6 Medicinal Properties of Hibiscus
Hibiscus, in the form of a delicious tea and as an ancient medicinal therapy extracted from various parts of the plant, is a powerful booster for your health.
Healthy benefits of adding hibiscus to your medicinal and nutritional choices include balancing lipid profiles for both types of diabetes, reducing obesity and tummy fat, lowering blood pressure, attacking inflammation, decreasing oxidative stress and reversing metabolic syndrome. The forms of hibiscus range from tea and syrups to extracts and oils.
1. Helps Diabetes
In a Type 1 diabetes-induced rat model, hibiscus extract of 1.75 grams per kilograms by weight was used as treatment — decreasing degeneration and necrotic changes found in pancreatic cells, showing the antidiabetic mechanism of hibiscus.[i]
Data from an alloxan-induced Type 1 diabetic rat study demonstrated that hibiscus extract possesses strong hypolipidemic as well as antioxidant properties and could prevent atherosclerosis and related cardiovascular pathologies associated with Type 1 diabetes.[ii]
In a trial of 60 Type 2 diabetes patients, participants consumed either hibiscus tea or black tea two times a day for one month. Those in the hibiscus tea group increased their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and significantly decreased total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)cholesterol, triglycerides and apolipoprotein B (Apo-B100) deficiency (overall positive effects on their blood lipid profile) compared to the control group.[iii]
2. Reduces Obesity and Abdominal Fat
Subjects with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or greater between the ages of 18 and 65 years were randomly divided into 17 control and 19 hibiscus extract treated groups for 12 weeks.
Consumption of the hibiscus extract reduced obesity, abdominal fat and serum free fatty acid, improved liver steatosis and could help to prevent obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.[iv] Both hibiscus and lemon verbena extracts were used with 54 overweight subjects and effectively helped to manage their weight as measured by energy expenditure, appetite control and lipid profile.[v]
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Five studies with 390 participants were meta-analyzed for effects of hibiscus supplements with significant results for lowering both systolic blood pressure (by an average of nearly eight millimeters of mercury (mmHg)) and diastolic blood pressure (by four mmHg).[vi]
A total of 46 stage 1 high blood pressure (systolic from 130 to 139; diastolic from 80 to 89) patients participated in a control study given lifestyle and dietary advice while the treatment group added two cups of hibiscus tea every morning for a month. Both the control and treatment groups reduced systolic blood pressure but the mean reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure was significantly higher in the group drinking hibiscus tea.[vii]
A total of 80 subjects with stage 1 high blood pressure of both sexes were studied and treated either with placebo or a hibiscus extract over 84 days. The results showed the hibiscus extract significantly reduced the daytime systolic blood pressure and variation throughout the day compared to the control group.[viii]
4. Fights Inflammation
Hibiscus has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In an in vitro study, hibiscus was found to decrease the inflammasome (which puts into motion inflammatory responses to infections and cell damage) nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich-containing family, pyrin domain-containing-3 (NLRP3). NLRP3 is associated with several human disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and autoimmune encephalitis[ix] and the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, infectious cardiac diseases and heart failure.[x]
In a review of research articles on hibiscus and chronic diseases, scientific evidence shows the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms by which hibiscus improves high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.[xi]
5. Reduces Oxidative Stress
An extensive research review shows hibiscus is effective in curing various degenerative diseases like high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, cancer and other inflammatory liver and kidney diseases.
Most studies supported the scientific evidence that hibiscus can help prevent chronic and degenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral slerosis (ALS), and cancers.[xii],[xiii] These diseases are characterized by extensive oxidative damage to lipids, proteins and DNA.[xiv]
A review of in vitro and in vivo studies on hibiscus showed the significant therapeutic properties of the extracts and phytochemicals derived from hibiscus sabdariffa as antimicrobial, anti-parasitic and anticancer agents without the undesirable side effects, toxicity and drug resistance of current treatments.[xv]
Cell cycle regulation is an important issue in cancer therapy and hibiscus extract arrested cell cycle activity in human leukemia cell lines, indicating that this compound could be a promising anticancer agent.[xvi]
6. Reverses Metabolic Syndrome
Insulin resistance, obesity, high blood pressure and imbalanced lipids are strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, which is considered to be a reversible clinical stage before its evolution to coronary heart disease and diabetes. A total daily dose of 100 milligrams (mg) of hibiscus extract powder was orally administered in capsules for one month and compared with a cholesterol balancing diet.
