Image Credit: BotMultichill / Wikimedia Commons. This image has been modified.

Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

A landmark investigation of the Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods put all previous rankings to shame. That’s where I got the data to create my videos Best Berries, which compares hundreds of berries to common fruits, and Better Than Goji Berries, which highlights the dried fruit most packed with anti-aging, anti-cancer antioxidants. Antioxidants in a Pinch and A Better Breakfast can help one visualize the effects of adding just tiny amounts of antioxidant-packed foods to our daily diets.

The international team of researchers also compared hundreds of different beverages. They tested everything from Red Bull to crowberry liqueur. I could never imagine any beverage more antioxidant-packed than matcha, which is a drink made out of powdered green tea leaves (so you’re actually eating green tea). But as I showed in Better Than Green Tea?, matcha may have met its match.

Hibiscus tea, made from the dried petals of hibiscus flowers, topped the rankings. It’s known as flor de Jamaica in Mexico, sorrel in the Caribbean, and roselle in many parts of the world. It’s what gives the “zing” to red zinger tea.

My family’s recipe is to soak a handful of bulk dried organic hibiscus flowers overnight and then blend with a knuckle of fresh ginger, a teaspoon of amla, three tablespoons of erythritol, and a handful of fresh mint leaves to make the half-gallon we drink throughout the day. By blending in the mint, you’re adding dark green leafies to what may be the highest antioxidant beverage in the world, and it tastes like fruit punch! Your kids will love it.

You can overdo it though. The impressive manganese content of hibiscus tea may exceed recommended limits at high intakes, though, so we probably shouldn’t drink more than a quart a day (for someone that weighs about 150 pounds; a kid weighing 75 pounds wouldn’t want to regularly drink more than 2 cups a day).

Just because something has antioxidant power in the test tube, though, doesn’t mean it has antioxidant flower power in the body. Maybe the phytonutrients aren’t even absorbed. A human investigation of hibiscus tea has finally been published, though.

If you take people and have them drink only water for 10 hours the antioxidant level of their bloodstream drops throughout the day. The antioxidants we’ve accumulated eating healthy foods get slowly used up throughout the day fighting off all those free radicals unless we replenish our antioxidant stores. For a primer on the fluctuating levels of oxidant stress, see Antioxidant Level Dynamics.

It’s hard to get people to fast for 10 hours, though. So, in addition to water, researchers gave the study subjects something they knew wouldn’t mess up their antioxidant measurements: white bread and cheese. What if at the beginning of the experiment you instead gave people a single cup of hibiscus tea? As you can see in my 2-min Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus, within an hour there’s a nice spike in the antioxidant level in the blood stream. The effect disappears, however, unless you sip hibiscus throughout the day (or eat something other than Wonderbread cheese sandwiches).

Where are antioxidants concentrated the most? Whole plant foods. See the remarkable contrast in Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. What’s so great about antioxidants? See The Power of NO and Mitochondrial Theory of Aging. How do we know more is necessarily better? See, for example, Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants.

For more flower power, check out what the saffron crocus can do against depression (Saffron vs. Prozac), PMS (Saffron for the Treatment of PMS), stress (Wake Up and Smell the Saffron), and dementia (Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s).

There are also chamomile flowers (Red Tea, Honeybush, & Chamomile), though Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy, and the rose bush: Dietary Osteoarthritis Treatment. More comparisons of herbal teas here: The Healthiest Herbal Tea.

I should note that there are unique phytonutrients found in the tea plant missing from all herbal teas, so one would not expect Dietary Brain Wave Alteration from drinking hibiscus. And hibiscus tea is sour, so make sure not to brush your teeth immediately after consumption (see my video Plant-Based Diets: Dental Health).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


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.

64 responses to “Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

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  1. Dr. Greger, I have tried drinking hibiscus tea (specifically, Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger) after watching your various videos about it, but eventually stopped because it seemed to be causing constipation! It happened too many times to be a coincidence. Does this happen to anyone else? Could it be caused by something else in Red Zinger? The other ingredients listed are: rosehips, peppermint, West Indian lemongrass, orange peel, natural flavors, lemon verbena, licorice and wild cherry bark. Thanks for any insight you can offer!

    1. I’ve been drinking an organic Hibiscus drink with hibiscus, rose hips, lemon grass, and orange peel (sooooo good!) and have not had any negative effects at all. I’m sure if I didn’t already eat so healthy I would notice an improvement, but I just feel as good as always lol. I wonder if your issue could have something to do with the “natural flavors” which could include a number of things. I heard of licorice doing the opposite, if I’m remembering right.

    2. Check to make sure Celestial Teas are truly Organic ~ I read somewhere they were not ~ so I stopped using all of their teas. I definitely love Hibiscus for many years,rosehip pared is amazing! I also blend with fruit juice as a refreshing cool summer “ tea punch” for my grandchildren.

