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Editor’s note: A 2013 review of studies conducted in animals found enough concern that hibiscus tea is generally not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Hibiscus flowers have been admired for thousands of years and are practically synonymous with warm, beautiful climates from Africa to Hawaii, where it is the official state flower. Hibiscus is a genus of plants in the Malvaceae family and comprises hundreds of different species. While all of these flowers are beautiful, we’re going to talk about Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as roselle.
Roselle is much more than just a beautiful flower – it’s also a powerful plant for healing and wellness! Hibiscus tea (made by steeping roselle leaves in hot water) has been used for centuries as a tasty and nutritious beverage and natural medicine.
Below are some of the top health benefits of hibiscus tea. Be sure to read to the end for some additional ways to incorporate hibiscus into your diet!
7+ Hibiscus Benefits
1 | Lowers Blood Pressure
Probably the most well-known benefit of hibiscus tea is its ability to lower blood pressure. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in people at risk of high blood pressure and those with mildly high blood pressure.
Study participants consumed three 8-ounce servings of hibiscus tea or a placebo beverage daily for 6 weeks. Those who drank the hibiscus tea saw a significant reduction in their systolic blood pressure, compared to those who consumed the placebo drink.
A 2019 study found that consumption of hibiscus tea could effectively lower blood pressure in patients with stage 1 hypertension. Patients who drank two cups of the tea each morning for a month saw significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 494,873 people in the United States in 2018. High blood pressure costs the United States about $131 billion each year.
Blood pressure medications can be expensive, and often come with dangerous side effects. Recently, the popular blood pressure medicine Valsartan was recalled after it was found to cause cancer. Lowering blood pressure with hibiscus tea is a far safer and more affordable choice that can help patients live longer, healthier lives!
2 | Promotes Weight Loss
Hibiscus has also been shown to help boost metabolism and maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown that consuming hibiscus can help to reduce body fat percentage and BMI. Hibiscus also improves overall metabolic health, and can be a great addition to a balanced diet if you’re looking to better regulate your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight.
Scientists have learned that H. sabdariffa inhibits lipid accumulation, promotes a reduction in body weight, and increases metabolism, all traits that point to using hibiscus as a potential therapeutic agent to reverse obesity.
Nearly half of Americans are obese, with the rate of childhood obesity more than tripling since the ‘70s. Obesity has been shown to increase mortality rates in patients of all ages, and is an ever-growing threat to public health. Hibiscus tea may be just the thing to help maintain a healthy weight and active metabolism!
3 | Fights Diabetes
In a Type 1 diabetes-induced rat model, hibiscus extract of 1.75 grams per kilogram by weight was used as treatment – decreasing degeneration and necrotic changes found in pancreatic cells, showing the antidiabetic mechanism of hibiscus.
Data from an alloxan-induced Type 1 diabetic rat study demonstrated that hibiscus extract possesses strong hypolipidemic as well as antioxidant properties and could prevent atherosclerosis and related cardiovascular pathologies associated with Type 1 diabetes.
In a trial of 60 Type 2 diabetes patients, participants consumed either hibiscus tea or black tea two times a day for one month. Those in the hibiscus tea group increased their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and significantly decreased total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)cholesterol, triglycerides and apolipoprotein B (Apo-B100) deficiency (overall positive effects on their blood lipid profile) compared to the control group.
In the United States currently, 1 in 3 adults is diagnosed with diabetes and childhood diabetes has more than doubled since the pandemic lockdowns. In 2019, over 1.5 million people died as a direct result of diabetes (and many more with diabetes as a comorbidity). Hibiscus tea offers a natural way to combat diabetes and support better health.
4 | Excellent Source of Iron
Hibiscus is a great source of iron, which can help improve energy and focus, boost the immune system, regulate body temperature, and much more. Low iron levels can result in anemia and other health issues. People who menstruate or are over 65 may be at increased risk for low levels of iron. Vitamin C has been shown to help iron absorption. Since Hibiscus tea is also loaded with vitamin C, it’s an especially effective way to increase your iron intake!
5 | Anti-Inflammatory
Chronic inflammation, often caused by a lack of nutrients and antioxidants, is at the root of most diseases including cancer. Hibiscus is naturally high in the phytonutrient anthocyanin, a family of bioactive pigments responsible for the red color of hibiscus and its potent antioxidant actions.
