Sure, you know that tea is good for you, especially green and black, but there’s a new tea in town—hibiscus.
Okay, it’s not exactly new—hibiscus tea has been sipped around the world for years. But the herbal tea only more recently became a darling in the Western wellness world. It’s made from the hibiscus flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Once seeped, the brightly colored tropical flower lends a deep red hue to your cup, and it can be prepared hot or iced. (Just FYI, the tea is naturally pretty tart.)
Hibiscus tea is totally fine to drink daily, says Emily Kyle, registered dietitian nutritionist. Just be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to see if drinking the tea on the reg is in line with your health goals. (You’ll understand why in a minute.)
If you’re curious if this popular herbal tea may be for you, here’s what you need to know about the health benefits of hibiscus tea.
1. Hibiscus tea may lower blood pressure…
One of hibiscus tea’s biggest claims to fame is its ability to help lower blood pressure—and research backs up this theory. In a study published by The Journal of Nutrition, adults with hypertension (high blood pressure) who consumed three servings (720 mL) of hibiscus tea on a daily basis saw a decrease in their overall blood pressure. (Keep in mind, this was a small study of 65 participants.)
Another review of past hibiscus tea studies found that drinking this herbal tea lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 7.58 mmHg and 3.53 mmHg, respectively.
But be sure to talk to your doctor before you turn to hibiscus tea as treatment, especially if you’re taking blood pressure meds like hydrochlorothiazide. “This tea can also cause systolic blood pressure levels to drop to unsafe levels, which can be troublesome if taking medications to manage hypertension or low blood pressure,” says Georgia Rounder, registered dietitian nutritionist.
2. …and cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Another benefit of drinking hibiscus tea: It may help keep your cholesterol levels in check (and your heart and blood vessels healthy), says Rounder. In a small study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, scientists found that drinking a serving of this tea two times daily for one month reduced total cholesterol levels among diabetes patients—including LDL cholesterol, a.k.a. the “bad” kind—and triglyceride levels while boosting levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” kind.
3. It keeps your digestion running smoothly.
You know that hydration is the key to keeping your digestive system happy, and hibiscus tea just might give it an extra boost. “This herbal tea variety may also function as a natural diuretic, helping to remove both water and sodium from the body, contributing to normal urination, bowel movements,” says Rounder.
So go ahead and add it to your hydration game—just don’t go overboard, says Rounder. “Adults shouldn’t exceed over two quarts per day of hibiscus tea, and one quart per day for children. Pregnant women should not consume more than one liter per day,” she says, because of the tea’s aluminum and manganese content. Going overboard with manganese can cause weird side effects like shakiness, according to the CDC, and super-high levels of aluminum have been associated with a higher risk of certain diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies show.
Another review of studies published in Fitoterapia, found that consuming hibiscus in excessive amounts may cause liver damage in humans.
But yeah, as long as you don’t drink hibiscus tea every waking hour of the day…you’re probably fine.
4. Hibiscus tea helps keep your immune system healthy
Along with washing your hands religiously and getting a flu shot, this herbal tea may help you ward off winter sickness. “Hibiscus tea is high in Vitamin C, a key vitamin that helps support a healthy immune system,” says Rounder.
5. Hibiscus tea may support your weight-loss goals
“There have been some studies that suggest that hibiscus may have the ability to aid in weight loss,” she says. One study found that taking hibiscus extract for 12 weeks resulted in lower body weight, abdominal fat, and BMI in overweight/obese individuals.
It’s important to keep in mind that this study uses hibiscus extract, which is more concentrated than the tea. While you may see similar benefits by sipping the tea, they’ll likely be on a smaller scale. (One serving of the extract equals about six servings of tea.)
6. Hibiscus tea may tame inflammation
Fruits and veggies aren’t the only way to get your daily dose of antioxidants. Hibiscus tea is also full of phytochemicals like polyphenols and anthocyanin, according to a study published in the journal Fitoterapia. These compounds can help lower inflammation in the body, which, when out of control, can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
7. Hibiscus tea may improve liver health
Kyle says that some studies have found that hibiscus may promote liver health. One 2014 study found that taking hibiscus extract for 12 weeks improved liver steatosis—a.k.a. fatty liver disease, a serious condition that can lead to liver failure—in overweight individuals.
Again, this research used hibiscus extract versus the tea, and just drinking the fruity beverage likely won’t have the same dramatic impact, says Kyle. So, sip wisely.
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