Hibiscus tea is made from the flowers and leaves of the hibiscus plant and has a tart, cranberry-like flavor. It is a popular alternative remedy throughout the Middle East that has worked its way to the Western world. Not only is hibiscus tea tasty and refreshing, research backs up its use to treat some health conditions.
Hibiscus tea may offer several potential health benefits. Some have anecdotal evidence for use as a folk remedy, while others are backed up by science.
Hibiscus tea is naturally caffeine-free. According to the American Botanical Council, hibiscus is a folk remedy used to treat many conditions. Egyptians rely on hibiscus to make a tea known as "karkade" to help cool the body. In Iran, hibiscus tea, known as "sour tea," is used to treat high blood pressure. Other alternative uses of hibiscus are:
- Sore throat
- Genital issues
- Appetite stimulant
- Circulatory issues
There are few studies on humans that confirm the health benefits of hibiscus tea. However, some research exists.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
According to an article written by Tori Hudson, N.D., scientific research on hibiscus's blood pressure and cholesterol benefits has surged over the last several years. One study showed hibiscus reduced cholesterol levels up to 14.4 percent after one month of use. Another study compared the effects of hibiscus tea against black tea in diabetics. Study participants who consumed the equivalent of two cups of hibiscus tea daily experienced significantly lower LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels. A third study on type 2 diabetics with mild high blood pressure showed a "clinically relevant" drop in blood pressure from pre-hypertensive to normal levels. This is an important potential breakthrough since many diabetics have high blood pressure.
A 2014 study found hibiscus tea helps prevent obesity and abdominal fat accumulation. Study participants were treated with hibiscus tea or a placebo daily for twelve weeks. The group that received hibiscus tea had reduced body weight, less body fat, and less waist-to-hip ratio. These improved physical changes led to a healthier, less-fatty liver.
Though much more study is needed, hibiscus shows promise in treating some cancers. This may be due to its antioxidant and antitumor properties. One study showed hibiscus caused cell death in human gastric cancer cell lines. A separate study found the anthocyanins in hibiscus may cause cell death in human leukemia cells. Results are encouraging that hibiscus anthocyanins may be used to help prevent cancer or slow its advancement.
For most people, hibiscus tea is generally considered safe. However, you should always observe cautions with any herbal remedy and talk to your doctor or health care provider before you use herbal remedies regularly.
Where to Buy
Hibiscus tea bags are available in most natural health stores. If your local grocery story contains a nice variety of herbal teas, you may also find them there. Sometimes, hibiscus is combined with other herbs such as St. John's wort or lemon balm. You can buy hibiscus tea bags or dried flowers online at these websites:
- Traditional Medicinals: This company offers 16 hibiscus tea bags per box. Each tea bag is organic and non-GMO.
- The Republic of Tea: You can buy up to 250 hibiscus tea bags at once from this company. A hibiscus tea flavored assortment is also available.
- Davidson's Tea: If you prefer loose-leaf, organic, dried hibiscus flower petals, you can buy them here. You'll receive a one-pound bag.
- Tao of Tea: If you want to add zing to your tea, try this blend of hibiscus flowers and dried ginger. Each tin contains three ounces of loose-leaf tea.
A Beautiful Natural Remedy
The next time you see a hibiscus plant, pluck a flower and put it behind your ear and in your teacup. At the least, hibiscus tea is a refreshing drink that helps keep you hydrated. At the most, drinking a couple cups a day may also lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol, and promote weight loss with fewer risks of side effects than other treatments.