Hibiscus is a plant with a long history of use as decoration, food, and medicine.
This plant is also commonly called roselle.
Historically, hibiscus has been used as a remedy to stimulate diuresis, reduce blood pressure, and help with nervous system disorders.
Modern research indicates that hibiscus may be useful for hypertension.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of hibiscus, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
What is Hibiscus?
Hibiscus is a perennial herb in the Malvaceae (i.e. mallow) family of plants. It was originally native to Western Africa, but can now be found growing around the world in warm climates.
The scientific name for this herb is Hibiscus sabdariffa but is commonly called hibiscus or roselle.
The calyx, the cup-like structure formed by the sepals, is part of the plant that is used. Hibiscus contains deep red-colored calyces, which are harvested and dried for use in teas, capsules, and extracts.
Hibiscus calyces are high in antioxidants and contain vitamins A, C, and riboflavin (vitamin B2). They also contain minerals such as calcium and iron.
Modern research indicates that hibiscus benefits the body through lowering blood pressure, balancing blood lipids, supporting liver health, and weight loss.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus:
There are various health benefits of hibiscus. A combination of human clinical trials and lab-based research has been conducted on this plant.
Read on below to learn the top research-backed benefits of hibiscus extract.
1. May Help Lower Blood Pressure
One of the top health benefits of hibiscus is that it may be useful in lowering blood pressure.
High blood pressure, known clinically as hypertension, places extra stress on the heart which can cause it to weaken. High blood pressure is known to be linked with an increased risk of heart disease. It’s noted that elevated blood pressure is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for all-cause morbidity.
A meta-analysis review of clinical studies conducted on hibiscus for hypertension found that, on average, hibiscus helps to lower both systolic blood pressure by -7.58 mmHg (95% confidence interval) and diastolic blood pressure by 3.53 mmHg (95% confidence interval).
A clinical trial involving 46 individuals with stage 1 hypertension looked at the impact of hibiscus tea on blood pressure. The study participants were divided into two groups, a control group, and a hibiscus tea group. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the group that was given 2 cups of hibiscus tea a day had a 7.43 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 6.7 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in 65 pre- and mildly hypertensive adults not taking blood pressure (BP)-lowering medications. The study participants were split into two groups with either 3 240-mL servings/d of brewed hibiscus tea or a placebo beverage over the course of 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, the hibiscus tea group had decreased systolic blood pressure by 7.2 mmHg compared to 1.3 mmHg for the placebo group. Diastolic BP was also lower, although this change did not differ from placebo (-3.1 vs. -0.5 +/- 7.5 mm Hg).
The researchers noted that the study participants with higher blood pressure at baseline showed a greater response to hibiscus treatment.
A small-scale pilot study found that hibiscus tea helped to reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.
An animal study looking at the mechanism of action discovered that hibiscus extract has a vasodilator effect in the isolated aortic rings. The researchers noted that these effects are probably mediated through the endothelium-derived nitric oxide-cGMP-relaxant pathway and inhibition of calcium (Ca(2+))-influx into vascular smooth muscle cells.
Another clinical trial looked at the benefits of hibiscus for blood pressure. The researchers found that hibiscus extract helped to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
One other study looked at the effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa extract in 25 men with cardiovascular disease risk. The researchers discovered that it improved postprandial vascular function.
Summary:Based on numerous clinical studies, it appears that hibiscus (taken as an extract or tea) can help to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
2. May Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Hibiscus benefits the body’s ability to balance cholesterol levels and improve blood flow.
Elevated cholesterol levels, known clinically as hypercholesterolemia, are linked with an increased risk for heart disease.
A meta-analysis looked at the impact of hibiscus in individuals with high cholesterol numbers, it found that hibiscus seems to be an effective natural remedy.
A multi-stage clinical trial looked at the benefits of hibiscus extract for individuals with metabolic syndrome. The researchers discovered that the individual who took hibiscus extract had significantly reduced glucose and total cholesterol levels, increased HDL cholesterol levels, and an improved TAG/HDL-c ratio, a marker of insulin resistance.
A human clinical trial involving 60 individuals with diabetes found that hibiscus tea reduced triglyceride levels by 7.6%, LDL levels by 8.0%, and increased HDL levels by 16%.
A placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 90 individuals found that hibiscus extract helped to increase HDL cholesterol by ~5%. HDL cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein, is a protective factor for coronary heart diseases.
A comparative study looked to contrast the effects of black tea vs. hibiscus tea in individuals with diabetes. The hibiscus group had a decrease in systolic blood pressure from 134.4+/-11.8 mm Hg at the beginning of the study to 112.7+/-5.7 mm Hg after 1 month (drinking 2 cups daily). Additionally, the mean pulse pressure of the individuals in the hibiscus group decreased from 52.2+/-12.2 to 34.5+/-9.3 mm Hg.
Another study looked at the impact of hibiscus extract on individuals with elevated cholesterol numbers. The researchers discovered that hibiscus extract capsules helped to lower cholesterol by 7-8%.