A recent review found that H. sabdariffa extracts wield potent beneficial reactions in the body. The studies suggested that anthocyanins may be involved in the improvement of many different types of diseases.
In an in vitro study, hibiscus was found to decrease the inflammasome (which puts into motion inflammatory responses to infections and cell damage) nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich-containing family, pyrin domain-containing-3 (NLRP3). NLRP3 is associated with several human disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and autoimmune encephalitis PLUS cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, infectious cardiac diseases, and heart failure.
Inflammation is the silent trigger behind conditions as varied and seemingly unrelated as Alzheimer’s, asthma, heart disease, chronic pain, digestive disorders, diabetes, and – you guessed it – cancer. But it’s also the one thing that conventional medicine consistently fails to address at its root cause. Hibiscus tea can help solve that problem… and it starts with antioxidants.
6 | Packed with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that help fight compounds called free radicals, which cause damage to your cells. Hibiscus tea is rich in powerful antioxidants and may therefore help prevent damage and disease caused by the buildup of free radicals.
In one study in rats, hibiscus extract increased the number of antioxidant enzymes and reduced the harmful effects of free radicals by up to 92%. Another animal study had similar findings, showing that parts of the hibiscus plant, such as the leaves, possess potent antioxidant properties
Antioxidants have been shown to help reduce the presence of harmful free radicals in the body and promote overall cellular health. Antioxidants can also help to ward off certain degenerative diseases, including cancer. Experts recommend including ingredients like hibiscus that are high in antioxidants as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
7 | Contains Antimicrobial and Antibacterial Properties
Hibiscus tea contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can help to promote overall health. Consuming hibiscus tea can help to inhibit the growth of bacteria and to fight off disease and illness. Hibiscus has been used for this purpose in Sudanese folk medicine for hundreds of years, and recent studies support the use of hibiscus for antimicrobial and antibacterial purposes.
8 | Fights Cancer
Consuming hibiscus tea may also help to prevent certain types of cancer. Studies have shown that hibiscus tea can act as a therapeutic agent against squamous cell carcinoma, prostate cancer, and gastric cancer.
Hibiscus is high in polyphenols, which are compounds that have been shown to possess powerful anti-cancer properties. Test-tube studies have found impressive results regarding the potential effect of hibiscus extract on cancer cells. In one test-tube study, hibiscus extract impaired cell growth and reduced the invasiveness of mouth and plasma cell cancers.
Another test-tube study reported that hibiscus leaf extract prevented human prostate cancer cells from spreading. Hibiscus extract has also been shown to inhibit stomach cancer cells by up to 52% in other test-tube studies.
How to Use Hibiscus
Now that you know why hibiscus is so important for better health, here are a few ways that you can prepare the flower to enjoy every day:
Hot Tea: Simply steep the fresh or dried flowers in hot water and serve! You can also find hibiscus tea bags at most grocery stores.
Iced Tea: Just make the hot tea and put it on ice! This is especially tasty with a bit of lemon or ginger. Try carbonating it for extra-crisp refreshment.
Vegan Meat: Hibiscus flowers are chewy but tender and easily pick up any flavor that you’re cooking with. Hibiscus is commonly used in tacos, but can also be used in vegan BBQ or “pulled pork” quesadillas!
Jams: Using the flowers or the tea, you can easily make a jelly or jam. You can even use it to make an alternative cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving!
Curries: In Kerala, India, people make a curry using hibiscus flowers called Pulinkari. The petals are stewed in a sour tamarind-based sauce that produces a deep red, healthy and flavorful dish.
Ice Cream: You can make a delicious hibiscus sorbet with hibiscus flower, water, sweetener, and ginger. Here’s an especially simple recipe to get you started.
Cocktails: Using hibiscus in cocktails is a delicious way to get nutritional benefits while indulging in an adult libation. The cranberry-like flavor also pairs really well with different spirits, like rum, mezcal, bourbon, and gin. Its bright red color makes a beautiful-looking drink, while its tartness is easily complemented with different citrus fruits or spices.
In a world dominated by dangerous, expensive drugs and embattled against increasing rates of disease, hibiscus is a safe, natural, effective, and affordable way to boost your health. Use these tips to add hibiscus tea to your diet today!