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Hibiscus tea: flower power

January 8, 2012 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 51 Comments

In Friday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Better Than Green Tea? I compare the antioxidant content of a number of common beverages. This is part of a series based on the landmark study “The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide,” available full-text, free online. Previous video installments include Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods.

Most people eat only a few discrete times a day. Sipping a healthful beverage throughout the day allows you to bathe your organs in antioxidants all day long, potentially adding Nutrition Without Calories to our daily diet. Previously my family’s go-to beverage was cold-brewed matcha white tea with lemon, based on the science I covered in The Healthiest Beverage, Cold Steeping Green Tea, Is Matcha Good for You? and Green Tea vs. White. But that was before 283 different beverages were tested in this new study. I had previously covered more than a dozen herbal teas in The Healthiest Herbal Tea, but nothing prepared me for the new king of the hill, hibiscus.

When it comes to antioxidant content, hibiscus beats out green tea, but hibiscus still lacks the weight of clinical evidence. There are only a few hundred studies published on hibiscus, compared to thousands on green tea, but hibiscus does appear to have anti-inflammatory properties, help lower high blood pressure, help lower uric acid levels in gout sufferers, and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels in pre-diabetics and diabetics. Like chamomile (see Red Tea, Honeybush, & Chamomile), hibiscus tea also appears to inhibit the growth of human cancer cells in a petri dish. You know there’s something to it when the meat industry tries adding hibiscus to their burgers to make them less carcinogenic.

Rats forced to drink the human equivalent of about a 150 cups a day for three months had lowered sperm counts, but no adverse effects on humans have been reported with regular consumption. My only caution would be that like a number of fruit, vegetable, and herbal beverages, hibiscus may affect drug levels, so you should always let your prescribing physicians know what you’re taking.

In the video I offer my hibiscus punch recipe, based on “zinger” tea, but here’s an even healthier, cheaper, more environmentally friendly way (thanks Paul!)—just blender in a tablespoon of bulk hibiscus. Then it’s like my Pink Juice—or a hibiscus version of matcha tea—where you don’t miss out on any of the nutrition by throwing away the tea leaves. And instead of erythritol, you can blend in a few dates (thanks “HTWWO”!). Please play around with it and share your own favorite recipe in the comments section below.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: bterrycompton / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/walfaro/ walfaro

    In Central America, it is a popular beverage. Recipe as follows:
    Ingredients:
    A handful of hibiscus flowers
    Gallon of water
    Two cinnamon sticks
    Preparation:
    Bring the water to boil with the cinnamon sticks and separate from heat. Add the flowers and let it cool.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      OK, that sounds delicious! Can’t wait to try it–thank you for sharing.

      • Art

        hibiscus makes a delicious soda as well… make a strong tea first (i use 4 cups water and a cup of dried hibiscus).. strain, then add to heat and dissolve equal amount of cane sugar.. to make soda, pour 1 to 2 oz over ice, add carbonated water

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

      Thanks for the info. Off course you know this means I’ll be making major plans of planting hibiscus :-)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/dsikes/ DSikes

    My daily tea (now) = 1 bag of berry zinger (hibsicus etc), organic green tea leaves, whole, & 1 bag brocco-sprout green tea (made by http://www.broccosprouts.com and some lemon juice. I’m looking for a good source of white tea to replace the green though. I use 1 C hot water to steep then mix up to 1 Liter with cold water for a diluted daily drink.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/dsikes/ DSikes

      This is the direct link to the Brassica Tea http://www.brassicatea.com/

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

        Thanks for the link DSIkes. I’m always a bit skeptical about phytonutrient extracts. Just like green tea extract can be harmful (can anyone find the video I did about that? I lost track!), I’d prefer people eat the sprouts or broccoli itself to get their sulphurophane. Otherwise the drink looks great!

        • Bannone2

          I know it’s not recommended in Pregnancy but am finding it very hard to find any evidence as to why? Why would it be an issue if you took it in late pregnancy eg: from 34 weeks. I only ask as it’s very hard to find any herbal teas without it in there in some concentration or another.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/KarenLaVine/ Karen LaVine

    Here’s a link to your video about the harm that green tea extract caused:
    http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/the-healthiest-beverage/

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Thanks Karen!

  • Pingback: Hibiscus Tea: Better Than Green Tea? « Manu's Alternative Medicine Blog

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/hclear/ hclear

    I’m 10 weeks pregnant. Is hibiscus safe during pregnancy? I tried looking this up with a google search, and got totally conflicting opinions. Do you have some facts?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Hibiscus is not safe during pregnancy–in fact it is even being studied as an abortifacient. Herbs, supplements, and medications are guilty until proven innocent when it comes to pregnancy.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/ddick6510/ ddick6510

    A very common drink in central Mexico. It’s called agua de jamaica. Steep a cup and 1/3 of dried hibiscus flowers (flor de jamaica) with about 2 inches of peeled and thinly sliced ginger in 3 cups of boiled water for a couple of hours. Stain the liquid from the solids. Add sweetener of choice to taste, mixing well. Then add another 8 cups of cold water. Keep refrigerated and serve whenever. We live in central Mexico 6 months of the year and this drink can be found in most eating establishment, both large and small.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dwoodwoo Dennis Woo

