Hibiscus Tea Flower Power

Image Credit: bterrycompton / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Hibiscus tea: flower power

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 cautions 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, and the impressive manganese content of hibiscus tea may exceed recommended limits at high intakes, so we probably shouldn’t drink more than a quart a day.

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.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling 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.

84 responses to “Hibiscus tea: flower power

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

      1. 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

  2. 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.

      1. 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!

        1. 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.

  3. 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?

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

  5.  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.

      1. 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… :-)

  6. 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%5D; 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!

    1. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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!

      1. 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)

    1. 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 .

    2. Do you have a recipe for this? Its sounds wonderful.. I have hypothyroid, and high BP..I eat a plant based diet but my BP is still high. I started drinking this tea to help lower the BP

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

      1. 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!

      1. 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 :-)

      2. 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 :-)

  12. 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?

  13. 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

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

    John Murray

  14. 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!

  15. 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

  16. Here’s my favorite recipe. Simmer diced ginger root for half an hour. Into the cooled ginger juice add hibiscus, rose hips, and stevia herb (not the processed stuff you buy in the market, but the real herb you buy from the herb store, which has many nutritional benefits). Let steep over night to make a cold infusion This does not kill the vitamin C in the hibiscus or rose hips. The next day strain out the herbs and ginger. Now add kefir culture and let sit overnight. If you desire to make a fizzy drink, you can sweeten it with sugar or honey rather than stevia before adding the kefir culture. If you place this in a tightly sealed jar and let it sit for a week on your counter, the tea will become a probiotic-rich fizzy drink in about a week.

  17. Doc, you really need to clarify whether the hibiscus in these studies is the pretty hibiscus flower seen in this video, stereotypically tucked behind the ears of girls on tropical islands, OR the plant that’s called “sorrel” in the Caribbean, roselle in Australia, bissap in some West African countries, etc. If you look up hibiscus sabdariffa, it is sorrel/roselle, not the pretty hibiscus flower seen on the boxes of hibiscus tea on supermarket shelves and in this video. Please research and clarify.

    1. The study abstracts in the hyperlinks provided mention the type of hibiscus used. From what I can tell the studies used extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa and Hibiscus sabdariffa — so it appears the latter.

        1. Is the photo super misleading? We will consider replacing if so. If you find one on creative commons feel free post a link. Thanks, Joshua.

          1. Ah thanks. Much better. Yeah, the photo was very misleading. Since I’m not a botanist, I puzzled over this for an hour yesterday.

      1. When you say “the latter” – do you mean “sorrel or roselle”? If so, the video should be changed to remove the pretty flower.

  18. I’ve been drinking hibiscus tea for many years, brewed from dried hibiscus flowers bought at the Hispanic market. Just from tasting the brew I got the impression it might have astringent and perhaps antibacterial qualities. I didn’t see those mentioned in your article. If a concentrated liquid extract of the dried flower is applied to a sore on the skin, will it prevent infection? If this extract is applied as a moist mask to the face will it close the pores? Who knows – worth a try.

  19. Dear

    Your explanation of different terms between wet and dry weights makes sense and I thank you for
    clearing it up. But I have certain doubts.

    Flor de Jaimica, (Hibiscus) prepared has a rating of 6,99 mmol/100 gr as a tea p. 17 of table

    Tea, Green, Emperors Garden, prepared has a rating of 1,36 mmol/100 gr as a tea p. 18 of table

    More than 5 times difference in favor of Hibiscus in liquid form when compared to Green tea
    in liquid form.

    Unfortunately there is no matcha tea in its prepared form in the table and only the dried
    powder, p.18. of 1347.83 mmol/100 gr. And also unfortunate is the fact there is no dry weight given for the making of
    the Flor de Jamaica so as to make an equivalent comparison, although I would assume
    we are talking about a tea bag form of the product which may weight in its dry
    form roughly 1 gr. to prepare 245 gr. liquid as you say is a cup of tea. Therefore
    if the dry weight of 1 gr is divided by 2.45, then approx. 0.41 of dry product
    of Hibiscus is needed for 100 gr of liquid tea.

    If we were to divide 100 gr by 0.41 the result would be 244. To compare it to the Green
    tea powder (Matcha) in an equivalent dry weight form to make a comparison of
    mmol per 100 gr, then we would multiple 244 X 6,99 and the result would be 1706
    mmol/100 gr dry weight of Hibiscus, which in this case would outweigh the matcha
    tea gram for gram, favoring it by 27%

    This is only assuming the above mentioned factors are taken into consideration. If the
    original Flor de Jamaica tea weighed more, then the difference would be less,
    although on the over hand if it were less, the difference would be greater.
    Do I make any sense at all?

    If the good doctor has any other information that is not mentioned in the above to substantiate
    his claims, it would be sincerely appreciate by all the rest of us by your contribution.

    Thank you very much.

  20. Hibiscus tea is very popular in Egypt. The word there is that warm tea in fact alters bloodpressure, but cold tea will lower it. They say to drink it warm when you have problems starting up and feel tired. But drink it cold if you’re stressed! Common Egyptian knowledge, heard it 5 or 6 times from totally different persons in totally different area’s!

  21. The photo is misleading. This is Chukoir (Eastern India) – Very sour flowers, we dont call them Hibiscus (Joba). We make chutney (paste or sauce ) of the flower.

