With a flavor profile that’s both tart and fruity, hibiscus tea is a great option when you’re looking for something different to sip throughout the day. But it also has a number of health benefits, taking the perks of this herbal tea far beyond taste. In fact, people in various parts of the world have been consuming hibiscus tea for its health benefits for thousands of years.
“In ancient Egypt, the tea was served cold and used primarily to cool off from the desert heat,” says Stacey Gillespie. ”It has also been used by European and African countries for hundreds of years, and its use spread to Mexico, Australia, America, and the Caribbean during the 17th and 18th centuries.”
Meet the Expert
Stacey Gillespie, B. Sc. is the brand director at Gaia Herbs. She is a product innovator with a proven track record in producing award-winning and effective health products rooted in consumer research insights and extensive knowledge of nutrition and herbal medicine.
Made by steeping dried parts of the hibiscus plant, hibiscus tea is said to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system, among many other health benefits. But keep in mind that many of the claims you see floating around surrounding the benefits of hibiscus tea are related to ingredients within the tea, not the tea itself. (Of course, you’ll always want to check with your physician before using hibiscus tea for any medical reasons, as well.)
“Most of these statements are very generalized and lack specificity to the actual tea product,” says registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller. “Also, oftentimes research on teas use a concentrated form, whereas the tea bags on the shelf may not be as strong or as concentrated.”
That said, here are some potential benefits of hibiscus tea:
1. It’s loaded with antioxidants
Hibiscus tea is a great source of antioxidants, or substances that remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents. “Antioxidants fight free radicals, which prevents cellular damage,” explains registered dietitian Erica Ingraham. These are found in the plant's anthocyanins, which are antioxidant compounds also known to support cardiovascular health. “The anthocyanins are what provides the beautiful deep, rich fuchsia color to hibiscus tea,” Gillespie says.
2. It may help lower your blood pressure
Numerous studies show that drinking hibiscus tea may lower your blood pressure; this includes both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Though hibiscus tea may be an effective alternative to medication, it’s important to speak with a doctor for guidance, especially if you suffer from any heart and blood pressure conditions, as hibiscus tea may interact with your current blood pressure medications.
3. It may boost your immune system
Hibiscus tea contains vitamin C and iron, which are known to support a strong and healthy immune system, Ingraham says.
4. It may have cancer-fighting properties
Hibiscus tea may have cancer-fighting properties due to the high amounts of polyphenols in hibiscus, research suggests. But most of the research in this area is based on hibiscus extract, not hibiscus tea, so more studies need to be conducted in order to confirm these potential benefits.
5. It may boost your liver health
Some research suggests that hibiscus extract may reduce liver damage and promote liver health, but further research is needed to determine whether the tea has similar effects.
6. It’s a great alternative to sugary beverages
Often containing zero calories, many hibiscus teas are a healthier alternative to sugary drinks. “This is great for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight and want a little flavor in their fluids,” Miller says.
8. It’s hydrating
Hibiscus teas and other types of unsweetened teas are great for people who are averse to plain water. Rather than reaching for a sugary drink, hibiscus tea is an excellent alternative to help you meet the recommended daily fluid intake. “If you like to have some fruity flavors in your beverage, adding hibiscus tea to your fluid regimen may help you drink more fluid,” Miller says.
How to incorporate hibiscus tea into your diet
Given that most hibiscus tea doesn’t contain caffeine, you can sip it anytime from morning to night without worrying about the drink keeping you up late at night or affecting your sleep quality.
Registered dietitian Vanessa Rissetto says that in order to reap the maximum benefits of hibiscus tea, you should drink it multiple times a day. This is because some of the reported benefits only exist after consuming a certain amount. For example, one study that saw a correlation between hibiscus tea and lowered blood pressure required participants to consume 450 milligrams of tea each day for six weeks.
How you brew your tea matters, too. If the tea is boiled too long, this can degrade the tea’s antioxidant compounds, Gillespie explains. She also outlined a few hibiscus tea brewing tips from Gaia Herbs:
- Use fresh, pure, and cold filtered water.
- Steep your hibiscus tea similarly to how you would steep black or herbal tea, around 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 96 degrees Celsius for at least 3-5 minutes, and keep covered while steeping to lock in the heat.
- Be mindful that hibiscus tea’s tart flavor will get stronger the longer it steeps, so you may want to taste it periodically until it reaches your desired level of tartness.