How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?

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

No More Than a Quart a Day of Hibiscus Tea

Over the counter antacids are probably the most important source for human aluminum exposure in terms of dose. For example, Maalox, taken as directed, can exceed the daily safety limit more than 100-fold, and nowhere on the label does it say to not take it with acidic beverages such as fruit juice. Washing an antacid down with orange juice can increase aluminum absorption 8-fold, and citric acid–the acid found naturally concentrated in lemon and limes—is even worse.

Just as sour fruits can enhance the absorption of iron (a good thing), through the same mechanism they may enhance the absorption of aluminum (a bad thing). This raises the question of what happens when one adds lemon juice to tea? Previously, I concluded that the amount of aluminum in tea is not a problem for most people because it’s not very absorbable (See Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?). What if we add lemon? Researchers publishing in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found no difference between tea with lemon, tea without lemon, or no tea at all in terms of the amount of aluminum in the bloodstream, suggesting that tea drinking does not significantly contribute to aluminum getting inside the body.

The researchers used black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea, but what about the “red zinger” herbal tea, hibiscus? The reason hibiscus tea is called “sour tea” is because it has natural acids in it like citric acid. Might these acids boost the absorption of any hibiscus’ aluminum? While a greater percentage of aluminum gets from the hibiscus into the tea water than from the other teas, there’s less aluminum overall.

The real question is whether the aluminum then gets from the tea water into our bodies. We don’t have those data; so, to be on the safe side we should assume the worst: that hibiscus tea aluminum, unlike green and black tea aluminum, is completely absorbable. In that case, based on these data and the World Health Organization weekly safety limit, we may not want to drink more than 15 cups of hibiscus tea a day, (based on someone who’s about 150 pounds). If you have a 75 pound 10-year-old, a half-gallon a day may theoretically be too much. Recent, more extensive testing highlighted in my video, How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?, suggests that aluminum levels may reach a level twice as high.  Therefore, to be safe, no more than about two quarts a day for adults, or one quart a day for kids or pregnant women. Hibiscus tea should be completely avoided by infants under six months—who should only be getting breast milk—as well as kids with kidney failure, who can’t efficiently excrete it.

There is also a concern about the impressive manganese level in hibiscus tea. Manganese is an essential trace mineral, a vital component of some of our most important antioxidant enzymes, but we probably only need about two to five milligrams a day. Four cups of hibiscus tea can have as much as 17 milligrams, with an average of about ten. Is that a problem?

One study from the University of Wisconsin found that women given 15 milligrams of manganese a day for four months saw, if anything, an improvement in their anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant enzyme activity. Another study, using 20 milligrams a day, similarly showed no adverse short-term effects, and importantly showed that the retention of dietary manganese is regulated. Our bodies aren’t stupid; if we take in too much manganese, we decrease the absorption and increase the excretion. Even though tea drinkers may get ten times the manganese load (10 or 20 milligrams a day), the levels in their blood are essentially identical. There is little evidence that dietary manganese poses a risk.

These studies were conducted with regular tea, though; so, we don’t know about the absorption from hibiscus. To err on the side of caution, we should probably not routinely exceed the reference dose of ten milligrams per day, or about a quart a day for adults and a half-quart for a 75 pound child.

I’ve actually changed my consumption. Given the benefits of the stuff, I was using it as a substitute for drinking water, drinking around two quarts a day. I was also blending the hibiscus petals in, not throwing them away, effectively doubling the aluminum content, and increasing manganese concentrations by about 30%. So, given these data, I’ve cut back to no more than a quart of filtered hibiscus tea a day.

Lemon can actually boost the antioxidant content of green and white tea. See Green Tea vs. White. For a comparison of their cancer-fighting effects in vitro, Antimutagenic Activity of Green Versus White Tea.

Before that, I covered another potential downside of sour tea consumption in Protecting Teeth From Hibiscus Tea, and before that, a reason we should all consider drinking it in: Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension.

