Hibiscus is a tropical plant that makes a beautiful (and very tart) red tea. It has been enjoyed for flavor and as a health-promoting herb for thousands of years. There are several well-documented health benefits of hibiscus flower that has made it valued in many cultures.
Besides being used to make a tea, hibiscus flowers and powder can also be used as a natural dye. They have a brilliant red color that works well for naturally dyed fabrics.
Here's more about the specific benefits of hibiscus flower and how to make your own tea.
What Is Hibiscus Flower?
Hibiscus plants are thought to have originated in northern Africa, possibly in Angola. They are now widely grown in tropical and subtropical areas like China, Sudan, Egypt, and Mexico. Many of these regions have their own unique recipe for hibiscus tea.
There are hundreds of different species of hibiscus, but the most commonly grown for tea is Hibiscus sabdariffa. All species belong to the mallow family (Malvaceae). which has a number of medicinal plants like mallow and marshmallow root.
Hibiscus shrubs can grow up to 8' tall and bloom with large, showy flowers. Each flower has a bright red protective layer, known as a calyx, that surrounds the flower bud before it opens and remains at the base of the flower after it blooms. The calyxes are the part of the flower most typically harvested for tea and medicinal uses.
Tea is certainly the favored way of many to consume hibiscus. In Iran, hibiscus tea is known as "sour tea," and it goes by other names like agua de Jamaica, red sorrel, and Sudan tea in other parts of the world.
Many compare the flavor of hibiscus flower to cranberries because they are similarly tart and refreshing. The tea tastes good both hot and cold and is caffeine-free.
Benefits of Hibiscus Flower
Rich in Antioxidants
Many of the benefits of hibiscus flower likely come from its high antioxidant content. Antioxidants are powerful protectors against free radical damage. They can help prevent certain age-related diseases and keep your skin from developing premature signs of aging. (1)
One specific compound with antioxidant power in hibiscus is called anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is a type of flavonoid that's responsible for giving fruits, vegetables, and herbs their red, purple, blue, or black color. Studies have also shown that anthocyanins have many health benefits, including anticancer potential. (4)
Can Lower Blood Pressure
One of the most well-studied benefits of hibiscus flower is its ability to lower blood pressure. In fact, hibiscus tea is used as part of treatment for hypertension in at least 10 countries. Several studies have confirmed this benefit with at least one finding that hibiscus tea could be as effective as hydrochlorothiazide, a common blood pressure medication. (5)(6)
One study found that 3 cups of hibiscus tea a day successfully lowered blood pressure in participants. Interestingly, the effect was greater for those who started with higher systolic blood pressure. (7)
If you want to try hibiscus for blood pressure, be aware that it may interact with blood pressure drugs, so don't combine the two.
Supports Heart Health
Blood pressure is one heart health factor hibiscus can help with, but there's more.
High cholesterol levels are another risk factor for heart disease. One study had patients with type 2 diabetes drink hibiscus tea twice a day for a month. The results showed a significant decrease in LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels. There was also a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (8)
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions like high blood pressure, excess body fat, and high blood sugar that can increase your risk of having heart problems. One study found that hibiscus powder reduced several conditions related to metabolic syndrome. The effects were even greater when it was paired with diet changes. (9)
May Aid Weight Loss
There's evidence that hibiscus flower has benefits for promoting weight loss. The extract has demonstrated an anti-obesity effect and an ability to increase metabolism in animal studies. It significantly reduced body weight gain in one study. (10)(11)
There have so far been few studies done on hibiscus and weight loss in humans. However, a small one conducted in 2014 found that hibiscus extract decreased body fat, BMI, and total body weight over a 12-week period. (12)
More research needs to be done to determine how much hibiscus per day is needed to affect weight, but consuming it regularly is a good place to start!
Supports Your Liver and Digestion
Hibiscus extract has shown protective properties for your liver and an ability to support healthy liver function. The same study that found hibiscus reduced obesity also found that it improved liver steatosis (buildup of fat in the liver). (12)
Improved liver function is good for your digestion, too, because your liver secretes bile that helps break down food. In addition, hibiscus extract has shown an ability to fight bacteria like E. coli that can cause digestive problems. (14)
Drinking hibiscus tea will do your liver and digestion a favor!
Soothing and Cooling
Like many other members of the mallow family, hibiscus flower is a demulcent herb, meaning it can soothe and protect mucus membranes. It's particularly good for hot and dry conditions in the body. This makes hibiscus tea especially popular as a summertime drink. It tastes good, soothes a parched throat, and is cooling and refreshing.
Using Hibiscus Flower + Making Hibiscus Tea
- Add 1-3 teaspoons dried hibiscus to a mug or glass jar.
- Pour 8-10 ounces of just boiled water over the herbs.
- Cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain out the herbs and sweeten your tea if desired. Enjoy!
Hibiscus works well with lots of other herbs and flavors. Here are a few ideas:
- Simmer hibiscus with warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom.
- Steep it with herbs like peppermint or spearmint for a cool, minty drink.
- Combine with lemon balm and orange or lemon peel for a citrusy drink.
- Steep with dried berries for a deeply colored tea or lavender and rose petals for floral notes.
Precautions for Hibiscus Flower
There aren't many known precautions for hibiscus flower tea. Large amounts may interact with blood pressure medication, so consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before combining the two. There is also the potential for hibiscus to negatively affect those who already have low blood pressure.
If you take large doses of the concentrated extract, some studies show the potential for liver damage. However, the studies were done with extremely high doses that would be difficult to consume.
Some sources recommend against large doses of hibiscus during pregnancy. Consult with a qualified herbalist or medical practitioner before taking it.
Delicious & Health-Promoting
Tropical hibiscus flower makes a refreshing tea that has many health benefits. You can enjoy it for taste alone, or drink regularly for whole body health. It's especially supportive of your heart, liver, and digestion.
Try it for yourself and discover why this is one of the favorite beverages in so many countries!