The metabolic syndrome patients treated with hibiscus extract had significantly reduced glucose and total cholesterol levels, increased HDL cholesterol (HDL-c) levels, and an improved TAG/HDL-c ratio, a marker of insulin resistance. Additionally, a triglyceride-lowering effect was observed in metabolic syndrome patients treated with hibiscus plus diet and in individuals without metabolic syndrome treated with hibiscus alone.[xvii]
Forms of Hibiscus
Hibiscus comes in the form of dried flowers, powder, tea or extract capsules (250 to 400 mg doses) as well as oil. The dried flowers or powders (1.5 teaspoons) can be steeped in 3/4 cup of hot water to make tea but should be USDA organic and limited to three times a day.[xviii] Further boiling reduces the tea to a syrup.
The hibiscus plant can be used as a natural colorant for food and capsule extracts from dried flowers show bioactive compounds that are antioxidant, antimicrobial, lipid peroxidation inhibitors, antibacterial and antifungal.[xix]
Anthocyanins from the petals of the hibiscus plant are believed to stop inflammatory processes in the body.[xx] A study of rats showed hibiscus, in the form of the oil extracted from the roselle seed, balanced lipids and cholesterol[xxi] and served as a good source of lipid-soluble antioxidants.[xxii]
From in vivo and in vitro studies, the leaf extract of hibiscus exhibited more potency on hair growth compared to the flower extract.[xxiii] Hibiscus’ bright red calyces are nutrient dense and used in jams and juices for coloring and its leaves and young shoots are fiber-rich superfoods that can be used in cooking, such as in curries, soups, stews and stir-fries, or eaten raw in salads, offering many nutritional benefits.[xxiv]
Strong Health Protections of Hibiscus
Enjoy hibiscus’ medicinal properties as antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, lipid and cholesterol balancers and antibacterial — by consuming its flavorful tea or adding other parts of the flowering plant such as leaves, calyces and seed oils to your healthy habits. Using hibiscus as a therapy may also help to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular and degenerative chronic diseases.
*WARNING: Always consult a medical herbalist or your health care practitioner when using both natural and pharmaceutical medicines for any diagnosed condition. This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be used as medical advice.
[i] D O Adeyemi, O S Adewole. Hibiscus sabdariffa renews pancreaticβ-cells in experimental type 1 diabetic model rats. Morphologie. 2019 Jun ;103(341 Pt 2):80-93. Epub 2019 May 15. PMID: 31101500
[ii] E O Farombi, O O Ige. Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of ethanolic extract from dried calyx of Hibiscus sabdariffa in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2009 Jun 1;237(2):146-53. Epub 2009 Mar 28. PMID: 18034661
[iii] Hassan Mozaffari-Khosravi, Beman-Ali Jalali-Khanabadi, Mohammad Afkhami-Ardekani, Farhad Fatehi. Effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoproteins in patients with type II diabetes. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):899-903. PMID: 19678781
[iv] Hong-Chou Chang, Chiung-Huei Peng, Da-Ming Yeh, Erl-Shyh Kao, Chau-Jong Wang. Hibiscus sabdariffa extract inhibits obesity and fat accumulation, and improves liver steatosis in humans. Food Funct. 2014 Apr ;5(4):734-9. Epub 2014 Feb 19. PMID: 24549255
[v] Marina Boix-Castejón, María Herranz-López, Alberto Pérez Gago, Mariló Olivares-Vicente, Nuria Caturla, Enrique Roche, Vicente Micol. Hibiscus and lemon verbena polyphenols modulate appetite-related biomarkers in overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Food Funct. 2018 Jun 20 ;9(6):3173-3184. PMID: 29862395
[vi] Serban, Corinaa; Sahebkar, Amirhosseinb, C.; Ursoniu, Sorind; Andrica, Florinae; Banach, Maciejf. Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on arterial hypertension, Journal of Hypertension: June 2015, 33(6), 1119-1127. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000000585. PMID: 25875025
[vii] Majid Jalalyazdi, Javad Ramezani, Azadeh Izadi-Moud, Fereshteh Madani-Sani, Shokufeh Shahlaei, Shirin Sadat Ghiasi. Effect of hibiscus sabdariffa on blood pressure in patients with stage 1 hypertension. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2019 Jul-Sep;10(3):107-111. PMID: 31334091
[viii] Javier Marhuenda, Silvia Pérez-Piñero, Raúl Arcusa, Desirée Victoria-Montesinos, Fernando Cánovas, Maravillas Sánchez-Macarro, Ana María García-Muñoz, María Querol-Calderón, Francisco Javier López-Román. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial to Determine the Effectiveness of a Polyphenolic Extract (and) for Reducing Blood Pressure in Prehypertensive and Type 1 Hypertensive Subjects. Molecules. 2021 Mar 22 ;26(6). Epub 2021 Mar 22. PMID: 33810049
[ix] Mangan MSJ, Olhava EJ, Roush WR, Seidel HM, Glick GD, Latz E. Targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome in inflammatory diseases. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2018 Aug;17(8):588-606. doi: 10.1038/nrd.2018.97. Epub 2018 Jul 20. Erratum in: Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2018 Sep;17(9):688. PMID: 30026524.
