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Hibiscus Tea

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Family: Malvaceae

Scientific name: Hibiscus sabdariffa

Authority: L.

Trade name: Hibiscus tea

A brief history of tea

Tea initially began as a medicinal drink and overtime evolved into a beverage. It is said that in the year 2737 the Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, was sitting underneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the boiled water. The leaves were from the tree called Camellia sinensis. The emperor decided to try the water-leaves infusion that we now know as tea. Today Camellia senensis is responsible for majority of the tea used worldwide.

Hibiscus tea

Hibiscus tea, also known as sour tea, is among the healthiest beverages. It is known for its nutritional and therapeutic benefits. The most common variety for tea making is Hibiscus sabdariffa (roselle), a herbaceous perennial that is native to Africa. The calyces and flowers are used to make tea, spices, jam, wine, and syrup

In Nigeria, Hibiscus is known as isapa or yakuwa or ashwe. It is used to make soup by cooking the calyces. Hibiscus is used to make Zobo drink, a popular local beverage. It is also used as dye.

In most parts of Africa and the world, Hibiscus calyces are used to make tea and soda. Even though the calyces are usually used, other parts of the plant (such as the leaves, seed, and roots) are also safe to consume. The fibre extracted from the stem is used to make cords, ropes, sacks, and twine.

Medicinal properties

Hibiscus extracts are rich in polyphenols, plant-based compounds with health-enhancing properties. It contains antibiotics, antidiabetic, antioxidant, anticholesterol, antihypertensive, antimutagenic, antitumor, and antiviral activities. The tea may contain antibacterial properties, which are effective for protecting against various bacterial strains.

Potential benefits

The medicinal properties in Hibiscus tea help with the following:

  • Lowers blood pressure – studies show that Hibiscus tea reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
  • Boosts immune system – the vitamin C in Hibiscus tea helps boost the immune system and decreases the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels – some studies have shown Hibiscus tea to decrease low-density lipoprotein.
  • Positive effects on type II diabetes – the antidiabetic properties in Hibiscus helps regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Hibiscus tea prevents damage to cells & DNA caused by free radicals, atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons.
  • Hibiscus tea has been shown to promote weight loss & prevent obesity.

Preparation method

Hibiscus tea is prepared by adding the flowers, leaves, and twigs to water and boiling for about ten minutes. Strain the plant parts. Pour the dark purplish-red liquid in a cup, add sugar or honey for flavour, and drink hot.

Hibiscus soda is prepared by adding the flowers, leaves, and twigs to water and boiling for about ten minutes. Strain the plant parts. Pour the dark red liquid in a jar, add sugar or honey and fruit for flavour and drink cold. Keep refrigerated for cooling.

Potential risks

Even though Hibiscus tea has many benefits, there are still some risks associated with using it. The following outlines the most important of these risks:

  • Hibiscus tea contains phytoestrogens which may cause complications during pregnancy. For example, drinking Hibiscus tea while pregnant can result in preterm (or premature) labor. 
  • The phytoestrogens in Hibiscus tea can also reduce the effectiveness of birth control medication.
  • Hibiscus tea can reduce the effectiveness of the malaria drug called chloroquine.
  • Drinking Hibiscus tea while taking high blood pressure or diabetes medication can cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure. 
  • Drinking too much Hibiscus tea can cause potentially liver damage.

In South Africa, Hibiscus beverages are not sold commercially or promoted for nutritional and therapeutic benefits. As a herbal product, it has great potential. Obesity, high blood pressure, immune compromising diseases such as HIV, and diabetes, are prevalent in South African and Hibiscus can be used to manage them.

You can learn about other herbal-based products such as Vimbela, Henna, and Sejeso, by accessing the article on Vimbela, Henna, and Sejeso.

Safety precaution

The use of traditional medicine in prescribed dosages will yield good results. Misuse and abuse may lead to complications. To learn about correct dosage, consult a traditional healer or a herbalist. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional medicine.

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