Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus

Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus
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Hibiscus tea elevates the antioxidant level of one’s bloodstream within an hour of consumption.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In my comparison of the antioxidant content of 282 beverages last year, hibiscus tea came out number one. So, my family switched from drinking matcha (green tea) to the hibiscus fruit punch recipe I shared in that video. We have since switched from using tea bags to just bulk dried hibiscus flowers, which we soak, and then blenderize into the tea, so we don’t throw anything away.

But, just because something has antioxidant power in a test tube doesn’t mean it has antioxidant flower power in the body. Maybe the phytonutrients aren’t even absorbed. They were found to be bioavailable in rodents—but, I haven’t had a pet hamster since I was a kid. We didn’t know about humans, until now.

“Consumption of [a] Hibiscus…aqueous extract [in other words, tea] and its impact on systemic antioxidant potential in healthy [human] subjects.” If you take people and have them just drink water, basically, for ten hours, this is what happens to the antioxidant level in their bloodstream. Your antioxidants get slowly used up throughout the day, fighting off all those free radicals, unless you replenish your antioxidant stores.

Now, it’s hard to get people to fast for ten hours, so, in addition to water, they gave the study subjects something they knew wouldn’t mess up their antioxidant measurements—white bread and cheese. So, this is what happens when you eat water, white bread, and Gouda all day.

What if, instead, at the beginning of the experiment, you give people a single cup of hibiscus tea? Within an hour, you see a nice spike in the antioxidant level in your bloodstream. But then, the effect disappears—unless you sip hibiscus throughout the day, or eat something other than Wonder Bread cheese sandwiches.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to JLPC and Popperipopp via Wikimedia; and numberstumper and bterrycompton via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In my comparison of the antioxidant content of 282 beverages last year, hibiscus tea came out number one. So, my family switched from drinking matcha (green tea) to the hibiscus fruit punch recipe I shared in that video. We have since switched from using tea bags to just bulk dried hibiscus flowers, which we soak, and then blenderize into the tea, so we don’t throw anything away.

But, just because something has antioxidant power in a test tube doesn’t mean it has antioxidant flower power in the body. Maybe the phytonutrients aren’t even absorbed. They were found to be bioavailable in rodents—but, I haven’t had a pet hamster since I was a kid. We didn’t know about humans, until now.

“Consumption of [a] Hibiscus…aqueous extract [in other words, tea] and its impact on systemic antioxidant potential in healthy [human] subjects.” If you take people and have them just drink water, basically, for ten hours, this is what happens to the antioxidant level in their bloodstream. Your antioxidants get slowly used up throughout the day, fighting off all those free radicals, unless you replenish your antioxidant stores.

Now, it’s hard to get people to fast for ten hours, so, in addition to water, they gave the study subjects something they knew wouldn’t mess up their antioxidant measurements—white bread and cheese. So, this is what happens when you eat water, white bread, and Gouda all day.

What if, instead, at the beginning of the experiment, you give people a single cup of hibiscus tea? Within an hour, you see a nice spike in the antioxidant level in your bloodstream. But then, the effect disappears—unless you sip hibiscus throughout the day, or eat something other than Wonder Bread cheese sandwiches.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to JLPC and Popperipopp via Wikimedia; and numberstumper and bterrycompton via flickr

Doctor's Note

Here’s the beverage comparison video I mentioned with the hibiscus punch recipe: Better Than Green Tea? Note that’s erythritol pictured, not sugar (see Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant). And, I also throw in a teaspoon of amla (dried Indian gooseberry powder); see Amla: Indian gooseberries vs. cancer, diabetes, and cholesterol). And, my most recent addition is about a half inch of fresh ginger root—yum! If you throw in some fresh or frozen berries too, you’re approaching my Pink Juice with Green Foam. The impressive manganese content of hibiscus tea (see this study) may exceed recommended limits at high intakes, however; so, we probably shouldn’t drink more than a quart a day.

For a primer on the fluctuating levels of oxidant stress, see Antioxidant Level Dynamics.

And, for more flower power, check out what the saffron crocus can do for 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: Rose Hips for Osteoarthritis. I cover more comparisons of herbal teas in The Healthiest Herbal Tea.

Also, check out my associated blog post for more context: Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

86 responses to “Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus

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    1. If you have a local Latin market then it is easy to find and likely could be fresher than mail order. Just ask for “Jamaica” (ha-mai’-ka) instead of “Hibiscus”.




