The more you learn about the healing powers of herbs, the more you can gain in terms of your personal health and well-being. This is why our advisory team of doctors and herbalists has developed these practical tips to help you on your journey.
The Surprising Health Benefits of Hibiscus
July 9th, 2013
You may be familiar with hibiscus, known as “sour tea” in Iran, a delicious and refreshing summertime drink. However, this pleasant-tasting herb with the deep-red color also has beneficial health properties, specifically for those looking to support cardiovascular health.*
Originally from Angola, hibiscus is now cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical regions, especially in Sudan, Egypt, Thailand, Mexico, and China.
• In Egypt and Sudan, hibiscus is used to help maintain a normal body temperature, support heart health, and encourage fluid balance.*
• North Africans have used hibiscus internally for supporting upper respiratory health including the throat throat and also use it topically to support skin health
• In Europe, hibiscus has been employed to support upper respiratory health, alleviate occasional constipation, and promote proper circulation.* It is commonly used in combination with lemon balm and St John’s Wort for restlessness and occasional difficulty falling asleep.*
• Hibiscus is traditionally used for supporting normal blood pressure maintenance in Iran — a use that has been validated in several recent studies.†
Approximately 15-30 percent of the hibiscus plant is made up of plant acids, including citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and allo-hydroxycitric acid lactone — i.e. hibiscus acid, which is unique to hibiscus.
Other chemical constituents are many; however, some of the most important include alkaloids, anthocyanins, and quercetin.
Scientific interest in hibiscus has grown in the last several years, thanks to a small burst of published research studies — especially in regards to cholesterol and blood pressure maintenance.†
1. Cholesterol maintenance
In 2007, a one-month clinical trial tested the effects of hibiscus extract on cholesterol levels. A total of 42 subjects were randomized to three groups for the study. Group 1 received one 500-mg capsule 3x daily (1,500 mg/day), Group 2 received two capsules 3x daily (3,000 mg/day), and Group 3 received three capsules 3x daily (4,500 mg/day). Interestingly, by the fourth week, participants in both Groups 1 and 2, but not Group 3, experienced a cholesterol maintenance effect. The optimum dose was 1,000 mg taken 3x daily.
In 2009, another trial studied hibiscus’s ability to support cholesterol maintenance, this time in people concerned with healthy blood sugar levels. Sixty subjects, mostly women, were given either one cup of hibiscus tea or black tea twice per day. After one month, hibiscus was able to help maintain total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels — as well as triglycerides — already within a healthy range.* Black tea, on the other hand, only impacted HDL levels.
A larger trial, in 222 adults, was published on hibiscus in 2010. The subjects — about a third of whom had metabolic challenges — were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a healthy diet, hibiscus, or a healthy diet plus hibiscus. Those with metabolic challenges experienced several benefits from hibiscus, including cholesterol maintenance.¤ Similar effects on supporting normal blood sugar were also noted.*
Another 2010 study in 69 subjects found that hibiscus extract (1,000 mg/day) did not have a cholesterol maintenance effect compared to placebo. One wonders why the results of this study were negative, while the three studies mentioned above showed positive results. It could be because different preparations — tea, powdered flowers, and various extracts — were used in each study. With more consistent product selection and dosages used in larger randomized trials, we would hope that this would clarify the best intervention to use.
2. Blood pressure maintenance
In 2007, a randomized, controlled, double-blind study researched hibiscus’s blood pressure maintenance capacity. Participants received either a dried powdered hibiscus extract, containing a total of 250 mg anthocyanins, or an alternate intervention. Hibiscus extract was able to maintain blood pressure levels already within a healthy range, but importantly, it did not alter blood potassium levels, nor did it affect salt-water balance.*
A trial comparing hibiscus to black tea among people seeking to support healthy blood sugar levels was published in 2009. Subjects were randomly assigned to drink one cup of hibiscus tea or black tea two times per day for one month. Hibiscus tea demonstrated a maintenance effect on systolic (but not diastolic) blood pressure, while black tea did not.*†
A Cochrane review of hibiscus’s effects on blood pressure published in 2010 resulted in five articles. The reviewers included randomized controlled trials of three to 12 weeks in duration that compared hibiscus to either placebo or no intervention at all. All five of these studies found hibiscus had a blood pressure maintenance effect.†
Safety and Dosage
The safety profile of hibiscus is excellent, with no proven adverse reactions.
It is difficult to clarify dosing recommendations when different products are used in different studies. However, positive studies used the following dosages:
• For cholesterol maintenance: 1,000 mg dried herb 3x daily, one cup of hibiscus tea 2x daily, or 100 mg of standardized extract 2x daily
• For blood pressure maintenance†: One cup of hibiscus tea 2x daily or dried powdered hibiscus extract providing 250 mg anthocyanins per day
• 2 Hibiscus Liquid Phyto-Caps are the equivalent of an 8oz cup of Hibiscus Tea.
