Hibiscus tea, also called Sorrell tea or “sour tea” is a fragrant tea made from the dried calyxes of the tropical Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers. Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers are native to Africa and grow in many tropical and subtropical regions around the world — including Thailand, China, and Mexico.These flowers are one of many species of shrubs, trees, and flowers in the mallow (Malvaceae) family.
Hibiscus tea has a fruity, refreshing flavor that many enjoy hot or iced. Many people drink it because of its potential health benefits. While research shows that there may be some truth to these claims, there may also be potential risks. More research is required.
Hibiscus tea is an herbal tea that’s made by steeping parts of the hibiscus plant in boiling water.
It has a tart flavor similar to that of cranberries and can be enjoyed both hot and cold.
There are several hundred species of hibiscus varying by the location and climate they grow in, but Hibiscus sabdariffa is most commonly used to make hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus Tea Nutrition
One small iced hibiscus breeze tea cooler contains:
- Calories: 79
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 20 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 20 grams
Hibiscus tea contains vitamin C — a nutrient that plays many essential roles in the body. These include:
- Tissue growth and repair
- The maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth
- Wound healing
- The formation of collagen
- Iron absorption
Vitamin C — aka ascorbic acid — is also an antioxidant. It can help boost your immune system and may help to prevent cell damage caused by free radicals in the body. This can reduce your risk of developing many significant health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Hibiscus tea contains other antioxidants, such as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give the plant its vibrant color. They may also prevent many chronic diseases, as well as provide antibacterial effects.
BenefitsHistorically, hibiscus tea has been used in African countries to decrease body temperature, treat heart disease, and sooth a sore throat. In Iran, hibiscus tea is used to treat high blood pressure. Recent studies have looked at the possible role of hibiscus in the treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
High blood pressure
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in people at risk of high blood pressure and those with mildly high blood pressure.
Study participants consumed three 8-ounce servings of hibiscus tea or a placebo beverage daily for 6 weeks. Those who drank the hibiscus tea saw a significant reduction in their systolic blood pressure, compared to those who consumed the placebo drink.
A meta-analysis of studies published in 2015, found that drinking hibiscus tea significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. More studies are needed to confirm the results.
Research published in 2011 compared the results of consuming hibiscus versus black tea on cholesterol levels.
Ninety people with high blood pressure consumed either hibiscus or black tea twice a day for 15 days.
After 30 days, neither group had meaningful changes in their LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. However, both groups had significant increases in their total and HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.
However, other studies have shown mixed results. A review published in 2013, found that drinking hibiscus tea did not significantly decrease cholesterol levels.
Other studies, including a 2014 review of a number of clinical trials, showed that consuming hibiscus tea or extract increased good cholesterol and decreased bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Better quality studies are still needed to investigate the impact of hibiscus consumption on cholesterol levels.
Some studies have demonstrated positive effects when examining the effects of concentrated hibiscus on managing body weight.
One report showed that hibiscus resulted in a lower body mass index (BMI), body weight, body fat, and hip-to-waist ratio.
An older study showed that hibiscus extract led to reductions in cholesterol and triglycerides in the Mexican population. This can lead to a reduced risk of obesity.
However, it should be noted that these studies used concentrated doses, and further research is needed to fully confirm the benefits of hibiscus in tea.
May Boost Liver Health
From producing proteins to secreting bile to breaking down fat, your liver is essential to your overall health.
Interestingly, studies have shown that hibiscus may promote liver health and help keep it working efficiently.
One study in 19 overweight people found that taking hibiscus extract for 12 weeks improved liver steatosis. This condition is characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver, which can lead to liver failure.
A study in hamsters also demonstrated the liver-protecting properties of hibiscus extract, showing that treatment with hibiscus extract decreased markers of liver damage
Another animal study reported that giving rats hibiscus extract increased the concentration of several drug-detoxifying enzymes in the liver by up to 65%.
