Hibiscus: More than Just a Pretty Flower

Mallow Family

Hibiscus sabdariffa L.

Charming red flowers used in beautiful, tropical landscaping is an image quick to come to mind when the word hibiscus is spoken. Globally known for its elegance but not so well-known for its intense health attributes. Hibiscus has been used in traditional medicine across dozens of countries and research has taken the health benefits so seriously as to run multiple clinical trials on human patients. The parts often used in Hibiscus teas and drinks are the calyces (singular – calyx), or the red, round husks that wrap around the seeds. Contained within these calyces are health advantages unbelievable for a plant thought to only be a pretty flower.

Hibiscus Health Benefits Are Researched All Over The World:

-Decrease Serum Cholesterol Levels

A clinical trial was conducted in Taiwan to examine the effects Hibiscus has on serum cholesterol in men and women. Different groups of people were given capsules of dried Hibiscus to eat after their regular meals over the course of 4 weeks. Blood samples were taken periodically to test the change in serum cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is necessary for bodily functions, but too much cholesterol present in the blood can create a build-up of plaque deposits on artery walls and result in higher risk of heart attack or stroke. The results of this study found the patients to have significantly decreased serum cholesterol levels.

-Fight Bacteria

Extracts were taken of Hibiscus to test its abilities in inhibiting common strains of bacteria in Nigeria. It demonstrated inhibition activity against Staph, E. coli, Bacillus, Micrococcus, Serratia, Clostridium, Klebsiella pneumoniae bacterias. This supports why Hibiscus is used traditionally in the treatment of gastrointestinal infections, diarrhea, abscesses, cancer, cough, and skin diseases.
This study also screened the phytochemicals present in the plant and confirmed cardiac glycosides (contribute to better heart health), saponins (for cholesterol health), alkaloids (cancer chemotherapeutic agents), flavonoids (antioxidant activity), and protocatechuic acid (antioxidant and antitumor activity).

-Reduce Oxidative Stress 

In Nigeria, a study was conducted on rats with induced oxidative stress in order to see the effects of Hibiscus extract. The extract showed an increase in protected cell membranes and termination of free radicals. The study prompts further research in using the plant in chemical carcinogenesis, or cancer caused by external chemical agents. This is an important factor in the prevention of cancer and tumor growth within the body. An additional study in India on the antioxidant activity also examined the plant’s effect on lipid levels in the blood. The flavonoids and polyphenols, commonly known as antioxidant compounds, are connected with the plant’s ability to treat hyperlipidemia, which is high cholesterol and elevated levels of triglyceride fats.

-Lower Blood Pressure and Decrease Sodium Levels

Another clinical trial took place in Mexico to observe the antihypertension effects of dried Hibiscus extract on men and women. The study took place over the course of a year and obtained successful data from 171 patients. The plant extract proved to effectively lower blood pressure, decrease sodium levels, and reduced ACE activity. ACE, or angiotensin-converting enzyme, causes blood vessels to constrict which increases blood pressure. Hibiscus demonstrates potential to be an effective, natural medicinal ingredient used against hypertension in humans.
A larger clinical trial was carried out in the Boston area on a total of 324 volunteers. The patients were mildly hypertensive and were not taking blood pressure medications of any sort. The group not given the placebo drank Hibiscus tea daily and data was collected weekly of each participant. The results of the study state Hibiscus did greatly lower blood pressure due to the flavonoids and phytochemicals within the plant.

-Cancer Prevention and Treatment

A study in Taiwan states Hibiscus can be developed for use as a chemopreventative agent, in other words, a compound used to inhibit, delay, or reverse carcinogenesis. Their study observed the plant’s efficacy towards the elimination of human gastric carcinoma cells. An additional study in Taiwan found the leaves rather than the calyces to be rich in polyphenols and induce apoptosis among three types of human prostate cancer. These types of research call for further study on Hibiscus and its utilization in natural cancer therapy and prevention.

-Weight Loss

In Mexico, the plant was researched in an obese animal model to see if it had any impacts on weight and weight loss. Obese mice were given dried Hibiscus and weighed and examined periodically during the study. This plant significantly suppressed weight gain and reduces glycemia  (level of glucose in the blood) making it a recognizable plant in the treatment of obesity.

* The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this website is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease.