Hibiscus sabdariffa L. [Fam. Malvaceae]
Hibiscus flower tea; Hibiscus flower cold liquid extracts
– Appetite Stimulant
– Breathing Disorders
– Catarrh (respiratory and stomach mucous)
– Colds and flu
– Digestive Upsets
– Skin Problems
– Sore Throat
– Urinary Tract Problems
– Vascular Disorders
The flowers of Hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa L. [Fam. Malvaceae], are rich in mucilage, a complex mixture of polysaccharides that form a soothing gelatinous fiber when water is added. The tea contains approximately 15% mucilage polysaccharides and 2% pectins. Hibiscus, also known as red-sorrel, is listed in the German Commission E Monographs and its flower tea was traditionally used internally for stimulating appetite, soothing sore throats, laryngitis and tonsillitis, coughs, dryness of the lungs and digestive upsets. The tea also contains high concentrations of colorful purple flavonoids called anthocyanins that are antinflammatory. Anthocyanins are beneficial for skin and vascular health and are also known to coat the surface of cell membranes and protect them from enzymatic and free radical damage. The tea is recommended to alleviate urinary tract problems, which may be attributed to the action of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins that prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall. The powdered flowers of a related plant have been shown to stimulate cellular regeneration, cleansing and detoxification; researchers recommend them for both healthy and sick individuals. Studies on irritated mucus membranes have shown that the mucilage of Malvaceae plants binds to buccal membranes and other mucous membranes of the body. Mucilage, as a good source of soluble fibre, is particularly recommended as a mild laxative and for soothing gastric diseases. The viscous fiber has several beneficial effects on digestion: 1) it reduces bowel transit time; 2) it absorbs toxins from the bowel; 3) it increases fecal bulk and dilutes stool materials thereby reducing stool contact with the intestinal mucosa; and 4) it enhances beneficial bacteria in the gut and provides an excellent substrate for bacterial fermentation. Mucilage helps to eliminate anaerobic pathogens from the gut, a function that can significantly help the body to normalize critical hormone balances needed for basic health.
The flowers of Hibiscus contain: 15-30% plant acids, including citric, malic and tartaric acids and a unique hydroxycitric acid called hibiscus acid which give the tea a pleasant tart taste. The flowers also contain approximately 1.5% anthocyanins including delphinidin 3-sambubioside, delphinidin, cyaniding 3-sambubioside that colour the tea red. The blossoms contain more than 15% mucilage and make a pleasantly sweet tea, which on hydrolysis affords traces of galactose, arabinose, glucose, rhamnose, galacturonic acid, xylose and mannose. For the rest, only ubiquitous substances have been detected.
Unless otherwise prescribed, 1.5-2 grams of the finely chopped Hibiscus flower is placed in cold water and boiled for a short time, or boiling water is poured over it, and after ten minutes strained. One Teaspoon = ca. 2.5 grams. Hibiscus flower tea is taken 3-5 times per day, or as required.
As with other concentrated sources of soluble fibre, Hibiscus flower mucilage can interfere with the absorption of other medicines within the gut if they are taken at the same time. As such, take prescription medications at an alternate time to consuming Hibiscus flower tea.
Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Hibiscus in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 144.
Schmidgall J, Schnetz E, Hensel A. 2000. Evidence for bioadhesive effects of polysaccharides and polysaccharide-containing herbs in an ex vivo bioadhesion assay
on buccal membranes. Planta Med 2000 Feb; 66(1): 48-53.
Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Hibisci flos – Red-sorrel flower (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 266-267.