Herb of the Month: Hibiscus

Hibiscus flower with the sea in the background
Hibiscus and the sea

A beautiful red-hued berry brew, consumed hot or cold, that is healthy and beneficial for my good health—I am in!

Hibiscus tea has a cranberry-like, tart flavor, and is consumed around the world, in places such as Central America, India, Mexico, Persia, Cambodia, and even in the Caribbean. It is made from the dried petals of the hibiscus plant. Commonly known as roselle, its botanical name is Hibiscus sabdariffa. It is very common to see hibiscus added to other teas because of the rich color that it adds, as well as its sweet enjoyable taste profile. As you travel around the world, and you experience different cultures and food profiles, you may be surprised to see that different cultures add spices, or different sweeteners depending on the palates of that culture. Honey, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, as well as other herbs, are added to create a specific flavor profile.

The benefits of this tasty tea are numerous, including antioxidant support and free radical scavenging benefits. As harmful free radicals make their way into our life every day, all forms of support and protection are a plus!

Hibiscus tea is also a great source of absorbable iron. Having proper levels of iron supports focus and energy, immune function, and even helps to balance body temperature. Hibiscus is also high in vitamin C, which helps iron absorption as well as helping to repair tissue, healing wounds and sores, and supporting the immune system.

Hibiscus tea also has been shown to lower blood pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults in a study funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). About half the study group was randomly selected to drink three cups of hibiscus tea daily for six weeks; the others drank a placebo beverage containing artificial hibiscus flavoring and color. The finding: Those who drank hibiscus tea had a 7.2 point drop in systolic blood pressure, compared to a 1.3 point drop in the placebo group (1).

Hibiscus tea is considered safe, but pregnant or breast-feeding women should not consume it. As always, it is important to discuss all of the nutritional supplements one is using, including herbs, with a medical practitioner.

Hibiscus is readily available in capsules, extracts and in bulk. No matter which source, reading labels is important to ensure purity.

References

1. Scientific contact: Diane L. McKay, (781) 608-7183, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Boston, Mass