Herb: Kenaf

Latin name: Hibiscus cannabinus

Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

Medicinal use of Kenaf:

The juice of the flowers, mixed with sugar and black pepper, is used in the treatment of biliousness with acidity. The seeds are aphrodisiac. They are added to the diet in order to promote weight increase. Externally, they are used as a poultice on pains and bruises. The leaves are purgative. An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of coughs. In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves are used in the treatment of dysentery and bilious, blood and throat disorders. The powdered leaves are applied to Guinea worms in Africa. The peelings from the stems have been used in the treatment of anaemia, fatigue, lassitude, etc.

Description of the plant:


180 cm
(6 feet)

August to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Kenaf:

Young leaves - cooked. Used as a potherb or added to soups. The leaves have an acid flavour like sorrel. Seed - roasted or ground into a flour and made into a kind of cake. Root - it is edible but very fibrousy. Mucilaginous, without very much flavour. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. The yield varies from 2 - 10 tonnes per hectare (or is it per acre?).

Other uses of the herb:

Yields a fibre from the stem, a very good jute substitute though it is a bit coarser. The fibre strands, which are 1.5 - 3 metres long, are used for making rope, cordage, canvas, sacking, carpet backing, nets, table cloths etc. For the best quality fibre, the stems should be harvested shortly after the flowers open. The best fibre is at the base of the stems, so hand pulling is often recommended over machine harvesting. Yields of about 1.25 tonnes of fibre per hectare are average, though 2.7 tonnes has been achieved in Cuba. The pulp from the stems has been used in making paper. The seed contains between 18 and 35% of an edible semi-drying oil. It is rather similar to groundnut oil, obtained from Arachis hypogaea. The oil is also used for burning, as a lubricant and in making soap, linoleum, paints and varnishes. The seed yield varies from 2 to 10 tonnes per acre (or is it per hectare?). The stems have been used as plant supports for growing runner beans etc. The soot from the stems has been used as a black pigment in dyes. The stem has been used as a base for drilling fire.

Propagation of Kenaf:

Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse. Germination is usually fairly rapid. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If growing them as annuals, plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and protect them with a frame or cloche until they are growing away well. If hoping to grow them as perennials, then it is better to grow them on in the greenhouse for their first year and to plant them out in early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Overwinter them in a warm greenhouse and plant out after the last expected frosts.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Hibiscus cannabinus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.