Hibiscus Tea Benefits


With its vibrant red coloring and tart-and-fruity flavor, hibiscus tea is a beloved beverage worldwide.

But it’s not just a delicious drink—hibiscus is also loaded with health benefits, ranging from blood pressure reduction to anti-cancer properties.

If you’ve been curious about adding hibiscus tea into your daily regimen, keep reading to learn more about how it may benefit your health—plus some precautions to consider.  

What Is Hibiscus?

The 200-plus species of the hibiscus plant have been used for thousands of years for culinary, therapeutic, and cosmetic purposes. Hibiscus sabdariffa is the type used in hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus (also known as roselle, red sorrel, or Jamaica sorrel) is native to India, West Africa, and Malaysia. It also grows in tropical and subtropical regions like China, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. 

It’s thought that ancient Egyptians were the first to consume hibiscus tea when they planted the flower along the Nile River, calling the steeped hot drink karkadè.

Hibiscus tea is made by steeping the edible calyxes—the parts of the flower surrounding the growing bud—in water, creating a vibrantly red tea. The tea has a tart flavor, so much so that it’s also known as “sour tea.” Some even say the flavor is reminiscent of cranberries.

Hibiscus tea is a popular drink across the globe, with its name varying depending on the culture.

In Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, it’s known as agua de flor de Jamaica, agua de Jamaica, or rosa de Jamaica, while people in Thailand call their sweetened iced hibiscus tea roselle juice (Nam Kra Jeab​​)

Italians refer to their hibiscus tea as carcadè (similar to the Egyptians), often drinking it hot with lemon juice and sugar. The hibiscus-based bissap is the national drink of Senegal, and African Americans use hibiscus as the base for the sorrel or red drink that’s served on Juneteenth and other celebratory occasions. 

It’s no surprise that hibiscus is a mainstay in so many cultures, as it has both beauty and a plethora of health benefits—let’s take a closer look at what drinking hibiscus tea might do for you.

List of hibiscus tea benefits.

What Are the Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea?

1. High in Antioxidants

The vibrant hue of hibiscus is a good hint that it’s loaded with antioxidants—primarily anthocyanins, the same compound that gives berries their blue, purple, or deep red coloring.

Hibiscus also contains flavonols and phenolic acids that have antioxidant properties.1

Antioxidants benefit health by neutralizing free radicals, which, when they accumulate, cause oxidative stress to our cells. Oxidative stress contributes to chronic disease and aging, and antioxidants like the ones found in hibiscus are thought to counteract this damage.

A small 2017 study examined how taking hibiscus or green tea extracts for six weeks affected the antioxidant levels of 54 male soccer players.2

The results showed that athletes who took hibiscus or green tea had significantly lower malondialdehyde (MDA) levels—a marker of oxidative stress in our lipids (fats)—compared to the placebo group. 

Hibiscus also increased the athletes’ total antioxidant capacity (TAC) significantly more than both the green tea extract and placebo, suggesting that hibiscus is a stronger antioxidant than green tea.

2. Reduces Blood Pressure

One of hibiscus’s most well-studied health associations is its link to lowering blood pressure. 

The mechanism behind this association is that hibiscus promotes nitric oxide release from the vascular endothelium—the inner cellular lining of our arteries, veins, and capillaries. Nitric oxide then increases kidney filtration, which has a positive effect on lowering blood pressure.3 

In a 2022 meta-analysis combining data from 13 randomized controlled trials with 1,205 participants, researchers concluded that hibiscus tea significantly lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with mild-to-moderate hypertension.4

When compared to placebo groups, hibiscus reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 6.67 mmHg, while diastolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 4.35 mmHg.

Although it doesn’t sound like much, these are not insignificant numbers. Each 5 mmHg reduction in blood pressure has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular events by 10%.5 

While this study did not find that hibiscus lowered blood pressure more than anti-hypertensive medications, it could act as a complementary addition. That said, you should speak with your doctor before adding hibiscus (especially hibiscus supplements), as the combination may lower your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

3. Supports Cardiometabolic Health

Many biomarkers are related to cardiometabolic health, including blood lipids, cholesterol, and glucose. 

Hibiscus has been shown to improve several of these markers, suggesting that this tea benefits heart health. The link between hibiscus and cardiovascular function is likely due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 

It’s also thought that the anthocyanins in hibiscus inhibit LDL oxidation, which is a significant contributor to atherosclerosis—the buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries that contribute to heart disease.6 

A meta-analysis of nine trials with over 500 participants with metabolic syndrome found that hibiscus supplements (not tea) significantly lowered total and LDL cholesterol but not serum triglycerides.7

Another meta-analysis concluded that hibiscus tea significantly reduced blood glucose but not total cholesterol or triglycerides. At the same time, this randomized controlled trial showed that hibiscus extract powder raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowered total cholesterol.8,9 

The differences in results may be due to how hibiscus was provided (i.e., tea versus supplement extracts). As supplements are more concentrated than tea, they may provide more robust cardiometabolic benefits.

