Hibiscus tea has several potential health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, lowering “bad” cholesterol, and aiding in weight management.

However, as researchers are still learning about the effects of hibiscus tea, more large-scale trials are necessary to confirm the benefits. There are also some potential risks of drinking hibiscus tea for those who are pregnant, taking other medications, or living with certain health conditions.

This article explores the potential health benefits and risks of drinking hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus is a flowering plant that grows in warmer climates. The flowers are deep red in color and have a sweet, tart flavor similar to that of cranberries.

The part of the plant that people use to make hibiscus tea is known as the calyx. The calyx protects and supports the hibiscus flower. Many cultures around the world use hibiscus both in food and as a medicine.

There are two varieties of hibiscus that typically appear in tea products: Hibiscus sabdariffa and Hibiscus rosasinensis. H. rosasinesis is more common and less expensive than H. sabdariffa, but there is less scientific evidence supporting its benefits.

The following sections summarize the potential health benefits of hibiscus tea.

Lowering blood pressure

A 2020 review of seven previous trials found that hibiscus tea significantly reduced blood pressure. This included both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The review focused on tea consisting of H. sabdariffa, so it is unclear if the results would be the same for H. rosasinesis. More research on both varieties of hibiscus is necessary.

Reducing bad cholesterol

A 2021 review of 39 previous studies found evidence that H. rosasinesis tea may help with controlling high cholesterol levels. This is the type of hibiscus most commonly found in commercial hibiscus tea products.

The authors concluded that the concentration of hibiscus in homemade tea is theoretically enough to have anti-cholesterol effects.

The review from 2020 also found that hibiscus tea could reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol. However, the tea did not appear to significantly reduce total cholesterol levels.

Reducing blood sugar

In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, the 2020 review also found that H. sabdariffa tea significantly lowered fasting blood glucose levels. This is the amount of sugar in the blood after a person has not eaten overnight. Fasting blood glucose is a test doctors use to determine if a person may have diabetes.

The 2021 review also found evidence that H. rosasinesis has anti-diabetic effects and may help with controlling diabetes.

Weight management

A 2023 review and meta-analysis looked at research on the effects of H. sabdariffa in combination with other plant extracts. The authors found some evidence to suggest that hibiscus tea with other plants may induce weight loss in both people with no health conditions and people with obesity.

The researchers suggest it could be a useful tool in treating metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease.

However, they emphasize that these are preliminary results. This means more research is necessary to confirm whether hibiscus tea could have benefits for treating obesity or metabolic syndrome.

Hormone balance

One of the uses for H. rosasinesis in traditional Mexican medicine is for treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a group of symptoms that can occur before a period in females. People have also used hibiscus to alleviate menopause symptoms.

There is a lack of studies evaluating these uses, but hibiscus tea does contain phytoestrogens. These are chemicals that act like estrogen in the body. Scientists need to carry out more research to confirm if this tea could be an effective way of reducing PMS or menopause symptoms.

Learn more about phytoestrogens.

Pure hibiscus tea is naturally calorie and caffeine-free. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 8 fluid ounces (237 grams) of hibiscus tea also contains trace amounts of some minerals, such as:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorous
  • potassium

But the reason hibiscus has gained attention in medical research is due to its polyphenol content.

Polyphenols are a large group of chemicals with antioxidant properties. They occur naturally in many foods, but they are present in especially high amounts in hibiscus.

Researchers are still learning about how polyphenols benefit human health, so it is still unclear how they work.

A 2022 narrative review of research on hibiscus found no reports of side effects in the clinical trials it examined. However, this does not mean side effects are impossible.

In some people, hibiscus tea may cause an upset stomach or gas. Some may also be allergic to hibiscus. Generally, though, it appears to cause few reactions with short-term use.

Although hibiscus tea may have benefits, it also has some potential risks, such as:

Drug interactions

According to an older review, hibiscus tea may interact with several medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and hydrochlorothiazide, which is a diuretic.

Because hibiscus contains phytoestrogens, it is also possible that it may interfere with hormonal medications, such as the birth control pill. However, no studies on this exist yet.

People who are taking medications or who have other health conditions should speak with a doctor before drinking hibiscus tea.

Pregnancy and lactation

It is unclear if hibiscus tea is safe to drink during pregnancy. While one of the traditional uses for hibiscus tea is to manage pregnancy-related symptoms, the phytoestrogens could affect a person’s hormone levels. At present, there are no studies assessing if this poses a risk to the pregnancy.

Liver damage

An older review of studies in animals and humans notes that very high amounts of H. sabdariffa extract could have a negative effect on the liver. Previous studies of rats found that taking 300 milligrams (mg) per day of hibiscus extract for 3 months resulted in elevated liver enzymes.

However, this was a very high amount of hibiscus for a small animal. More studies are necessary to determine if hibiscus tea, which is likely weaker in concentration, could have a similar impact on humans.

Low blood pressure

People who have a tendency toward low blood pressure may need to be cautious when using hibiscus, as it could lower blood pressure further.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about hibiscus tea.

Is it OK to drink hibiscus tea every day?

This may depend on the individual. A 2020 review notes that some evidence suggests 2–3 cups per day may be beneficial for high blood pressure. But there are no long-term studies on the effects of drinking hibiscus tea every day among the general population.

Does hibiscus tea reduce belly fat?

There is some evidence that hibiscus tea may aid weight loss, but there is no proof it specifically targets belly fat.

Who should not drink hibiscus tea?

Those with low blood pressure and who take other medications may need to avoid hibiscus tea. The effects on pregnancy are not clear.

Hibiscus tea is a tart and sweet drink that may have benefits for those with high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. It may support weight loss in people trying to reach a moderate weight, too.

Additionally, some cultures have used hibiscus tea to reduce the symptoms of hormonal shifts in females, such as PMS and menopause. There is a lack of scientific research on this, though.

Hibiscus tea may not be suitable for everyone. It could interact with some medications, and it may cause harm in very high amounts. People with preexisting conditions should speak with a doctor before trying it.