Hibiscus plants are known for their large, colorful flowers that make a decorative addition to a home or garden. They also have medicinal uses. Flowers and leaves can be made into teas and liquid extracts that are used to treat a variety of conditions.

Read on to find out how hibiscus can help relieve upset stomach, high blood pressure, cancer, bacterial infections, weight loss, and fevers.

Did You Know?
The hibiscus plant is native to parts of North Africa and Southeast Asia. Major producers of hibiscus today are Mexico, Jamaica, Thailand, and China.

Hibiscus flowers come in many colors. They can be red, yellow, white, or peach-colored, and can be as big as six inches wide. You can also find hibiscus plants in many garden stores.

The red flowers are most commonly cultivated for medical purposes, and are available as dietary supplements.

Hibiscus tea is also called sour tea because of its tart taste. It’s made from a mixture of dried hibiscus flowers, leaves, and dark red calyces (cup-shaped center of the flower). After the flower finishes blooming, the petals fall off and the calyces turn into pods that hold the plant’s seeds. Calyces are often the main ingredients in herbal drinks containing hibiscus.

Historically, hibiscus has been used by different cultures as a remedy for several conditions. Egyptians used hibiscus tea to lower body temperature, treat heart and nerve diseases, and as a diuretic to increase urine production.

Elsewhere in Africa, tea was used to treat constipation, cancer, liver disease, and cold symptoms. Pulp made from the leaves was applied to the skin to heal wounds.

In Iran, drinking sour tea is a common treatment for high blood pressure.


Today, hibiscus is popular for its potential to reduce high blood pressure. Modern studies show promise for both the tea and hibiscus plant extract to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Although more research is still needed, this could be good news for the future of heart disease treatment.

Did You Know?
Hibiscus contains antioxidants called anthocyanins, which cause the red coloring of hibiscus flowers, as well as berries and red wine.

Hibiscus shows potential for cancer treatment, weight loss, and other uses. However, there aren’t as many studies in these areas. Some research suggests that anthocyanins may hold the key to hibiscus’s anti-cancer properties.

Another recent study found that hibiscus extract might have an effect on metabolism, preventing obesity and fat buildup in the liver. The tropical plant has even been used successfully as part of an herbal extract mixture to treat head lice.

Hibiscus tea and extract can be purchased at health food stores as a dietary supplement. There is no recommended dose because the doses depend on the product you purchase and why you’re using it. The typical amount of calyx in one serving of tea is 1.5 g, but studies have used as much as 10 g of dried calyx and extracts containing as much as 250 mg of anthocyanins.

When used as a tea, hibiscus is generally considered safe. However, more research is needed in order to determine which doses are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease.

Some research suggests that hibiscus may affect the way the body processes acetaminophen (Tylenol), but this effect is likely very minimal.

The Takeaway

Hibiscus remains a popular herbal remedy in countries throughout the world. As research continues, it may become more widely accepted as an effective medical treatment.