Tea is not just about aroma; it is about health. And herbal teas are found to have the most health benefits. The herbal tea we will be discussing in this article is hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus tea is made by brewing dried petals and sepals of hibiscus flowers. This deep-red tea offers a ton of health benefits. We have compiled all of those here, along with a surprise in the end. Join us to discuss more on hibiscus tea!
Table Of Contents
What Is Hibiscus Tea? What Makes It Special?
When you brew the beautiful dried flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in hot water, you get a ruby-red liquid. This concoction or infusion is commonly called hibiscus tea.
The Hibiscus flowers, belonging to the Malvaceae family, are found in tropical climates – including the Caribbean, Central, and South America, Mexico, and Africa (1). Hibiscus is also known as Roselle (English), I’Oiselle (French), and Karkade (Arabic).
Hibiscus tea has a characteristic tartness, cranberry-like flavor, and a refreshingly tangy taste. It is an excellent thirst-quencher when served as an iced tea. When served hot, hibiscus tea is invigorating and intense.
This beverage holds high therapeutic value. In ancient Egypt, the tea was served cold to the Pharaohs to cool off the desert heat (1).
These medical applications are attributed to the antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins in this herbal infusion.
Don’t you want to know what more this tea has to offer? In the next section, we will cover the tea’s health benefits.
In What Ways Is Hibiscus Tea Beneficial For Your Health?
Research proves the ability of hibiscus tea to control hypertension. It is said to have diuretic and antidepressant properties. Hibiscus flowers are effective laxatives and liver-friendly too! Let’s go over each of its benefits.
1. Has Hypotensive And Cardioprotective Properties
Drinking hibiscus tea has proven to be heart-friendly. Having this tea or flower extract significantly lowered systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in adults with/without moderate diabetes.
Several controlled trials show that hibiscus tea has lipid-lowering effects. The anthocyanins and hibiscus acid in the flower are responsible for this characteristic. Anthocyanins also prevent the oxidation of LDL, which can lead to the formation of plaques and inflammation (2).
Preventing the formation of these lipid-oxidized plaques can prevent cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis. However, research is ongoing to study the precise mechanism of cardioprotection by hibiscus tea. Also, the active ingredients behind this activity are yet to be identified (2).
2. Lowers Cholesterol
There is increasing evidence that drinking hibiscus tea has hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects.
Hibiscus flowers contain polyphenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins – all of which have a considerable antioxidant activity. Such properties can be employed to manage obesity and dyslipidemia across age groups (4).
A study on 43 adults (30-60 years old) with dyslipidemia was conducted. The test group was given two cups of hibiscus tea for 12 weeks. Results showed a mean reduction in total cholesterol by 9.46%, HDL by 8.33%, and LDL by 9.80% (5).
Unlike other lipid-lowering agents, hibiscus tea does not cause any electrolyte disturbances. Hence, its intake with fixed dietary patterns and physical activity can have positive effects on cholesterol levels (6).
3. May Promote Hair Growth
Water and alcohol extracts of hibiscus flowers and leaves have shown to deepen the color of your hair. People with premature graying can soak the flowers in warm water and apply the concoction to their hair (9).
4. Manages Diabetes And Insulin Resistance
The petals of Hibiscus sabdariffa have phytochemicals like cyanidin 3, rutinocod, delphinidin, galactose, hibcitin, ascorbic acid, citric acid, anthocyanins, beta-carotene, and sitosterol. These antioxidants impede the build-up of oxidative stress in your body (10).
Given that antioxidants are a leading cause of diabetes mellitus, hibiscus tea might have anti-diabetic properties.
In a study, diabetes-induced rats were orally given Hibiscus taiwanensis extracts thrice a day for three days. Scientists reported an increase in insulin sensitivity. Also, this tea improved the functioning of pancreatic ß-cells (10), (11).
Having about 150 ml of hibiscus tea three times a day for four weeks can improve insulin sensitivity. Hence, this tea is suggested to be beneficial, particularly for those with diabetes (10).
5. Induces Sleep
Hibiscus extracts have shown to have sedative and anxiolytic effects on mice. Single and repeated doses of about 50 mg/kg of this extract reduced the sleep-inducing time and increased the sleeping time in mice (12).
When given to children, hibiscus extracts relieved pain, fever, anxiety, and headache. The antioxidants, like rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid, in the extracts could be responsible for this effect. The exact mechanism of hibiscus tea in this regard is yet to be investigated (13), (14).
6. Treats Flu And Other Acute Viral Infections
Hibiscus tea can inhibit pathogenic avian influenza viruses and several drug-resistant viruses. In laboratory experiments, among 11 tea varieties, this tea showed the most potent antiviral property, followed by black tea (15).
These flowers are rich in anthocyanins. It is proposed that the antiviral effect is derived from these pigments.
These active molecules can inhibit the virus from binding to specific receptors on the host (human) cells. This is probably how the hibiscus phytochemicals block the replication, survival, and spread of viruses (15).
Another bonus is the vitamin C content in hibiscus flowers. Abundant ascorbic acid (vitamin C) boosts your immunity. It promotes the differentiation of immune system cells and prepares your body for pathogenic attacks.
