Can hibiscus tea cause coughing?

An FYI. My mother used to take Lasinopril (sp?) for high blood pressure. It gave her a terrible dry cough and she quit taking it. Then I read hibiscus tea was good for high blood pressure and bought her tea where hibiscus was the 2nd ingredient. Then one day I found one where it was all hibiscus tea and bought that. It made her dry cough come back (so the active ingredient in lasinopril must come from hibiscus). Anyway, if you develop an unknown cough, it could be from the hibiscus tea.

cbetter / Originally posted on Better than green tea?


The mechanism of action for the blood pressure lowering effect of hibiscus tea does appear to be the same (at least in part) as that very drug. Both hibiscus and lisinopril act to inhibit an enzyme called ACE.

When our kidneys detect a drop in blood pressure they release an enzyme called renin into our bloodstream which converts a protein secreted by our liver into something called angiotensin-I which in our lungs is converted into angiotensin-II by our angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). That angiotensin II then acts to constrict our arteries and boost our blood pressure–isn’t our body neat?

Anyway, lisinopril (and the anthocyanin phytonutrients that so brilliantly color hibiscus flowers) inhibits ACE, preventing the formation of angiotensin II and subsequent rise in blood pressure. But that’s not all ACE does; it also degrades bradykinins, which can increase cough reflex sensitivity. So that’s the reason ACE inhibiting drugs may cause coughing in up to a third of users and it makes sense that hibiscus could cause a similar reaction. Plants can be powerful! (check out my video Power Plants). So there’s definitely science to back up your intuition cbetter–thanks so much for sharing (and letting me geek out on physiology :).  If she develops a chronic cough on hibiscus, she should stop drinking it.

I talk about a diet-based approach to curing hypertension in my 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: punctuated / Flickr

  • disqus_eyOsMyGVRp

    Thank you Dr. Greger. I have end stage COPD. I went on a plant base diet 1 month ago. Today, I am able to walk around my home. This is huge for me. I have basically been confined to bed for 2 years. I have been amazed as to how long I am able to stand, and move around. There really is something to this plant based program. I am still creating a complete program of cooking interesting foods. I have been able to stay on the program, so far. Saw your article and decided to give it a try. My pulmonary Dr is with UNC Health Care, Chapel Hill, NC. His name is Dr. James Donohue, he knew of work being done, and some of the studies. I can’t wait to share all this with him. He is a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and a member of the American Thoracic Society, and the European Respiratory Society. He is a reviewer and writer for several journals including the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine, the Southern Medicine Journal, Chest, and the Journal of Respiratory Disease, AnIn addition, Dr Donohue served as a writer and reviewer for the Medical Knowledge Self-Assessment Program in subspecialty of Pulmonary and Critical Medicine for the American Thoracic Society and the Aerican College of Chest Physicians. This teaching and research interest include Sarcoid, Interstitial Lung Diseases, COPD, Alpha-1 Antitry Deficiency, Asthma. I have been very lucky to have his as a Dr. and I can wait to share all I have been doing, in addition to him seeing me able to walk, stand, and talk without oxygen. To me it is totally amazing. I am hoping to brillant Dr.s may someday talk and share the benefits of a plant based diet for others who are suffering and dying from COPD. Joan, Sanford, NC

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story and please never hesitate to contact me if there is ever anything else I can do for you.

    • Peter K.

      I am a COPD suffer too. Can you share your diet plan here ? Thanks.

  • This is why nutritional science needs to be taught in schools; From an early age.

  • Susan

    Should people on Lisinopril limit their hibiscus tea intake?

  • Diana B

    I take Lisinopril, am part of the 1/3 that seems subject to coughing episodes (only occasionally). Can I substitute the hibiscus tea to be my ACE inhibitor and forget the Lisinopril?
    Thanks so much for this site. Terrific info, am passing it on as often as possible.

  • gerard

    How does one reduces pain from “Shingles”. My aunt is 91 years of age and suffers from “shingles”. Thanks for any advice. Gerard

  • Mark Biddy

    i drank. i coughed. now i know why. thanks.

  • Mary Lynn

    is the coughing on hibiscus tea an issue other than annoyance?

    • Coen

      I heard that coughing might be suppressed by eating dark chocolate, supposedly because it contains bromelaine. Don’t know if there is any science to back it up though.

  • CBScott

    What are the health Benefits of Taking Diatomaceous Earth and Activated Charcoal