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Hibiscus is a plant known for its large, colorful flowers. Different types of hibiscus have been used around the world as herbal remedies.

In recent years, researchers have been exploring the health effects of hibiscus and chemicals in the plant.

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Why do people take hibiscus?

People use hibiscus to try to treat a number of health concerns, including:

There has been some promising research that hibiscus may help lower high blood pressure. More studies are needed to confirm this.

Some research suggests that hibiscus may be helpful in lowering cholesterol. One study focused on people with metabolic syndrome, which refers to a cluster of health risks including obesity, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. It raises people's risk of heart disease and diabetes.

In the study, hibiscus extract for people with metabolic syndrome was linked to:

Again, there is not enough evidence yet to recommend using hibiscus for this purpose.

One small study tested different herbal remedies to treat head lice. A mixture containing hibiscus tea and another herb appeared effective. However, this needs more research.

Some researchers are also looking at hibiscus to see if it can be used as an antioxidant. But more studies need to be done in this area.

Optimal doses of hibiscus have not been set for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it hard to set a standard dose.

Can you get hibiscus naturally from foods?

Hibiscus tea is a popular drink sometimes known as sour tea.

What are the risks of taking hibiscus?

Side effects. Hibiscus may cause blood pressure to drop. It has also been linked to dermatitis.

Risks. Avoid hibiscus if you are allergic or sensitive to it or members of the Malvaceae plant family. Use with caution if you have low or high blood pressure. Also use with caution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as little is known about its safety in these cases.

Interactions. Hibiscus tea may interfere with the effectiveness of some anti-malaria drugs.

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on December 07, 2014

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