Hibiscus tea is a caffeine free herbal tea made from the flowers of the Hibiscus sabdariffa or “Roselle” plant. The tea is made from the sepals or calyces (the petal-like structure at the base of a flower), and not out of the actual petals. Hibiscus tea is a popular beverage in many countries from Asia through Africa to the Caribbean, and different countries have their own unique ways of preparing the drink.
In some areas, including parts of China, hibiscus is blended with black tea. Although not as well-known in the U.S., hibiscus is a very common ingredient in herbal teas. Hibiscus imparts a tangy flavor and a deep purplish-red color to blends of which it is a part.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus and Hibiscus Tea:
The traditional uses of hibiscus include the treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension), the lowering of fever, and treatment of liver disorders. Unlike many herbs, hibiscus has been studied fairly extensively and there are even some fairly conclusive human studies establishing not only its effectiveness for various treatments, but comparing it to widely-used medications and exploring side-effects. Although most of the studies use standardized extracts of hibiscus, hibiscus tea has been studied to some degree and shows promise that the tea itself can be useful as a treatment in some cases.
- Lowering blood pressure – On top of a number of animal studies supporting its use for hypertension, human studies have validated that hibiscus, including hibiscus tea can effectively lower blood pressure. Hibiscus sabdariffa extract has been compared to the drug captopril, and was found to be equally effective. A more recent study compared it to lisinopril and found that it was less effective than that drug, but showed an absence of intense side effects.
- Lowering fever – Hibiscus has been shown in laboratory animals to have fever lowering (antipyretic) properties. There is evidence suggesting that its mechanism of action is different from that of aspirin, which also lowers fever.
- Protecting the Liver – The effects of different chemicals on the liver are much more complex and poorly understood, but there is nonetheless some evidence that hibiscus can protect against liver damage caused by a number of different chemicals
Safety and Side Effects:
Hibiscus tea is widely used as a beverage and generally recognized as safe for regular use. In addition, the few human clinical studies that have explored side effects have found a noticeable absence of strong side effects. However, as with any medicine, caution should be warranted with its use. The acidity of teas containing hibiscus can make them unpleasant for some people to drink, and people suffering from heartburn or otherwise wanting to avoid sour or acidic food and drink may wish to avoid it. Also, since it is known to lower blood pressure and thought to act as an ACE inhibitor it should be used with caution by those who already have low blood pressure.
Buying Hibiscus Tea:
Hibiscus tea is widely available through a number of online retailers. It is sometimes sold under the name Roselle tea. In addition to pure hibiscus teas, it is frequently blended with other teas, and there are a large number of herbal blends in which it is either the main ingredient or one of the primary ones.