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    1. Just smelling like Wild Berry Zinger. I know personally because I work out a lot and when I have a lot of WBZ or any other Hibiscus tea my sweat smells like flowers. And smelling like flowers is much better than the repulsive, pungent smell that oozes off the meat and dairy eaters when they sweat.




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      1. I’m not sure about the oxalate content of teas (but that is a good question to ask), however, from this site I have learned that cinnamon and turmeric can contribute to kidney stone formation. Check out the cinnamon and turmeric videos.




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      2. Michael, I’m not an expert on kidney stones and was interested in your comment as I consume quite a bit of oxalate and would like to prevent such an occurrence. I did do a search on PubMed and if I’m reading the abstracts properly of the studies I found it sounds like, surprisingly, hibiscus helps prevent kidney stones? I’m so sorry you had a kidney stone. Here’s the link to the studies I referenced: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075390 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22057204




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    2. Hi Mike, needless to say (?) just about all substances consumed in excess will have toxic effects. Indeed there was a study on hibiscus and I believe (if I’m interpreting the abstract properly) that providing massive amounts of hibiscus extract did indeed prove toxic. I’m guessing that one gallon a day is fine, especially considering that wild berry zinger has other ingredients as well and overall that’s not a huge amount of hibiscus constituents that you are consuming. Here’s the link to the study I referenced: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19003943




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    3. If you sweeten like I do with Concord Grape Juice in a 50-50 ratio instead of sugar then you can drink twice as much (sort of).

      I think Dr. Gregor’s now recommending 2 glasses per day.




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    4. hibiscus plant is relatively rich is manganese. High manganese can symptomatically resemble Parkinson’s disease. However, please note, most U.S. population is deficient in manganese.




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  1. I love hibiscus ever since you mentioned it I’ve been drinking it. It is so good! Now I know it’s good for my pet rats too I will start giving it to them also :)




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  2. This video on hibiscus tea and its impressive antioxidant power yet extremely short term benefits makes me even more focused on endogenous antioxidants and foods that stimulate their production (e.g., turmeric). This also reminds me of the supression of endogenous antioxidant production during supplementation with antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E. Since the body generates endogenous antioxidants in response to the need (such as after exercising), compared to dietary antioxidants which are not similarly timed, this seems to add support to the strategy of helping the body do its thing.




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    1. I purchased mine on that online store that’s named after a South American river and forest. It was cheaper there than at the local ethnic supermarkets believe it or not. I put green tea bags in the basket of my coffee pot — sans coffee of course — and the hibiscus leaves in the glass pot and brew.

      One day I’ll be organized enough to cold brew tea instead of hot brew.




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  3. I buy dried hibiscus tea flowers in bulk at
    my local coop, and grind them down to powder in my coffee grinder. So long as you
    like the flavor in a dish, you can then add the hibiscus powder easily to just
    about anything, smoothies, oatmeal, etc.

    That said, although antioxidant capacity of a food seems important,
    it seems simplistic to rate the value of a food by its antioxidant capacity
    alone.

    First because the tests generally look at the ability of a food to
    inhibit a specific reaction, and free radicals cause a multitude of reactions.
    Use a different test, and you’ll change the rankings – sometimes quite
    significantly. And some reactions seem more biologically relevant than others –
    I prefer those that look at the ability of foods or substances to inhibit
    glycation reactions ( “Inhibition of Protein Glycation by Extracts of
    Culinary Herbs and Spices” by R. P.
    Dearlove et al (J Med Food 11 (2) 2008, 275–281, pdf https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http://www.globalcitizen.net/Data/Pages/1049/papers/2010022311157709.pdf ) , or even better, to inhibit DNA degradation or breakage due to
    free radical reactions.

    However,
    even in the best case scenario, ranking foods by their ability to inhibit
    biologically relevant free radical reactions, one also needs to look at other,
    often more important effects – – such as their epigenetic effects on DNA
    expression. For example, resveratrol in red wine and giant knotweed, fisetin in
    strawberries,
    and quercetin in onions, all activate the human ““longevity gene”” SIRT1.
    Their ability to scavenge free radicals seems pretty much irrelevant with
    respect to this primary epigenetic effect.

    Although
    blueberries rank much lower than hibiscus, as well as a number other berries with
    respect to their antioxidant capacity, I suspect that they have their
    primary effect on an epigenetic level. In
    one research study, simply adding blueberries to the diet of aging rats not
    only prevented declines in mental functions, but actually improved them. Like
    green tea, a plethora of research studies have validated a multitude of
    specific beneficial effects of blueberries in a wide variety of areas.
    Until similar studies validate the effects of hibiscus in other areas,
    blueberries and green tea will continue to outrank it for me as “superfoods” by a wide
    margin.