However, these studies all assessed the effects of hibiscus extract, rather than hibiscus tea. Further research is needed to know how hibiscus tea affects liver health in humans.
Contains Compounds That May Help Prevent Cancer
Hibiscus is high in polyphenols, which are compounds that have been shown to possess powerful anti-cancer properties.
Test-tube studies have found impressive results regarding the potential effect of hibiscus extract on cancer cells.
In one test-tube study, hibiscus extract impaired cell growth and reduced the invasiveness of mouth and plasma cell cancers.
Another test-tube study reported that hibiscus leaf extract prevented human prostate cancer cells from spreading.
Hibiscus extract has also been shown to inhibit stomach cancer cells by up to 52% in other test-tube studies.
Keep in mind that these were test-tube studies using high amounts of hibiscus extract. Research in humans is needed to evaluate the effect of hibiscus tea on cancer.
Could Help Fight Bacteria
Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that can cause a variety of infections, ranging from bronchitis to pneumonia to urinary tract infections.
In addition to having antioxidant and anticancer properties, some test-tube studies have found that hibiscus could help fight bacterial infections.
In fact, one test-tube study found that hibiscus extract inhibited the activity of E. coli, a strain of bacteria that can cause symptoms like cramping, gas and diarrhea.
Another test-tube study showed that the extract fought eight strains of bacteria and was as effective as some medications used to treat bacterial infections.
However, no human studies have looked at the antibacterial effects of hibiscus tea, so it is still unclear how these results may translate to humans.
Flavorful and Easy to Make
Aside from its multitude of possible health benefits, hibiscus tea is delicious and easy to prepare at home.
Simply add dried hibiscus flowers to a teapot and pour boiling water over them. Let it steep for five minutes, then strain, sweeten it if desired and enjoy.
Hibiscus tea can be consumed hot or cold and has a tart taste similar to that of cranberries.
For this reason, it is often sweetened with honey or flavored with a squeeze of lime juice to balance the tartness.
Dried hibiscus can be purchased at your local health food store or online. Hibiscus tea is also available in pre-made tea bags, which can simply be steeped in hot water, removed and enjoyed.
MIMI (Multi ion mask insert)
- Can be worn with any facemask and provides additional heavy-duty protection.
- Adult & Youth Sizes Available
Hibiscus tea is naturally calorie and caffeine-free. It can be served hot or iced.
Because hibiscus tea is naturally tart, sugar or honey is often added as a sweetener, adding calories and carbohydrates.
The heart health benefits associated with hibiscus tea are believed to be due to compounds called anthocyanins, the same naturally occurring chemicals that give berries their color.
Hibiscus may be available in the following forms:
- single tea bags
- ready-to-drink tea
- loose flower petals
- liquid extract
- encapsulated powder
Side effects and risks
A 2013 review of studies eported that very high doses of hibiscus extract could potentially cause liver damage. The same review reported that hibiscus extract was shown to interact with hydrochlorothiazide (a diuretic) in animals and with acetaminophen in humans.
Individuals who drink herbal teas should let their doctors know, as some herbs have the potential to interact with medications.
According to other sources, hibiscus consumption is not safe for people who take chloroquine, a medication for malaria. Hibiscus may decrease how well the medicine works in the body.
People with diabetes or on high blood pressure medications should monitor their blood sugar and blood pressure levels when consuming hibiscus. This is because it may decrease blood sugar or blood pressure levels.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not drink hibiscus tea.
Drinking hibiscus tea in moderation is generally considered safe. However, other products containing hibiscus are not regulated and may or may not contain what they claim. These include:
The Bottom Line
Hibiscus tea is a type of herbal tea associated with many health benefits.
It also has a delicious, tart flavor and can be made and enjoyed from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Animal and test-tube studies have indicated that hibiscus may aid weight loss, improve heart and liver health and even help fight cancer and bacteria.
However, most of the current research is limited to test-tube and animal studies using high amounts of hibiscus extract. More studies are needed to determine how these benefits may apply to humans who drink hibiscus tea.