Doctor's Note

For more on the effects of hibiscus on blood pressure, see the previous video,
Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension.

Are there other potential downsides to tea drinking? That’s the topic of my next two videos, Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea? and How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?

For more on avoiding drug side-effects by choosing more natural treatments can be found in videos like:

For more on diet and oral health, see:

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  • Jane’s Addiction

    Does this video contradict the video that recommends using green tea as a mouthwash? That is, if green tea’s even slightly acidic, then it shouldn’t be used as mouthwash. Also, why is the recommendation given in this video to swish water after drinking hibiscus rather than swishing green tea, given that green tea has such a beneficial effect on oral health?

    • guest

      Maybe just a stereotype but I’ve seen some dark-toothed heavy tea drinkers.

      • Noeb49

        I probably drink at least 48 oz of black tea daily and I always use a straw. My teeth are pearly white. Of course, I do have very good oral hygiene to help keep them that way.

    • Green tea is not acidic (unless you add lemon) and so it can be used as a mouthwash and rinse.

      • Jane’s Addiction

        Thank you Dr. G! I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my question.

      • Roo V

        How about aluminum content in tea? Others have raised concerns of this.

        • Your helathy diet appears to have given you psychic powers–that’s my next video!

          • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

            Clean diet, clear mind.

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            That is what I hoped with regard to some disorders of the mind I suffer, but it just isn’t happening for me.
            Yes big gains more lucid but also more unstable. After seeing such wonderful effects I’m having a hard time coping with issues of the mind for which I find almost no answers here. I eat my apples and ginger, fiber, natto and near zero animal fats so I’m cleaning up from inside and this will help and does help. But it far from perfect. I hunger for research pointers concerning the brain.

      • Roo V

        And I am referring to green tea and black tea, not hibiscus, as far as elevate aluminum levels.

  • Plantstrongcoc M.D.

    “Consumer demands for healthier meat” – The only healthy meat I know of, is the meat you leave on the cow….

  • guest

    Certain grains cause me tooth pain. When I eliminate grains tooth pain no more! Still able to be vegan
    without grains.

    • Joevegan

      So; No Pain No Grain.

  • Olivia

    I was wondering where I could get hibiscus tea, and I thought I had to buy it from a specialty store or online. It’s great to know I can buy those commonly sold brands that have it. Thanks for sharing this info!

    • Jane’s Addiction

      I get pure hibiscus tea from my local grocery store (not a health food store, a big corporate grocery store). They sell hibiscus tea in the Latin American foods section.

    • X-tine Goodreau

      Your most economical choice is to purchase a bulk bag; the tea will last a long time. iHerb.com carries a 1-lb. bag of loose Hibiscus tea for ~$14. Can’t beat that. Just add a couple scoops of tea to a pitcher filled with water and stick in fridge. You will have delicious, chilled Hibiscus Tea in just a few hours.

      • acquitter

        Actually, the best deals I have found is at Mexican grocery stores in my area (Santa Barbara, CA.) It is in the bulk foods section with the many varieties of dried peppers, and the bin is labeled “Jamaica.” Locally it is about $5.99 per pound, but I’ve also bought it in Los Angeles for $4.99 / pound.

      • Olivia

        Thanks so much, sounds like a good deal. I’ll definitely check it out! :)

  • Joe Rickerson

    I sip red zinger ice tea all day long. Is there a way to neutralize the acidity without neutralizing the beneficial effects of the hibiscus contents?

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Added mashed red cabbage? ^^ :)

  • MaximF

    Like Joe Rickerson, I drink hibiscus water throughout the day. (I just drop a spoonful of loose hibiscus flowers into my water bottles.) If I understand the research correctly, this is a bad idea, unless I remember to rinse my mouth with pure water every time I take a sip of hibiscus tea. Or am I wrong?

  • nonyabizzz

    Well, my enamel is pretty well gone already. Dentist has no idea why.

  • martha

    put baking soda in the water and rinse your mouth—also recommended after a drink with apple cider vinegar.

    Directions for Use:
    • Rinse for 45s-1min and spit
    • Rinse immediately following acidic or highly sugary meals/snacks (if you brush after meals do this first). If you brush with an acidic ph, you will damage the the tooth structure.

    Ingredients:
    • 8 ounces Tap Water
    • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 20 drops Peppermint Oil (or another essential oil to taste – Peppermint works best)

  • I keep a tiny spoon handy to add baking soda to all of our acidic foods like canned tomato products. When cooking, even a matchhead sized hit can bring pH up to safe levels. With a little practice you can titrate pH and still have a bit of tang to suit your tastes. I would think the same goes for tea. Be aware that baking soda adds sodium.

