The news about the effects of hibiscus on high blood pressure continues to grow, offering promise to those looking for natural ways to control this common condition. I’ve written previously about the positive ways this plant can help your heart and overall health; now new research suggests that its effectiveness may be even greater than what’s been reported.
I’ll explain the history, discuss the uses of the colorful flower and share tips on how to incorporate it into your overall diet so you can enjoy both its flavor and benefits.
Hibiscus ‘Sour Tea’ Lowers Blood Pressure
Researchers from Mashhad University in Iran conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether Hibiscus sabdariffa, aka sour tea, is helpful for those with Stage 1 high blood pressure.1 They recruited 46 patients and created two groups: a control group and a case group.
Everyone had their blood pressure taken before starting the study. The control group continued with their regular routine of lifestyle and dietary modifications for the condition. The case group took two cups of hibiscus tea every day, continuing the regimen for a full month. At the end of the month, each participant’s blood pressure was measured again.
Both groups enjoyed “a significant reduction” in their systolic blood pressure, “ … but the mean reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure was significantly higher in the case group.”2 Conclusively, the authors advised that drinking hibiscus tea twice a day, along with lifestyle changes, can help those dealing with elevated blood pressure. The team additionally noted that hibiscus is a plant:
“ … containing carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, flavonoid, minerals, and vitamins. Studies mentioned that this herb has anticancer, antibacterial, anti-oxidant, nephro- and hepato-protective, diuretic, anti-cholesterol, anti-diabetic, and anti-hypertensive properties.”3
This is great news for those who are interested in natural answers to their health conditions; it’s also great news for your wallet, as hibiscus tea is significantly less expensive than medication. It grows in many areas across the globe and is helpful to the environment as well.4
Hibiscus tea can complement your overall strategy to managing high blood pressure, so you can take charge of your health.
Hibiscus’ History of Helpfulness With High Blood Pressure
This important work builds on previous studies, conducted by scientists from Romania, Poland and Australia in 2015. This group of researchers collected information from four databases to survey what’s already known about the herb and to look for patterns across the published studies.
Noting that hibiscus has long been associated with treating arterial high blood pressure, but that not enough studies have been published to support the claims, they focused on determining its potential to help with cardiovascular issues. They conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and concluded that hibiscus had a “significant effect” in lowering both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.5
A 2009 study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, offers insights into the role of sour tea in overall health. According to the authors, the use of hibiscus significantly reduced triglycerides, low density lipoprotein-cholesterol and total cholesterol for those who have Type 2 diabetes.6
In this trial, 60 participants were recruited to consume either hibiscus tea or black tea. The researchers wanted to determine which type of tea offered the greatest hypolipidemic effects. Each person agreed to providing a fasting blood sample, both at the start of the study and when it concluded. Their blood was tested “for evaluation of lipids, lipoproteins and apoproteins.”
Fifty-three of the original 60 were able to complete the study; researchers found that sour tea, or that from H. sabdariffa, effectively influences the number of lipids in the blood of patients who have diabetes.
What Exactly Is H. Sabdariffa?
The scientific name for hibiscus is hibiscus sabdariffa, or H. sabdariffa for short. More than 300 species are included in the hibiscus family, also known as malvaceae.7 It’s native to Africa and Asia but can be grown in many warm climates. Typically taken as a tea, it can be enjoyed as a hot or cold beverage, as a fermented product and in delicacies such as ice cream and chocolate.
It’s even been made into wine and, interestingly, it’s also been used as a treatment for hangovers, at least in Guatemala. The hibiscus flower is from a tropical plant that is full of anthocyanins, organic acids and polyphenols among other things. It’s traditionally been used to help with everything from sore throats and coughs to digestive problems and nervousness, in addition to high blood pressure.
Most hibiscus products come from areas of Asia as well as Mexico, with significant imports from Germany.8 Its deep, red color is inviting to the eyes while its sweet-tart flavor is tantalizing to the tongue. Described as being similar to a cranberry, people around the world consume it as both food and medicine.9
As noted in my previous article, “Hibiscus Extract Inhibits Obesity and Offers Liver Protection,” extracts from the aromatic flower protect your liver and regulate metabolism.
Hibiscus extract has even shown promise for preventing and treating metabolic syndrome, with one study finding a daily dose of hibiscus extract for just one month led to improvements in glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improvements in insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome.10
Hibiscus extracts, in fact, were suggested for those who have dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome. The short time period for these effects is right in line with the recent study from Iran, in which patients with Stage 1 high blood pressure realized significant effects in just one month.
Better Than at Least One Medication
In a Nigerian study from 2015, researchers compared the effects of H. sabdariffa to those of hydrochlorothiazide, which is commonly used as a diuretic and treatment for high blood pressure.11 They selected 80 patients who had been recently diagnosed with high blood pressure and asked them to take one of three treatments. Their urine was evaluated for the presence of electrolytes before, during and after the treatment.
The treatment involved either placebo, Hibiscus sabdariffa or hydrochlorothiazide. After one month, it was found that hibiscus was more effective than the pharmaceutical medication and it did not cause any type of electrolyte imbalance. It also was effective for a longer period of time than taking the drug.
Hibiscus Tea: One of the Best Beverages
Many people believe that sports drinks, fortified water and soy milk are good options for leading a healthy lifestyle. With hibiscus tea — whether hot or cold — the benefits far outweigh any commercialized competitor, which can’t compare to the power-packed offerings of this ancient botanical.
Hibiscus tea was a beverage of choice for pharaohs in ancient Egypt. In fact, many cultures, including those in the Caribbean, Mexico, China, Africa and Europe, cultivated and used hibiscus tea, not just for its flavor but for its medicinal properties.
Hibiscus tea isn’t typically on most grocery shelves or even easy to find in alternative health stores. However, you can find 100% certified USDA organic hibiscus tea, whether you want iced or hot tea, online. Be sure to choose a variety that comes from a reputable source.
Teabags are certainly the traditional method of preparation, but modern technology has made hibiscus extracts available via an airless pump technology, which protects the liquid from oxidation from exposure to the air.
Just a few pumps in your glass or cup are all you need for a refreshing substitute to a plain glass of water, and this healthy beverage is a far cry from the toxic substances ingested when you consume a soda.
For a much healthier option to soda and fruit juice, drinking hibiscus tea is a good choice. It may even be more beneficial than black tea. Besides being naturally “decaf,” it also helps support memory and concentration,12 and may help keep kidney stones from developing.13 As a wise Chinese sage once said, “Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.”