Hibiscus tea is a caffeine-free herbal beverage consumed for its health properties. Made from the dried, edible flowers of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, and enjoyed hot or cold, this tart beverage may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body.
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Only certain hibiscus plants can be used to make hibiscus tea. The flowers of H. sabdariffa and H. acetosella are commonly used when brewing hibiscus tea.
What is Hibiscus Tea?
According to a December 2014 review published in Food Chemistry, H. sabdariffa, or hibiscus, as it's commonly known, is a plant that's long been consumed as a tea, and in herbal medicine. In the food industry, edible hibiscus is also sometimes used as a flavoring agent.
While H. sabdariffa is what you will commonly find hibiscus tea made from, other varieties of hibiscus plants may also be used. In an October 2014 study published in the American Journal of Medical and Biological Research, researchers found that red flowers of the H. acetosella variety may also be used to brew hibiscus tea. While other types possess medicinal attributes, they are not used in the form of tea.
Read more: Which Teas Are Good for Digestion?
Like most herbal teas, hibiscus tea is not a true tea, as it is not derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, explains the Global Tea Initiative at UC Davis. Instead, herbal teas can be made from dried fruit or flowers.
According to California State University, Northridge, hibiscus tea is sold in the form of dried flowers. Known for its tart flavor, this herbal tea can be consumed either as a hot beverage or iced, where its cranberry-like character adds a refreshing and tangy taste.
Hibiscus Tea Nutrition
Tea, in general, offers essentially no calories per serving, meaning it can be consumed daily, without affecting your weight; hibiscus tea is no different. According to the USDA, a cup of brewed hibiscus tea is a calorie-free beverage. It does, however, contain several minerals and vitamins.
A single cup of brewed hibiscus tea offers 1.1 milligrams, or 49 percent of the recommended daily dose, of manganese, an essential mineral stored in cellular mitochondria. The National Institutes of Health explains that manganese serves as a co-factor for a number of enzymes during metabolic reactions. It is also a necessary mineral in bone formation, blood clotting and the body's immune response.
A serving of hibiscus tea also has 7.1 milligrams, or 2 percent of the recommended daily dose, of magnesium. Magnesium is another essential mineral required by the body, not just for energy, but also in the transmission of muscle and nerve impulses and regulation of blood pressure.
Hibiscus tea also offers 1 percent of the daily dose of two major minerals, calcium and potassium, as well as the two trace minerals iron and zinc. These minerals are important for muscle contraction, immune function and the formation of protein.
Read more: Tannin Levels in Teas
In terms of vitamins present, a serving of brewed hibiscus tea offers 1 percent of the daily dose of two specific B vitamins: vitamin B3 and vitamin B9. These B vitamins are water-soluble in nature, and essential for metabolism. Vitamin B9, in particular, is a necessary vitamin during pregnancy — a deficiency in vitamin B9 can lead to babies born with congenital conditions.
Hibiscus Uses and Benefits
In a June 2015 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Hypertension, researchers found that drinking H. sabdariffa beverages had a significant effect, lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. However, more extensive trials need to be carried out before hibiscus' recognized medical uses include the regulation of blood pressure.
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According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, edible hibiscus is also used to lower cholesterol. A March 2013 review published in Fitoterapia found that hibiscus flowers are rich in anthocyanins, pigments responsible for H. sabdariffa's red color. In addition to contributing to the flower's antioxidant properties, anthocyanins may also be responsible for the tea's anti-cholesterol effects.
In a small May 2017 study of 54 male athletes published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, researchers found that the flavonoid and polyphenol content of hibiscus tea has a positive effect on reducing oxidative stress during periods of intense muscle fatigue. However, more extensive trials must be carried out to test the effectiveness of this herbal tea.
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Both in-vitro and in-vivo studies showed a positive correlation between the effect of hibiscus tea and obesity, according to the authors of the December, 2014, review in Food Chemistry. The ingestion of hibiscus tea resulted in a decrease in the activity of an enzyme, α-amylase, responsible for starch absorption.
Although a December, 2016, study published in Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology was conducted on mice instead of humans, its results are worth mentioning because it showed that taking H. sabdariffa tea with hydroxocobalamin increases its bioavailability. Commonly used to treat patients with a vitamin B12 deficiency, hydroxocobalamin is a supplement that helps alleviate pale skin, loss of appetite and extreme tiredness.
Side Effects of Hibiscus Tea
For healthy individuals, no side effects exist when consuming hibiscus tea in reasonable amounts, explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine_._ However, the same cannot be said for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, or individuals with diabetes and low blood pressure. Reported side effects may range from upset stomachs to nausea, headaches, constipation or painful urination.
Since there are studies which indicate hibiscus tea may help lower blood pressure, consuming the tea is not advised for those with hypotension, as it can lower their blood pressure even further. For older individuals, low blood pressure can result in dizziness, fainting or even a severe fall.
According to an April 2013 study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, researchers found that consuming hibiscus tea can conflict with the anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, reducing its bioavailability. Similar effects are also seen with hibiscus tea and acetaminophen.
- Food Chemistry: “Hibiscus sabdariffa L. – a Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review"
- UC Davis Global Tea Initiative: “What is Tea?"
- MyFoodData.com: "Tea Hibiscus Brewed"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Manganese"
- California State University Northridge: “Hibiscus Flower Tea"
- American Journal of Medical and Biological Research: "Floral and Leaf Anatomy of Hibiscus Species"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Hibiscus”
- Journal of Hypertension: “Effect of Sour Tea (Hibiscus Sabdariffa L.) on Arterial Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials”
- Fitoterapia: "Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. in the Treatment of Hypertension and Hyperlipidemia: A Comprehensive Review of Animal and Human Studies"
- Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology: "Hibiscus Sabdariffa Increases Hydroxocobalamin Oral Bioavailability and Clinical Efficacy in Vitamin B12 Deficiency With Neurological Symptoms"
- Journal of Dietary Supplements: "The Effect of Green Tea and Sour Tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) Supplementation on Oxidative Stress and Muscle Damage in Athletes”
- African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines: "In Vitro Inhibitory Activities of the Extract of Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. (Family Malvaceae) on Selected Cytochrome P450 Isoforms”