For more on the iron absorption effect, see my video Risks Associated with Iron Supplements.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Discuss

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.


57 responses to “No More Than a Quart a Day of Hibiscus Tea

Comment Etiquette

On NutritionFacts.org, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. NutritionFacts.org is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

  1. I stopped drinking hibiscus tea after seeing Dr. Greger’s video on its effect on teeth. I was considering buying dried hibiscus powder and adding a teaspoon or so to smoothies. Given the Al issue, now it doesn’t seem to be a good idea. Any thoughts? Thanks

    1. Thanks for your question George!

      I do understand your point, but as Dr Greger suggests, there is still some benefit and to avoid any problems have “no more than a quart of filtered hibiscus tea a day”.

      Hope this answer helps!

  2. I stopped after realizing that I had developed a nagging little cough. I wouldn’t have noticed but it was very annoying to my husband, who wondered what was wrong with me! I had been drinking perhaps 2-3 cups per day until it ran out. Within a few days the cough disappeared. Then I looked up more info here and sure enough, Dr. Greger mentioned that it can have that side effect, just like beta blockers in some people. Fortunately I have low blood pressure anyway. So happy to be done coughing!

    1. Thank you for comment. Clare. While your cough certainly could have been due to other causes than the hibiscus tea, the fact that you have low blood pressure, you weren’t taking in too much tea and you had done your research on possible side effects, it seems the decision for you to personally to use other methods than hibiscus tea to keep your blood pressure low was appropriate for you. Keep being proactive and being up-to-date on latest research.

  3. I routinely make fruit smoothies with hibiscus and lemon. Is adding lemon to hibiscus tea or smoothies a poor idea? The article seems to sidestep this issue or is it that there is just no data?

  4. I’ve used hibiscus tea for about 4 years in the amount of approx. 3-4 cups a day (within Dr’s recommended limits) and would not give it up based on these recommendations. My reasoning is, hibiscus tea has regulated my elevated blood pressure better than 2 pharmaceutical drugs could. So as an avid believer in plant medicine (herbalism), I prefer using something made by nature as opposed to created in a lab. imo-my two cents!

  5. Just to be clear, because of the previous recommendations: are 5 tea bags, concentrated into 2 mugs of such strong tea, still a recommended amount?

    1. Thank you for your question, Katehan. While the latest video specifically concentrated on hibiscus tea, the NF video Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea? helps put the whole question of aluminum exposure in perspective (focusing on the fact that if we don’t overdo,hibiscus tea and other teas are still healthy options). While I could find no specific studies on aluminum in relation to these teas at this time, we should also consider the positive antioxidant benefits of herbal and riobos teas (see BF video: The Healthiest Herbal Tea) and include them in our healthy nutrition plans.

    2. I add rooibos tea to my hibiscus tea to make it less sour,and therefore less damaging to my teeth. It feels like it works.
      John S

  6. I had one of my worst headaches ever after drinking hibiscus tea. I used store-bought dried flowers from a Spanish grocery store. It was delicious, but I think I made it far too strong. I do not think I will try it again. I read somewhere (maybe here?) that hibiscus tea works the way angiotensin receptor blockers work.
    I must have overdosed on the tea.

    I once read a university study that concluded that one should not consume green tea while taking beta-blockers. I would love more information about this.

  7. Following your Hibiscus punch recipe (from How Not to Die), I will now cut in half, or drink over two days. I only use organic hibiscus flowers (not tea). Thank you for the update.

  8. I am very confused about what constitutes tea. While in Costa Rica one time I was developing a UTI, and someone told me the “jungle medicine” cure was rosa de Jamaica, (dried hibiscus) soaked in room temp filtered water. Indeed it did help although in my view it tastes like ear wax. My question is, does making tea with hot water change the strength? I have started drinking some every day, about 16 ounces. No harmful effects that I can detect.
    I didn’t even know there was a dried powder option. Is there any information on the different options, strength wise?