[x] Wang Z, Hu W, Lu C, Ma Z, Jiang S, Gu C, Acuña-Castroviejo D, Yang Y. Targeting NLRP3 (Nucleotide-Binding Domain, Leucine-Rich-Containing Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing-3) Inflammasome in Cardiovascular Disorders. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2018 Dec;38(12):2765-2779. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.118.311916. PMID: 30571177.
[xi] Amylee Amos, Bashar Khiatah. Mechanisms of Action of Nutritionally Rich Therapeutic Uses in Major Common Chronic Diseases: A Literature Review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2021 Jan 28:1-8. Epub 2021 Jan 28. PMID: 33507846
[xii] Ghazala Riaz, Rajni Chopra. A review on phytochemistry and therapeutic uses of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Mar 26 ;102:575-586. Epub 2018 Mar 26. PMID: 29597091
[xiii] Liguori I, Russo G, Curcio F, Bulli G, Aran L, Della-Morte D, Gargiulo G, Testa G, Cacciatore F, Bonaduce D, Abete P. Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases. Clin Interv Aging. 2018 Apr 26;13:757-772. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S158513. PMID: 29731617; PMCID: PMC5927356.
[xv] Sherif T S Hassan, Kateřina Berchová, Miroslava Šudomová. Antimicrobial, antiparasitic and anticancer properties of Hibiscus sabdariffa (L.) and its phytochemicals: in vitro and in vivo studies. Ceska Slov Farm. 2016 ;65(1):10-14. PMID: 27118499
[xvi] Tsung-Chang Tsai, Hui-Pei Huang, Kai-Ting Chang, Chau-Jong Wang, Yun-Ching Chang. Anthocyanins from roselle extract arrest cell cycle G2/M phase transition via ATM/Chk pathway in p53-deficient leukemia HL-60 cells. Environ Toxicol. 2017 Apr ;32(4):1290-1304. Epub 2016 Jul 22. PMID: 27444805
[xvii] C M Gurrola-Díaz, P M García-López, S Sánchez-Enríquez, R Troyo-Sanromán, I Andrade-González, J F Gómez-Leyva. Effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa extract powder and preventive treatment (diet) on the lipid profiles of patients with metabolic syndrome (MeSy). Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2008 Nov;295(5):G1092-103. Epub 2008 Sep 25. PMID: 19962289
[xviii] Very Well Health.com. Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea. https://www.verywellhealth.com/health-benefits-of-hibiscus-tea-89620
[xix] Jabeur I, Pereira E, Barros L, Calhelha RC, Soković M, Oliveira MBPP, Ferreira ICFR. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. as a source of nutrients, bioactive compounds and colouring agents. Food Res Int. 2017 Oct;100(Pt 1):717-723. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2017.07.073. Epub 2017 Aug 2. PMID: 28873741.
[xx] Molagoda IMN, Lee KT, Choi YH, Jayasingha JACC, Kim GY. Anthocyanins from Hibiscus syriacus L. Inhibit NLRP3 Inflammasome in BV2 Microglia Cells by Alleviating NF-κB- and ER Stress-Induced Ca2+ Accumulation and Mitochondrial ROS Production. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2021 Feb 4;2021:1246491. doi: 10.1155/2021/1246491. PMID: 33613822; PMCID: PMC7878077.
[xxi] Rehab F M Ali, Ayman M El-Anany. Hypolipidemic and Hypocholesterolemic Effect of Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) Seeds Oil in Experimental Male Rats. J Oleo Sci. 2017 ;66(1):41-49. PMID: 28049927
[xxii] Mohamed R, Fernández J, Pineda M, Aguilar M. Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) seed oil is a rich source of gamma-tocopherol. J Food Sci. 2007 Apr;72(3):S207-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00285.x. PMID: 17995816.
[xxiii] N Adhirajan, T Ravi Kumar, N Shanmugasundaram, Mary Babu. In vivo and in vitro evaluation of hair growth potential of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Oct;88(2-3):235-9. PMID: 12963149
[xxiv] The Star.com. Lifestyle. Food. Features. Roselle Makes You Feel Blooming Marvellous. https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/food/features/2015/04/12/roselle-makes-you-feel-blooming-marvellous
Dr. Diane Fulton is Emeritus Professor at Clayton State University. She holds Ph.D./MBA in Business (University of Tennessee – Knoxville) and B.S. with Math/Secondary Education majors (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee). During her 45-year career as administrator/professor teaching research and business, she authored 10 books, over 50 articles, and is now writing children’s books about the body, mindfulness and cross-cultural awareness. Her passion is to share her knowledge to integrate a healthy body, mind and soul. To reach her: Clayton University’s Emeritus Professors Diane Fulton LINKED IN or Diane Fulton FACEBOOK.
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