By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Hibiscus sabdariffa, known throughout the world for its rich, ruby-colored tea, is also known as roselle, sorrel, rosa de jamaica, and other names.
Hibiscus tea is becoming increasingly popular which largely appears to be attributed to its bioactive properties, which could benefit public health. From a historical perspective Hibiscus Tea has been used in folklore and traditional medicines. Its rich phytonutrient profile may be responsible for such reported health effects (1).
Nutritive Value: (2)
It is rich in Vitamin C, β-carotene, calcium, iron, flavonoids, polysaccharides, mucilage, Phenolic acids (esp. protocatechuic acid), organic acid (hydroxycitric acid and hibiscus acid), and anthocyanins (delphinidin-3-sambubioside and cyanidin-3- sambubioside), alkaloids, tannins, saponins, glycosides, phenols.
Many of the health benefits of hibiscus, including its anticancer, antimicrobial, cardiovascular, digestive, and urinary tract support properties, all boil down to the fact that it is so good at fighting inflammation while nourishing and protecting the cells from oxidative and free-radical damage. One study found that supplementation with both hibiscus and green tea leaf extracts were beneficial to reduce oxidative stress in male athletes (3).
- Cardiovascular Health
This is where both the modern research and traditional use of hibiscus really shine. Hibiscus works as a cardio-protectant (antioxidants), hypotensive (diuretic), and anti-atherosclerotic, and it can reduce LDL cholesterol. It has also been shown to reduce weight and fat accumulation, thereby reducing the stress put on the heart (4).
- Digestive Health
The sour, astringent flavour of hibiscus is almost like that of cranberry. It is stimulating to the digestive system, especially for sluggish digestion and constipation. Its cooling properties can calm a hot and inflamed digestive system, and the combination of its astringent and mucilaginous properties help to tone and soothe the gut. It is a wonderful aid for those with chronic inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract, especially during an elimination diet, to sooth hot, irritated tissues.
This comes with the fact that hibiscus is healing to the liver and helps the body transition to a parasympathetic, or “rest and digest” state, and you have a wonderful remedy for people with gut issues related to anxiety, nervousness, or anger, and those who are overworked (5).
- Urinary Tract Tonic
Many medications tend to create an imbalance of electrolytes in the body, which can cause muscle weakness, fatigue, nerve twitching, and sometimes heart problems. Hibiscus does not deplete electrolytes, making it a wonderful drink for those with excess fluids and hypertension.
It also works to flush the bladder and kidneys and move infections or calculi out of the urinary tract. Hibiscus almost works like cranberry juice does for UTIs, but instead of being acidic and possibly damaging the lining of the bladder, the mucilage works as a protective soothing barrier (6).
How to make Hibiscus Tea? (7)
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers or 6 hibiscus tea bags
- 7 cups water
- 1/2 cup organic honey
- Fresh lime juice to taste, up to 1/2 cup
- In a stainless pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
- Add the hibiscus and remove the pot from heat. Alternatively, set up a sun tea pitcher on the porch.
- Stir in the honey. Let the mixture stand at least ten minutes, up to an hour.
- Strain the infusion into a glass pitcher (careful not to use plastic, which will be permanently stained).
- Add water and lime juice to taste. Serve over ice, with lime slices or hibiscus petals as a garnish.