    1. Coclemary: Two things: 1) Many of the antioxidants in plants are heat sensitive, so brewing reduces the antioxidant content of any tea. (Cold brewing solves this problem.) 2) No amount of brewing can completely extract the beneficial compounds in any tea. (“Eating” the tea solves this problem.)

    2. Standard “tea” comes from a particular plant called camellia sinensis which contains caffeine, but the generic term tea can mean any plant, dried or fresh, steeped in water or liquid as a beverage or even medicinal. How long you steep it, and how hot the water can affect the strength, boiling the ingredients is generally not recommended because it depletes the nutrients and can make the tea bitter. I like to make “sun tea” which preserves vit C and I’d imagine some other goodies. :)

  9. I cold brew my hibiscus tea – I just leave the petals in my water bottle overnight and then drink it the next day (making sure to rinse my mouth to avoid damaging my teeth). I don’t consume the petals but my water bottle is 1L so I am drinking quite a bit of hibiscus infused water each day. Should I be concern about this and alter my habits?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sarah. It seems your hibiscus-infused water is within the limits recommended by Dr. Greger if you are using about 2 teabags or a handful of hibiscus flower for your quart of liquid. Yes, the acidic nature of hibiscus tea may increase its absorptive ability for the aluminum but you are not drinking more than 15 cups of tea per day. Enjoy the antioxidant benefits without worrying and keep up to date for further information as you are doing following NutritionsFacts.org.

  10. So, how many Hibiscus tea bags do you suggest for 1 quart? Also, lately I have also been cold brewing – leaving the bags in cold water for several hours or overnight in the fridge. I am wondering, does cold brewing vs hot brewing make any difference?

    1. In How Not to Die, Dr. Greger suggests making 1/2 gallon of hibiscus punch using a handful of dried hibiscus flowers or 5 hibiscus tea bags cold brewing, just as you are doing. So for one quart you’d want to use 1/2 the amount of tea (or just take the tea out, drink one quart the first day and the 2nd quart the next,

  11. In case anyone is interested, the plant that produces this tea…Hibiscus sabdariffa (Flor de Jamaica) is super easy to grow, has pretty edible leaves and flowers, and the actual material for the tea isn’t the flowers but the calyx that forms around the seed AFTER it blooms. They can be used fresh like fruit, or dried like what you buy, and the seeds are even used to make something like tempeh, though I haven’t tried that yet. I’m into permaculture and plants that are effortless with multiple uses win every time, it’s a good one! They call it “Florida cranberry” here.

    1. True roselle is Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (family Malvaceae) and there are 2 main types. The more important economically is H. sabdariffa var. altissima Wester, an erect, sparsely-branched annual to 16 ft (4.8 m) high, which is cultivated for its jute-like fiber in India, the East Indies, Nigeria and to some extent in tropical America. The stems of this variety are green or red and the leaves are green, sometimes with red veins. Its flowers are yellow and calyces red or green, non-fleshy, spiny and not used for food. This type at times has been confused with kenaf, H. cannabinus L., a somewhat similar but more widely exploited fiber source.

      The other distinct type of roselle, H. sabdariffa var. sabdariffa, embraces shorter, bushy forms which have been described as races: bhagalpuriensi, intermedius, albus, and ruber, all breeding true from seed. The first has green, red-streaked, inedible calyces; the second and third have yellow-green edible calyces and also yield fiber. We are dealing here primarily with the race ruber and its named cultivars with edible calyces; secondarily, the green-fruited strains which have similar uses and which may belong to race albus.