One placebo-controlled study looked at the effect of hibiscus leaf extract in individuals with hyperlipidemia. The study participants were given 1g/daily of hibiscus leaf extract. The researchers noted that while body weight, serum LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels decreased in both groups, there were no significant differences between the experimental and placebo group. This is probably due to the fact that hibiscus leaves were used, versus the standard usage of hibiscus flowers, which are said to contain the active constituents of this plant.
Summary:Research indicates that hibiscus may help to reduce LDL cholesterol numbers and increase HDL cholesterol numbers. More research needs to be conducted to verify the optimal dosing strategy.
3. Antioxidant Properties
Hibiscus benefits the body through its strong antioxidant effects.
Antioxidants are important for health as they prevent free radical-induced tissue damage by preventing the formation of radicals, scavenging them, or by promoting their decomposition.
A lab-based study looked at the characteristics of hibiscus anthocyanin extract and found it to have strong antioxidant properties.
Another lab study found that hibiscus has strong antioxidant properties. The researchers noted that this may contribute to hibiscus’ ability to lower cholesterol.
Another study found that hibiscus extract increases systemic antioxidant potential in healthy individuals.
Summary:Research indicates that hibiscus extract has strong antioxidant properties. Additional research needs to be conducted to verify the precise health benefits of these antioxidants.
4. May Support Liver Health
Studies show that hibiscus may promote liver health and help keep it functioning efficiently.
The liver is a critical organ in the human body that is responsible for an array of functions that help to support:
- vitamin storage
- and various other functions
A human clinical trial involving 19 overweight people found that consuming hibiscus extract for 12 weeks improved fatty liver disease. Having excess liver fat can lead to an increased risk of liver failure. The researchers noted that their end-of-study data showed that consumption of hibiscus extract reduced body weight, BMI, body fat, and waist-to-hip ratio in the study participants.
An animal study demonstrated the liver-protecting properties of hibiscus extract. The results showed that hibiscus extract consumption decreased markers of liver damage.
Another animal study found that giving rats hibiscus extract increased the levels of various drug-detoxifying enzymes in the liver by over 60%.
Summary:Initial research indicates that hibiscus extract may help to support liver health. Additional large-scale human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
5. May Promote Weight Loss
A handful of studies suggest that hibiscus benefits the body by promoting weight loss.
In a human trial involving 36 overweight individuals, the participants were given either hibiscus extract or a placebo. After 3 months, it was discovered that the hibiscus extract group had reduced body weight, body fat, body mass index, and hip-to-waist ratio.
An animal study produced similar results. The researchers reported that giving obese mice hibiscus extract for 60 days led to a reduction in total body weight.
Summary:Initial research indicates that hibiscus extract may help to support weight loss. Additional large-scale human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
Hibiscus is generally regarded as safe to consume.
This plant is is “generally recognized as safe” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Safety research indicates that at high daily dosages, hibiscus may interact with various medications, including:
Standard dosing for hibiscus is as follows:
Tea: Called sour tea, drink 1-2 cups daily.
Extract: 500-1,000mg per day.
Hibiscus is not on the United Plant Saver’s “at-risk” list (sensitive to the impact of human activities).
Hibiscus is generally cultivated. Thus, this plant is sustainable and not at risk.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Hibiscus’ scientific name is Hibiscus sabdariffa. It’s a perennial plant that belongs to the Malvaceae (i.e. mallow) family of plants.
Around the world, this plant is known as hibiscus, roselle, karkadeh (middle east), chin baung (Burma), and luoshen hua (China)
Native to parts of North Africa and Southeast Asia, Hibiscus sabdariffa is a shrubby tropical plant that produces light yellow flowers with reddish-purple centers.
After the petals drop from the flower, its remaining deep red calyces (the cup-like structures formed by the sepals) grow into seed-containing pods that look like flower buds.
Most of the hibiscus plant’s economic value, particularly as an ingredient in herbal teas, comes from the red calyx, although the leaves, seeds, and flowers are also used in local forms of traditional medicine.
History & Traditional Use:
The hibiscus flower is used in a variety of ways for medicinal, decorative, and culinary purposes.
In Egypt and Sudan, the deep red tea from the calyces, called karkade, is popular as a tea that helps lower body temperature. In Egypt, preparations from the calyx have been used to treat cardiac and nerve diseases and also to stimulate diuresis (increased urine production).
In North Africa, hibiscus preparations are used to treat cough, sore throat, and genital problems. Additionally, the emollient leaf pulp is used for treating external wounds and abscesses.
In Europe, dried hibiscus is used primarily as a caffeine-free beverage tea.
In Iran, sour hibiscus tea is a traditional treatment for hypertension.
Hibiscus appears to be a safe and well-tolerated herb.
Research indicates that this herb is helpful for reducing blood pressure and blood lipid levels.
It also appears that this herb has strong antioxidant properties.
It’s worth looking into hibiscus if you are needing support in any of these areas.
As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.