  • Mike Quinoa

    I love Granny Smith apples this time of year. The hard, sour ones have a darker green skin with white flecking, and light green flesh. I’m quite sure that my teeth are not as “enameloured” of them as I am.

  • Miguel

    I’m told by my dentist I need a root canal but I am very skeptical about the procedure. I find that several sources have been saying that root canal is linked to cancer, arthritis & other diseases (root canal cover up). Do you have any knowledge on tooth root canals?

  • teeth

    What about mixing hibiscus tea with green tea. would this counter the negative effects?

  • Tom Lang

    Another option is to add some xylitol to the hibiscus tea. Xylitol is a natural “sugar”; the organic version is derived from birch trees rather than GMO corn cobs. The xylitol not only sweetens the tea, it also raises the pH so that the tea will no longer dissolve the enamel off your teeth. On top of that, unlike almost every other natural sugar or sweetener, xylitol actually improves your dental health because it helps get rid of the bacteria (S. mutans) that cause tooth decay. Xylitol has been used for over 60 years in Finland and they have dramatically reduced tooth decay because of it. It’s also very popular in Japan. Instead of buying expensive xylitol mints or gum I buy it in bulk in a one pound bag from my local pharmacy and one pound lasts me for months. Tastes great and safe for diabetics too due to its very low GI. Can be hard to find so ask your supermarket to order it. Our local (WA state) natural foods store sells it in a bulk bin which is way cheaper than other stores that sell it pre-packaged.

    • guest

      Tom, thank you for this tip. Using a straw could have its own problems. Straws are cheap, meaning they’re made of cheap plastic, most likely to contain BP-A. When a straw is in a very hot liquid for 15-20 mins, the chances are BP-A leaches into the tea. One or two cups a day everyday could mean a lot of BP-A consumption – another way to get man’s boobs. I’m wondering if you have checked the pH of hibiscus tea with and without xylitol.

      • Tom Lang

        I could not find any data as to the pH of xylitol but it is alkaline and helps to raise saliva pH within minutes. Below is a link to one study showing how it raised pH in childrens saliva. My understanding is that if your saliva is at pH of 5.5 or lower your tooth enamel begins to erode. Looks like within 15 minutes xylitol will help raise your saliva pH. At home I gently rub xylitol onto my gums and teeth right after drinking anything acidic as the pure xylitol tastes sweet and very quickly raises my oral pH. http://www.jisppd.com/article.asp?issn=0970-4388;year=2013;volume=31;issue=4;spage=240;epage=244;aulast=Kumar

      • Ben

        I have two glass straws but have never used them with hibiscus tea. I am going to try it.

        • Thea

          Interesting. I’ve never heard of a glass straw. Do you worry about it cracking/breaking?

          • b00mer

            I have several glass straws from a company called Glass Dharma. They can break, but not easily. They’re the pyrex of straws. I had four of them for several years, and finally broke a couple by dropping them on the floor. Finally took them up on their lifetime guarantee – I emailed them and promptly received a promo code for two new free straws.

          • Thea

            b00mer: re: Lifetime guarantee: Wow. That’s standing by their product.

            Thanks for sharing. I’m not usually into straws, but I like the idea of a glass straw. I might look into that. I was trying to figure out how you would realistically clean the inside… I guess by good soaking? And something long to push inside. For me, if I can’t use a dishwasher, I’m not likely to use a product. So, I have to take that into account.

            Thanks again for your reply. :-)

          • guest

            Just checked and found that Amazon sells stainless-steel straws.

          • Thea

            That’s interesting too! I’ve never heard of that either. Pretty cool. So, I think the benefit of stainless steel is less worry about breaking. But one of the cool things about straws is being able to see the liquid being sucked up – and where there might be a blockage. Decisions, decisions… :=)

          • b00mer

            The same company sells brushes, they look like a miniature test tube brush if you’ve every used one. I put a drop of soap on the brush itself and swipe it inside. Cleans quite quickly and easily, no more than a few seconds. Not sure about the effectiveness of the dishwasher, don’t use one myself. For very watery things like tea it might work, but for things with more debris like a smoothie I think it would be difficult for the dishwasher to get the inside clean. I went through a severe de-plastic-ing of my household a few years back, and they were part of it. I used to use them for my tea in the morning to avoid teeth staining, but at some point I guess I stopped caring… :) But I do think they’re nice to have on hand. Once in a while you need a straw and it’s nice to have some good quality permanent ones around, rather than searching through the junk drawer for that 10 year old bag of plastic ones.

