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Hibiscus tea from the flowers of the African mallow (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is also known as Karkade, where Karkade describes both the drink and the plant. It refreshes in summer and warms in winter. The plant contains a lot of vitamin C and thus the tea is very suitable to prevent colds. It also lowers blood pressure, has an antibacterial effect and helps you lose weight.
Hibiscus tea - the most important facts
- Hibiscus tea is a tea made from the flowers of the mallow family Hibiscus sabdariffa. Other species of the genus Hibiscus can also be processed into teas, but they do not have the same effect.
- Hibiscus sabdariffa contains a lot of vitamin C and can therefore prevent a cold.
- The plant, also known as African mallow, also lowers blood pressure and has antibacterial substances.
- Hibiscus tea helps you lose weight by simultaneously stimulating and draining your metabolism.
- The tea may lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol. However, the existing studies are contradictory.
- Hibiscus sabdariffa supports the functions of the liver.
Hibiscus flower tea - origin and taste
Hibiscus tea is created when (mostly dried) parts of hibiscus plants are poured with hot water. The taste is slightly acidic and somewhat bitter, comparable to that of cranberries or red currants.
Hibiscus is not a species, but a genus of mallow plants that are native to the tropics and subtropics. The german name is marshmallow. Originally, they probably come from Southeast Asia. This genus includes several hundred species. What we call hibiscus tea in Germany, however, is usually a brew from the species Hibiscus sabdariffa. German names for this species are African Mallow, Karkade, Sudan-Marshmallow, Sabdariff-Marshmallow or Roselle.
The African mallow
Hibiscus sabdariffa grows up to three meters high. The flowers are approximately 15 centimeters long, pale yellow and have a red outer cup. It is a perennial, the base of which is wooded and forms the prickly shoots. As a crop for making tea, we find it today particularly in Egypt and Sudan.
Hibiscus tea - ingredients and effects
The magnificent hibiscus flowers are not only visually impressive, they also contain a wide range of ingredients, ranging from various fruit acids to tannins and vitamin C.
Sugar and acids
Hibiscus refreshes, and that's because of the sugar and certain acids it contains. The polysaccharides are believed to strengthen the immune system. Fruit acids have a laxative effect, and that probably explains why tea helps with a diet. The intestine does not absorb the acids into the bloodstream, so water collects in the intestine.
Tanning and mucilage in the hibiscus
Hibiscus species contain tannins and mucilages. These relieve cramps and drive the urine. For this reason, hibiscus tea is only suitable for pregnant women to a very limited extent, since these properties can have a negative effect on the uterus.
The biochemical metabolism oxidizes the ingested food in CO2, water and the body's own substances. Free radicals are also part of metabolic products. These are reactive forms of oxygen that destroy cells in excess and are essential for cancer, rheumatism and calcified arteries. Hibiscus tea contains antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C) and can thus counteract free radicals.
A study in rats showed that hibiscus extract increased the antioxidant enzymes and reduced free radical damage by 92 percent. One problem with the results is that this was a highly concentrated hibiscus extract, not the much weaker concentrations of the active ingredients in tea. Further research is also needed to show how the oxidants contained in tea work on people.
Lower blood pressure with hibiscus tea
Hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing heart disease if you have high blood pressure. The tea presumably lowers both the high and low pressure, which is supported by at least five recent studies. For a study by the Tufts University in Boston, 65 people with high blood pressure had drunk tea or a placebo. Six weeks later, those who had drunk hibiscus tea showed a clear drop in blood pressure in clear contrast to those who had taken the placebo.
The effect of hibiscus flower tea against high blood pressure is reduced by fat and sugar. That is why you should enjoy it without milk, cream and sugar when it comes to hypertension. In addition, African mallow does not replace the medication prescribed by the doctor. However, a doctor can decide whether they can reduce the medication by consuming tea made from hibiscus flowers on a regular basis over a long period of time.
The high percentage of vitamin C strengthens the body's immune system. However, it should not be forgotten that too much vitamin C does not bring any additional benefit. In a healthy mixed diet, the vitamin is usually sufficiently available in this country. In addition, hibiscus tea is recommended in times of flu infections - it also inhibits inflammation and has an antibacterial effect.