      Vernacular names, in addition to roselle, in English-speaking regions are rozelle, sorrel, red sorrel, Jamaica sorrel, Indian sorrel, Guinea sorrel, sour-sour, Queensland jelly plant, jelly okra, lemon bush, and Florida cranberry.
      https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/roselle.html

      1. Hibiscus acetosella, also know as false roselle or cranberry hibiscus is another really pretty and useful edible hibiscus, cooked or raw, or used to make tea also. The leaves are deep maroon, maple shaped, and somewhat tart, great in salads. It’s a quick grower too, and though I never tried this one up north, I don’t see why it couldn’t be grown as an annual about anywhere.

    2. It’s super easy to grow in the 2% of the United States in which it is hardy. It is impossible for the other 98% outdoors.
      JohN S

      1. Not true John, I grew it in Connecticut, you just have to start the seeds inside early, (like tomatoes) and it grows as an annual, just save some seeds for the following year. It is very easy to grow until frost. No matter where you live, it is well worth a try as the entire plant is edible.

        1. Great idea, Vege-tater,
          I never thought of growing that plant as an annual vegetable from seeds. You learn something new every day.
          John

          1. You can even plant it as an ornamental in flower beds or wherever, it’s kind of pretty as long as you keep it pruned until it starts flowering (I just eat it!). I converted one of my flower beds into an ornamental edible garden so I can grow more food and not have to dig more lawn! It’s amazing how pretty fennel and dill is mixed between tricolor amaranth, rainbow chard, flax and colored kale, bordered by parsley, purple basil, carrots and nasturtium (edible leaves and flowers)! The swallowtails love fennel so lots of butterflies too, and mixed plantings also keep the bad critters at bay.

    1. I do not think that anybody knows for sure. There appears to be very little research on humans in this area (there have been some rat studies).
      However, a website (I cannot vouch for its credibility) comments:
      ” When used as a tea, hibiscus is generally considered safe. However, more research is needed in order to determine which doses are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease.”
      http://www.healthline.com/health/all-you-need-to-know-hibiscus#4

  12. Plants get their aluminum from the soil. So, if we get our hibiscus tea from hydroponically grown plants. Would that not solve the problem?

  13. What are your thoughts on the drinking amounts for pregnant and nursing moms? I am 6 months pregnant and drink hibiscus tea every week (about 3-4 cups).

    1. Erika – this is the response I gave to similar question from Chris:

      “I do not think that anybody knows for sure. There appears to be very little research on humans in this area ……….

      However, a website (I cannot vouch for its credibility) comments:
      ” When used as a tea, hibiscus is generally considered safe. However, more research is needed in order to determine which doses are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease.”
      http://www.healthline.com/health/all-you-need-to-know-hibiscus#4

  14. 80 year old in Missouri:
    I praise and admire Dr. Greger for his dedication to improve the health of everyday citizens. He has found and embraced the tools to disseminate valuable knowledge. His book of “How not to Die” led me to his web site. His communication via daily blogs has helped to reinforce with me his health message of a plant based diet and has already improved the status of my stamina after three months. Regarding the Hibiscus tea issue – I am grateful for his frankness in updating and sharing his expanded knowledge.

    1. That is wonderful post of appreciation of Dr G. Wish you great health Helga.
      I am also grateful to be part of the great community of volunteers that work on his website. It was only yesterday that a friend needed help with changing her eating habits for better health that I referred her to Dr G. website.

  15. I love your info but this all makes my head spin. I can’t keep up and I find myself with a headache trying to follow all the changing information. I generally try not to drink tea all day though. I drink at least 50% of my fluids as just plain old tap water. No filters here, can’t afford that stuff.

  16. “While a greater percentage of aluminum gets from the hibiscus into the tea water than from the other teas, there’s less aluminum overall.” …

    How can these two points be true?

  17. Hi, what is the best way to filter the hibiscus tea? I have loose hibiscus… i do have Hari coffee filters, i’m just wondering if they are too thick..meaning they will take some of the good stuff out also.
    Thanks

  18. I think I may have to drop the hibiscus tea :(
    My diet is extremely high in manganese (oats, blueberries, teff) and I recently started exercising more and taking in more calories (meaning more oats and teff). I use cronometer and found last night I was at 10.3 mg without counting the hibiscus tea. The Linus Pauling Institute states that ‘manganese toxicity resulting from foods alone has not been reported in humans’ but that ‘manganese in drinking water may be more bioavailable than manganese in food’. Seems like manganese in tea might be more bioavailable.

