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The Medicinal Properties of Hibiscus Tea

The Medicinal Properties of Drinking Hibiscus Tea

By Heather Caruso B.Sc., DHMS, HD

     When the fall approaches, many of us bring our beautiful hibiscus plants indoors with hopes of seeing their beauty last until next year. Hibiscus is a native of Africa, and typically is a yellow flower with a red center. This flower is the national flower of Haiti, South Korea and Malaysia. It is also used in a spiritual way in Hindu writings and art. Hibiscus tea is often paired with rosehips or cranberry, and is chocked full of vitamin C. It contains polyphenol compounds that are anti-inflammatory. Gaia herbs writes that ”5-30 percent of the hibiscus plant is made up of plant acids, including citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and allo-hydroxycitric acid lactone — i.e. hibiscus acid, which is unique to hibiscus. Other chemical constituents are many; however, some of the most important include alkaloids, anthocyanins, and quercetin.”

     Many people don’t know that hibiscus tea is beneficial for many health reasons. Most people use hibiscus as a tea but it comes in standardized capsule form as well. This herb had been toted as useful for the symptoms of many problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, anxiety, digestive and immune system support and lower inflammation.

     Hibiscus is often used for respiratory problems, coughs, bronchitis or mucous build up. The German Commission E, writes that is helps to reduce and dissolve phlegm. It is often used in combination with other herbs in natural cough syrups. Since it has a significant amount of vitamin C, it is helpful for the immune system. It can also help with the discomfort caused by a fever. A bigger use of the tea is for help with high blood pressure. The American Heart Association wrote in November 2008, that consuming hibiscus tea, lowers blood pressure in pre or mild hypertension. Another study on rats published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, June 2003, found that this herb both decreased blood pressure and reversed cardiomyopathy. Keep in mind this was a lab rat study. It acts as a slight diuretic and anti-inflammatory which helps blood pressure. Research done by Tufts University, found it can reduce blood pressure by 10 points. The participants drank three cups per day, every day for a few weeks.

     Another study of 53 participants published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, August 2009, found that consumption of hibiscus tea helped diabetics lower their cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). It did not appear to increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

     One interesting study published in a journal called Food and Chemical Toxicity, May 2000, found that the pigment (coloured) compounds called anthocyanins in hibiscus can protect the liver from free radical damage from certain chemicals. Hibiscus also contains a compound called “protocatechuic acid “ which has anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. A study published in the journal called “Biochemical Pharmacology”, August 2000, found that these compounds increased cell death in cancerous leukemia cells.

     Other sources claim that hibiscus tea is beneficial for menstrual cramps, weight loss, constipation and water retention. Hibiscus tea is very tasty hot or cold and can be blended with other fruit teas to enhance its taste. Do not use if you have low blood pressure, are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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