Hibiscus improves cholesterol
The antioxidants in the hibiscus affect cholesterol levels. Doctors from Taiwan around Chau-Jong Wang carried out an examination with rats, which they fed with cholesterol-rich food and at the same time administered hibiscus extract. Twelve weeks later, it was found that the ratio of “good” to “bad” cholesterol had changed in the rats taking the extract. HDL cholesterol levels improved, LDL levels decreased. The antioxidants blocked the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This suggests that hibiscus tea can prevent heart and circulatory diseases.
Meanwhile, an analysis of six different studies involving 474 people found that hibiscus tea did not significantly lower cholesterol levels. However, since these were studies on individual diseases such as diabetes, comprehensive studies on the influence of hibiscus tea on cholesterol levels are still pending.
A 12-week study of 19 obese people with fatty liver disease showed that hibiscus extract reduced fat. An animal study on hamsters suggests something similar. However, these are not valid results. Firstly, the number of participants of 19 people was far too small to make a reliable statement; secondly, the subjects consumed concentrated hibiscus extract and not the much less concentrated tea.
Prepare hibiscus tea
In Germany we usually get Hibsiku tea as ready-dried flowers. We take a heaped teaspoon from each of these, put them in a tea bowl and pour boiling water over them. Now we let the infusion stand for five minutes, then we pour the liquid through a sieve and drink the tea. The infusion should not last longer, otherwise it tastes bitter. It also tastes great chilled and is a good drink for the summer.
Since the tea tastes slightly sour, a rounding off with honey and lime is suitable. Hibiscus harmonizes in fruit tea blends with rose hip and rose petals, but also with mint and lemon balm. The combination of hibiscus tea, fresh ginger and lemon is also very healthy. In the Orient and North Africa, it is seasoned with cardamom and cinnamon, both of which also have healing effects.
In midsummer, a hibiscus iced tea with fresh raspberries, currants, blackberries or strawberries tastes particularly good. The mixture of dried hibiscus blossoms and elderflowers soaked in hot water also gives a wonderfully fresh taste.
The dried flowers can be used soaked for desserts, ice cream, jelly and jam.
Grow the hibiscus yourself
African mallow can also be grown in Germany, in the greenhouse or conservatory. The seeds need loose soil and a constant germ temperature of around 22 degrees. The same applies to the germinated plants. They also need good sun exposure and regular water, but no waterlogging. When the flowers open, you can separate them and dry them. For a pot of tea you need a good handful of the dried hibiscus flowers.
African mallow promotes health particularly through the contained phytochemicals and the high content of vitamin C. In serious diseases, hibiscus tea does not replace prescription drugs, and its potential effect to lower harmful cholesterol or inhibit the growth of cancer cells has yet to be achieved are still being systematically researched. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Hiller, Karl; Melzig, Matthias F .: Lexicon of medicinal plants and drugs. Volume 1: A to K; Spectrum Academic Publishing House Heidelberg, 2000
- Chang, H.C .; Peng, C.H .; Yeh, D.M. et al .: Hibiscus sabdariffa extract inhibits obesity and fat accumulation, and improves liver steatosis in humans, in: Food & Function, 5 (4): 734ff., April 2014, PubMed
- Wang, Chau ‐ Jong et al .: Inhibitory effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa L extract on low ‐ density lipoprotein oxidation and anti ‐ hyperlipidemia in fructose ‐ fed and cholesterol ‐ fed rats, in: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 84/15 : 1989-1996, December 2004, Wiley Online Library
- Nguyen, Christopher, Baskaran, Kiruthika; Pupulin, Alaina et al .: Hibiscus flower extract selectively induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells and positively interacts with common chemotherapeutics, in: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 19:98, May 2019, PubMed
- Hopkins, Allison L., Lamm, Marnie G .; Funk, Janet; Ritenbaugh, Cheryl: Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies, in: Fitoterapia, 85: 84-94, March 2013, PMC
- McKay, Diane L .; Chen, C-Y. Oliver; Saltzman, Edward; Blumberg, Jeffrey B .: Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. Tea (Tisane) Lowers Blood Pressure in Prehypertensive and Mildly Hypertensive Adults, in: The Journal of Nutrition, 140/2: 298-303, February 2010, Oxford University Press