It is exciting to see the use of this simple, safe plant evolve from home beverage to medicinal utilization for such common health support such as blood pressure and cholesterol maintenance.
Hibiscus helps maintain cholesterol levels that are already within a healthy range.*
† Hibiscus helps maintain blood pressure levels that are already within a healthy range.*
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease
Leung A, Foster S, eds. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons; 1996. Neuwinger H. African Traditional Medicine. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publication; 2000.
Meyer-Buchtela E. Tee-Rezepturen: Ein Handbuch fur Apotheker und Arzte, 3. Erganzungslieferung 2004; Stuttgart: Duetscher Apotheker Verlag; 2004. Lin T, Lin H, Chen C, et al. Nutr Res 2007;27:140-145.
Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Jalali-Khanabadi B, Afkhami-Ardehani M, Fatehi F. . J Altern and Comp Med 2009;15(8):899-903.
Gurrola-Diaz C, Garcia-Lopez P, Sanchez-Enriquez S, et al. (MeSy). Phytomedicine 2010;17:500-505.
Kuriyan R, Kumar D, Rajendran R, Kurpad A. . BMC Compl and Alt Med 2010;10:27
Herrera-Arellano A, Miranda-Sanchez J, Avila-Castro P, et al. Lisinopril-controlled clinical trial. Planta Med 2007;73:6-12.
Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Jalali-Khanabadi B, Afkhami-Ardekani M, et al J Human Hypertension 2009;23:48-54.
Ngamjarus c, Pattanittum P, Somboonporn C. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;Jan 20(1):CD007894.
Tips from our Doctors
5 Herbs for Breastfeeding MomsContinue
By Dr. Mary Bove One of the most frequently asked questions I heard from my patients during my decades…
Female Hormones & Menstruation 101Continue
Selected information in this blog, including sources cited, came from a webinar by Dr. Wendy Warner, MD, ABIHM, who…
5 Simple Ways to Naturally Support EnergyContinue
by Stepfanie Romine Life goes on, day after day, whether or not we’re ready for it. While no one…
5 Fun Ways to Use Chia Fresh™ Daily FiberContinue
By Stepfanie Romine We love the ease and versatility of Chia Fresh™ Daily Fiber. This nutrient dense, fresh-tasting product…
5 Tips to Cleanse and Detox the BodyContinue
by Stepfanie Romine The human body is sophisticated and highly complex, with organs and entire systems devoted to keeping…
10 Cleansing TipsContinue
Seasonal and dietary influences can enhance the accumulation of waste and impurities in our bodies. In a modern industrial…
Immune Support for Kids during the Winter MonthsContinue
by Mary Bove, ND As a naturopathic physician working with families I have many parents ask me how to…
Four Herbs for Supporting a Healthy Stress Response in Kids and Teens*Continue
By Dr. Mary Bove Many of us look back on our childhoods with sweet nostalgia, remembering the carefree days…
The Surprising Health Benefits of HibiscusContinue
By Tori Hudson, N.D. You may be familiar with hibiscus, known as “sour tea” in Iran, a delicious and…
Support a Healthy Stress Response with BotanicalsContinue
by Dr. Tori Hudson, N.D. Stress is so much a part our daily lives that most of us don’t…
How Echinacea Works: Making Sense of the ResearchContinue
Echinacea is the most popular herb for supporting the natural defenses.* It has a long history of traditional use,…
Four Herbs for Supporting a Healthy Stress Response in Kids and Teens*Continue
Many of us look back on our childhoods with sweet nostalgia, remembering the carefree days of playing on the…
Staying Healthy in the Fall MonthsContinue
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND The onset of autumn is a time that illustrates many of the cyclic patterns…
Supporting Your Health During Allergy SeasonContinue
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND For many people, after a long hard winter, the budding of trees and spring…
Cleansing for HealthContinue
By Walter J. Crinnion, ND Department Chair, Environmental Medicine, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine Many people make resolutions for…
Women and the Evolution of Health CareContinue
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND For the first time in history, women’s medicine is taking a front-row seat and…
General Tips for Keeping Kids HealthyContinue
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND Keeping children healthy and happy is one of the most important and challenging goals…
Maintaining Healthy Stress LevelsContinue
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND In today’s fast-paced world, laden with economic distress, stress and total exhaustion seem to…
Nutrition is Key to Cardiovascular HealthContinue
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND Awareness around heart health continues to escalate in the United States as obesity rates…
Integrative Medicine Hits Washington DCContinue
by Dr. Keri Marshall, MS, ND Health care reform is on the way, and the Institute of Medicine has…