The beautiful hibiscus flower is grown all over the world for its aesthetic appeal. Interestingly, this colorful flower is also rich in medicinal value and provides a range of health benefits.

The health benefits of hibiscus tea include lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduced risk of cancer and it can also prevent kidney stones.  It can speed up metabolism and aid in weight loss.

In this article, we will learn more about hibiscus tea and its many health benefits.

What is hibiscus tea?

Hibiscus tea, also known as sour tea and Agua de Jamaica, is an herbal tea made from the calyx (the protective layer around the flower) of the hibiscus flower.

There are many different varieties of hibiscus that are used to make this tea, but Hibiscus sabdariffa L. is the most popular.

This drink originated in North Africa and South East Asia, and you can serve it both hot and cold. It has a tart, cranberry-like flavor and is ruby red.

Raw honey is often added to this tea to add to its taste. This tea is low in calories, contains no caffeine and is traditionally used as a medicinal tea.

Nutritional value of hibiscus tea

Hibiscus tea contains no fats or carbs and is rich in many essential nutrients. It is a rich source of antioxidants, and it helps treat many ailments.

A 100 grams serving of brewed hibiscus tea contains (1) –

  • Calcium: 8 mg
  • Iron: .08 mg
  • Magnesium: 3 mg
  • Phosphorus: 1 mg
  • Potassium: 20  mg
  • Sodium : 4 mg
  • Zinc : .04 mg
  • Niacin: 04 mg
  • Folate : 1 mg

Hibiscus tea benefits

Traditionally, in Egypt and Sudan, hibiscus is used to maintain normal body temperature, encourage fluid balance and to support heart health.

North Africans use it to improve respiratory and skin health. In Iran hibiscus is traditionally used to maintain blood pressure. Recent research has also shown several benefits of drinking hibiscus tea.

1. Cholesterol maintenance

Drinking hibiscus tea helps in lowering cholesterol levels. During one study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers gave 53 patients with diabetes either hibiscus tea or black tea for one month.

At the end of the month, the group who took hibiscus tea found a significant decrease in their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (2).

Another study showed that hibiscus helps people with metabolic syndrome manage their cholesterol levels. During this study, when patients were given a daily dose of 100 mg Hibiscus sabdariffa extract powder, it helped decrease total cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol (3).

Some other studies have shown conflicting results with regards the use of sour tea for cholesterol management, so further large-scale research is needed on the subject.

2. Manages blood pressure

High blood pressure is linked with an increased risk for heart disease. Studies have shown that drinking hibiscus tea is highly effective in lowering blood pressure.

According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, daily consumption of hibiscus tea reduces blood pressure in pre- and mildly hypertensive (4).

During one review of different studies, researchers found that hibiscus tea reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 7.58 mmHg and 3.53 mmHg respectively (5).

The benefits of hibiscus tea for lowering blood pressure extend to patients of diabetes as well. A 2009 study found consuming sour tea had positive effects on BP in type II diabetic patients (6).

Another study showed that mildly hypertensive type 2 diabetic individuals who drank three glasses of sour tea daily for four weeks had significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressures (7).

3. Rich in antioxidants

Hibiscus tea is a rich source of antioxidants that fight free radical damage to the cells. The anthocyanins, which are found in the natural pigments occurring in the dried hibiscus flowers, contain these powerful antioxidants.

According to a study, when researchers gave hibiscus anthocyanins to rats, it significantly reduced oxidative liver damage (8).

During another study, when eight healthy volunteers took hibiscus tea, it enhanced their systemic antioxidant potential and reduced oxidative stress.

The subjects also showed an increase in hippuric acid excretion which indicates that the antioxidants of hibiscus were transformed by the gut microbiota (9).

4. Protects liver

Research has shown that the anti-oxidant properties of hibiscus tea can help in preventing and treating liver damage.

During one clinical trial subjects aged 18 to 25 were given hibiscus extracts for 12 weeks. The results of the trial showed that the consumption of hibiscus extracts reduced abdominal fat and improved liver steatosis (10).

During another study, rats were fed a high-fat diet and hibiscus water extract for ten weeks. The study concluded that the administration of hibiscus extracts reduced the levels of liver cholesterols and triglycerides and this helped prevent liver damage (11).

