Out of all the trending superfoods in the world of health and wellness, perhaps none is as beautiful as the magnificent hibiscus flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa). That’s right: The pretty pink flower we all know and love to look at is not only edible, it’s also a nutritional powerhouse bursting with so many health benefits that you might just make it your new go-to beverage.
Hibiscus Tea Health Benefits
From lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol to assisting with weight loss, hibiscus tea can help you meet a variety of your health goals. To help you learn more about the health benefits of hibiscus tea, we've dug into the specifics below.
Hibiscus Tea for Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is one of the most common reasons people choose to incorporate hibiscus tea into their diets. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, lead researcher Diane McKay analyzed 65 volunteers of age 30 to 70 years old who had high blood pressure.
Half of the group was selected to drink three cups of hibiscus tea daily for six weeks, while the other half drank a placebo which mimicked the hibiscus tea. All participants were instructed to follow their normal daily routines of eating and physical activity. Researchers measured the participants blood pressure twice at the beginning, and at weekly intervals throughout the course of the study. The results showed that those who consumed the hibiscus tea had, on average, a 7.2 point drop in their systolic blood pressure, compared to the volunteers who drank the placebo and only had a drop of 1.3 points by the end of the experiment.
Additionally, a 2015 meta-analysis of research published in the Journal of Hypertension reviewed the data of 390 study participants, 225 of whom were asked to supplement with hibiscus tea. The results of the analysis similarly showed that hibiscus tea significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Hibiscus Tea for Cholesterol
Hibiscus tea has also been touted for its ability to help cholesterol levels. One review of studies published in the journal Fitoterapia analyzed the effects of hibiscus tea on cholesterol, and found that across several experiments, supplementation with the tea helped to lower lower LDL cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (or "good" cholesterol). Though these findings are promising, more research is needed to determine whether hibiscus tea is good for cholesterol control over time.
Hibiscus Tea for Diabetes
Because hibiscus tea encourages healthy blood pressure — and, presumably, healthy cholesterol levels — it can also be beneficial for the management of type 2 diabetes. One study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed the glucose and lipid levels in the blood of people with type 2 diabetes. Hibiscus tea was found to be both hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic, meaning that it lowers blood-sugar levels and lipid levels in the blood, helping to prevent clogged arteries and lower heart disease risk. Because hibiscus tea can lower your blood sugar, make sure you speak to a doctor before you begin supplementing if you have diabetes.
Hibiscus Tea for Weight Loss
Hibiscus tea has also been tested for its ability to manage obesity. In one study published in the journal Food & Function, it was found that supplementation with hibiscus resulted in a lower body mass index (BMI), lower overall body weight, body fat, and hip-to-waist ratio. In the same study, hibiscus also helped to improve liver health in subjects.
Hibiscus tea is also high in polyphenols, and in another experiment, the plant-based polyphenols were observed to decrease the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which could be helpful in any weight-loss plan.
Hibiscus Tea Nutrients
In an international study of the antioxidant makeup of plant-based foods, hibiscus made its way to the top of the charts. For this analysis, researchers compiled data for over 3,000 plant foods to determine which ones had the highest total antioxidant content. Hibiscus was found to be one of the top foods on the list, as is has high levels of anthocyanins — a type of antioxidant compound. Found naturally in many, anthocyanins give red, purple, and blue plants their color. In addition to fighting free radicals, in the body, anthocyanins may also offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.
What's more, hibiscus tea is naturally high in vitamin C, so it helps to protect and strengthen your immune system.
Hibiscus Tea Recipe
If you're wondering how to make hibiscus tea, the good news is that you can do it on your own. Hibiscus tea is made from the petals of the hibiscus flower, and it has a slightly tart taste that's similar to the taste of cranberries. To make hibiscus tea, flowers from your own yard can be used, or you can purchase the flowers fresh or dried. If using fresh flowers is too much work, you can buy pre-packaged tea bags that are ready to brew, like these from NOW foods ($12.44, Amazon.)
Important tip: If you do indeed choose to make your own tea, be sure sure that any flowers you are using are pesticide-free. Once you have the pesticide-free flowers, you should plan on using eight to ten flowers to brew one pot of tea. To make our hibiscus tea recipe, follow the instructions below.
Note: You can also buy packaged dried hibiscus flowers to boil for tea, like this bag from Frontier ($13.44, Amazon.)
1. Pick the flowers one by one off of the hibiscus plant, and remove the stamens from the center of the flower.
2. Wash the flowers by either massaging them thoroughly under running water or swishing them around in a bowl of water to dislodge any insects or dirt stuck in the flower. Use your fingers to separate the bottom part of the flower by pulling the petals apart slightly at the base, making sure that you get everything out.
3. Secure the flowers to a drying rack or other flat surface using thin wire. You will be drying the flowers outside or under the sun, so be sure they're secure in case the wind picks up.
4. Let the flowers dry in the sun for a few days, either outside (this will work faster) or inside in a sunny spot. Bring the flowers inside at nighttime. Check them daily, and rotate if needed.
5. Once the flowers are dried, steep the dried petals petals in a pot of boiling water for five to ten minutes (depending on your flavor preference), and strain before serving. For added flavor, you can experiment with different ingredients like cinnamon, orange or lemon peels, lime juice, mint leaves, or honey.
Hibiscus Tea Side Effects
If you're wondering if hibiscus tea is right for you, there are many factors to consider. Hibiscus tea for pregnancy is not recommended, as it can interfere with your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In some people, hibiscus tea has also been said to cause mild hallucinations and allergies, so be sure to check with your doctor before starting the use of any new plant or supplements.