Do you think of tea as the super healthy green and black variety that you should be drinking more of? Maybe it’s time to get a little more exotic with some hibiscus tea.
Yes, that huge and gorgeous red flower you associate with the tropical islands is a powerhouse of antioxidants, and it’s giving the “traditional” teas a run for their money. Plus, it’s delicious!
We’re fairly sure there’s nothing better than a pretty drink that’s yummy AND healthy, so we’ve put together a collection of hibiscus tea’s most potent benefits:
- Help managing cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Assist with weight loss
- Works as a natural antidepressant
- Prevent kidney stones
- Enhance immune system
- Promising natural cancer treatment
We’ll take a deeper look at these intriguing benefits of hibiscus tea, plus some information about possible contraindications. But first, here’s a little background on hibiscus tea we found interesting.
History of Hibiscus Tea
Originating in Northern Africa, hibiscus tea is tremendously popular in Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. Often referred to as “sour tea,” it has a tart flavor similar to cranberries.
Used as a tea, hibiscus is naturally caffeine-free and can be served hot or cold. If you’re not a fan of the tart flavor, you can add a little honey or mint to transform your hibiscus tea into a delicious (and healthy!) sweet treat.
Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
1. Help managing cholesterol
Looking for a natural way to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels? Hibiscus tea could help you out.
A group of study participants drank hibiscus tea twice a day for one month. At the end of a month, they had decreased their LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while at the same time raising their HDL (or “good cholesterol”). (1)
So how does this pretty flower help keep your blood pressure in check? It’s actually the same compound that is responsible for the vibrant red color (anthocyanins) that might be responsible for hibiscus’ heart-helping benefits, but this hasn’t yet been conclusively proven.
2. Lower blood pressure
Of all the claimed benefits of hibiscus tea, the one that has been studied the most is whether or not it can help lower your blood pressure. Based on these studies, it does indeed appear that people who are prehypertensive or mildly hypertensive can benefit from consumption of hibiscus. (2)
In a blind study where neither of the two control groups knew whether they were being given hibiscus extract, the group taking hibiscus experienced a significant reduction in their blood pressure. (3) Other studies have reached similar findings, including improved blood pressure in diabetic patients. (4) (5)
Hydrochlorothiazide is a common blood pressure medication. One study concluded that hibiscus could not only lead to better results than this medication, but it did so without causing the electrolyte imbalance often caused by the meds. (6)
3. Assist with weight loss
If you’ve ever spent any time trying to lose weight, you probably feel like sugar and carbs (glucose and starches) are your enemies, right? But enemies that you love . . . and probably miss! We’ve all been there.
Hibiscus extract seems to have the uncanny ability to reduce absorption of glucose and starches. (7) Sound too good to be true? Let’s investigate how this works.
Amylase is an enzyme your body secretes in order to absorb glucose and starch. Hibiscus actually blocks the production of amylase, making it more likely that at least some of the sugar and carbs you eat will pass through your system without ever being absorbed into your cells. (8) Sounds like plant magic!
Being able to maintain stable blood sugar levels is also important to weight management, as well as avoiding adult-onset diabetes. Hibiscus tea can help with this too. Even in patients who have already developed diabetes, hibiscus has shown an ability to help manage blood sugar levels. (9)
In a study involving participants with BMI’s considered to be “overweight,” a group that was given hibiscus extract decreased their body fat, lost weight, and improved their waist-to-hip ratio, as compared to the placebo group. (10)
4. Works as a natural antidepressant
Could a serious mood boost be as simple as a cup of this flower tea? Possibly.
This is still a pretty new area of research on hibiscus tea, but initial studies suggest that there are certain bioflavonoids that might help battle symptoms of depression. (11) (12) Consuming hibiscus tea might help reduce anxiety by calming the nervous system.
5. Prevent kidney stones
Your kidneys can also get a boost from hibiscus tea. Kidney stones are a painful ordeal that can happen if you get a buildup of calcium oxalates. Studies indicate that hibiscus has antiurolithiatic properties, which means it can prevent the calcium oxalates from forming. So, drinking hibiscus tea can be effective in inhibiting kidney stones from ever developing. (13)
6. Enhance immune system
When you start to feel the sniffles sneaking up on you, do you go hunting for some Vitamin C to consume? Forage up some hibiscus tea for yourself, and you’ll be getting a nice potent dose of Vitamin C. Your body needs Vitamin C in order to stimulate and strengthen your immune system.
Even when you’re perfectly healthy, adding this natural Vitamin C source to your diet can promote a healthy nervous system and vibrant skin.
Inside your glass of hibiscus tea, there’s also a good serving of iron hitching a ride with the Vitamin C. This makes the tea excellent for anyone suffering from anemia, because Vitamin C helps increase your body’s absorption of iron.
Hibiscus also seems to have value as an antibacterial and antifungal remedy. One study has shown hibiscus to be useful in fighting staph infections. (14) In another study, hibiscus was able to inhibit the growth of Candida, which is responsible for infections of the skin, mouth, gut, and vagina. (15) Hibiscus even proved its antimicrobial ability to effectively inhibit the growth E.Coli. (16)
7. Promising natural cancer treatment
Hibiscus tea’s cancer prevention abilities are still in the early stages of being studied. At least one study showed that consumption of hibiscus tea slowed the growth of leukemia cells and killed existing cancer cells. (17)
Another study showed similar effects on gastric cancer cells when the subjects were given hibiscus. (18) It’s not yet clear just how hibiscus is able to battle cancer cells, but the working theory is that it is attributable to hibiscus’ high antioxidant level.
Possible Risks and Contraindications -- Pregnancy and Medications
Hibiscus tea does carry some legitimate contraindications, especially for pregnant women. If you are pregnant, you should NEVER drink hibiscus, as it can cause premature labor. (19)
For everyone else, it’s also possible that hibiscus tea could interfere with any medications you might be taking. Hibiscus can either enhance the effects of certain drugs or minimize the effects of others. Definitely consult with your doctor if you are taking any medications.
There are also indications that hibiscus, taken in large quantities, can be toxic to the liver. Keep in mind, however, that in order for this to be a concern, you’d likely have to consume hibiscus in such large quantities that it would be nearly impossible to drink that much tea. (20) Of course, if you have any concerns at all, please consult with your doctor.
It’s kind of amazing to realize just how many benefits we can reap from plants, right? Turns out, the hibiscus plant is no exception.
Chances are, you’ve heard about the fantastic health benefits of green tea. And those benefits are no joke. But it seems that hibiscus tea could be a worthy challenger to the “traditional” tea -- or at least join it at the top of the healthy beverages list.