     Dr. Greger, thank you very much for the always informative info on your site and videos.  One thing though:  I’ve downloaded the report of 3,193 antioxidants and I’m trying to find the exact reference to hibiscus tea.  I can’t find it.  Can you provide the precise page so I can look at the original reference?  I’ve added amla powder to my morning green smoothie based on your recommendation, by the way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

      Ok thanks to you I’m going to have to look up alma powder :-)

      • Merio

        I’m practising kung fu for two years and the term had many meanings, but essentially it means “time and sweat”… because you need “time” and “sweat” to learn a particular exercise, or using a weapon… maybe even the term “study” is correct but reflect a high level on concentration and skill… it’s difficult to translate this term… if you look on wikipedia the relative page, you should frame the issue… anyway even your translation in not incorrect… :-)

    • Dr. Mitch

      I’m having this same problem

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hermes-Mercury/100003094974079 Hermes Mercury

    In the same line as Dennis Woo’s message, I too am having trouble finding the information of hibiscus antioxidants of all beverages. I have looked through the full antioxidant food table document by Carlsen et al., 2010 (
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/supplementary/1475-2891-9-3-S1.PDF; pages 17-19), and although I have found Flor de Jamaica (which according to wikipedia is another name for hibiscus tea; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibiscus_tea), the Flor de Jamaica prepare tea has 6.99 mmol/100g of antioxidant content. Hibiscus tea / Flor de Jamaica, in comparison to other other teas, such as combe tea, dried (57.57 mmol/100g of antioxidant content), green tea, (pink) powder (1347.83 mmol/100g of antioxidant content), and instant tea, dry powder, unsweetened (165.86 mmol/100g of antioxidant content), has a much lower content of antioxidants it appears. 

    Perhaps I misunderstood something, but it would be great to get some help explaining this confusion.

    I got excited about hearing that hibiscus tea has such high levels of antioxidants, and so I went to read a bit about it on wikipedia and it said nothing about its high content of antioxidants. Hence, I was in the process of editing the wikipedia page (I’ve never done this before but felt that such information should be known), until I couldn’t find the information from the original source, thus demystification would be appreciated!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Note this is per unit weight. So a serving of prepared tea weighs 245 grams, but a serving of tea powder is 0.7 grams, a 350 fold difference!

  • Phoebe

    Although I had been drinking hibiscus tea these days, I didn’t know it has a lot of benefits. Thanks for sharing, Michael! :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcel-Vincent/100003146209508 Marcel Vincent

       Can anyone show me where Hibiscus Tea is in that long list of 3100 foods/drinks? I can’t find it under any name, thanks!

  • Pingback: Hibiscus Tea – Health Benefits | Business44.Com – Business Site | Health Clubs - healthylifestylereview.info

  • Justin

    The Hibiscus or Flor de Jamaica can be found at the bottom of page 17 of 138 in the Antioxidant Food Table pdf.

    It’s level is 6.99mmol/100g which is actually low compared to many other beverages on offer. For example fresh tea leaves have 26.55mmol/100g!

    Why then, do you rate it so highly Michael?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

       leaves are lighter than tea! Be sure to note whether they’re talking about 100g of prepared tea or 100g of the leaves themselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=787185808 Christophe Rousselot
  • Danamarie Razzano

    I’m here in Grenada going to Medical School and they have a Christmas Drink here called Sorrel using a flower related to the hibiscus. It’s wonderful and the recipe is similar to the one posted below, but they add in addition to the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, fresh ginger, cardamom, and even a little nutmeg. They serve it cold, but it is nice hot as well. Thanks for the video!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Sounds delicious!

      • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

        It is delicious! Not sure if you can get “gracekennedy ” or “tru juice “products in your neck of the woods , but they have sorrel drinks , capitalizing on the health news surrounding it . Of course nothing beats homemade, unless we’re talking about those elements inside the aloe Vera which are better extracted via processing for fear of carcinogenic content ? ( another big topic re recent research on why aloe Vera may be bad for you)

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

      that’s similar to how we prepare sorrel ( L. hibiscus Sabdariffa ) in Jamaica too , except its super tasty when you also blend the petals and not just “draw” the essence of it like in teas. it would be interesting if a study were done to compare the nutrition content in the tea vs the drink , ie plus or minus what may be lost or not due to the heat .

  • Gwynneth

    I like to add Hemp Milk to my Hibiscus flavored Green Tea. Will this impact the nutritional value of my beverage? Thank You!

  • Tony

    Hibiscus tea is a good all round tea for helping with many ailments. I drink it a least twice a day and it keeps me in shape!

    http://www.hibiscusteabenefits1.com

  • karen

    Cut up a few lemons squeeze into a jug of water then put the cut up lemons in the water too. Add splenda to taste put in two or three dried hibicus tea flowers and put in frig. Makes the best lemonaide and so good for you. Great on a hot day. Lemons also fight cancer.

