Members of the Malvaceae family, various species of hibiscus are shrubs found practically
around the globe. The flower of hibiscus is the part used as medicine. The most widely known
and best-studied species tend to be annuals from the tropics, such as the two that are focused
on here. There are, however, hardy perennial species that survive in colder climates. Another
hibiscus not discussed here is Hibiscus esculenta, or okra.
Hibiscus has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies
suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal
or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Teas made from hibiscus flowers and,
occasionally, leaves are a very common beverage in tropical regions where they grow. The cool,
astringent, acidic flavor is widely recognized and has made it a staple of
“zinger” type teas in the United States. All parts of hibiscus plants are used
traditionally. Due to their soothing (demulcent) and astringent properties, the flowers and
leaves have been traditionally used to treat conditions such as cancer and gallbladder attacks, to lower blood pressure, to relieve dry coughs, and topically to treat skin afflictions.1 The root has been used
as a tonic. The stems yield fibers that can be used to make rope or burlap.
The flowers contain substantial quantities of
flavonoids and proanthocyanidins,2 which are associated with antioxidant, fever-reducing (antipyretic),
pain-relieving (analgesic), and spasm-inhibiting (spasmolytic) activities.3
4 Of the many polysaccharides, the acidic polysaccharides show the most interesting
properties. For example, they stimulate specialized skin cells which would presumably promote
wound healing and these polysaccharides are also immune-modulating.56
There is also a high concentration (15 to 30%) of simple organic acids such as citric and
Complex extracts of hibiscus have shown other properties in the test tube and in animal
studies, such as reducing skin cancer promoted by ultraviolet light, inhibiting herpes simplex
virus, and lowering cholesterol levels.8910 A variety of
studies have looked at the potential use of hibiscus for male and female fertility regulation
with mixed results.111213
How much is usually taken?
Hibiscus is usually taken as tea. Clinical trials have used 1 to 2 tsp (3 to 6 grams) of
dried flower infused in to 1 cup (250 ml) three times per day.14 One study used 500
ml of tea once a day before breakfast.15
Are there any side effects or interactions?
There are no known side effects from reasonable amounts of hibiscus.
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with hibiscus. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
References (To view, roll mouse over the "References" heading; to hide, click on the heading)
1. Duke JA. CRCHandbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca
Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985:228–9.
8. Sharma S, Sultana S. Effect of Hibiscus rosa sinensis extract
on hyperproliferation and oxidative damage caused by benzoyl peroxide and ultraviolet
radiations in mouse skin. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2004;95:220–5.
9. Zheng MS. An experimental study of the anti-HSV-II action of 500
herbal drugs. J Tradit Chin Med 1989;9:113–6.
10. El-Saadany SS, Sitohy MZ, Labib SM, el-Massry RA. Biochemical
dynamics and hypocholesterolemic action of Hibiscus sabdariffa (Karkade).
11. Pal AK, Bhattacharya K, Kabir SN, Pakrashi A. Flowers of Hibiscus
rosa-sinensis, a potential source of contragestative agent: II. Possible mode of action
with reference to anti-implantation effect of the benzene extract. Contraception
12. Tan CH. Is Hibiscus rosa sinensis Linn. a potential source
of antifertility agents for males? Int J Fertil 1983;28:247–8.
13. Kholkute SD, Mudgal V, Udupa KN. Studies on the antifertility
potentiality of Hibiscus rosa sinensis. Parts of medicinal value; selection of
species and seasonal variations. Planta Med 1977;31:35–9.
14. Herrera-Arellano A, Flores-Romero S, Chavez-Soto MA, Tortoriello J.
Effectiveness and tolerability of a standardized extract from Hibiscus sabdariffa in patients
with mild to moderate hypertension: a controlled and randomized clinical trial.
15. Herrera-Arellano A, Flores-Romero S, Chavez-Soto MA, Tortoriello J.
Effectiveness and tolerability of a standardized extract from Hibiscus sabdariffa in
patients with mild to moderate hypertension: a controlled and randomized clinical trial.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only.
It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience,
or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur
in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over
the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist
for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in