I generally associate hibiscus bushes and trees with vacation and tropical climates, though they actually grow quite well here in Tucson, too (I have two in my backyard). The flowers are prolific at the right time of year when the plant is healthy, and they typically bloom for a day, and then wither to make room for the next set the day after. I’ve started to collect the dried flowers, add them to a pitcher with a central mesh attachment (like a giant teabag), and cold extract them over the next several days in the refrigerator.
Just like with nearly every medicinal herb, the list of health benefits of hibiscus (often called roselle in the literature) is quite long and diverse. Also like nearly every medicinal herb, the list includes its high antioxidant status and antimicrobial capacity. Here are some of its other stand-out benefits.
Hibiscus Improves Blood Pressure
Hibiscus is probably best known for its effect upon blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. This study shows that consuming hibiscus tea twice daily significantly decreases blood pressure.
Meanwhile, this review of five studies shows that hibiscus tea decreased blood pressure by on average 7.58 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 3.53 mmHg for systolic and diastolic, respectively.
Hibiscus for Weight Loss and Metabolic Syndrome
It’s always helpful to have more tools for weight loss and reversing metabolic syndrome, including insulin resistance. Hibiscus tea can be a delicious approach, and there are a number of studies that show that it works.
This study shows that hibiscus helps to decrease free fatty acids in the serum as well as fatty liver, and body fat generally. This study agrees, showing that hibiscus also decreases blood glucose and cortisol levels.
This animal study likewise showed that hibiscus decreased fat accumulation in the liver and subsequent liver damage.
This study showed that, in addition to improving body weight, leptin, insulin, and inflammatory cytokines, hibiscus also helps to regulate appetite too. This might make it a great aid during a short fast.
Hibiscus to Protect Against Cancer
All of the studies were performed either with a hibiscus extract, or with tea. I love finding ways to use food as medicine, particularly when it tastes good! If you don’t have access to your own supply of hibiscus, most of the fruit teas you can purchase at any grocery store list hibiscus as the first ingredient, because the flavor is so strong. As a general rule, there are more medicinally active compounds in the whole dried herb (in this case the flower) than there are in prepackaged teabags which have had plenty of time to oxidize, but you’ll certainly get some of the benefits either way.
I’m always amazed at the diversity of medicinal actions in any herb you can name. To me, that just goes to show how many different ways God provides for us to be healthy.