  • karen

    Hibicus tea is also very good for your liver.

  • Merio

    Does anyone know if hibiscus tea loses its antioxidant power if heated? For example if i prepare my tea using hot water(near 90 °C) it will lose its beneficial properties?

    • jj

      I was wondering the same thing. I couldn’t find anything specific about heating it being bad, but it seems like cold brewing (as long as it’s done long enough), can extract the same quantity of antioxidants as hot brewing. See final paragraph:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/dining/cold-brewing-coffee-and-tea-the-curious-cook.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      • Merio

        Interesting… i think you’re right… this summer i drank a lot of hibiscus tea cold brewed… it was really good…

      • Marie

        There is a video on this site about the antioxidant value of hibiscus tea being much greater if brewed in cold(er) water. On the video Dr. Greger mentions he now ‘brews’ his hibiscus tea mix in the fridge and sips on it all day cold. Just search this site for hibiscus tea and Im sure you’ll find it. If not search brewing hibiscus tea cold and antioxidant level both here on the internet in general and you’ll find the info. Cheers!

      • Marie

        BTW thanks for the NYT link on the topic. Always like to have more multiple sources of info.

  • Bean

    Hi Dr. Greger! I checked the “landmark” study you linked to and hibiscus isn’t mentioned at all, FYI.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      It’s “Flor de Jamaica”

      • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

        Do you have any studies on its cousin which is also popular in Jamaica : Hibiscus ? (Aka Sorrel. The scientific research council of Jamaica (SRCJ I think) and the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) have discovered anti carcinogenic properties in extracts from the seeds. Sorrel is a popular red drink especially at Christmas time in Jamaica :-)

      • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

        * hibiscus Sabdariffa

      • http://www.facebook.com/ryanseaton Ryan 船 Seaton

        Do you have any studies on its cousin — Hibiscus Sabdariffa– which is also popular in Jamaica? (Aka Sorrel. The scientific research council of Jamaica (SRCJ I think) and the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) have discovered anti carcinogenic properties in extracts from the seeds. Sorrel is a popular red drink especially at Christmas time in Jamaica :-) if you haven’t tasted it, your missing out. It’s especially nice when the petals of the flower are blended and not just “drawn” (soaked) . Wonder what the comparison is for antioxidant content midst th others :-)

  • Flaure

    I am a teal lover and haven’t tried hibiscus tea just yet, but I heard that it has many health benefits including, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, improving your mood…just to name a few. You can check out the article at: http://health-and-beauty-nut.com/2013/07/hibiscus-tea-health-benefits/

  • Mike

    I use hibiscus cut and sifted flowers, thinking not only are they much cheaper, but they should have more–or at least the same nutritional value.
    Also, does one have to add them to hot water ? I use the flowers in my smoothies, or grind em up with my flaxseeds in a coffee grinder, and put em over my breakfast, whether
    it be fruit or oatmeal–does it supply the same nutrition than if i added to boiling water?

  • livewell

    I purchase this hibiscus tea (below) and then powder it as I need it (if you buy the already powdered version – then as soon as they powder it it will begin to oxidize. Buying the whole plant and then powdering it as needed yourself, is fresher. Also, buying it dehydrated reduces chances of mold.) I put it into a glass bottle of course, and cold brew it overnight. I don’t filter the ground hibsicus flower – I just add it ground into the cold water and drink it all.
    https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkherb/h.php#h_h_hib_w Hibiscus Flowers, whole

    To this I add some organic Amla for even more antioxidant power (See Dr. Greger’s video on Amla/Fruits highest in antioxidants) and to sweeten it – (again, I buy the whole plant and powder it)-

    1 lb Amla Whole
    https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/search/search.php?refine=y&keywords=amla&x=0&y=0

    Finally I add a high quality organic sulfur powder, which research shows is healing on many levels, and missing from modern day foods.

    Regards,
    John Murray

  • bruxe

    There is so much in the news today about supplements being not what they say they are or actually bad or completely missing. How can one find a good supply of hibiscus. What part of the hibiscus do we need to get, and how do we know if it is good or not? I got some hibiscus tea in bottles … $2.50 a pop (no pun intended), but I have no idea if it really has hibiscus in it, or how much.

    I also got some matcha tea … relatively expensive … like $20 for a 5.5 ounce jar at Whole Foods. Is there some less expensive way to get green tea into one’s diet. Why are all these things so darned expensive? Thanks for the videos, and the scientific rigor … no other place to really get this in a mass popular format, at least that I trust!

  • Guest

    I know it’s not recommended in Pregnancy but am finding it very hard to find any evidence as to why? Why would it be an issue if you took it in late pregnancy eg: from 34 weeks

  • Sheryl

    Now you can buy Essence Water with 66 MG of Hibiscus in every Liter! http://www.essencewaterinc.com – thank you Dr. Greger for this article!

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