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    1. Hey, Ed. I enjoyed your post. I add hibiscus leaves to my green/white tea each day. There’s a fair bit of research on the benefit of adding an acid to green tea, to make available more catechins. So I figure, in addition to some positive effects of hibiscus (there’s ~630 studies on hibiscus according to PubMed), adding the hibiscus will provide me with more beneficial catechins from the green tea.




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  4. What is interesting to me about this study is that it shows something much more general than just hibiscus tea. I know the study only used hibiscus tea, but we don’t have any reason to believe that any food or liquid high in antioxidants wouldn’t have a similar effect/shape to the graph.

    So, I interpret these results to be showing that: 1) eating foods high in antioxidants does indeed have a significant, measurable impact on the body, 2) as Dr. Greger says, one of the keys to good health is taking in those antioxidant foods and drinks throughout the day – so that our cells are bathed in those cell preserving materials all day long.

    Very cool.




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    1. Hi John. I’ve eaten hibiscus right off the plant before and it tasted just like the dried hibiscus I purchase. Do you know what species of hibiscus you have? If I’m not mistaken the most commonly consumed is Hibiscus Sabdariffa.




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  5. If I were to cold brew some tea how much loose hibiscus would I use? I got some say the grocery store and would like to give it a try.




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  6. So, Dr Greger. Several people asked how much loose hibiscus is used. No one answered so I’ll ask you: How much loose hibiscus do you use in how much water?




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  7. Is this statement true: “Medical professionals already know that hibiscus can react with certain drugs and that it isn’t good for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.” It’s from this article:
    http://cooperaerobics.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/can-hibiscus-oust-hypertension/

    From Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s website, he of Aerobics fame.
    My daughter is breastfeeding and she drinks your hibiscus tea daily.
    We’re both big fans of yours. Should she skip the tea until she’s finished breastfeeding? Please advise.
    Thanks.




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  8. I get palpitations – my heart feels like it’s pumping too hard. Since drinking hibiscus tea these palpitations come quite frequently ie a few times a day. Is anything known about this effect?




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  9. How does this compare to green tea? Does the antioxidants in green tea stay longer in the blood stream than the hibiscus tea?




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    1. Green tea contains caffeine, hibiscus does not, hence you can drink hibiscus tea before bed time. Both probably have antioxidants – green tea likely has more but hibiscus contains other minerals that are absent in green tea, such as manganese which has many bodily functions (ask me if you want to know the details). Green tea likely comes from China which is heavily contaminated (both soil and air). Hibiscus origin varies but can also be grown in a backyard if you live in southern U.S. states. This way you have a guarantee it is organic. I grow hibiscus in my back yard, I feed it used tea leaves and coffee beans. It’s doing well but does not tolerate freeze! I live in San Antonio, TX. We have very few days of 32’F or less but even those few days can severely damage the plant so i have to make sure I protect the plant from the brief freeze. I hope this helps.




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  10. Hibiscus plants are sold everywhere, why not just have your plant and pick the flowers from it everyday? They are everywhere here in Texas at least and super easy to grow, you can even neglect them. They bloom lots everyday.




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  11. My dogs used to eat the flowers of my perennial hibiscus plants, and I was worried about that causing a problem so I got rid of the plants. Does anyone know if it was o’kay for them to eat the flowers? I’d love to have them back in my yard!




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  12. Dear Doc,

    Yesterday I made a mix of dried hibiscus petals (3 tsp) to 600mL water and sipped it over the course of an hour.

    After a while I started feeling woozy, lightheaded and slightly dizzy.

    Is this likely to be caused by the antihypertensive properties of the hibiscus?

    Many thanks




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  13. I think you are referring to Roselle Sabdariffa hibiscus, not the picture above which is clearly the ornamental hibiscus. You either dehydrate or simmer raw calyx for tea. You can add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a squeeze of lemon.




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  14. Hi Doctor. Hibiscus petals are notoriously high in acid content. Is it likely that drinking hibiscus tea over a long period of time may damage tooth enamel? Thanks




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  15. I seem to get palpitations if taking your recommended amount of hibiscus tea. Has anyone else experienced this that you know of? Many thanks Dr. Greger for all your hard work and dedication.




