Used as a home remedy in many Asian, African and Caribbean countries for years, hibiscus tea promotes general good health through antioxidants, which fight cellular damage and support the immune system. The natural chemicals in the drink also are thought to battle heart issues, including hypertension. They also might promote digestive and bowel regularity, water control, and weight loss and management. Although the evidence toward these benefits is promising, more research is needed to fully determine how safe it is and what dose to take. Medical professionals already know that hibiscus can react with certain drugs and that it isn’t good for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
In the body, oxidation causes two electrons to break apart, leaving two oxygen radicals free to roam about. Sometimes, these damage healthy cells, which then can become cancerous. Hibiscus petals, which are the part of the plant people use to make tea, have a dark red color caused by compounds called flavonoids. More specifically, they contain anthocyanins, plant pigments that give a red, blue or purple shade. These are antioxidants, meaning they fight the negative effects of the oxidation process.
Being able to fight free radicals affects virtually every body function, because it helps cells stay healthy enough to perform and reproduce well. With less damage, cancers often do not form as easily. Many people notice a visual difference in the condition of their skin, which appears soft and flexible with fewer fine lines and wrinkles.
Immune System Performance
Similar to many other plants and fruits, hibiscus contains vitamin C, which medical experts believe influences the development and activity of white blood cells. Their role is to fight off infection and reduce inflammation, so drinking this type of tea might keep a person from getting sick as often. It also might help with diseases such as arthritis and the swelling, redness and irritation that happens after an injury.
Studies of hibiscus tea show that it does have the ability to reduce systolic blood pressure by up to 7%. Experts think this might be due to the flavonoids, which can help dilate blood vessels. These results show that the beverage potentially could treat problems like hypertension, high blood pressure and connected forms of heart disease. They also are significant because they are very similar to what many people experience while on prescription blood pressure medications, suggesting that this drink might be a viable alternative for people who cannot or do not want to take those drugs. More research is needed before experts can say for sure whether these benefits are sustainable, however.
Digestion and Bowel Function
The chemicals in this tea have antibacterial properties and serve as a very gentle laxative, which temporarily can relieve constipation and related problems such as painful gas and bloating. Keeping the bowels moving is essential because it influences the amount of water and nutrients that get absorbed. A sluggish or blocked bowel also can prevent the stomach from emptying as it should, which in turn can lead to problems like stomach upset and heartburn. The polyphenols in the drink also are thought to stimulate the digestive system while deterring the growth of stomach cancers.
People need water in order to live, as it makes up the majority of each cell and is necessary for the body to carry out different physical processes. Sometimes, an individual will retain extra water, however. This often shows up as bloating or edema, which can be painful and cause a temporary, slight weight gain. Hibiscus tea is a natural diuretic, so a person might be able to turn to it to restore proper water levels in the body.
Weight Loss and Management
Hibiscus tea contains an enzyme inhibitor that lowers the production of amylase, an enzyme that breaks down sugar and starches. With less amylase, a person typically isn’t as able to absorb as many carbohydrates. That means a person’s body can’t use or store all the carbohydrates he eats, possibly making it easier to hit a weight loss goal or avoid gaining too many pounds.
Despite the multiple health benefits of this drink, it is not safe for those who are pregnant. Healthcare professionals believe it can stimulate menstruation and lead to a miscarriage in some women. Not enough research has been done to determine whether it is okay to use while breastfeeding, so a woman should avoid using it during that time.
Another problem is that hibiscus interacts with acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter pain reliever. It causes the drug to leave the body faster, so pain relief might not last as long. Simply taking more acetaminophen isn’t a good solution because it goes against standard dosing recommendations.
Although experts are starting to understand how hibiscus tea works and have uncovered some potential risks, research into its side effects is ongoing. They do not know all the problems that could occur and, therefore, aren’t always able to foresee how an individual might react or whether an interaction could happen. Dosing recommendations still are not standardized, as well. For these reasons, it is best for people to use the drink with some caution and alert a healthcare professional when taking it.