Are there Benefits and Side Effects of Hibiscus Tea?

What folk medicine has known for centuries, science is just now proving that the health benefits of hibiscus tea make it worth having a cup. Hibiscus tea is proven to lower blood pressure, quench your thirst, help shed a few pounds, and much more.

Hibiscus is a popular ornamental plant in gardens worldwide. Many species of it are known for their colorful and large flowers which attract insect pollinators like bees and butterflies.  It also adds pizazz and beauty when used as a hair accessory.

There are hundreds of beautiful Hibiscus species  in warm-temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions of the world. Hibiscus sabdariffa, called Roselle, is a commonly used species in making Hibiscus tea. Its sepals or calyces (petal-like structure at the base of the flower) are used to make an herbal tea which is a popular beverage in many Asian, African, and Caribbean countries.

Different countries have their own unique ways of preparing Hibiscus tea. In China, for example, Hibiscus tea is blended with other teas like black tea. In Cambodia, Hibiscus tea is mixed with lime juice and sweeteners (sugar or honey) and then served as a cold drink. In Jamaica, Hibiscus tea is usually mixed with Jamaican rum or wine. Hibiscus tea can be served as either cold or warm; the flavor and aroma would still be the same.

Since time immemorial, Hibiscus tea is known for its health benefits and therapeutic uses.  The hibiscus and its northern sister plant, rose of Sharon, also a hibiscus, is more than just a beautiful flower, it has healing properties when made into tea.

Hibiscus tea is simple to prepare – just boil water and add the flowers of the hibiscus plant or a tea bag. You can purchase dried loose flowers at your local health food store or in a tea bags.

Here are 5 of the most noted benefits of hibiscus tea.

High Blood Pressure

Recent studies show that drinking just three cups of hibiscus tea daily helps lower the systolic, top number, blood pressure level. Investigators from Tufts University aimed to determine if hibiscus tea might lower blood pressure in people with pre- or mild hypertension.

Sixty-five people between ages 30 and 70 took part in the study, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition. They were given either 3 cups of hibiscus tea per day (containing a total of 3.75 grams of hibiscus flowers) or a hibiscus-flavored placebo drink for six weeks. Blood pressure measurements were taken at the beginning (baseline) and end of the study period.

After six weeks, systolic blood pressure in people drinking the hibiscus tea was significantly reduced. Compared with the baseline measurements, hibiscus tea lowered systolic blood pressure by 5.5% (almost 6 points), whereas no reduction was seen in the placebo group. Reducing blood pressure by this amount could lead to a 14% reduction in death from stroke and a 9% reduction in death from heart disease in the population at large.  Naturally and without laboratory manipulation hibiscus is an antioxidant. It has properties that prevents the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins; a substance in our blood that if increased beyond normal quantities may cause high blood pressure.

“Adding hibiscus tea to each meal is simple and may be an effective strategy for controlling blood pressure among pre- and mildly hypertensive adults,” said the study’s authors. The blood pressure reduction seen in this study was comparable to that achieved with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) protocol, which recommends large amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and low-fat dairy products. For many people, following complex dietary guidelines may prove difficult, but adding a few cups of tea to the daily routine might be more doable.

Weight Loss

So you’ve heard about all the damage that Hydroxycut can do to you if you’re trying to lose weight, right?  Did you know that Hydroxycitric (HCA) acid can be found naturally in this simple tropical plant used to make a refreshing tea ? This is the same acid that was manufactured chemically in labs to create Hydroxycut, but the natural source is safe, healthy and a million times more beneficial to the body.

Hibiscus tea affects how we absorb fats and carbohydrates because it contains phaseolamin, a powerful enzyme inhibitor that blocks amylase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down fats and carbohydrates. Hibiscus tea acts in the same way as the drugstore-pill versions, but remains in its natural, unadulterated form and is much safer and more beneficial for the body than laboratory-produced concoctions.

In addition to blocking the absorption of sugars, this traditional tea has cleansing and anti-bloating properties, helping rid the body of excess fluids and therefore further contributing to weight loss, especially in premenstrual and menopausal women.