Drinking hibiscus tea may not only help you recover from cold and flu but also fight the influenza virus to delay the next bout (16).
7. Has Antidepressant And Anxiolytic Effects
The flavonoids in hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn.) have antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. Quercetin and cyanidin flavonoids target the dopaminergic, adrenergic, and serotonergic mechanisms to lower the levels of anxiety and depression (17).
Alcohol extracts of these flowers have shown antidepressant-like activity on postpartum disorders. Postpartum depression in mothers has a significant effect on the cognitive and emotional development of children (17), (18).
Phytosterols like stigmasterol, stigmastadienol, and stigmastadienone inhibit the enzymes that inactivate dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Indirectly, this brings down postpartum depression (18).
But, not much is written about how hibiscus tea would work on depression and anxiety. Also, drinking hibiscus tea is said to be unsafe when you are pregnant.
8. Prevents Liver Damage
Controlled trials report that hibiscus extracts reduced fat accumulation in the livers of hamsters on a high-fat diet. Administering this extract lowered liver cholesterol and triglyceride levels (19).
Hibiscus polyphenols prevent lipid peroxidation and protect your liver from oxidative damage. The levels of liver enzymes serum alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase shoot up when on a high-fat diet or during inflammation. Hibiscus extracts can bring their levels to normalcy (19).
Also, they can control the elevated levels of antioxidant enzymes (like catalase, superoxide dismutase, etc.) in the liver, thanks to the free radical scavenging anthocyanins of hibiscus (20).
9. Aids Weight Loss
Hibiscus anthocyanins are effective in controlling body weight. They have antihyperlipidemic properties that prevent the accumulation of fat in your body. This shows theanti-obesity properties of hibiscus extracts (19).
The water extract of hibiscus reduces the levels of serum triglycerides and total cholesterol. It does so by inhibiting the lipid absorption in the gut (19).
As a part of lab trials, human subjects were given about 100 mg/day of hibiscus extract powder for 1 month (21). The patients showed significantly reduced glucose levels and increased HDL levels.
In obese individuals, such signs would mean less risk of diabetes and atherosclerosis. Hibiscus extract cut down abdominal fat too. Moreover, this extract showed lower levels of free fatty acids (FFA) in the patient serum (22).
10. May Combat Cancer
The polyphenols in hibiscus flowers are proven antioxidants. A few also possess anti-tumor or anticancer properties.
The extracts rich in polyphenols can induce cell death (apoptosis) in a variety of cancer cells – including skin (melanoma) cells, gastric carcinoma cells, breast cancer cells, leukemia cells, etc. (23), (24).
These active biomolecules cause DNA fragmentation in the target cancer cell after 24 hour-treatment with hibiscus extract (23).
Further research is needed to identify the hibiscus compounds that possess such anticancer properties.
But to give you a clearer and bigger picture, we’ll discuss the phytochemical profile of hibiscus flowers. Since the same flowers go into making the tea, we’ll look at the nutritional profile of hibiscus tea too. Find these details in the next section. Scroll on!
Nutritional And Phytochemical Composition Of Hibiscus Tea
|Nutritional value for 8.0 fl oz or 237 g|
Hibiscus flowers have different types of phytochemicals, like organic acids, anthocyanins, flavonoids, and glycosides. Delphinidin-3-sambubioside, delphidin, and cyanidin-3-sambubioside are the predominant anthocyanins. Phenolic acids include protocatechuic acid, catechin, gallocatechins, caffeic acid, and gallocatechin gallates (2).
Researchers also isolated aglycones like hibiscetrin, gossypitrin, sabdaritrin, quercetin, luteolin, myricetin, hibiscetin. Sterols, including eugenol, β-sitosterol, and ergosterol were also recorded (26).
These phytochemicals act in synergy to improve your heart and liver health, hair color, state of mood, and immunity.
When does all this happen? When you drink hibiscus tea.
Don’t you want to know how to make it? Jump to the next section!
How To Make Hibiscus Tea
We have the recipes for both hot and cold hibiscus tea/drink. Let’s go over both:
1. Hot Brew Hibiscus Tea
What You Need
- Dried hibiscus flowers: 2 teaspoons
- Water: 3-4 cups
- Boiling pot
- Cinnamon stick (optional)
- Mint leaves (optional)
- Lime wedge (optional)
- Honey, sugar, or sweetener of choice (to taste)
Let’s Make It!
- Set a pot of water to boil.
- Add the dried hibiscus flowers to an empty, clean teapot.
- Pour the boiling water into the teapot.
- Let the tea steep for about 5 minutes. The tea will start to become intense and red. You may steep it longer for a deeper/stronger taste.
- Strain the contents to get rid of the flowers.
- Add a sweetener of your choice. Drinking it unsweetened is even better.
- Serve it hot with a garnish of cinnamon, mint leaves, and a lemon wedge.
2. Iced Hibiscus Tea
You will need the same ingredients for making this version of hibiscus tea except for a pitcher. All you need to do is:
- Add the hibiscus flowers/powder and water to a pitcher. Stir well.
