Many traditional remedies may appear more like food than medicine. In many parts of the world, people attribute wonderful properties to a tart red tea made from hibiscus flowers. Are there really health benefits of hibiscus tea?
Health Benefits of Hibiscus:
Q. I am curious to know about the health benefits of hibiscus tea. I’ve heard it’s good for blood pressure. If so, how do you make it and how much do you drink?
A. Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a bush with lovely bright red flowers. The dried petals can be used to make a pleasantly tart-tasting tea. To make it, steep 3/4 teaspoon (1/5 grams) of dried hibiscus petals in one cup boiling water for five to ten minutes.
This tea has been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of problems, and scientists have confirmed that it lowers blood pressure as well as cholesterol (Showande et al, Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, Dec. 2017; Nwachukwu et al, Indian Journal of Pharmacology, Sep-Oct. 2015). A meta-analysis showed that people who had higher blood pressure to start with were able to lower it more with hibiscus tea (Serban et al, Journal of Hypertension, June 2015).
Another reader shared this experience:
“I had high blood pressure and brought my blood pressure down from 170/90 to 140/80 with just hibiscus tea in about six weeks. For every flower I use 100 ml of hot water. I add lemon juice after steeping the flowers for approximately half an hour; then I strain the tea. I add honey or sugar to taste. I drink 150 ml three times a day.”
Earlier Research on Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea:
Several years ago, a study at Tufts University found that several cups a day can help lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension (McKay et al, Journal of Nutrition, Feb., 2010). The volunteers drank three cups (240 ml) of hibiscus tea or placebo tea daily.
The scientists concluded:
“These results suggest daily consumption of hibiscus tea, in an amount readily incorporated into the diet, lowers BP in pre- and mildly hypertensive adults and may prove an effective component of the dietary changes recommended for people with these conditions.”
How Hibiscus Lowers Blood Pressure:
Mexican scientists found that that the red pigments in hibiscus flowers, anthocyanins, act like antihypertensive medicines called ACE inhibitors (Ojeda et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Jan. 8, 2010). This is the same action that makes drugs like captopril and lisinopril so effective. ACE stands for angiotensin converting enzyme.
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.
Gin offered this experience:
“We lived in Mexico for 11 years and love Hibiscus tea, called Jamaica (pronounced hi mike a) it’s served cold over ice or you could certainly drink as a hot tea. The Harvester arts also love jamiaca and would occasionally strip our Hibiscus shrub bare!”
Anthony also has an international perspective:
“Besides having the medicinal properties mentioned, this is a most refreshing beverage, either hot or cold. Called Sorrrel in Jamaica, Rosella in other Caribbean islands and Flor de Jamaica in México, the dried petals are readily available all year round and the drink easily prepared. My favourite is cold with a touch of ginger and sweetened to taste, usually served during the Christmas season, when the plant flowers and the fresh petals can be collected.”
Other Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea:
Although scientists have done more research on the ability of hibiscus tea consumption to lower high blood pressure than on other benefits, they have reported other health effects.
Kidney Stone Prevention:
Iranian researchers report that hibiscus, as well as a number of other plants including stinging nettle, green tea, raspberry, parsley, pomegranate and black cumin (Nigella sativa) can inhibit the formation of crystals that lead to kidney stones (Nirumand et al, International Journal of Molecular Science, March 7, 2018).
Killing Bacteria on Salad:
Scientists in Mexico have found that spraying extracts of hibiscus on contaminated romaine lettuce and spinach leaves removed the bacteria more effectively than bleach, colloidal silver or vinegar (Gomez-Aldapa et al, Journal of Food Protection, Feb. 2018). In a separate study, they found that hibiscus extract was more effective than the other solutions at killing bacteria on jalapeno peppers (Rangel-Vargas et al, Journal of Food Protection, March 2017).
Reducing Urinary Tract Infections:
Clinicians observed that people with urinary catheters were less likely to develop infections of the urinary tract if they were drinking hibiscus tea. They then tested this in mice and found that the drink made with hibiscus reduced kidney inflammation related to the bacterial product, lipopolysaccharide (Chou et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Dec. 24, 2016).
We invite you to tell us about health benefits of hibiscus tea that you have experienced.