Hibiscus tea, also called Sorrell tea or “sour tea” is a fragrant tea made from the dried calyxes of the tropical Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers. Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers are native to Africa and grow in many tropical and subtropical regions around the world — including Thailand, China, and Mexico.These flowers are one of many species of shrubs, trees, and flowers in the mallow (Malvaceae) family.
Hibiscus tea has a fruity, refreshing flavor that many enjoy hot or iced. Many people drink it because of its potential health benefits. While research shows that there may be some truth to these claims, there may also be potential risks. More research is required.
One small iced hibiscus breeze tea cooler contains:
Hibiscus tea contains vitamin C — a nutrient that plays many essential roles in the body. These include:
- Tissue growth and repair
- The maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth
- Wound healing
- The formation of collagen
- Iron absorption
Vitamin C — aka ascorbic acid — is also an antioxidant. It can help boost your immune system and may help to prevent cell damage caused by free radicals in the body. This can reduce your risk of developing many significant health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Hibiscus tea contains other antioxidants, such as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give the plant its vibrant color. They may also prevent many chronic diseases, as well as provide antibacterial effects.
Potential Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
While hibiscus tea may not contain many vitamins or minerals, it does contain vitamin C and other antioxidants. Current research shows that the herbal tea may provide many health benefits:
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease. Some studies show that drinking hibiscus tea may help reduce systolic blood pressure levels compared to a placebo.
Other studies show that it may help to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Some studies show that hibiscus tea may reduce cholesterol levels — another risk factor of heart disease. In one study, people who drank hibiscus tea experienced an increase in “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoproteins) and a decrease in “bad cholesterol” (low-density lipoproteins). Many of the current studies have been limited to individuals with certain conditions, however, and some show conflicting results.
Improve Liver Health
Hibiscus tea may help to improve liver health. A study using hamsters showed that hibiscus tea may help decrease markers of liver damage.
One study with human participants showed that hibiscus extract may improve liver steatosis, which could reduce the risk of liver failure.
Along with anthocyanins, hibiscus tea also contains another antioxidant called polyphenols, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Much of the current research involves test-tube studies.
One study showed that hibiscus extract limits cell growth and reduces the invasiveness of mouth cancer.
Hibiscus tea may provide antibacterial properties. Again, the current research is limited to test-tube studies. One showed that hibiscus extract inhibits E. coli.
It may also be just as effective as some medications at fighting many different bacteria strains.
Promote Weight Loss
Several studies show the potential of hibiscus tea to promote weight loss and prevent obesity. One study showed that hibiscus extract reduced body weight, body fat, and body mass index after 12 weeks.
Potential Risks of Hibiscus Tea
While hibiscus tea may provide health benefits, it may also present some risks. These risks include:
Hibiscus and Mallow Allergies
If you’re allergic or sensitive to hibiscus flowers (or other plants in the mallow family), you should avoid drinking hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus tea may interact with certain medications. It can decrease the effectiveness of the malaria drug chloroquine. If you take medications for high blood pressure or diabetes, it can cause a significant drop in blood pressure. The plant also contains phytoestrogens (or plant estrogens) that may decrease the effectiveness of birth control medication.
The phytoestrogens in hibiscus tea may cause complications during pregnancy. For instance, they may trigger preterm labor. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to avoid hibiscus tea or look for an alternative.
Some research points toward high concentrations of hibiscus extract — potentially causing liver damage.
Most of the current research on hibiscus tea is limited to animal and test-tube studies. More research is needed to fully understand the true benefits and risks the tea has to offer.