- Refrigerate the mix overnight (or for 8-12 hours) to steep the flavors well.
- You can cover the pitcher with its lid or a foil.
- Take it out of the fridge once the flavor and color have developed.
- Strain the contents into serving glasses.
- You may add the sweetener in this step.
- Serve chilled with ice with a garnish of cinnamon, lime, and mint leaves.
Having a cup of hibiscus tea two times a day is the recommended dosage (16).
If you want to use dried hibiscus powder, about 250 mg a day should do. You can buy it here.
You can also try the alcohol-free tincture of hibiscus flowers. You can buy it here.
All these forms of hibiscus are equally effective. But hibiscus tea is the best of all – and you have the evidence too! You can buy hibiscus tea (the flowers) here. Hibiscus tea bags are also a good choice. You can buy them here.
But what happens if you drink more than two to three cups of this tea? Also, can everybody drink hibiscus tea? Are there any restrictions on having this beverage?
There is some research done on these lines. The following section talks about it in detail.
Can There Be Any Side Effects Or Risks Of Drinking Hibiscus Tea?
There are a few documented side effects of having hibiscus tea. A few of them include herb-drug interactions as well.
- Hibiscus roots exert an antifertility and uterotrophic effect. They may have estrogenic activity on your body and prevent fetal implantation or conception (27).
- The polyphenols in hibiscus tea might increase the body’s burden of aluminum. High urinary excretion of aluminum was observed days after consuming hot hibiscus tea. So, pregnant women and people with kidney trouble should be cautious about an overdose (28).
- Hibiscus sabdariffa L. decoctions have shown herb-drug interaction with diuretic medication, hydrochlorothiazide (HCT). They also interfere with the activity cytochrome P450 (CYP) complex. These CYP complexes are responsible for the metabolism of several prescribed drugs. So, having this tea may exhibit herb-drug interactions. Whether they have fatal effects or not needs to be studied further (29), (30).
In A Nutshell…
The deep ruby-red hibiscus tea is an enriching drink. It looks, tastes, and also feels exotic and refreshing. This herbal tea eliminates free radicals, tones down inflammation, cuts down cholesterol, protects your liver, boosts hair growth, and controls diabetes.
Above all, it has low toxicity. With medical consent, you can enjoy this beverage with your family. We recommend you consult a healthcare provider regarding its use if you are pregnant or have a medical history.
We hope you try our hibiscus tea recipe soon. Tell us how you liked it. Write your feedback, comments, suggestions, and queries, if any, in the box below.
Think Health. Think Hibiscus!
- “Hibiscus Flower Tea” Magaram Center Nutrition Experts Blog, California State University, Northridge.
- “Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia…” Author manuscript, HHS Public Access, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Study Shows Consuming Hibiscus Tea Lowers Blood Pressure” Research News, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
- “Effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa Calices on Dyslipidemia in Obese…” Materia Sociomedica, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effects of aqueous extracts of dried calyx of sour tea…” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The Effect of Hibiscus Sabdariffa on Lipid Profile, Creatinine, and…” ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “In vivo and in vitro evaluation of hair growth potential…” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Hibiscus Rosa sinensis Linn as an Perfume” Chapter 2, Academia.
- “Ethnopharmacological survey of home remedies used for treatment…” BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The Effect of Green Tea versus Sour Tea on Insulin Resistance…” Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Decrease of Plasma Glucose by Hibiscus taiwanensis in…” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Anxiolytic and sedative effects of extracts of Hibiscus…” African Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Medicinal Herb Garden” Plants, Florida State University.
- “Evaluation of pharmacological activity of Hibiscus tiliaceus” SpringerPlus, US National Library of Medicine.
- “High antiviral effects of hibiscus tea extract on the H5…” The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Holiday Immune Boosting with Elderberry, Tulsi Basil, and Hibiscus” Synergies, Office of Sustainability, College of Charleston.
- “Antidepressant-like activity of anthocyanidins from Hibiscus…” Indian Journal of Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Antidepressant-like effects of methanol extract of Hibiscus tiliaceus flowers in mice” BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa extract on high fat diet–induced…” Food & Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Anti-hepatotoxic activities of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in animal…” BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “A systematic review of anti-obesity medicinal plants – an update” Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Hibiscus sabdariffa extract inhibits obesity and fat accumulation…” Food & Function, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Hibiscus polyphenol-rich extract induces apoptosis in human gastric…” Molecular carcinogenesis, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The triterpenoids of Hibiscus syriacus induce apoptosis and…” BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Components in aqueous Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flower extract…” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Phytochemical, Pharmacological and Toxicological Aspects…” Review article, Phytotherapy Research, Academia.
- “Post-Coital Antifertility Activity of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn. roots” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “In Vitro Digestibility of Aluminum from Hibiscus sabdariffa…” Biological Trace Element Research, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Herb-drug interaction between the extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa…” Journal of Medicinal food, US National Library of Medicine.
- “In Vitro Inhibitory Activities of the Extract of Hibiscus Sabdariffa…” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
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