Hibiscus Tea: Benefits, How To Make, Side Effects

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Heather M. Duquette-Wolf, RD, CSSD
by Ravi Teja Tadimalla
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Hibiscus tea is made by brewing dried petals of hibiscus flowers. It is known for its various health benefits. For instance, studies show that extracts of hibiscus can help promote wound healing (1). The tea may also aid weight loss, promote hair health, and help manage diabetes.

You can make the tea by the infusions of both the flowers and the leaves. However, the latter happens to be more beneficial in some ways.

In this article, we will discuss what science says about hibiscus tea and how you can make the tea to derive its maximum benefit.

11 Health Benefits Of Hibiscus Tea

Research proves the ability of hibiscus tea to control hypertension. It is said to have diuretic and antidepressant properties. Hibiscus flowers are also effective laxatives and liver-friendly.

1. May Help Treat Skin Ailments

Hibiscus tea may promote wound healing and treat other forms of skin ailments.

In rat studies, extracts of hibiscus were found to have a better wound healing property than a popular topical ointment (1). The hibiscus flower extract could effectively be used for treating topical wounds.

In the study, the hibiscus extract could improve wound contraction and closure (1).

Topical application of the extracts of another species of hibiscus could also help treat herpes zoster (a viral infection characterized by painful rashes and blisters) (2).

2. May Aid Weight Loss

A species of hibiscus could help reduce obesity in animal studies.

Treatment with the extract could improve obesity induced by a high-fat diet. The hibiscus extracts were rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, which helped reduce obesity parameters (3).

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 (3).

As a part of lab trials, human subjects were given about 100 mg/day of hibiscus extract powder for 1 month. The patients showed significantly reduced levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol and an increase in the levels of HDL or good cholesterol (4).

A specific species of hibiscus was found to reduce abdominal fat. The extract reduced obesity markers and levels of free fatty acids in the subjects (5).

3. May Promote Hair Growth

Flowers of the Hibiscus genus are popularly used for achieving long, shiny tresses. Some rat studies demonstrate the hair growth-stimulating properties of the leaf extracts of the hibiscus plant (6).

In a Palestinian study, the flower of a species of hibiscus was found to promote hair and scalp health. Soaking the flower in warm water and then applying to hair (which is how hibiscus tea is prepared) may improve the health of the scalp and hair (7).

The exact mechanism of this method is yet to be understood. Information is also lacking if other species of hibiscus found in other parts of the world may have similar effects. There is not enough research to understand the action of hibiscus tea on hair growth.

4. May Help Manage Diabetes

A particular species of hibiscus may help treat diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity.

The petals of Hibiscus sabdariffa (another species of hibiscus) have phytochemicals like cyanidin 3, rutinocod, delphinidin, galactose, hibcitin, ascorbic acid, citric acid, anthocyanins, beta-carotene, and sitosterol.

In studies, an infusion of this hibiscus tea, thrice a day for four weeks, was found to have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes. Also, this tea improved the functioning of pancreatic beta-cells (8).

Oxidative stress is a leading cause of diabetes mellitus. Hibiscus tea may help decrease oxidative stress and exhibit anti-diabetic properties.

In a study, diabetes-induced rats were orally given Hibiscus taiwanensis (another species of hibiscus) extracts thrice a day for three days. Scientists reported an increase in insulin sensitivity (9).

5. May Lower Cholesterol Levels

There is increasing evidence that drinking hibiscus tea may have cholesterol-lowering effects.

Hibiscus, in general, contains polyphenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. These compounds show antioxidant activity. The tea may have positive effects on cholesterol levels.

Studies show that the flower may be used in future studies for the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol in adolescents (10).

A study on 43 adults (30-60 years old) with high cholesterol 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%. The study states that hibiscus tea may have a significant positive effect on blood cholesterol levels (11).

Unlike other lipid-lowering agents, hibiscus tea may not cause any electrolyte disturbances. Hence, its intake with fixed dietary patterns and physical activity may have positive effects on cholesterol levels. However, the conclusion needs further studies (12).

6. May Protect The Heart From Disease

Having hibiscus tea or flower extract may significantly lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in adults, contributing to heart health.

According to a 2008 study, volunteers who drank hibiscus tea had a 7.2 point drop in their systolic blood pressure, compared to a 1.3 point drop in those consuming placebo. The tea has great potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and needs further studies to back it up (13).

Several controlled trials show that hibiscus tea has lipid-lowering effects. The anthocyanins in the flower are considered responsible for this characteristic (13).

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 (13).

7. May Prevent Liver Damage

Controlled trials report that hibiscus extracts can reduce fat accumulation in the livers of hamsters on a high-fat diet. Administering this extract lowered liver cholesterol and triglyceride levels (3).

A high-fat diet also elevates levels of a couple of enzymes, namely serum alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase. These increase the risk of liver damage. Treatment with hibiscus extracts was found to lower the levels of these enzymes (3).

Also, the extracts could restore the levels of antioxidant enzymes like catalase and superoxide dismutase in the liver. This may further promote liver health (14).

8. May Relieve Anxiety And Promote Sleep

Hibiscus extracts (of another species of the same plant) have shown to have sedative and anxiety-reducing effects on mice. In mice studies, these showed more pronounced effects with repeated doses of the extracts (15).

Hibiscus extracts may also relieve pain, fever, and headache. However, there is limited information in this regard.

