“You have hypertension don’t you?” That was how my daughter greeted me on her return from a vacation in Egypt. “Yes I do,” I replied. “I thought so. I have brought you a practical gift from Egypt. It is hibiscus tea. They use it to lower blood pressure.” She said. That was my introduction to hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), also known as Roselle, has been used to treat high blood pressure in both African and Asian traditional medicine.
In 1996, researchers in Nigeria confirmed this age-old wisdom by showing that a tea made from the calyxes surrounding the hibiscus flowers reduced blood pressure in laboratory animals. Soon after, researchers in Iran showed the same benefit in people – a 10 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure. That is as effective as some standard hypertension drugs.
Since then, several more studies have confirmed this effect, including two that tested hibiscus head-to-head against standard blood pressure medications.
How does hibiscus lower blood pressure?
Recent research suggests that it is due to a combination of reasons:
- it has diuretic properties
- it opens the arteries, and
- it acts as a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which means it slows the release of hormones that constrict blood vessels.
In addition, hibiscus boosts immune function and provides valuable antioxidants. Hibiscus is safe and, unlike most blood pressure drugs, rarely causes side effects.
How to make hibiscus tea
This was the question I had as I looked at the bag of dried flowers I had received from my daughter. There were no instructions.
My first attempt produced a deep ruby coloured liquor, but it was far too strong for my taste. After several more attempts, I found a strength that was to my taste.
Hibiscus tea is made by steeping from 1 to 5 teaspoons, according to taste, of dried “flowers” (technically, the calyxes surrounding the flowers) per cup in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
You can also use your home digital blood pressure monitor to see which strength of hibiscus tea has the most beneficial effect for you. Take your blood pressure readings before different strengths and retest an hour later to see what works best for you.
Check with your doctor prior to taking hibiscus if you’re currently on medication to lower blood pressure, as often a combination of an herb and a lower dose of a pharmaceutical provides the same benefit as a higher dose of the drug.
How to get the most benefit from hibiscus tea
It would be easy to believe that just drinking three cups of hibiscus tea each day will return your blood pressure to within the normal range. Effective as hibiscus is in lowering high blood pressure, it is most beneficial when taken as part of a healthy balanced diet – especially a diet designed to help reduce hypertension – such as the DASH diet – and regular exercise.
Making refreshing hibiscus tea part of your diet can make a significant contribution to lowering your high blood pressure naturally.