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  16. Dr Mcgregor, can you please show us a study with regards to the eficacy of “ecklonia Clava” its aparently a very powerful seaweed antioxidant from japan with a huge whooping 12 hr lifespan effect in body. I’m rather dubious of it being more powerful than resveratrol found in japanee knotwood.




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  17. Do you recommend drinking hibiscus tea for those already have breast cancer as I read there are some issue with hibiscus tea and estrogen.




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  18. How quickly do you have to drink the ice tea before antioxidants start to decrease or do they not decrease?




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  19. Do not take hibiscus with acetaminophen. If you search the web for this topic you will find warnings on medical sites stating studies show hibiscus tea may INCREASE the rate at which your body uses or processes acetaminophen. Not a problem for the occasional user but those with chronic pain who use this as a regular pain it may be worth noting. I will leave the debate about pain meds and their use to others to debate and will focus on the tea. I respect others right to do what they need to as part of an overall pain management plan that works for them.




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  20. In this piece which I captured somewhere:

    What do you drink,
    Dr. Greger?

    Dr. Greger ~ Are you still
    drinking that yummy Hibiscus Tea? (I did not see it in your “morning mix”!)

    Kenton R. Mullins / Originally Posted in A Better Breakfast

    Answer:

    A half gallon a day Kenton! I no
    longer do the teabags, though, but the bulk dried hibiscus flowers themselves
    (why hibiscus? See Better Than Green Tea?). My current recipe is a handful of dried hibiscus petals
    in 8 cups of water with a penny sized chunk of fresh ginger root (see Plants vs. Pesticides), handful of fresh mint leaves (Antioxidants
    in a Pinch), teaspoon of amla (Amla: Indian gooseberries vs. cancer,
    diabetes, and cholesterol), and erythritol to taste (3 tablespoons for me–see A Harmless Artificial Sweetener)–all blended up in
    a high speed blender and then sipped throughout the day. I’m on the road right
    now and I sure miss my concoction!

    Anyone have any suggestions for improving it even further (taste
    or nutrition-wise)?

    UPDATE: Due to concerns about the
    manganese content, I’ve cut back to a quart a day of filtered.

    oh, here it is:

    http://nutritionfacts.org/questions/what-do-you-drink-dr-greger/

    I am somewhat concerned with the notation about manganese. What does that mean and how should I consider using that information?

    AND I purchased:

    Hibiscus Flowers-5Lb-Bulk Hibiscus Tea Flowers-Bulk

    Sold by Sweet Pea Spice

    Condition: New

    for $45 It says it comes from Jamaica From Amazon
    Anyone see any problem with using these flowers? I’m told by Jamaicans they drink this stuff all the time.




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  21. I am following your advice to drink hibiscus tea made from organic bulk flowers and have been cold brewing it as you suggest. I have two questions: 1) I’ve read that it is a good idea to heat herbal teas to kill possible bacteria contamination because they haven’t been heated in the production process as “regular” (camellia sinensis) teas have. 2) I think i saw in one of your videos that heating actually increases the antioxidant content of teas anyway. Can you please comment? Thank you




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  22. I have no reference for 2g/day of Hibiscus/roselle calyces being a ‘dose’. but Nnam and Onyeke 2003 in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition vol.58 first article give amazingly high levels of iron in the tea. Aluminum and manganese are also problematic, but if the 2003 figures are near-accurate (and USDA, more modest, seems to lean that way, the prudent limit is 7/8 cup for pre-menopausal women.
    A pity; it tastes so good.




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  23. Doc, you really need to clarify whether the hibiscus in these studies is the pretty hibiscus flower associated with 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.




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  24. is it necessary for our blood levels to always be high, or can we store tha antioxidants in our cells in an amout which can take us through a couple hours of only water?




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    1. Hey Dominic, that’s a great question I am not entirely sure. I would expect antioxidant metabolites to make it to the cells and tissue, as they are used for many biochemical reactions. I can imagine researchers tests blood levels of antioxidants rather than biopsy certain tissues. Often the mechanisms are explained in the introduction and methods section of the studies. You may try searching the “sources cited” button above and read the studies in full. They might have some answers. Thanks for your question.

      Sincerely,
      Joseph




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  25. So now i’ll start harvesting my hibiscus flowers. I do believe I’ll propagate the plant as well. It’s such a beauty. Why does everyone think they have to run to the store/Amazon to procure every little thing in some packaged portions?




