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Hibiscus tea - effects and preparation

Hibiscus tea made from the flowers of the African mallow (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is also known as Karkade, with Karkade referring to both the drink and the plant. It is refreshing in summer and warm in winter. The plant contains a lot of vitamin C and therefore the tea is very suitable for preventing colds. It also lowers blood pressure, has an antibacterial effect and helps you lose weight.

Hibiscus Tea - The Most Important Facts

  • Hibiscus tea is a tea made from the flowers of the mallow family Hibiscus sabdariffa. Other species of the genus Hibiscus can also be made into teas, but they do not have the same effect.
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa contains a lot of vitamin C and can thus prevent a cold.
  • The plant, also known as African mallow, also lowers blood pressure and has antibacterial substances.
  • Hibiscus tea helps you lose weight by stimulating your metabolism and dehydrating at the same time.
  • The tea may lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol. However, the existing studies are inconsistent.
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa supports the functions of the liver.

Hibiscus flower tea - origin and taste

Hibiscus tea is made when (mostly dried) parts of hibiscus plants are poured over with hot water. The taste is slightly sour and somewhat bitter, possibly comparable to cranberries or red currants.

Hibiscus is not a species, but a genus of mallow family that is native to the tropics and subtropics. The German name is Eibisch. Originally they probably come from Southeast Asia. This genus includes several hundred species. What we call hibiscus tea in Germany is usually a brew from the species Hibiscus sabdariffa. German names for this species are African Mallow, Karkade, Sudan-Marshmallow, Sabdariff-Marshmallow or Roselle.

The African mallow

Hibiscus sabdariffa grows up to three meters high. The flowers are about 15 centimeters long, pale yellow and have a red outer calyx. It is a perennial with a woody base and prickly shoots. As a cultivated plant for making tea, we find it today especially in Egypt and Sudan.

Hibiscus tea - ingredients and effects

The magnificent hibiscus flowers are not only visually very impressive, they also contain a variety of ingredients, ranging from various fruit acids and tannins to vitamin C.

Sugars and acids

Hibiscus is refreshing, and that's because of the sugars and certain acids it contains. The polysaccharides supposedly strengthen the immune system. Fruit acids have a laxative effect, and that probably explains why the tea helps with a diet. The intestine does not absorb the acids into the bloodstream, so water collects in the intestine.

Tanning and slimy substances in the hibiscus

Species of hibiscus contain tannins and slimy substances. These release cramps and urinate. For this reason, hibiscus tea is only suitable to a very limited extent for pregnant women, as these properties can have a negative effect on the uterus.

Antioxidants

The biochemical metabolism oxidizes the ingested food into CO2, water and the body's own substances. The products of metabolism also include free radicals. These are reactive forms of oxygen that destroy cells in excess and are so essential for cancer, rheumatism and calcified arteries. Hibiscus tea contains antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C) and can therefore counteract free radicals.

A study in rats showed that hibiscus extract increased antioxidant enzymes and reduced free radical damage by 92 percent. One problem with the results is that this was a highly concentrated hibiscus extract, not the much weaker concentrations of the active ingredients in the tea. Further research is also needed to show how the oxidants in tea affect people.

Lower blood pressure with hibiscus tea

Hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of developing heart disease if you have high blood pressure. The tea presumably lowers both the upper and the lower pressure, which is supported by at least five recent studies. For a study by Tufts University Boston, 65 people with high blood pressure had each drank the tea or a placebo. Six weeks later, those who had drunk hibiscus tea showed a clear drop in blood pressure in clear contrast to those who had taken the placebo.

The effect of hibiscus flower tea against high blood pressure is reduced by fat and sugar. That is why you should enjoy this without milk, cream or sugar if you are concerned with hypertension. In addition, African mallow does not replace the medication prescribed by a doctor. However, a doctor can decide whether or not to reduce the amount of medicine by consuming tea made from hibiscus flowers regularly over a long period of time.

Immune defense

The high proportion of vitamin C strengthens the body's immune system. However, it should not be forgotten that too much vitamin C does not bring any additional benefit. In this country, the vitamin is usually sufficiently available in a healthy mixed diet. In addition, hibiscus tea is recommended in times of flu infections - it also inhibits inflammation and has an antibacterial effect.