  2. I’ve also been drinking hibiscus tea regularly since seeing your video. I add lemon juice and stevia, and I haven’t noticed any constipation.

    1. Hmm maybe I’ll try just getting the pure hibiscus and see if that’s better. It tastes good and is so good for you, so I’d hate to miss out if I don’t have to!

  3. I have been drinking hibiscus tea for a year and a half, I just discovered it in the bulk bin at a local market. I soak the dried flowers for an hour or longer in a mason jar, I don’t add anything and love the tart flavor. Sometimes I will make Yerba Mate tea and make a sport drink by mixing the two, YUM!

    I started to drink it to help cool me down and refresh me on a hot day, intuitive guess, it works! In Mexico they say it is good for the blood, (pressure). I feel it has lots of Vitamin C.
    Good to know about the antioxidants!
    Luckily, last July mom & I were in Mexico and I bought the entire two bags the local tiny health food store had, so much fresher…

  4. Michael: This is clearly a good way to boost the antioxidant in your blood but isn’t this hibiskus very low in PH? Im abit concerned about exposing my teeth to this constant exposure to low PH. Any ideas here?

    1. High pH is much more of a concern than low pH for your teeth. If anything, low pH would help offset the acidity that causes cavities and enamel erosion (wearing away).

    2. oh whoops, that was an embarassing mistake! please disregard my previous reply about low pH not being a concern. acidity IS the concern (got my low/high pH switched) however, tea tends to cause cavities/erosion less than stronger acids like that found in citrus, but tends to stain teeth and cause esthetic issues. if you don’t want stained teeth, rinse with water after drinking tea.

    3. I had been drinking rosehip-hibiscus tea for a few weeks instead of water. Now my front teeth became transparent. I am now back to just water and will never drink that much tea again. My teeth are irreversibly damaged.

  5. Dr. Greger,

    We have been drinking hibiscus tea since
    your video came out, Celestial Seasonings Raspberry Zinger to be
    specific. I have two concerns: 1) it’s not organic and 2) although
    hibiscus is the first ingredient I wonder how much is actually in it.
    We’ve found a 100% hibiscus tea at a Middle Eastern store (it’s from
    Lebanon) but not organic. Since we drink so much of it I feel concerned
    about these not being organic. I looked online and saw 1 lb organic
    hibiscus at more than $20.

    What is your recommendation
    regarding the organic issue? And without necessarily promoting a
    particular brand how can I get the biggest bang for my buck?

    My family loves you and follows you faithfully. :-)

    1. I live in El Paso (US-Mexico border) and can find dried hibiscus at my nearby supermarket. It is also found at some Mexican restaurants as a sweetened drink. Viva for the health benefits of jamaica!

  6. Dear Dr. Greger… Thanks for all our effort in health education for all of us. Unfortunately I was not able to find Hibiscus in the antioxidant references you cite; I was able to find a Tang,Jamaica beverage but was about 6 .. is that number the one you refer to? Thanks again… Hector

  7. When you say “blend” do you mean to use say a hand blender and blend everything including the whole flower heads? Or just stir but and don’t consume the flowers?

  8. Dear Dr. Greger, you cold brew the tea over night in the fridge. This must be nice in summer time or in warm countries. In winter time in Germany it would be nice to have a warm drink. Would brewing the hibiscus tea with hot water destroy the anti-oxidant effect? Thank you for your wonderful website.

  9. Is Hibiscus tea good for weight loss?

    I read the following on another website and wonder if it’s factual or not.

    “Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) can be found naturally in Hibiscus tea. This is the same acid that was manufactured chemically in labs to create Hydroxycut, but the natural source is safe, healthy and a million times more beneficial to the body.

    Hibiscus tea affects how we absorb fats and carbohydrates because it contains phaseolamin, a powerful enzyme inhibitor that blocks amylase,
    the enzyme responsible for breaking down fats and carbohydrates. Hibiscus tea acts in the same way as the drugstore-pill versions, but remains in its natural, unadulterated form and is much safer and more
    beneficial for the body than laboratory-produced concoctions.”

  10. Doc, you need to clarify something. From the pics you posted in your vid (e.g. of the red zinger box), and your stating that your family uses bulk dried “petals” to make tea, it appears that what you are referring to is the usually bright red or pink flower with the long stamen stereotypically worn behind the ear of island women. But then you also mention that hibiscus is commonly called sorrel in the Caribbean. I am Jamaican, and the hibiscus flower (which I described earlier) is different from sorrel which is a very deep red bud, slightly prickly in texture, that surrounds a seed. We use it to make a drink that is traditionally consumed most at Christmas. Recently we have also begun to use it for tea (powdered in tea bags). It appears hibiscus rosa sinensis is the pretty flower, and hibiscus sabdariffa is the scientific name of the very different “sorrel”. Please clarify which is being referred to.

