Did you know that drinking the the equivalent of 3 cups of Hibiscus tea a day can significantly lower blood pressure by an amount comparable to the effects of prescription hypertension medication?
History of Medicinal Hibiscus Use
African and Asian traditional medicinal systems have long used hibiscus in the treatment of high blood pressure. However modern western awareness of the beneficial effects for blood pressure of drinking hibiscus tea began in the 90’s, when studies in Iran showed that drinking one large cup of either hibiscus or black tea per day resulted in a decrease in blood pressure, with this effect being 10% stronger in those who drank the hibiscus.
Recent Hibiscus Research
Then in 2004 and 2007, researchers in Mexico discovered that drinking a large cup of hibiscus tea (using 10g dried hibiscus) had the same blood pressure reducing effects as taking the drug captopril (25mg twice a day): an 11% drop at the end of 4 weeks. The 2007 study followed up using the drug lisinopril, and found a 12% reduction with the hibiscus compared to 15% with the drug.
A 2008 study at a Boston University in the US with people with pre- or mild hypertension, showed drinking 3 cups a day for six weeks resulted in lower blood pressure. On average, participants saw reductions of 7 points in their systolic blood pressure, compared to just a 1 point drop in those given hibiscus-flavoured placebo drinks. The effects were almost doubled in those with the highest initial blood pressure (over 129mmHg).
The effect seems particularly strong in high blood pressure sufferers with diabetes – another 2008 study found systolic blood pressure reduced by an average of 22 points after 4 weeks!
More research needs to be done to see if hibiscus is as effective for those who are strongly hypertensive.
Effects of Drinking Hibiscus Tea
Researchers pointed out that, even if that effect seems small, it can make a significant difference to blood pressure when sustained, and lower the risk of suffering stroke and coronary heart disease. They still emphasise the importance of drinking hibiscus as part of a holistically healthy diet, however – so drinking hibiscus tea alone won’t be enough, especially if you have to seriously drop your blood pressure, but it can certainly make a difference.
The means by which hibiscus reduces blood pressure is still being investigated. However the main effect is believed to be due to the anthocyanins it contains. These inhibit the action of angiotensin-converting enzymes, meaning it slows the release of hormones which constrict blood vessels (just like ACE inhibitor drugs).
Hibiscus also has antioxidant effects, and boosts the immune system. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing to be drinking does it?
And since the effect is similar to what you can expect by taking most blood pressure medications. So would you rather take drugs or drink hibiscus tea?
So far no noticeable side effects have emerged. Apparently Nigerians drink an average of 25 cups of hibiscus drinks a day, with no obvious negative effects.
However, if you’re already taking blood pressure medication, check with your doctor before quaffing the hibiscus. You may no longer need the medication…
What’s in Hibiscus?
Hibiscus comes from the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, also known as roselle or rosella. In the Caribbean area, it’s known as sorrel or red sorrel, and in the US and Mexico it’s sometimes known, and sold, as Flor de Jamaica, or just Jamaica.
Hibiscus tea is made from the sepals (calyces) of the plant (these are often mistakenly referred to as the flower). Hibiscus drinks have long been popular in Central and Latin America, Africa and Asia. In the English-speaking Caribbean, a hot christmas drink is made with fresh hibiscus and spices, and Egyptian weddings are traditionally celebrated with toasts of hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus Tea and other Hisbiscous drinks
Hibiscus tea is easier to find than you might think, as many herbal tea blends incorporate hibiscus – a clue is if it’s red in colour. The taste of hibiscus alone is pretty tart – quite like cranberry – so most hibiscus-based teas add other flavours to complement it.
Red Zinger by Celestial Seasonings has been a popular herbal tea for decades, with its main ingredient being hibiscus. Cooling peppermint and tangy orange and lemon-balm as also added for a lively flavour, and Celestial Seasonings teas are available in many grocery stores and health food shops.
You can buy them online too:
Dried hibiscus is also available at most health food shops, so you can make your own herbal blends. You can also buy dried hibiscus online:
You can also grow your own – it can grow in most US climates – it’s the sepals/calyces you use, not actually the flowers themselves (although many sources and suppliers often erroneously use the term ‘flower’). More info on growing hibiscus here: how to grow hibiscus
Hibiscus Drink Recipes
To make one cup of plain hibiscus tea, steep 1-5 tsps of dried hibiscus (4 or 5 if it’s in bigger pieces, less if it’s powdered or finely chopped) in boiling water for over 5 minutes. (The Boston studies used 1.25g of dried hibiscus calyces steeped in 8oz boiling water for six minutes, drunk 3 times a day.)
Try boiling it with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg like they do in Central America and the Caribbean. Or flavour hibiscus tea with mint and ginger, in West African fashion.
Hibiscus also makes an extremely refreshing cool summer drink.
Try making “italian tea” by adding lemon and a little sugar to cooled hibiscus tea. Or blend with a low-sugar organic lemonade.
Herbal teas in general are good for you, and any herbal tea that’s relaxing is also good for your sleep and your stress-levels – which in turn are good for your blood pressure. So try out more herbal teas. You can buy some of the best quality tea brands online:
Sit back and enjoy