          • Thea

            b00mer: A brush makes sense. I’ve never had any straws in my house. But l love having all sorts of kitchen gadgets around and I know that if I had glass (or steel) straws, I’d find some fun way to use them. Thanks for the info. I’m very intruiged.

    • Tom, I agree that xylitol helps fight bad bugs but most sugars, including xylitol, are chemically neutral. I dont think xylitol affects pH significantly one way or the other.

  • Jo

    Do you think rinsing with a little baking soda in water would be even better?

  • Ronald M. Chavin

    Preventing tartar (calculus) build-up behind our lower, front teeth requires the opposite strategy. We need to eat more acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus to melt away the tartar. Scraping our teeth too frequently with metal implements can lead to mechanical erosion. Acidic foods tend to be high in the good bacteria (such as lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and Bacillus subtilis). Acidic plant-source foods, if left in our mouth, will tend to encourage these good bacteria from colonizing our mouth and throat. Fluoride treatment prevents cavities extremely well. Avoiding foods that are too sugary also prevents cavities extremely well. The cavity-causing mutans streptococci begin to multiply rapidly in the presence of sugar by manufacturing powerful acids. Hibiscus tea is very high in tannins, which are a mixed blessing. Tannins kill both the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. Tannins irritate our mouth, throat, and stomach, thereby increasing the risk of cancer, especially if consumed at temperatures greater than 50 degrees Celsius. Therefore,the benefits of the acidic nature of hibiscus tea come together with these disadvantages of tannins. However, tannins have the highest ORAC scores in human nutrition and tend to reduce the number of bad bacteria in our small and large intestines. Tannins (and other plants with high ORAC antioxidant scores) do not lower the total cancer rates among real populations of real people anywhere near as well as many other foods (such as fish, yogurt, soybean foods, other legumes, mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, and allium vegetables), all of which have very low ORAC antioxidant scores. Conclusion: Eat the traditional Mediterranean diet or the tradional Japanese diet. Do what has worked in real populations of real people and don’t do what might work in theory. Theories frequently turn out to be wrong. Tomatoes and citrus are acidic but low in tannins. They are excellent choices for keeping the human mouth healthy. I rinse my mouth with tomato paste regularly to encourage the growth of the good bacteria and to prevent tartar build-up in my mouth.

    • Could you explain this line: ” Acidic plant-source foods, if left in our mouth, will tend to encourage these good bacteria from colonizing our mouth and throat” ? We want these good bacteria to colonize our mouth and throat, correct? So do you mean that the acidic foods will encourage them to colonize our mouth and throat?

    • Jane’s Addiction

      There’s no way (that I’ve seen) that’s correct. Could you provide some evidence in support of the claim that acidic foods are good for tooth enamel?

  • john galt

    I make a gallon of hibiscus tea (using a Mr. Coffee) with 9.5 PH (Kangen) water (and then add enough of it to my blender full of fruit (blue, black. raspberries, red grapes, apple, . . . ) and veggies (red cabbage, beets, brocolli sprouts, kale, . . . .) to make the fruit/veggie smoothie pourable. (I suppose u could use baking soda). I try to throw in tumeric and pepper and tomato paste. Will check the PH with drops and color chart (this might not work with Purple Hibiscus!!) and let u know resulting PH. Anyway, the 8 cup smoothie lasts all day. It doesnt taste bad. the only way I can get my 9 servings of fruits and veggies each day. Going to the bathroom is not a problem with all that fiber. My $450.00 VRT Omega is gathering dust under the counter while my $18.00 walmart blender is used daily. whew.

  • I understand the notion of free radical quenching by antioxidants. I’ve read the studies showing strong correlation between antioxidant consumption and bp, CRP, and so forth. But I was challenged last night by an old co-worker to produce the evidence of the mechanism…the chemistry of free radical scavenging in vivo. Is he right? Is that still eluding us? Boomer…Darryl…anyone. I’d like to respond to him partly because he is a “heavy hitter’ in this field and active in research. Thanks

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      Coacervate,
      I wonder what your old co-worker means?
      Oxygen metabolism produces free radicals – does he acknowledge that? If not, you have to give up here!
      Free radicals make fast chemical transformations – e.g. rancification af fats. Does he acknowledge that?
      It can be explosive and if you keep breathing, you will be turned into a pillar of rancid fat…..but that does not happen. Why not? Antioxidants! Well known are vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium. I guess a biochemist can tell us how this precisely happens? Does your co-worker have an agenda? There are abundant evidence that high intake of antioxidants reduce the risk of e.g. cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disease. I know – he will not be satisfied with this answer :-)

      • Thanks PSDr. He is a reliable, objective and respected food sci/biochemist currently part of an international team seeking to put a new study together. I see this as an opportunity to better understand antioxidant function. With due respect Plantstrong (which is considerable) I think you know that arguments based on correlations are not strong enough, only indicators.

