If you’re a tea lover, it may make sense to experiment with other types of tea, like hibiscus tea which, additionally, is caffeine-free, unlike black tea, promotes a healthy heart and lower blood pressure.
A growing body of research suggests that many of the health benefits attributed to tea are largely imparted by its polyphenols. In reality, each type of tea has unique properties due to its special blend of polyphenols, and there is some evidence to suggest that hibiscus tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) may in fact be even more beneficial.
Although the flowers, calyx, and fruit are all used for healing purposes, only the calyx is used for hibiscus tea. Hibiscus tea is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc. It is also a good source of vitamin B1 and iron.
In folk medicine, the calyx extracts also known as roselle or Zobo, are used for the treatment of several health problems, including high blood pressure, liver diseases and fever.
In Egypt, preparations from the calyx have been used to treat diseases that affect the heart and nerves and also to increase the production of urine.
In North Africa, calyx preparations are used to treat sore throats and coughs, as well as genital problems, while the emollient leaf pulp is used for treating external wounds and abscesses. In Nigeria, the decoction of the seeds is traditionally used to enhance or induce breast milk production.
In one study, people with diabetes drank either hibiscus tea or black tea twice a day for one month. Those in the hibiscus group benefited from a significantly improved blood lipid profile while those in the black-tea group did not.
The study results showed the average systolic blood pressure for those drinking hibiscus tea decreased from 134.8 mmHg at the beginning of the study to 112.7 mmHg at the end of the study, one month later.
Also, in a similar study, diabetic patients with mild hypertension who drank hibiscus tea lowered their blood pressure levels while those drinking black tea actually had an increase.
In another study of 53 diabetics, mostly women, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, participants were given either hibiscus tea or black tea (two cups a day for one month).
In the group consuming hibiscus tea, there was an average 7.6 per cent decrease in total cholesterol, an 8.0 per cent decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “the bad” cholesterol; a 14.9 per cent decrease in triglycerides as well as a 16.7 per cent increase in HDL (‘healthy’) cholesterol.
Hibiscus tea health benefits also include relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2012, researchers found that it contains chemical substances such as flavonoids, anthocyanins and anthocyanidins with potential antidepressant activity.
The antioxidant properties of hibiscus tea may also help treat liver disease. In a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2000, researchers found that the anthocyannins in this tart-tasting tea could offer protection against liver damage and fat build up in the liver.
Also, regular intake of hibiscus tea is good because of its strong antioxidant and anti-tumour properties. In a study published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology in 2000, Taiwan researchers suggested that the protocatechuic acid in hibiscus tea inhibits cancer cell growth by inducing cell death in human leukaemia cells.
Hibiscus tea can also be considered a valuable component to a weight loss programme. Hibiscus tea is low-in-calories, and it is a diuretic herb that helps flush toxins and excess fluids in the body.
In a 12-week study published in the journal Food & Function in 2014, researchers found that hibiscus extract consumption could reduce obesity and abdominal fat, and improve liver damage in obese individuals.
A research published in the journal Medical Hypotheses in 2002 also recommended hibiscus tea as a natural weight loss alternative. Furthermore, a 2010 review suggests that herbal teas like hibiscus tea can help support weight loss by increasing the intake of fluids.
Previously, researchers have corroborated hibiscus tea’s folkloric use in the treatment of fever. In a 2005 study published in the journal, Phytotherapy Research, researchers found that it significantly reverse yeast-induced fever in rats.
Moreover, researchers have indicated that hibiscus tea can help excrete uric acid from the body. Uric acid is associated with outbreaks in those with gout, a painful condition that affects the joints.
Although hibiscus is a natural substance, caution should be taken when determining the appropriate dosage. Human studies have not determined a toxic level of hibiscus consumption.
However, research on rats has found that high levels of consumption of Hibiscus tea can lead to chronic adverse effects, including a delayed onset of puberty and poor sperm quality.