Improved cholesterol levels from hibiscus

The antioxidants in hibiscus affect cholesterol levels. Doctors from Taiwan around Chau-Jong Wang carried out a study on rats that they fed cholesterol-rich foods and some at the same time administered hibiscus extract. Twelve weeks later, it was found that the ratio of “good” to “bad” cholesterol in the rats that consumed the extract had changed. The HDL cholesterol levels improved, the LDL levels decreased. The antioxidants blocked the oxidation of the LDL cholesterol. This suggests that hibiscus tea can prevent heart and circulatory diseases.

However, an analysis of six different studies with 474 people found that hibiscus tea does not significantly lower cholesterol levels. However, since these are studies on individual diseases such as diabetes, comprehensive studies on the influence of hibiscus tea on cholesterol levels are still pending.

Liver functions

A twelve-week study on 19 overweight people with fatty liver disease showed that hibiscus extract reduced obesity. An animal study on hamsters suggests something similar. However, these are not valid results. Firstly, the number of participants of 19 people was far too small to make a reliable statement; secondly, the subjects consumed concentrated hibiscus extract and not the much less concentrated tea.

Prepare the hibiscus tea

In this country we usually get hibsi tea as ready-dried flowers. We take a heaping teaspoon of these per cup, put them in a tea vessel and pour boiling water over them. Now we let the infusion steep for five minutes, then we pour the liquid through a sieve and drink the tea. The infusion shouldn't take longer, otherwise it will taste bitter. It also tastes great chilled and is a good drink for the summer.

Since the tea has a slightly sour taste, it can be rounded off with honey and lime. Hibiscus goes well in fruit tea blends with rose hips and rose petals, but also with mint and lemon balm. The combination of hibiscus tea, fresh ginger and lemon is also very healthy. In the Orient and North Africa it is seasoned with cardamom and cinnamon, both of which also have medicinal properties.

A hibiscus iced tea with fresh raspberries, currants, blackberries or strawberries tastes particularly good in midsummer. The mixture of dried hibiscus flowers and elderflower soaked in hot water also gives it a wonderfully fresh taste.

The dried flowers can be soaked and used for desserts, ice cream, jelly and jam.

Grow hibiscus yourself

You can also grow African mallow yourself in Germany, in a greenhouse or in a winter garden. The seeds need loose soil and a constant germination temperature of around 22 degrees. The same goes for the germinated plants. They also need good sun exposure and regular water, but not waterlogging. When the flowers open, you can detach them and dry them. For a pot of tea, you need a good handful of the dried hibiscus flowers.

Conclusion

African mallow is particularly beneficial for health due to the phytochemicals it contains and the high content of vitamin C. However, hibiscus tea is not a substitute for prescription drugs in the case of serious illnesses, and its potential to lower harmful cholesterol or inhibit the growth of cancer cells has to be done first still to be researched systematically. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
  • Hiller, Karl; Melzig, Matthias F .: Lexicon of medicinal plants and drugs. Volume 1: A to K; Spectrum Academic Publishing Heidelberg, 2000
  • Chang, H.C .; Peng, C.H .; Yeh, D.M. et al .: Hibiscus sabdariffa extract inhibits obesity and fat accumulation, and improves liver steatosis in humans, in: Food & Function, 5 (4): 734ff., April 2014, PubMed
  • Wang, Chau ‐ Jong et al .: Inhibitory effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa L extract on low ‐ density lipoprotein oxidation and anti ‐ hyperlipidemia in fructose ‐ fed and cholesterol ‐ fed rats, in: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 84/15 : 1989-1996, December 2004, Wiley Online Library
  • Nguyen, Christopher, Baskaran, Kiruthika; Pupulin, Alaina et al .: Hibiscus flower extract selectively induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells and positively interacts with common chemotherapeutics, in: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 19:98, May 2019, PubMed
  • Hopkins, Allison L., Lamm, Marnie G .; Funk, Janet; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl: Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies, in: Fitoterapia, 85: 84-94, March 2013, PMC
  • McKay, Diane L .; Chen, C-Y. Oliver; Saltzman, Edward; Blumberg, Jeffrey B .: Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. Tea (Tisane) Lowers Blood Pressure in Prehypertensive and Mildly Hypertensive Adults, in: The Journal of Nutrition, 140/2: 298-303, February 2010, Oxford University Press

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.