lat. Bougainvillea spectabilis
hrv. Bugenvilija

Bougainvillea or Paper Flower, a thorny, woody, high climbing vine best known as a landscape or a decorative plant as it often climbs over an arch or along the wall with its bright, colourful flowers.

History and Origin

It is native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Central and South America and in recent centuries cultivated in warm climes all over the world such as the Mediterranean.

The first European to describe the plants was Philibert Commerçon, a botanist accompanying the French admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville during his voyage. It is possible that the first European to observe this plant was Jeanne Baré, Commerçon’s assistant and lover, an expert in botany. Being a woman she was not allowed on the ship, she disguised herself as a man in order to accompany him on the journey.


Just about every part of the bougainvillea can be used medicinally, from its stems, leaves all the way to the flowers. The leaves and flowers have been used throughout history by traditional healers for their anti-inflammatory properties. What makes the bougainvillea so beneficial is the presence of certain substances in the plant. Substances like alkaloids and enzymes that bring about biochemical reactions and have a well-known physiological effects on humans. Brewed as teas some types of bougainvillea are known to help with diabetes, blood pressure and even with HDL/LDL balancing.

 Bougainvillea Switzel
Switzel is an-old fashioned drink also known as ‘shrub’ or ‘fruit vinegar’,very popular in the 17th and 18th century.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Sit Time: 8-12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours

4 cups bright, fresh, bougainvillea flower bracts
4 cups filtered water
¾ cup white sugar
4 slices of lemon
1 cup fresh lemon verbena flowers and leaves OR lemon myrtle leaves
1 cup fresh pineapple pieces
½ cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother

  • To serve: Seasonal fruits


  • Rinse the bougainvillea to remove pollen before adding them and the water to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. The water will take on the colour of the bracts.
  • Strain out the bracts, retaining the liquid. Return the coloured liquid to the pot and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve then reheat to boil 1 minute to create a syrup.
  • Turn off the heat and add the lemon slices, leaves and pineapple. Mash them with a potato masher to release the flavours of the fruit. Allow it to infuse in the syrup for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid and keep it, but discard the solids.
    Cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled, add the vinegar and leave, covered, for 8-12 hours to begin fermentation. This will consume some of the sugar and give you a very slightly effervescent drink.

Pour into bottles and refrigerate

  • To serve, add ice and chopped seasonal fruits to a glass. Pour in a little Switzel concentrate as you would for cordial. Dilute with soda or mineral water..

Tips and notes:

Using unpasteurised apple cider vinegar, which has the vinegar mother, encourages the development of beneficial bacteria in a very mild ferment, so it’s good for gut health. For an alcoholic Switzel, add a little gin to your glass!