Hibiscus tea is a herbal tea made as an infusion from crimson or deep magenta-coloured calyces (sepals) of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. It is consumed both hot and cold.
It has a tart, cranberry-like flavour, and sugar is often added to sweeten it. The tea contains vitamin C and minerals and is used traditionally as a mild medicine. Originally from Angola, hibiscus is now cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical regions, especially in Sudan, Egypt, Thailand, Mexico, and China. In various countries, hibiscus is used for different reasons.
- In Egypt and Sudan, hibiscus is used to help maintain a normal body temperature, support heart health, and encourage fluid balance.
- North Africans have used hibiscus internally for supporting upper respiratory health including the throat and also use it topically to support skin health
- In Europe, hibiscus has been employed to support upper respiratory health, alleviate occasional constipation, and promote proper circulation.
- In Iran, Hibiscus is traditionally used for supporting normal blood pressure maintenance in Iran — a use that has been validated in several recent studies and is now been followed by other counties too.
Studies have shown that hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure as effectively as some standard hypertension drugs can. Hibiscus is safe and, unlike most blood pressure drugs, rarely causes side effects.
Hibiscus has been used to treat high blood pressure in both African and Asian traditional medicine. Researchers in Nigeria and Iran have confirmed that hibiscus flowers has been beneficial in reducing blood pressure, as much as 10% in some people.
Since then, several additional studies have confirmed that Hibiscus helps maintain cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
In 2007, a one-month clinical trial tested the effects of hibiscus extract on cholesterol levels showed that that people who consumed 1500-3000 mg/day experienced a cholesterol maintenance effect.
In 2009, another trial studied hibiscus’s ability to support cholesterol maintenance. This time people concerned with healthy blood sugar levels were divided into 2 groups. One was giving either one cup of hibiscus tea or black tea twice per day. After one month, hibiscus was able to help maintain total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels — as well as triglycerides — already within a healthy range. Black tea, on the other hand, only impacted HDL levels.
Blood pressure maintenance
In 2007, a study researched hibiscus’s blood pressure maintenance capacity. Participants received either a dried powdered hibiscus extract, containing a total of 250 mg anthocyanins, or an alternate intervention. Hibiscus extract was able to maintain blood pressure levels already within a healthy range. A trial comparing hibiscus to black tea among people seeking to support healthy blood sugar levels was published in 2009. Subjects were randomly assigned to drink one cup of hibiscus tea or black tea two times per day for one month. Hibiscus tea demonstrated a maintenance effect on systolic (but not diastolic) blood pressure, while black tea did not.
A Cochrane review of hibiscus’s effects on blood pressure published in 2010 resulted in five articles. The reviewers included randomized controlled trials of three to 12 weeks in duration that compared hibiscus to either placebo or no intervention at all. All five of these studies found hibiscus had a blood pressure maintenance effect.
How does hibiscus lower blood pressure? Recent research suggests a combination of reasons: It has diuretic properties, it opens the arteries, and it appears to act as a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which means it slows the release of hormones that constrict blood vessels. In addition, hibiscus boosts immune function and provides valuable antioxidants.
It is amazing how the use of this plant can help support blood pressure and cholesterol maintenance.