Hibiscus tea is caffeine-free and has a high vitamin C content, it has a bright red color and a tart cranberry-like flavor, it’s like natures Kool-aide but much, much better for you. Hibiscus tea is also known to lower cholesterol.


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Refreshing Iced Hibiscus Tea

Trying to quench your thirst with one of those sports drinks? Hibiscus tea is recommended as an alternative to artificially made commercial “sport drinks” that are marketed to physically active individuals. Hibiscus tea’s ability to cool the body is well documented by cultures that include it in their diet or medicinal practices. This benefit is  associated with the diuretic properties of hibiscus, a property that helps in the excretion of excess fluids from the body.  As iced tea, the infusion is known to satiate thirst.  Try this – brew some delicious hibiscus tea the night before, refrigerate it and then fill up your water bottles the next morning.

Cough and Colds

According to the book “Healing Herbal Teas,” fresh hibiscus flowers contain around 6.7 mg of ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, which is one of the more essential nutrients needed by the body. Along with this significantly beneficial substance, hibiscus is known to have anti-inflammatory and mild anti-bacterial properties. Thus hibiscus tea is often used as a supplement to help treat coughs and colds. Because of its cooling effect, it is especially effective in reducing the discomfort of fevers that may accompany such ailments.


Besides containing a significant amount of ascorbic acid, hibiscus is made of the following nutritional substances: 1.145 g of protein, 2.61 g of fat, 12.0 g of fiber, 1,263 mg of calcium, 273.2 mg of phosphorus, 8.98 mg of iron, 0.029 mg of carotene, 0.117 mg of thiamine, 0.277 mg of riboflavin and 3.765 m of niacin. Given all this, it can be said that hibiscus tea can serve as an excellent food supplement and an aid to boost the body’s immune system.

Side Effects of Hibiscus Tea

Like many herbal remedies, however, there can be side effects which may not be so pleasant. The hibiscus tea side effects do not occur for everyone who consumes it. There are certain conditions which when met, give rise to the occurrence of the side effects.

Low Blood Pressure

People with low blood pressure should not drink hibiscus tea. A USDA-sponsored study done by Diane McKay of Tufts University and presented to the American Heart Association’s convention, showed that people who consume hibiscus tea daily can have an average drop of 7.2 points in their systolic blood pressure. Those people who had a systolic reading of 129 or higher had a greater response to the tea. Their systolic pressure dropped by an average of 13.2 points, their diastolic pressure dropped an average of 6.4 points, and their mean arterial pressure dropped an average of 8.7 points.

Alteration of Conciousness

Hibiscus tea can, in some people, produce a hallucinogenic effect or can cause a sensation similar to intoxication. If you have never consumed hibiscus tea before, do not try it for the first time in situations where you may need to drive or where becoming sleepy or incapacitated might cause a problem or contribute to a dangerous situation.

Estrogen Issues

People with low estrogen, those who are on hormone replacement therapy, or who are using birth control pills should not drink hibiscus tea. Some studies, such as that conducted by the Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in India, indicate that Hibiscus rosa-sinensis may contain estrogen or may affect estrogen in some way.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Issues

Hibiscus is discouraged during pregnancy and breastfeeding since the potential side effects to the baby or fetus are unclear. Additionally, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that consuming large quantities of hibiscus tea over time may reduce fertility.

Other Precautions

Some areas of the world have traditionally used hibiscus tea to treat people with cancer, and early indicators show that there may be some basis for this use. One study conducted by Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan showed that there are chemicals called polyphenols in hibiscus that are able to attack and neutralize cancerous cells in the brain and skin. As a result, anyone already taking anti-cancer drugs should not use hibiscus tea as it may have an additive effect on the treatment. Additionally, hibiscus tea may also affect the way acetaminophen and some other anti-inflammatories are processed by the body. To prevent a possible interaction, avoid taking the tea and anti-inflammatories within two hours of each other.

Here’s to a healthy summer!!  What’s your favorite hibiscus tea recipe?

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3 Responses to “Hibiscus Tea – The Good and the Bad”

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