Hibiscus tea is a bright red herbal tea packed with nutrients that has a slightly sweet and tart taste, not unlike cranberry juice. It’s very popular in the United Kingdom, and everywhere else for that matter, and that popularity has exploded in recent years alongside claims that this tea can work wonders for your health.
But how many of these claims are true? And can hibiscus really do all of the things that proponents of this drink claim?
Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
Hibiscus tea is packed with antioxidants, and it also contains an abundance of vitamin C, which itself is an antioxidant. This is one of the biggest selling points of this tea, but there are a few other health benefits backed by science, as well as some benefits that are a little misleading.
1. It Can Lower Blood Pressure
A number of very promising studies suggest that hibiscus could be effective at reducing blood pressure, which in turn can improve heart health and reduce the risk of strokes, heart disease, and more. A 2015 meta-analysis looked at a number of randomised studies, with data that spanned nearly 400 patients, and found significant reductions in blood pressure values across the board. (1)
A number of natural substances can lower blood pressure, but hibiscus tea seems to be more effective than most and could have very promising implications for anyone at risk of high blood pressure, which is often referred to as a “silent killer”.
For all the good that hibiscus tea might do, there are also some concerning side effects regarding heart health. Take a look at our Hibiscus Side Effects section below to learn more.
2. It May Help with Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels
Hibiscus tea could also have positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol levels, further improving heart health and potentially helping to manage blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.
One study on hibiscus tea noted that it was able to increase levels of “good” cholesterol in diabetes patients, but similar studies conducted on healthy patients have shown no notable improvements. (2) It seems that its effects on blood cholesterol levels may be limited to patients with metabolic disorders, but that’s still very promising and at the very least it warrants further research in this field.
3. It’s Not that Effective at Promoting Weight Loss
Hibiscus tea is often sold as a weight-loss tea. In a previous guide, we discussed ineffective weight-loss teas that are often mis-sold, and while there have been some promising studies in this field, hibiscus is one such tea.
To understand what we mean by this, let’s look at the most quoted weight-loss studies. On the surface, these seem to be very promising. One found that hibiscus could reduce body fat following high-fat diets, another found it to be effective at helping obese patients to lose weight. (3) (4) Both are promising, but both were conducted on rodents using highly concentrated extracts of hibiscus.
There are a few positive human studies, as well, but again, these used very high doses. Not only are such doses not found in a typical cup of hibiscus tea, but by consuming such significant quantities, you would be needlessly exposing yourself to some of the side effects associated with this plant.
Immune System Support
Some reports suggest that hibiscus tea can support the immune system and help combat colds and flu. However, these studies seem to be based purely on its vitamin C content, which is plentiful, and its vitamin A content, which is not. It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that hibiscus tea could have any notable impact on your immune system based on this alone.
Unless you are deficient in vitamin C, it likely won’t make a difference, and if you are deficient, you’ll be better off eating an orange.
Other Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
There is a long list of health benefits associated with this drink. That’s one of its biggest selling points. The problem is, very little evidence exists to back up these claims, and the studies that do exist were all animal studies that used concentrated extracts. It is a similar story when it comes to hibiscus and cancer; studies suggest it can inhibit cancer cell growth, but all of these were limited to the lab. Cancer, and the remedies prescribed to treat it, react differently in the body than they do in a test tube, and there it’s a huge leap to go from one to the other.
There are thousands of herbal remedies generating interest in the field of cancer research, some more exciting than others (dandelion being one of the better ones; soursop being one of the most controversial), but none are cures and a lot more research needs to be conducted before any conclusive statements can be made on any of them.
Hibiscus tea definitely seems to be a healthy tea, and one that can potentially provide a number of health benefits. But it’s far from a miracle tea, it doesn’t do all of the things that many proponents claim it does, and there are also some side effects to look out for. Speaking of which . . .
Side Effects of Hibiscus Tea
Everything should be consumed in moderation, and tea is no exception. However, while many herbal teas will do nothing more than make you a little nauseous if you consume to excess, there are a few more concerns where hibiscus tea is concerned.
You should not consume hibiscus tea if you are taking medication or have a preexisting health condition. This is a major concern if you are taking medication for high blood pressure, but there are also concerns with other heart conditions and even liver conditions. Some reports suggest excessive consumption of hibiscus tea could increase the risk of heart disease (even though many of the benefits suggest otherwise), but unless you have a preexisting condition or are consuming large amounts, this shouldn’t be an issue.
You should also avoid hibiscus tea if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are allergic to any plants in the same family.
If you are concerned about this tea, consult a medical professional first. We would also recommend starting with small doses to assess tolerance. You should avoid consuming highly concentrated extracts at any time.