Hibiscus is a large genus of flowering plants, growing primarily in tropical and subtropical regions, whose flowers are used for a wide range of medicinal purposes and edible products ranging from making jams and jellies to lowering blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, reducing cholesterol and, in some cases, treating cancer. Flowers from the Hibiscus sabdariffa are generally consumed by brewing a medicinal tea or eaten in salads. Like many herbal preparations, however, healing properties and potentially hazardous side effects are associated with the consumption of the plant. Certain precautions should be taken.
Effects on Estrogen
Consuming hibiscus tea lowers estrogen levels, and those using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or taking birth control pills should avoid drinking the tea, according to research done by Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, India, and published in "eCAM," an alternative medicine journal.
Pregnancy and Fertility
Lapacho Tea Benefits
Research on estrogen, pregnancy and fertility performed at the Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in India indicate the estrogenic qualities of the tea may interfere with healthy reproductive activity and affect childbearing and female fertility. Side effects from consuming hibiscus tea on fetuses are unclear.
Hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure, and has diuretic properties and mild effects on dilation of blood vessels, according to Maureen Williams, ND, of the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, Washington 1. People with low blood pressure or those with hypertension who take blood-pressure-lowering medicines should avoid drinking the tea due to possible contradictory interactions between the tea and medications.
Essiac Tea Side Effects
There are some early indications that hibiscus has an effect on cancerous cells in the brain and skin, based on research on medicinal plants from the Americas for the treatment of cancer and AIDS performed at the New York Botanical Garden, in coordination with the National Cancer Institute. Although this is good news, those taking anticancer drugs or who are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy should avoid the tea due to possible interactions between it and their medications.
Some people have experienced hallucinogenic effects from drinking hibiscus tea or a sensation of feeling intoxicated. Take care when driving or using machinery if you are unfamiliar with the side effects of this tea.
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- Bastyr Center for Natural Health: Hibiscus Tea
- "Rainforest Remedies: One Hundred Healing Herbs of Belize;" Rosita Arvigo, DN and Michael Balick, PhD; 1994
- Aziz, Z.; Wong, S.; and Chong, N. Effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. on serum lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Nov 25;150(2):442-50. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.09.042.
- Mozaffari-Khosravi, H.; Jalali-Khanabadi, B.; Afkhami-Ardekani, M. et al. The effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on hypertension in patients with type II diabetes. J Hum Hypertens. 2009 Jan;23(1):48-54. doi:10.1038/jhh.2008.100.
- Mozaffari-Khosravi, H.; Jalali-Khanabadi, B.; Afkhami-Ardekani, M. et al. Effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoproteins in patients with type II diabetes. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):899-903. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0540.
- Serban, C.; Sahebkar, A.; Ursoniu, S. et al. Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on arterial hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Hypertens. 2015 Jun;33(6):1119-27. doi:10.1097/HJH.0000000000000585.
- Wisetmuen, E.; Pannangpetch, P.; Kongyingyoes, B. et al. Insulin secretion enhancing activity of roselle calyx extract in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Pharmacognosy Res. 2013 Apr-Jun; 5(2): 65–70. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.110520.
- Wahabi HA, Alansary LA, Al-Sabban AH, Glasziuo P. The effectiveness of Hibiscus sabdariffa in the treatment of hypertension: a systematic review. Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb;17(2):83-6.
Susan Kaye writes about alternative health care, the medicinal value of foods and natural remedies for healing body, mind and spirit. She is currently retired from an active classical homeopathy practice and enjoys sharing her passion for alternative medicine in her writing with those seeking health care freedom.