4. May Help With Weight Management

Elevated oxidative stress and inflammation are two contributing factors to obesity, which is why hibiscus may help support weight loss.10,11 

One small trial with 36 overweight or obese adults found that consuming hibiscus extract for 12 weeks significantly reduced body weight, BMI (Body Mass Index), body fat, and waist-to-hip ratio compared to the control group. The hibiscus extract also reduced fat in the liver (liver steatosis), a sign of fatty liver disease and a precursor to cirrhosis.12

Another interesting study examined how hibiscus tea affected feelings of satiety (fullness) or hunger. In this small trial, volunteers were randomized to drink water or hibiscus tea with their breakfast.13 

Those who drank hibiscus tea had reduced feelings of hunger and greater feelings of satiety than the control group—but only in men. The men also saw increases in energy expenditure (“calorie burning”), while the women had increases in fat oxidation (“fat burning”). 

Although these studies were small, they are promising for people looking for help with weight management.

5. Exhibits Anti-Cancer Properties

Lastly, hibiscus tea has been shown to exhibit anti-cancer effects—but only in lab studies, not human trials. 

One study from 2015 identified that hibiscus tea contains epicatechin polyphenol. These are also found in green tea—another beverage linked to cancer reduction.14,15

In that same 2015 study, researchers found that hibiscus extract induced cell death of human melanoma cells, with the authors concluding that hibiscus could “potentially could be developed as an anti-melanoma agent.”14

Other cell-based research has shown that hibiscus extract selectively induces apoptosis—programmed cell death—in breast cancer cells without negatively affecting healthy cells. Adding hibiscus as an adjuvant to chemotherapy treatment also enhanced the cancer apoptosis more than chemotherapy alone.16 

The researchers of this study concluded, “Hibiscus extract could supplement chemotherapeutic regimens as an adjuvant and lead to a more efficacious treatment approach to reduce chemotherapy dosages and related toxicity.”16 

Lastly, another lab study found that hibiscus inhibited metastasis (migration) in human prostate cancer cells.17

However, these results have yet to be replicated in human trials.

Safety and Side Effects of Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus is considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and hibiscus tea appears to be generally well tolerated.18

Side effects are more common when taking hibiscus supplements (including extracts, capsules, and powders), which provide a much more concentrated form of the plant than drinking tea. 

It is possible to experience adverse effects from hibiscus tea. Some reported side effects include upset stomach, gas, headache, constipation, and ringing in the ear (tinnitus). 

As hibiscus has been shown to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar, speak with your healthcare provider first if you take medications for these conditions, as hibiscus may lower them too much.You should, of course, avoid hibiscus tea if you are allergic to it. You’ll also want to avoid it if you are allergic to any plants in the Malvaceae family, which includes okra, hollyhock, and the marshmallow plant.

Hibiscus Tea FAQs

Who should not drink hibiscus tea?

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume hibiscus tea due to its blood pressure-lowering effects. It’s also been mentioned that hibiscus tea has an association with uterine contractions, which could lead to preterm labor. You should also be cautious if you are taking medications for high blood pressure and diabetes. Hibiscus tea may also interfere with antimalarial drugs. Lastly, people who are allergic to any plant in the Malvaceae family, which includes okra, hollyhock, and the marshmallow plant, should avoid hibiscus tea.

Is it safe to drink hibiscus tea every day?

For most people, excluding the conditions mentioned above, hibiscus tea is considered safe to drink in moderate amounts (2 to 4 cups per day).

What happens when you drink hibiscus tea before bed?

Hibiscus tea is an herbal tea, meaning it has no caffeine. Therefore, drinking hibiscus tea before bed should pose no problems. In fact, some animal studies have found that repeated doses of hibiscus extract have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and sedative properties, including reducing sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and increasing sleeping time.19

What to avoid when drinking hibiscus tea?

You may want to avoid taking other compounds or medications used for lowering blood pressure or blood sugar while drinking hibiscus tea. Combining them may cause blood pressure or blood sugar to dip too low. If you’re unsure, speak with your healthcare provider.

How long does it take to see results from hibiscus tea?

The biomarkers that hibiscus tea is thought to affect typically do not change overnight. Most of the studies mentioned involved using hibiscus for 6 to 12 weeks. The one area that may see immediate changes is satiety or feelings of fullness, as seen by the small study that reduced hunger and increased satiety in men who drank hibiscus tea with breakfast.13

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