Many of our teas on the website have a common ingredient. This prominent ingredient is the hibiscus plant. Hibiscus is one of my favorite additions to our blends because it adds a beautiful red color to our teas as well as a delicious tartness that punches your taste buds with flavor. Our hibiscus tea blends are often infused with other fruits, spices, and tea leaves, such as black or green tea. Hibiscus-focused teas are calorie-free (before added sweeteners) and typically caffeine-free. With its juicy tartness, it can become a healthier alternative to fruit juices and can be enjoyed hot or iced. The flavors are often compared to cranberry or pomegranate juice. The addition of honey or sugar can give it a complimentary sweetness that makes it the perfect tropical-themed beverage.
Now, where did hibiscus tea originate? Hibiscus comes from the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant. The plant blooms large, trumpet-shaped flowers and is native to regions with subtropical and tropical climates. Specific varietals of the plant are known to thrive as indoor and outdoor plants throughout the U.S. Hibiscus teas are part of the herbal tea or tisane family. Teas in this category do not contain the Camellia sinensis plant, which is the main ingredient in black, green, and oolong teas (among others). Any tea made from plants (excluding Camellia sinensis), fruit, roots, and spices is considered an herbal tea/tisane. The specific part of the plant that hibiscus tea leaves are made from is called the calyx. The calyx is what protects and supports the flower. Once the calyx is boiled down, the tea leaves produce a deep ruby red color and tart flavor.
In addition to the delicious flavor and appealing color, hibiscus tea comes with a plethora of health benefits. It is rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. In Africa, hibiscus tea was initially used as a medicinal beverage. It was often used to decrease body temperature, prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure and high cholesterol, and treat poor immune systems and digestion. A report from the AHA (American Heart Association) published in 2008, found that drinking hibiscus tea dramatically reduced high blood pressure in people suffering or about to experience hypertension. Continued studies are showing that the anti-inflammatory properties of hibiscus tea are significantly lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The heart health benefits correlated with hibiscus tea are believed to be caused by compounds called anthocyanins. This is the same natural chemical that gives berries their profound red/purple color. Along with blood pressure, it can help individuals with dyslipidemia manage their cholesterol numbers and high triglycerides. This reduction of cholesterol can extend to those with diabetes. Studies have shown that daily consumption of hibiscus tea significantly increased HDL (good) cholesterol and lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. Anthocyanins are also helpful in supporting the immune systems and treating urinary tract infections. As with any product promoting health benefits, it is important to consult with your doctor before using hibiscus tea as a medicinal beverage. There are certain medications, especially those that lower blood pressure, that does not interact well with hibiscus. It is also recommended not to consume if pregnant as it can induce menstruation or cause premature labor.