    1. It is a common error in the articles I read on the internet. The pictures are misleading. The Jamaican sorrel is the medicinal one not the one worn in the hair. They keep using these pictures and it’s not right. Someone will go out and see this flower and drink it when I don’t even know if it should be ingested. WRONG PICTURE.

    1. This is a ‘labor of love’. A free service.
      Why is it that people like you have the audacity to complain about him not answering individual questions here?
      Especially considering he donates even more of his time to live Q&A on fb & youtube monthly?

  11. Phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological aspects of Hibiscus sabdariffa L.: a review.

    “A single report has suggested that excessive doses for relatively long periods could have a deleterious effect on the testes of rats”

  12. Twinnings Fruit Selected tea is actually a Hisbiscus punch. Hibiscus is listed as the first ingredient (largest) on all the teas.

  13. To heck with the tea. I cooked 4.5 cups dried beans with 2 cups dried hibiscus flowers. After swelling the beans and leaching to prevent gas, I cooked them with sauce. The sauce in the blender was 2 cups hibiscus, 1 small can tomato paste, heaping tablespoon tumeric, heaping tablespoon red pepper. The beans are delightfully sour. I notice I am producing more saliva. Could be the magnesium.

    Cooking whole grains and beans with homogenized high antioxidant plants is the way to go. Nothing goes to waste. I make a great barbecue sauce from red beats, red sweet pepper, red hot pepper powder, tomato paste, pomegranite, kabocha pumpkin, nori seaweed, tumeric, and green leaves duJour.

    Spaghetti sauce is another venue for homogenized veggies. Tomatoes are just the start of a good sauce.

    1. Do not use the hibiscus flower. The correct one is hibiscus sabdariffa (not sure if that’s the correct spelling) otherwise known as jamaican sorrel..I would NOT drink the flower. The picture used is misleading.

  14. Does anyone know how much hibiscus powder a handful of the flowers equals? I have the powder already and don’t want to OD on hibiscus (nor do I want to buy the flowers and try to gind them up or weigh them on my non-existent scale).

  15. Our “Rosellica” product allows you to bypass the tea preparation stage and also helps to ensure a consistent dosage. We originally developed Rosellica and brought it to market in 2009, because the Jamaican side of the family brews hibiscus tea (which they call ‘sorrel’) to manage blood pressure, but it wasn’t as convenient for our lifestyle not being close to home all day. The product also contains some ingredients to help balance the diuretic effects. We have found that a two capsule per day regimen allow the blood pressure-lowering effect to last across the day. Available from directly or on Amazon.

    1. As noted elsewhere by others in this thread, Rosellica uses the calyces of the Hibiscus sabdariffa variety, which is the part that has been shown to be most effective.

    1. Sounds tasty! I checked the section of Dr. Greger’s book called “Some risks to spicing up your life” and neither cloves or Ceylon cinnamon are listed as spices one needs to use with caution. That said it’s usually a good rule to consume any single food in moderation, so I suggest sticking to a couple cups of tea with the spices daily (that’s just my opinion though)

  16. So I’ve recently started drinking hibiscus and am in love with the stuff. I also enjoy watching the water change color when you put the tea bags in the glass (yes… I am a child), I can’t help it, it “bleeds” into the water. I imagine kids would be entertained by it, I am, lol.

  17. I have been drinking hibiscus tea for a couple of months, during the day. However, when I started drinking hibiscus tea at night,my sleepness had changed. Seems like the hibiscus tea keeps awake…any explanation for that?

    1. Hello Ines,

      That is such an interesting experience, to find the late night consumption of hibiscus tea to be stimulating. I am a volunteer moderator that helps Dr. G answer questions posted to Nutrition Facts. I am also a plant based dietitian nutritionist from Scottsdale, Arizona. I can think of no reason from the hibiscus tea that your sleeping patterns have changed; as an herbal tea, it is not caffeinated. If you were one of my clients presenting with this problem, I would want to know a lot more about what you eat and when you eat it – as well as if you have an ongoing stress management practice (like meditation, yoga, or mindfulness practice) in place to help you with stressors in life.

      It can seem like “cause and effect” with things that happen when we try new foods or drinks. Often, I find that something like a newly presenting sleep problem is much more nuanced. My best advice is to keep drinking the hibiscus tea, start meditating daily, and see what changes.

      Thanks for being part of our community!

      Lisa Schmidt, MS, CN
      THE Mindful Nutritionist

      1. hello, thanks for your response to my question about hibiscus tea. Now, I am drinking the tea during the day, and a sleeping tea at night. Ines.

