Hibiscus Tea: Benefits, Side Effects, and Preparations

Hibiscus Tea

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Hibiscus tea is an herbal tea made from steeping the buds of a dried hibiscus flower in water. The tea is popular for its unique tart taste and lack of caffeine.

What Is Hibiscus Tea?

Hibiscus is a large five-petal flower, native to subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. The beautiful hibiscus blossoms are usually white, but the hibiscus buds, also known as calyces, are deep red in color. These buds are harvested and dried for hibiscus tea. 

Using hibiscus dates back to ancient times when Egyptians thought the flower could reduce fever and treat other diseases. The hibiscus plant is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. Most of the world's hibiscus tea comes from China and Thailand.

How to Prepare

  • Place a hibiscus tea bag or a tea infuser containing about one to two teaspoons of loose tea leaves in a teacup. 
  • Heat water to 93-100º Celsius or 200-212º Fahrenheit. If you don't have a temperature-controlled teapot, bring water to a boil and let sit for a minute to reduce the temperature just slightly. 
  • Pour eight ounces of water over the tea bag or infuser.
  • Let tea leaves steep for as long as desired. Some drinkers prefer a lighter tea, so a two-minute steep is sufficient. A 3-5 minute steep will brew a stronger darker cup of tea. Steeping for longer than that may create a bitter tea. .
  • Remove the tea bag or infuser from the cup before drinking.

Hibiscus tea has a naturally tart flavor, so some people like to add a simple syrup or other sweetener, like sugar or honey, to their tea.

Caffeine Content

Hibiscus tea is an herbal tea, so it does not contain any caffeine. It’s a suitable alternative for those wanting a hot beverage without any caffeine. It's unlike other black or green teas, which contain about 35-90 milligrams of caffeine per cup.

In comparison, a cup of black coffee has about 100-150 milligrams per cup. That said, the brewing method for tea and coffee will determine the amount of caffeine. The stronger the brew, the more caffeine in the drink. 

Health Benefits

Hibiscus tea is generally consumed as a caffeine-free hot beverage or iced tea. Below are some of the health benefits associated with drinking hibiscus tea.

May Lower Blood Pressure

Hibiscus tea has been shown to potentially reduce blood pressure levels in several studies. In a small study of 65 participants, adults with high blood pressure who consumed three 8-ounce glasses (720 ml total) of hibiscus tea daily for six weeks saw a decrease in their overall blood pressure.

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials also concluded that drinking hibiscus tea might lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

May Promote Blood Sugar Control

A study of one hundred people with Type 2 Diabetes patients asked participants to drink 450ml (about 15 ounces) of green tea or hibiscus tea for 4 weeks. The results showed positive effects on insulin resistance and certain blood lipids in those with Type 2 Diabetes.

May Lower Cholesterol

The same study that measured insulin levels also found that drinking hibiscus tea for four weeks lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

May Reduce Inflammation

A study in 54 male soccer players found that consuming hibiscus extract may reduce oxidative stress, a marker of inflammation in athletes. The study did not directly observe the effects of hibiscus tea intake, so more research should be done using the beverage.

May Aid in Hydration

Although there aren’t any studies on hibiscus tea and hydration, it’s safe to assume that the beverage may play a role in hydration. An 8-ounce glass of hibiscus tea contains 8-ounces of water without any sugar or caffeine. Drinking ample amounts of water is necessary for proper hydration and digestion. 

Side Effects

Although there isn’t any research on the negative effects of hibiscus tea, a recent review of studies found that very high doses of hibiscus extract may potentially cause liver damage. The same review reported that hibiscus extract interacts with certain medications—mainly hydrochlorothiazide (a diuretic) in animals and acetaminophen (Tylenol) in humans.

People who regularly drink herbal tea should check in with a healthcare provider to make sure it does not interfere with any of their medications.

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