    I’m switching to corn grits for a few days, but I much prefer oats and teff (love teff). I can’t see giving up the blueberries.

    I’ve always thought that one of the benefits of plant based diets might be the high ratio of manganese to iron, but I know that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

    1. Hi CD. As with anything, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. You do not necessarily have to give up hibiscus tea; you just have to remember that it’s all about moderation. I would stick to one cup per day. Like Dr Greger mentioned, our bodies regulate the amount of manganese through homeostasis. So if you consume too much, it will be excreted.

  19. Hi, JIHOONKIM. Great question! The thing about powders is that they are more dense than loose, dried herbs, of course. To get equivalent amounts, one would need the same mass of material. I was not able to immediately access full-text of all of the studies cited, but one study I read used 1.25g/240mL, which would be about 5.2g/L. I hope that helps!

  20. I am drinking Hibiscus tea for high BP. 4 cups a day, but now I see I should be letting it steep overnight in fridge instead of heating the water per cup to get the most benefit? Thank you for any guidance!

  21. I should also say it was recommended I drink “Republic of Tea” brand by a nutritionist friend. Expensive but I’m not out yet. I bought organic bulk that I plan on using when this runs out. How much should I be using to keep it in a pitcher cold in the fridge? New to all of this, so once again any advice is appreciated! (Again, drinking it for high BP) Thank you!

  22. I’m making hibiscus tea with ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. Using about a cup of dried flowers to make the tea. I drank two whole quarts, cause it was so good, and it caused cramps which had me in utter agony for days. I’m still craving it though, like my body suddenly needs something in it, should I reduce my intake or stop altogether?

  23. Hi, Wendi Fernandez. I would definitely cut back to a quart a day or less, and see how you feel. If you feel fine, then continue with the lower intake level. If not, then reduce even more, or even stop altogether, if that is what it takes to eliminate your symptoms. You might also make the tea a bit weaker, by using less hibiscus to make each batch. I hope that helps!

  24. Hi, I have a high blood pressure
    I don’t want to use any medicines .
    My friend suggested me to drink hibiscus tea or juice .
    So I want to know how much should cups should I drink and how can I made the tea.

  25. Nice post
    I am just wondering that they will take some of the good stuff out.
    While a greater percentage of aluminum gets from the hibiscus into the tea water than from the other tea. Thank you so much for your share.

  26. We do have a question regarding the hibiscus tea
    recipe. We use the actual unadulterated flower but are unsure of
    how much needs to go into a one-liter bottle. Everyone speaks of a “handful”
    for two liters. Would it be accurate to say that 15 gms is the
    appropriate amount for 1 liter? If not, what is the precise amount we
    should be using? I’m wondering if anyone can give us more precision in order to avoid drinking too much or tea that is too concentrated.

  27. I haven’t had my period in 3 months probably due to breastfeeding. My son is 2.5 now, and I’ve had my period back since before he was 1. So it randomly decided to disappear again. A NP at my gyno wanted me to take progesterone to induce my period because she said “the uterus can thicken and that leads to cancer”
    Well Idk about that… but I figured I’d try to induce my period naturally by drinking hibicus tea. Well for a few days I’ve had some bad cramping like a real period but no blood.
    Do you have any idea? Please respond

    1. Hi, Sarah! Since you have been to your gynecologist, I am going to assume you are not pregnant. Breastfeeding can cause amenorrhea, as can rapid weight loss or weight gain. You might investigate pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), or mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) as potential remedies in single infusion (one herb made like tea) form as potential remedies. These should not be used during pregnancy. I hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This