A study of hibiscus tea on blood pressure (BP) was presented at the American Heart Association’s 2008 meeting in New Orleans. Dr. Diane L. McKay at Tufts University conducted a randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind study of 65 people ages 30 to 70 with systolic BP between 120 to 150 mmHg and diastolic BP no higher than 95mmHg. None were taking BP drugs. Half the subjects consumed 3 cups of hibiscus tea for 6 weeks and the other half received a placebo tea drink.
The hibiscus tea was prepared by brewing 1.25g of dried hibiscus calyces in 1 cup of water for 6 minutes. The subjects were told to consume the drinks within 12 hours of preparation either hot or cold. In subjects with a systolic BP of 130 to 150mmHg the average drop in systolic BP was 13.2mmHg after 6 weeks compared to only a drop of 1.3mmHg in the control group.
A drop of just 3mmHg in SBP would be expected to cut the risk of dying from a stroke, heart attack or from any cause by 8%, 5% and 4%, respectively. Assuming the drop in BP observed in her study could be sustained, this could cut the risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or dying from any cause by about 32%, 20%, and 16%, respectively. The BP-lowering effect of hibiscus tea appears as great as any BP-drug. In Nigeria where people consume far more hibiscus daily there has been no evidence of harm.
More than 60 million Americans have hypertension (HTN) and many millions more have pre-HTN. Treating all these people with drugs to lower their BP is very costly and all HTN medications have adverse metabolic effects and unpleasant side effects. Nearly all people with pre-HTN and the vast majority of those with HTN could get off all their BP drugs if they adopted a healthy diet and exercise program. For those who still need something more than diet and exercise to bring their elevated blood pressure down a common herbal tea may be as effective as any of the BP drugs.
Bottom Line: Hibiscus tea appears to be a safer yet effective alternative to prescription drugs for lowering elevated BP but more research is needed.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.