Lower Blood Pressure Naturally With Hibiscus Tea
High blood pressure, known scientifically as hypertension, is a chronic medical condition. Hypertension can be dangerous, and is associated with an increased risk of potentially fatal conditions, including heart attack and heart failure, stroke, aneurysm, and kidney failure. Fortunately, there are a number of effective natural treatments for hypertension, including exercise, diet, and herbal remedies. This article focuses on one herbal remedy for naturally lowering blood pressure that is safe, inexpensive, and widely available: hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus tea is a drink made out of the sepals of the roselle plant, Hibiscus sabdariffa. This drink is popular as a beverage in a number of countries worldwide, particularly in the Caribbean, Africa (where it is called karkade in North Africa, bissap in Senegal). Hibiscus tea is sour, aromatic, and has a deep purplish-red color. Hibiscus tea can be easily brewed at home by steeping the dried sepals in water just as you would any herbal tea.
Studies of Hibiscus Used to Lower Blood Pressure:
Hibiscus has been studied more thoroughly than a number of herbs and has been found to be effective for lowering blood pressure. Both the extract of the plant, and hibiscus tea itself have been directly studied in recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. The mechanism of action is also beginning to be understood: it is thought that hibiscus acts as an ACE inhibitor, a well-known and well-studied class of hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) drugs. Perhaps more importantly, the quantity of hibiscus tea used in one study suggests that the benefits of this treatment are available to people who consume a moderate amount of hibiscus tea daily.
Comparison With Medications:
There are a wide variety of prescription medications used to lower blood pressure, and only a few of them have been compared to hibiscus in scientific studies. One study found hibiscus to be roughly comparable in effect to captopril (brand name Capoten), an older drug. It was found to have a weaker effect than lisinopril (also known as Prinivil, Tensopril, Zestril, or Hipril), a newer and more powerful drug.
Safety & Side Effects:
Hibiscus tea has been widely consumed as a beverage worldwide, for thousands of years. It is an ingredient in many herbal teas and is generally considered to be a safe beverage ingredient. In addition, the clinical studies have observed a noticeable absence of strong side effects--in pharmacological language, the tolerability of hibiscus is outstanding. This safety profile stands in stark contrast to the synthetic ACE inhibitors, which have a number of common unpleasant side effects, and some potentially dangerous ones as well, leading to many contraindications for these drug treatments.
The primary complaint about hibiscus tea is one of taste: the drink is very sour. Although some people complain that the drink is too acidic, others love the sour taste. In fact, hibiscus is one of the most popular ingredients in herbal tea blends, and is usually used primarily to impart a sour flavor and a deep red color: the well-known Celestial Seasonings Zinger teas (Red Zinger, Lemon Zinger, etc.) all have hibiscus as a main ingredient.
One advantage of natural remedies over their modern pharmacological counterparts is that natural herbal remedies often have additional benefits. In the case of hibiscus, these benefits have not been as thoroughly studied, but there is some evidence from animal studies that hibiscus may protect against liver damage, lower cholesterol levels, and have an antipyretic (fever-lowering) effect.
Hibiscus tea is widely available virtually everywhere worldwide; although the pure drink is less widely available in the United States, supermarkets in the U.S. stock a number of herbal teas that have hibiscus as one of the main ingredients. Hibiscus is also available in bulk through a number of mail order tea and herb companies.
Alex Zorach has an M.A. in statistics from Yale University, and is an avid tea drinker and the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, the web's first online community where anyone can rate and review teas, with a wealth of information about teas and herbal tea. Read more about hibiscus tea, including sources from which you can buy hibiscus through mail-order, and citations to the scientific studies summarized in this article.