  18. Word of Warning

    I started drinking Hibiscus tea couple days ago. I’d cold steep it all night, and down it first thing in the morning.

    I noticed that I immediately (as in within a couple minutes) felt very strange. I still had all my faculties, but something just felt a little…. off. Almost as if I was ever so slightly drunk.

    After 3-4 days of this, I realized it wasn’t just in my head, so I consulted the almighty (Google). Turns out that an “intoxicating” effect, or even a “hallucination” effect, are common side effects of consuming Hibiscus Tea. At least for some people in certain amounts and/or concentrations.

    So just be careful. If you plan to chug concentrated Hib Tea on an empty stomach, don’t plan to hop in your car and drive around shortly thereafter.


  19. Martha,

    Well done….good consumer detective work ! It’s amazing what goes into processed foods and still has a misleading label……perhaps a letter to them asking “where’s the hibiscus” ?

    The SB label reads as follows: Ingredients
    Ice, Berry Refresher Base [Water, Sugar, White Grape Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavor, Green Coffee Extract, Citric Acid, Erythritol, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Rebaudiside A], Water, Freeze-dried Blackberries.

    Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger

  20. Dr. Gregor, I urge you to put a warning on your posts and videos about hibiscus tea and green tea. After seeing the videos I started drinking both regularly. After about a year I was diagnosed with severe iron anemia. I started taking chlorella and also took supplements for a while and got my levels up, but then they just went back down again once I stopped taking the artificial supplements (yes, I was also eating beans, greens, etc.)

    In desperation, I analyzed my entire diet and researched everything I regularly ate to see if they were blocking my iron absorption. Until then I had NO IDEA that both hibiscus tea and green tea are high in a substance called “tannins” that block iron absorption! Once I stopped drinking these teas, my iron levels have been just fine and I feel like I am back to normal again.

    I don’t want others to go through what I did. Please put a warning or caveat on these videos that daily consumption of green tea or hibiscus might cause iron deficiency anemia.

    1. Hi Lauren Ard – Thanks for your comment and I will pass along your suggestion. I am sorry to hear about your experience with iron deficiency anemia. Due to tannins found in tea and coffee, it is recommended to limit (or avoid) these beverages at meal times to prevent decreased iron absorption, especially when trying to maximize iron absorption in individuals with a deficiency. So sipping on tea between meals is the best option and being sure to keep up intake of beans, greens, and dried fruits!

      -Janelle RD CD
      Registered Dietitian & Health Support Volunteer

      1. I don’t buy into the “sip in between meals” thing. Not just because I was already doing that, but also because so many of Dr. Greger’s videos show graphs indicating that what we eat can have an impact on our body for hours after we have ingested it! So the idea that the tannins would be mostly out of my system by the time an iron rich meal came along, it’s simply not backed by the science.

  21. Dear nutritionfacts-team, dear Dr. Gregor,
    I´m reading your articles since many years and so I´m consuming hibiscus tea for a while. Now I found some studies that it may impair muscle growth. What do you think? Should I reduce my intake (half litre per day) or will it not be significant in your opinion? Same thing on my low blood pressure (105/55). Any risks of consuming hibiscus on a daily basis ore are the positive effects much greater than loosing some of my (to be honest hatd worked) training gains and the effects on the blood pressure?

    Many thanks for your content over all the years and best regards from Germany,

    1. Hello André,

      Thank you for your question. After performing a quick search, I can only see that hibiscus affects smooth muscle growth. This is different than your skeletal muscle that you work on at the gym and actually may be one of the mechanisms behind how hibiscus lowers blood pressure. Based on this, I wouldn’t worry about losing muscle mass from drinking hibiscus tea. Do you mind replying with links to the articles you are referring to so I can ensure this information is accurate?

      Thank you,

      Matt, Health Support.

      1. Hello Matt,

        links would be great. Many, many thanks for your reply, I really appreciate your work!

        Best wishes from Germany,

        1. Hello again.

          I think my statement may have been slightly confusing. I was asking if you could provide me with links of the articles that you mentioned so that I can look at them and let you know my thoughts.

          Thank you,
          Matt, Health Support

            1. Sorry Andre, but I do not see any mention of hibiscus in the study you have linked. Are you certain that is the correct study?

              Matt, Health Support

  22. Dr. Gregor, do you recommend blending up the hibiscus leaves into a smoothie or just drinking the cold-brewed tea? Thank you!

  23. I purchased loose hibiscus flowers (organic hibiscus sadbariffa) from Amazon and would like to know how to make the tea. What is the recommended quantity of flowers in grams please to grams or cups water. I see reference to cold brew overnight. How about hot water if I forget to cold brew? How long to steep in hot water? Thanks so much

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