  22. I like to eat the dried Hibiscus flowers after tea has brewed and the flowers have rehydrated. I like the texture. Does anyone know the nutrition facts for unsweetened hibiscus flowers? I’ve searched multiple terms and I keep finding nutrition data for food or beverages made with sweetened hibiscus flowers. Thanks!

  23. Do you have a list of complete nutrition facts that I could add to the various calorie/nutrition counters online?

    We should be more specific about the type of hibiscus. The one of which you can use the calyx is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roselle_(plant) — Roselle, Hibiscus Sabdariffa, Jamaican Sorrel, Flor de Jamaica. There is another one called Hibiscus acetosella, aka cranberry hibiscus, African rosemallow, false roselle, maroon mallow, red leaved hibiscus, and red shield hibiscus — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibiscus_acetosella. You can use the leaves of that one in salad.

    Not all hibiscuses are necessarily edible, or at least tasty.

  24. There seems to be a bit of confusion as to the common names and appearance of the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower. There are many dozen common names. English may use Sorrel, Jamaica tea flower or Roselle. India has very many, including variants of Chukiar, Chukar, Chukor, Mesta Tenga and so on. Thailand, a major producer, calls them Krachiap Daeng (red) or Krachieb Priew (sour). Some areas of Africa, where it may have originated, call it Bissap.

    The flowers do look typically like a Hibiscus, though perhaps less showy than those grown for decoration. The red sepals, or calyx is just a part of the flower but it the part of interest for tea. It remains around the seeds after the flower petals are gone. It’s the “fruit” if you will, less the seeds. Sort of like rose hips as opposed to rose petals.

    The leaves and young shoots are eaten in Senegal, Burma, Vietnam and the Philippines. They are sour, which no doubt explains the common name of Sorrel.

  25. Hi. I’ve been intermittent fasting and I love it. Lately I’ve been drinking cold hibiscus tea throughout the day, no sugar added. I see mixed information online about the calories and carbs for this tea. I’m buying loose leaf hibiscus from my local health food store. I’m concerned that drinking the tea during my fast is actually breaking my fast due to the calorie and carb content. Can you help clarify the nutrition information for an 8oz cup? Thank you.

    1. Hello Stephanie,

      I am a volunteer moderator who helps Dr. G. answer questions posted to NutritionFacts. I am also a whole foods plant based dietitian nutritionist located in Scottsdale, Arizona. You pose an interesting question, which Dr. Greger addresses for different reasons. You can review his daily recommendation for Hibiscus Tea in his video, No More Than A Quart a Day.

      You’ll notice on this site Dr. Greger doesn’t talk about calories. Since NutritionFacts is dedicated to science based information about food and nutrition, you’ll not find much about counting calories. You might enjoy his video, Nutrient Dense Approach to Weight Management since vegans as a group tend to have the lowest body weights (without calorie counting). If you keep your intake of hibiscus tea to a quart a day, you’ll get the health benefits without the side effects. As for breaking your fast, you’ll have to check with the Intermittent Fasting folks for their input.

      Thanks for being part of our community!

      Lisa Schmidt, MS, CN
      THE Mindful Nutritionist

    1. Hey there,

      the only study I was able to find is this:


      “The results clearly demonstrate that aqueous extracts from dried calyx of H. sabdariffa, either cold or boiled, alter normal sperm morphology and testicular ultrastructure and adversely influence the male reproductive fertility in albino mice. The current data suggest that Hibiscus extract should be consumed with caution, and reasonable estimates of the human risk associated with its consumption should be provided.”

      But it’s an animal study. And they used pretty high doses. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much. ;)

      Hope this helps,

      Moderator Adam P.

  26. Do you know if Hibiscus tea is safef for estrogen positive breast cancer patients on an estrogen blocker. My onconlogist doesn’t know.

    Thank-you. I love your work.

  27. Can you tell me if there are calories in Hibiscus tea? I purchased the Nile Valley Hibiscus Mint tea. The ingredients say Hibiscus and Peppermint leaves. I steeped the bag in hot water and removed. So I’m wondering if and how many calories would be in a cup. Let’s say 8oz for example.


  28. Hi Lisa,

    Am writing an article of the on Hibiscus tea and to verify it outperforms the antioxidant property of Japanese green tea. While the number (1347.83) of green tea can be found on page 18 of the “The Antioxidant Food Table”, where can that of roselle/hibicus tea can be located? I have tried to Or is it another study that provide the number? Using hibiscus (or roselle, Jamaica) as to search the report obtains no result.

    Will appreciate it if you can point me to where the source is trustworthy.

    Many thanks!

  29. I have been drinking Hibiscus tea for about 5 years. I make it from the dried blossoms that I buy from Frontier Co-op. I drink it because it is so good. Amongst the Hispanic and Indian peoples of the SW. it is often used to help with high blood pressure and blood sugar control. I did some research looking for information from a medical point of view and I did find it.. I no longer have those sources at my fingertips, however. Don’t worry about all the vague properties of some of these things. As long as they do not interfere with your medical condition or medications that you take, just drink and enjoy.

  30. WE grow hibiscus here on Hawaii island. We make tea from the dried flowers and add our own lemon juice and honey. We raised the kids on this and called it ‘Bru”. No sodas. All the kids in the neighborhood all wanted Bru.

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