9. Could Help Fight Viral And Bacterial Infections

Drinking hibiscus tea may not only help you recover from cold and flu but also fight the influenza virus to delay the next bout. Studies state that hibiscus could be a promising anti-influenza drug (16).

 Hibiscus tea extract can help fight the avian influenza virus and several drug-resistant viruses. In laboratory experiments, among 11 tea extracts, this tea showed the most potent antiviral property (16).

Hibiscus is rich in anthocyanins. It is proposed that the antiviral effect is derived from these compounds (16).

10. May Have Antidepressant Effects

The flavonoids in hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn.) have antidepressant effects. These work on the release of dopamine and serotonin (the happiness hormones), thereby helping lower the symptoms of depression (17).

Alcohol extracts of another species of hibiscus could also show antidepressant-like activity on postpartum disorders. Postpartum depression in mothers has a significant effect on the cognitive and emotional development of children (18).

The hibiscus extract was found to inhibit the enzymes that inactivate dopamine and serotonin. This could indirectly aid the treatment of postpartum depression (18).

However, more research is warranted. Also, the safety of hibiscus tea during pregnancy is not known. Hence, please consult with your doctor in this regard.

11. May Help Prevent Cancer

The polyphenols in hibiscus flowers are proven antioxidants. A few also possess anti-tumor or anti-cancer properties.

The extracts rich in polyphenols can induce cell death (apoptosis) in a variety of cancer cells, including gastric and breast cancers (19), (20).

In the breast cancer study, the triterpenoids in hibiscus affected only malignant cells and not the surrounding healthy cells (20).

These active biomolecules cause DNA fragmentation in the target cancer cell after 24 hour-treatment with hibiscus extract (19).

However, these are test-tube studies. Further research on humans is needed to identify the hibiscus compounds that possess such anticancer properties.

But to give you a clearer and bigger picture, we will discuss the phytochemical profile of hibiscus flowers. Since the same flowers go into making the tea, let’s look at the nutritional profile of hibiscus tea too.

Nutritional And Phytochemical Composition* Of Hibiscus Tea

Nutritional value for 8.0 fl oz or 237 g
Calcium, Camg19
Iron, Femg0.19
Magnesium, Mgmg7
Phosphorus, Pmg2
Potassium, Kmg47
Sodium, Namg9
Zinc, Znmg0.09
Manganese, Mnmg1.130
Folate, totalµg2
Folate, foodµg2
Folate, DFEµg2
Choline, totalmg0.9

*values sourced from USDA, Beverages, tea, hibiscus, brewed

  • 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 (13).
  • Researchers also isolated aglycones like hibiscetrin, gossypitrin, sabdaritrin, quercetin, luteolin, myricetin, hibiscetin.
  • Sterols, including eugenol, β-sitosterol, and ergosterol were also recorded (21).
  • These phytochemicals act in synergy to improve your heart and liver health, hair color, and state of mood.

In the following section, we have discussed how you can make hibiscus tea right at your home.

How To Make Hibiscus Tea

We have the recipes for both hot and cold hibiscus tea/drink.

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!
  1. Set a pot of water to boil.
  2. Add the dried hibiscus flowers to an empty, clean teapot.
  3. Pour the boiling water into the teapot.
  4. 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.
  5. Strain the contents to get rid of the flowers.
  6. Add a sweetener of your choice. Drinking it unsweetened is even better.
  7. 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:

  1. Add the hibiscus flowers/powder and water to a pitcher. Stir well.
  2. Refrigerate the mix overnight (or for 8-12 hours) to steep the flavors well.
  3. You can cover the pitcher with its lid or a foil.
  4. Take it out of the fridge once the flavor and color have developed.
  5. Strain the contents into serving glasses.
  6. You may add the sweetener in this step.
  7. Serve chilled with ice with a garnish of cinnamon, lime, and mint leaves.

Having a cup of hibiscus tea two times a day could be ideal. There is no information available on the recommended dosage.

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. You can buy hibiscus tea (the flowers) 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? In the following section, we have discussed the possible side effects this tea can cause.

Side Effects And Risks Of Hibiscus Tea

There are a few documented side effects of having hibiscus tea, including herb-drug interactions.

  • Hibiscus roots exert an antifertility and uterotrophic effect. They may have estrogenic activity on your body and prevent fetal implantation or conception (22).
  • 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. Hence, pregnant women and people with kidney stones should be cautious about an overdose (23).
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa L. decoctions have shown herb-drug interaction with the 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. Whether they have fatal effects or not needs to be studied further (24), (25).
  • Some evidence suggests that hibiscus tea may also lower blood pressure (13). Though there is no direct evidence that the tea may interfere with medications for treating high blood pressure, those on the same would need to check with their doctor before consuming hibiscus tea.

In A Nutshell…

Hibiscus tea appears to be generally safe. However, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions (that are discussed above) must exercise caution.

You can take one to two cups of tea on a regular basis (same as any other tea). We suggest not to go beyond that as the safe dosage of the tea has not been scientifically established.

Though its benefits for skin or hair health or weight loss are proven by some studies, more research is needed.

23 sources

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Ravi Teja Tadimalla is an editor and a published author. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the digital media field for over six years. He has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University. He considers himself a sculptor born to chip away at content and reveal its dormant splendor. He started his career as a research writer, primarily focusing on health and wellness, and has over 250 articles to his credit. Ravi believes in the great possibilities of abundant health with natural foods and organic supplements. Reading and theater are his other interests.