        And, YES, we are all agreed that in the test tube, antioxidants “take the bullet” from radicals. But there is a need (perhaps only perceived to some) to elucidate the protective cascade of events at the molecular level in living cells.

        I am hoping to support this work, as best as I am able, towards a comprehensive understanding of the chemical mechanism(s) to the same degree as the NO series some months back: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dont-use-antiseptic-mouthwash/ Dr. G’s research on that is so important because it explains how and why nitrate from plants are good and cured meats are so dangerous. Without that knowledge doubt would remain about the whole story. Similarly doubts exist about antioxidants…remember the Finish betacarotene study that had to be stopped because it was killing smokers?

        In that context this could be important work. I would like to help….I’m reviewing the NF data to forward relevant videos/posts . I know that many here are “heavy hitters” in this field. If others know of current pulbished work that would be especially helpful at this early stage. No agenda other than to extend to the next level(s) of understanding the science.

        • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

          OK – I get the point! Sounds very interesting. We are going to help the guy, not battle against him…I am just a measly neurologist, so at this point I can not help :-)

          • Well that is an interesting feature because I am no longer part of the “food science” club. So even an unbreakable friendship frequently ends up at odds over what is and is not fact…hence the challenge. My take on the whole antioxidant issue is that the whole gamish of whole plant foods contribute to Dr. Campbell’s symphony metaphor in ways that are too complex and synergistic to tease out with a spectrophotometer and HPLC. But if they are to do a well-designed study, would be great if we could have input to the steering committee.

            neurologist! Could I change gears completely and ask your opinion…I tried to persuade my dearest friend to eat WFPB to treat his motor neuron disease. He refused because he felt sick whenever he tried to change so he lived on calorie dense junk food, baby food and enteric formula until he died last christmas. I know it is off topic here, but if you have an opinion or advice on diet for people with ALS/MND if would sure like to hear it. Thanks

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            The antioxidant and phytonutriënt synergy mechanisms are probably too potent a career killers for most scientists to seriously consider tackling. The variables are just staggering, past research on single molecules keeps hitting walls. I’m pretty sure the next really big step in mapping benefits of whole foods needs to come from chemistry/cell/gene sim software and banks upon banks of supercomputers and just keep adding options.

          • You remind me of Donovan:

            (Every)body who read the Jungle Book knows that Riki tiki tavi’s a mongoose who kills snakes
            (Well) when I was a young man I was led to believe there were organisations to kill my snakes for me
            Ie the church ie the government ie the school
            (but when I got a little older) I learned I had to kill them myself

            (I said) Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
            http://www.lyrics.com/riki-tiki-tavi-lyrics-donovan.html#D3OP1Dub7atjq9V2.99

            Me: Complex things are made of lots of simple things, right? I had a super who loved to say “All models are wrong, some models are useful.” I hope we don’t have to wait for the “Singularity” to see the benefits!

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            Well the next best thing we have and are actually already profiting from since we ousted gods, kings and nobility is the power of imagination and education to stimulate and help prove what pops up in our minds. And this gives us small nudges forward here and there with physical testing and trials. But can you imagine what will start to happen if you can get your pop up ideas tested within weeks and its implications made part of the cloud and then move on from there?

            That is quite far away off course, as it is we do not generate nearly enough power globally to be able to do what I mentioned above, example top supercomputer sucks up 24 Megawatts. But as long as we can keep the ever present tendency of creating new kings suppressed we should see some wonderful things come our way pretty soon.

  • JM

    If the issue is the acidity of the Hibiscus tea damaging the tooth enamel then just add a bit of baking soda to the pitcher, since the health properties of the Hibiscus have nothing to do with it’s acidity. Many, including Dr. Sircus, think this is very healthy for you anyways. Problem solved. Sometimes we over-think things.
    http://drsircus.com/medicine/sodium-bicarbonate-baking-soda/healing-power-baking-soda

  • I drink water with lemon juice in it to alkalize the body. I wonder if the acid in the lemon juice could be causing my problems with receding gums.

  • Pamela

    Dr. Greger, have you ever looked into oil pulling for dental health? I keep hearing about it but am skeptical about the benefits attributed to it.

  • T Were

    I just heard that Hibiscus has side effects to dental health. is this true.

  • Rosellica

    Hibiscus sabdariffa is available in a capsule form product called “Rosellica” which sidesteps the issues with teeth and also helps to ensure a consistent dosage. It’s easier to travel with as well. Available on the rosellica.com web site as well as on Amazon.