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  26. If the data clearly shows that antioxidant levels greatly increase for a short while after the tea, how does the antioxidant level at the 10hr mark end up the same? Where did all the extra antioxidants from hour 1 go? What does the body do with it?




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  27. I live in south TX and I grow several Hibiscus in my back yard. Amazing plant, blooms almost year round. My question is, is there an advantage of drinking tea from fresh flowers or better to let them dry first? Thank you in advance for all your view points.




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    1. Hi, SATX. I am Christine, a NF volunteer. First of all, am I correct in assuming that SATX stands for San Antonio, TX? That is one of my favorite places, I lived there for many years, and I get back as often as I can! Hibiscus is a beautiful flower and a potent medicinal herb. In answer to your question, dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh. The general rule of thumb for fresh versus dried herbs is 1 part dried herb is equivalent to 3 parts fresh. You can use fresh flowers, but you may want to use 3 times as much for the same amount of water. Of course, if you are going to consume the flowers, do not apply any pesticides. I hope that helps!




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      1. Dear Christine, thank you for taking your time to respond. Yes, SATX indeed stands for San Antonio, TX. :) And I am happy to hear that you are San Antonian (at heart) and we hope to see you back soon! Your answer regarding hibiscus flowers makes complete sense to me. Thank you for clarifying the issue. Given that you know so much, would you know if there is a nutritional difference in hibiscus species (red vs. yellow etc.) in the amount of manganese content? Manganese plays extremely important role in human health and hibiscus is a nice source of it which is primarily why I take so much interest in it.




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        1. Haha! Thanks! I don’t know that much, but I have some herbalist friends I could ask about any differences between constituents of various hibiscus species. I will get back to you on this!




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      2. This is strange i responded to this message yesterday but it is not posted here. Ok then, once again, hi Christine, thank you for taking your time to respond. Indeed, SATX stands for San Antonio, TX. I am very happy to read that you are a San Antonian at heart, we welcome you back anytime! Your answer makes complete sense. I wonder if you would know if there is a significant difference in the levels of manganese across different species of hibiscus (red vs. yellow etc.). Manganese is very important for human health which is why I am so intrigued by hibiscus plants. Thank you again for writing!




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        1. SATX: FYI: Sometimes it can be hard to find a post, but that doesn’t mean that the post is missing or was deleted. Here is a link to your original post: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/herbal-tea-update-hibiscus/#comment-3043398037
          .
          Note: If you find your disqus profile page, it will show all your post and then you should be able to click the ‘View in Original Discussion’ link if you want to see it on the NutritionFacts page.
          .
          Just letting you know.




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    1. Hi Michael, I’m one of the site moderators. Just like the effect of food is temporary – you get hungry again – you can have some hibiscus every day or so. All the metabolic activities in your body as well as many of the things you ingest and are exposed to in the environment create free radicals that can have an adverse effect on you. The ingestion of foods that counteract the free radicals by providing antioxidants can help. The more of these foods you ingest the higher total antioxidant effect you will have to immediately scavenge the free radicals as they are formed. Studies have shown that people with better diets that high a higher total amount of antioxidants circulating have a lower free radical count immediately after eating a very high fat meal than in those people that did not routinely eat a diet high in antioxidants.




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  28. I make this refreshing drink with hibiscus tea:

    1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (about 1/2 ounce or 15 grams)
    1 cinnamon stick
    4 cups cold water
    2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (we use stevia drops or vanilla drops)

    Place the hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a large jar or bowl. Add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours). Add the sweetener of your choice to taste. Strain out the solids and serve over ice with a squeeze of lime, if desired.




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  29. I drank hibiscus tea. But be aware. Drinking this more that once a week comes with seriouse side effect. Hibiscus tea expands your blood vessels.giving it almost an effect of a nitrate.hibiscus tea if drank too often can cause arterial fibrillation and palpitation ranging from 150 to 200 bpm. It also has adverse effects if used with other drugs(cannabis,cocaine,hiv medication and blood pressure medicine.)I had my share of hibiscus tea and it caused me to be hospitalized with severe tachycardia.

    I know that we all want to be healthu and we can be.we find ways to be healthy by drinking and eating healthy things.and sometimes we find a wonderful herb or supplement to take/eat . but is not always all that great for you




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  30. As the flu season will soon be upon us, it may behoove to lay is a supply of hibiscus flowers in advance… especially if this study is true, then that may prove protective during an unforeseen flu epidemic.




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