When it comes to tea and weight loss, most of us call to mind green tea, which has been linked to a speedier metabolism. But research shows that drinking hibiscus tea can be a powerful tool for transforming overall health, including metabolic health. So we spoke with experts about the hibiscus tea-weight loss connection. Read on to find everything you need to know about using hibiscus tea for weight loss, including an amazing success story at the end.
What is hibiscus tea?
This type of herbal tea comes from extracts of the hibiscus plant. Its scientific name is Hibiscus sabdariffa. The flowering plant grows in tropical regions, primarily in West Africa. When steeped in hot or iced water, this tea has a tart flavor and rich cranberry color. In fact, that vivid, natural color provides a clue into its amazing health properties.
What makes hibiscus tea so good for our health
Red hibiscus tea is rich in antioxidants. These plant compounds help counteract cellular damage known as oxidative stress to keep us youthful. A growing area of nutrition research is now centered around polyphenols, a special class of antioxidants responsible for giving foods their brilliant colors.
Travis Stork, MD, known from season 8 of The Bachelor and years co-hosting the Emmy-winning show The Doctors, says, “My absolute favorites are black coffee, dark chocolate and red wine… Just to prove that polyphenols can come from things that we truly enjoy.”
It turns out, the polyphenols found in hibiscus tea improve health in several ways:
1. It lowers blood pressure
In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Tufts University scientists had people with high blood pressure drink three cups of hibiscus tea daily. After six weeks, those who consistently sipped the brew lowered their systolic (top number) blood pressure by more than 7 points and their diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure by more than 3 points. They also lowered the average pressure in their arteries by nearly 5 points — all without changing their diet or exercise routines. The experts credit the tea’s polyphenols, which improve blood flow. The tea also acts as a diuretic to flush excess pressure-spiking salt from the system.
2. It boosts bladder health
Hibiscus tea helps keep the bladder free of the bacteria than can trigger painful urinary tract infections (UTIs). Research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology shows sipping the equivalent of 4 cups of the tea each day can trim three days off your recovery time when you have a UTI.
3. It improves gut health
Scientists have discovered that most polyphenols, including the ones in hibiscus, act like prebiotic food for the most beneficial gut bacteria living in our microbiome. By feeding and strengthening these good bugs, we are able to crowd out the bad bugs that drive food cravings and painful inflammation. Gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, MD, author of Fiber Fueled, says, “Prebiotic fiber is the true gut-health game changer.” (Click to learn 10 gut-healing prebiotics foods.)
How hibiscus tea promotes weight loss
Medical experts tell us the data is pretty convincing: People who have a healthier gut have an easier time being at their ideal weight. Remember how hibiscus tea promotes healthy, well-fed gut bacteria? “These reinvigorated microbes release butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid known to heal the colon and optimize metabolism,” explains Dr. Bulsiewicz. Simply put, eating the right plant compounds helps the right bacteria make the exact by-products we need to be healthy and slim.
Need proof? In one study, subjects who ate a high-polyphenol diet lost 250% more belly fat than those eating the lowest amount of polyphenols. What’s more, hibiscus is an inflammation fighter that helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to make people gain weight in their midsection. Plus, experts believe hibiscus allows more oxygen to get into tissues to help burn fat. (Click through for more about the science of hibiscus tea benefits.)
Bonus: How to make hibiscus tea work even better
Hibiscus tea alone is amazing for health and weight loss, but combining two different plant polyphenols that work synergistically can amplify the benefits. Take hibiscus flower and lemon verbena, for example. Research shows that when these two polyphenols are consumed together, they boost levels of the satiety hormone GLP-1 by 24%.
You’ve probably heard about GLP-1 hormones that exist naturally in the gut. They are activated by weight-loss prescription injectable drugs like Ozempic. In the above-mentioned study, people who consumed this plant combo lost four times the fat and waist inches of those taking a placebo. They also lowered their triglycerides three times more than those taking a placebo. Plus, lemon verbena contains a compound called verbascoside, shown in animal studies to alleviate belly fat-packing stress.
How to use hibiscus tea to lose weight
To get the powerful perks of the lemon/hibiscus polyphenol pairing in a cup, mix up an easy caffeine-free brew at home. In a mug of boiled water, steep 1 bag of lemon verbena tea with 1 bag of hibiscus tea. One word of caution: Some tea bags have been found to leach microplastics into water. Prevent chemical toxins from getting into your body by choosing brands offering loose leaf or biodegradable tea bags. Our picks: FGO (From Great Organic) Hibiscus tea bags (Buy on Amazon, $19 for 100) and Tearelae Lemon Verbena tea bags (Buy on Amazon, $14 for 50).
Also try Dr. Stork’s gut-healing tea supplement
We know that healing the gut is the first step to being able to lose stubborn weight easily. Dr. Stork, an emergency room physician who used to suffer from chronic gut problems, was so impressed with the research coming out on plant polyphenols, he developed his own supplement combo. The GutRhythm supplement system includes study-proven doses of the powerhouse pairing of hibiscus flower and lemon verbena. “The coolest thing about trying to improve your gut health is that it can be the easiest thing you do and affects everything in your body, not just weight,” he tells FIRST. “We’ve never had more tools in our arsenal to improve people’s gut health.”
Why it works: The superstar combo of lemon verbena and hibiscus flower significantly boost AMPK — an enzyme that optimizes metabolism. Plus, these products contain tributyrin, a molecule that helps the gut make more slimming butyrate. According to Dr. Stork, it’s the first supplement designed to work 24/7 to seal and heal your gut around the clock.
To use: Take one scoop of fiber-rich powder in the morning with water, and one capsule at night. Find GutRhythm at NatureMD.com ($75 for 2 supplements/a one-month supply), which you can take until your gut heals.
Hibiscus tea for weight loss success story: Grace Gardiner
Grace Gardiner tried to laugh it off when she showed up to a wedding wearing the same dress as three other plus-size guests. But she knew: At my size, my options are limited. Not just on clothes but on activities and life experiences. There has to be a better way…
At 300 pounds, Grace was ready to break free from the things holding her back, like diabetes, sleep apnea and the two prescription meds she needed for digestive issues and heartburn.
Instead of traditional dieting that limited her food choices, Grace started focusing on all the foods that could help her body. She added more polyphenol-rich fruits and veggies, packed with gut-supporting fiber, to her lean-meat meals. Next, she drank lemon verbena tea to quiet her sweet tooth and blended hibiscus tea to relax. And she soon felt satisfied, not bloated or stuffed.
The weight began to disappear
As her cravings vanished and her energy soared, Grace watched the weight and inches pour off: 18 pounds in two weeks! One day, measuring her old skirt, she realized she’d lost 14 inches in her waist. In all, she says, “My pants size fell from 4X to 6!”
Now 150 pounds slimmer, Grace is free of her prior health conditions and no longer needs those meds. “That’s just some of my many non-scale victories,” she says. “My life has completely changed. I’m discovering and loving who I am now that I’m not hidden under the excess weight and health issues!”
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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