Q. I heard a rumor that a drink made from dried hibiscus flowers can lower blood pressure. Is there any truth to this?
A. Hibiscus flower tea is part of traditional folk medicine in many cultures around the world. Scientific scrutiny shows that its effect on blood pressure is more than a rumor, however. A study at Tufts University found that several cups a day can help lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension (Journal of Nutrition, Feb., 2010).
Mexican scientists found that that the red pigments in hibiscus flowers, anthocyanins, act like antihypertensive medicines called ACE inhibitors (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Jan. 8, 2010). This is the same action that makes drugs like captopril and lisinopril so effective.
Such medications are among the most widely prescribed blood pressure pills in the world. We find it fascinating that a folk remedy works through the same mechanism as such beneficial drugs.