However, we must keep in mind that these studies show the effects of hibiscus extracts and not hibiscus tea.

5. May help prevent cancer

Hibiscus is rich in polyphenols which possess powerful anti-cancer properties (12).

Hibiscus protocatechuic acid, a phenolic compound in hibiscus, has anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. According to a study by the Department and Institute of Biochemistry, Chung Shan Medical and Dental College, Taichung, Taiwan, hibiscus slows down the growth of cancer cells by inducing apoptosis in human leukemia cells (13).

Another study showed that the anthocyanins extracted from hibiscus could cause cancer cell apoptosis. The study suggested that hibiscus anthocyanins could be developed as chemopreventive agents (14).

6. Promotes weight loss

Several studies have shown that hibiscus tea extracts lower the absorption of starch and glucose and thus help in weight loss. Drinking hibiscus tea inhibits the production of amylase, which is known to aid in the absorption of carbohydrates and starch.

During one study, when the volunteers were given hibiscus tea extracts for 12 weeks, their body weight, BMI, body fat and waist to hip ration reduced (15).

According to another animal-based study, when obese mice were given hibiscus extracts for 60 days, it reduced their body weight gain (16).

7. Acts as an antidepressant

Hibiscus tea contains bioflavonoids that have antidepressant properties. Hibiscus tea is known to calm down the nervous system and ease anxiety and depression.

During one study mice were treated with methanol extract of hibiscus and subjected to behavioral tests. The results concluded that hibiscus extracts have an anti-depressant effect on the mice without any sedative side effects (17).

Another study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology showed that hibiscus extract possesses antidepressant activity and has therapeutic potential for the treatment of CNS disorders (18).

8. Can prevent kidney stones

Hibiscus tea supports healthy renal function. A study done by the Department of Life Sciences showed that hibiscus tea extracts are endowed with anti-urolithiatic activity, which inhibits the calcium oxalate deposition on kidneys. This helps lower the risk of kidney stone formation (19).

9. Fights bacterial infections

Bacteria can cause a variety of infections including bronchitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and staph infection. Hibiscus tea is known for its anti-bacterial properties. It is rich in vitamin C, which is known to boost the immune system.

According to one lab study, hibiscus tea extract is a potential antibacterial agent for treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA infection (20).

Staph infections have been steadily growing in the US, and they can lead to serious illnesses like pneumonia, sepsis, and abscesses.

Another lab study showed that hibiscus tea extract is effective against eight different strains of bacteria and is a promising source for new antibacterial agents (21).

10. Improves digestion

Hibiscus tea helps to strengthen the digestive system. It regularises both urination and bowel movements. According to one study, hibiscus extracts strongly inhibit the activity of E. Coli, a strain of bacteria that can cause diarrhea, gas, and cramping (22).

How to make hibiscus tea?

To make hibiscus tea, steep dried hibiscus flowers in water and wait till it turns deep red. It can taste quite similar to cranberry juice, so add some raw honey or sugar to increase the sweetness.

You can also add spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger to add some extra flavor to this tea.

Side effects of hibiscus tea

Although hibiscus tea has many health benefits, it can have some side effects as well –

  • Since hibiscus tea helps in lowering blood pressure, people who are taking blood pressure medication should not drink this tea. This tea can reduce their blood pressure to dangerous levels and can cause damage to the heart and brain.
  • Hibiscus tea can stimulate menstruation, so it is not recommended for pregnant women.
  • Women who are on birth control pills or are taking hormonal treatment should consult with their doctor before consuming this tea.
  • Some people can develop an allergic reaction to hibiscus tea, which can lead to itchy eyes, sinus and hay fever.
  • If you are taking chloroquine for malaria, avoid drinking hibiscus tea as it can inhibit the absorption of this medication.
  • People, who are taking diabetes medication, should avoid drinking this tea as it can increase the effect of the medication.

Final thoughts

Hibiscus tea is a delicious herbal tea that has many health benefits. It helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protects the liver, prevents cancer and aids in weight loss.

This tea, which originated in North Africa and South East Asia, is served both hot and cold. Hibiscus tea can also have an allergic reaction and some severe side effects, and it should not be taken by people who are already taking diabetes and blood pressure medication.

The health benefits of hibiscus tea include lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduced risk of cancer and prevent kidney stones.