor before adding dandelion to your diet.
3. Hibiscus Roselle
Scientific Name: Hibiscus Sabdariffa
Origin: warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions throughout the world.
There are more than 200 hibiscus species, but the common edible type is hibiscus roselle. The plant often grows in subtropical and tropical climates, and the flowers have a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, white, and red.
Depending on preference, you can eat the flowers as they are or use them in jams, teas, salads, and relishes. The plant is famous for its hibiscus tea, made from a dark-red-colored variety. The tea has a tangy taste, which resonates with cranberry juice.
The flowers are rich in antioxidants, which play a vital role in preventing and treating illnesses resulting from oxidative stress. It also has vitamin C alongside anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. All this boosts the immune system, making the body ready to deal with colds, flu cases, and the discomfort that arises from fever.
Due to its cardioprotective and antihypertensive properties, hibiscus is also excellent at preventing cardiovascular diseases and regulating blood pressure.
Side Effects of Hibiscus and Drug Interactions
As noted above, the hibiscus helps in regulating high blood pressure. However, if you’re on blood pressure medication, taking the flowers may cause your blood pressure to drop too low.
Research shows that hibiscus also affects the levels of estrogen in women. As such, women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy should avoid the plant. The same applies to pregnant women, as there is limited research on its safety.
In further studies on its interaction, research has shown that it may also alter the effectiveness of some anti-malaria medications.
If you’re on any of these medications, avoid hibiscus or seek advice from your doctor before consumption may be necessary.
Scientific Name: Tropaeolum majus
Origin: South America and Central America
While it was initially cultivated for its beautiful leaves and flowers, nasturtium has recently made its way into various dishes.
The flowers have intense colors, including yellow, orange, and red, with some lush around the leaves.
The flowers have a mild peppery flavor with an aroma similar to mustard, which makes them a perfect way to take your salads to the next level.
Simply clean them and add them to your fruit or vegetable salads.
Besides the color, the nasturtium petals are loaded with high levels of vitamin C. This potent antioxidant improves your immunity and is vital in fighting sore throats, colds, coughs, and fungal and bacterial infections.
They also contain manganese, flavonoids, beta carotene, and iron which boosts the plant’s antibiotic properties. Research shows that the flowers were traditionally used for treatments, including hair loss, among other scalp conditions.
Side Effects and Drug Interactions
Nasturtium is considered safe when taken by mouth but may cause digestive issues like indigestion and stomach upset when consumed in high amounts.
It may also trigger thirst and changes in urination. In some cases, too much of it can cause kidney damage. So it should be avoided by those with kidney issues.
When it comes to contact with the skin, the nasturtium can cause skin irritation in some sensitive individuals.
In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it since there’s limited research to support its safety. Those with any underlying condition or on medication should seek advice from a medical professional before use.
Scientific name: Matricaria chamomilla L.
Origin: Native to Europe and Western Asia
Chamomile is a medicinal herb from the Asteraceae family that has been used since ancient times for various health issues, including headache, anxiety, kidney problems, insomnia, inflammation, ulcers, and muscles spasm.
These numerous benefits are linked to about 120 pharmacologically active compounds with various properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties.
They are especially rich in very potent antioxidants known as flavonoids and terpenoids. These two are why the flower has also been used for ailments such as fever, inflammation, menstrual disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids.
The plant also contains apigenin, another antioxidant that binds receptors in the brain, fostering a sense of relaxation and sleepiness. It reduces insomnia and may help you maintain a steady sleeping pattern.
Besides being made into tea, chamomile flowers can be made into liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets.
The entire flower, including yellow centers and petals, are edible and can be added to desserts, cocktails, and savory dishes. You can also tear the looms slightly and throw them into your salads as a garnish.
Side Effects of Chamomile and Drug Interactions
Chamomile is safe for most people, and side effects are very rare.
However, since chamomile causes one to feel sleepy, it shouldn’t be taken alongside sedatives.
This is because chamomile slows down breathing and relaxes your body, which can make breathing difficult.
Additionally, chamomile alters the effectiveness of estrogen on a woman’s body. As such, anyone taking anti-estrogen medication (tamoxifen) should avoid it as it can reduce the effectiveness of these drugs.
Also, since chamomile gets broken down in the liver, it may interfere with the effectiveness of drugs metabolized similarly.
Scientific Name: Borago Officinalis
Origin: Mediterranean region
Also known as starflower, borage is a popular herb that produces star-shaped flowers. While the flowers are typically blue, they can also be pink or white, depending on where they have been grown.
Most people state that the flowers have a sweet flavor similar to a mixture of cucumber and honey. Depending on your preference, you can eat fresh borage flowers in salads and garnishes for drinks and desserts. You can also cook and add them to soups and sauces.
Borage is loaded with essential fatty acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA). This is an omega-6 fatty acid that possesses powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Consumption of borage reduces inflammation caused by cardiovascular disease, enhances lung function, and boosts the body’s immune system.
It also contains potent polyphenols such as rosmarinic acid, which is a powerful antioxidant. They protect you by eliminating free radicals from the body. These radicals often cause oxidative stress, opening doors for illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer.
Traditionally, borage was used as a diuretic and sedative treatment for seizures and kidney disease. Others used it for fevers, flu cases, and coughs due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Side Effects of Borage and Drug Interactions
There are no recorded side effects of borage flowers. But if you experience any reaction after eating them, it is important that you visit your doctor as soon as possible.
The leaves also contain alkaloid compounds that might be unsafe for breastfeeding babies.
Additionally, borage interacts with blood thinning medications as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
If you are on any of the above medications, seek medical advice before taking anything with borage.
While the flowers are edible, borage seeds have been linked to liver damage, bleeding, and seizures.
Scientific name: Lavandula angustifolia
Origin: the Mediterranean
Lavender is an aromatic evergreen shrub from the mint family, Lamiaceae. It’s famous for its fragrant purple flowers, often used as a fragrant in cosmetics and soaps.
It has also been used for medicinal purposes, including relieving stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, treating asthma, and relieving chronic pain.
Lavender is also commonly made into which has been used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation, relieve nerves and improve depressive symptoms.
You can use lavender as a spice, just as you would rosemary or thyme. Just remember to use it sparingly, as it can overpower your meal. Add the leaves to various recipes, including savory and sweet dishes or salads for a pop of color and a flavor boost.
Fresh leaves can also be added to cocktails or made into tea.
Side effects of lavender and drug interaction
Lavender is safe for most people if consumed in moderation. Too much of it may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and skin irritation if it comes in contact with the skin.
If taking any sedatives, you should avoid lavender. This is because lavender can cause sleepiness and slowed breathing, the same effects caused by sedatives. So taking them together might cause too much sleepiness and breathing problems.
Besides beautifying our gardens and homes, some flowers can make a healthy and tasteful addition to your meals.
From chamomile to lavender, rose flowers, and even borage, these flowers are rich in taste and aroma. They can be added to various recipes, including salads, teas, and savory and sweet dishes.
That being said, taking too many of these flowers may cause some side effects in sensitive individuals or interact with certain medications. So if you’re on any medications, seek your doctor’s advice before use.
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