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Regulating to blood sugar and insulin levels, protective to the liver, and a strong antioxidant, hibiscus tea is more than a deliciously refreshing summer tea.
Hibiscus flowers combined with other herbs can be made into delicious variations of refreshing summer teas (see recipe later in the article). However, the blooming plant can do more—a recently published animal study conducted at the Bursa Uludag University in Turkey observed its therapeutic properties in Type 1 diabetes.

According to the study, hibiscus alleviates oxidative stress, protects the liver, balances glucose and insulin levels, and improves weight loss. While the effects were observed in diabetic rats, the research suggests humans will benefit similarly.

Researchers tested a simple hot-water decoction (tea) from the leaves of Hibiscus trionum, and were able to examine its “antidiabetic, antilipidemic, and antioxidant effects.”

Decade of Studies Reveals Beneficial Qualities

Hibiscus, with its beautiful flowers, has been recognized as a plant with immense healing qualities for centuries. Another variety, Hibiscus sabdariffa, has also been studied in an animal model on rats that suffered from diabetes-induced liver disease. Likewise, the flower displayed anti-hepatotoxic properties.

A 2023 review published in the journal Biomolecules delves into details about the relationship between oxidative stress, human metabolism, and diabetes, including its progression and possible complications.

Antioxidants can improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and preserve the function of beta-cells, which are located in the pancreas to release and produce insulin.

Researchers of a 2023 review published in the journal Heliyon see oxidative stress as a possible cause of Type 2 diabetes and degenerative disorders. Conversely, they said, diabetes patients benefit from dietary antioxidants. “Many supplements could be used in combination to increase the efficacy of the antioxidant effect,” they wrote.
Hibiscus displays “potent antioxidant-antiradical activity, anti-inflammatory action, antiobesity, antihyperlipidemic, [and] antihypertensive” activities and may be considered one of these fitting supplements, according to a 2018 review of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. published in the journal of Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy.

Role of Beta-Cells in Type 1 Diabetes

Additional research also showed the importance of beta-cells in autoimmune Type 1 diabetes. Scientists continue to develop new technologies to introduce novel ways of managing the disease, such as the transplantation of beta-like cells.

However, people should be aware that environmental factors, in addition to lifestyle, immune function, body mass index, genetic background, age of onset, and others play major roles as well.

Therefore, overhauling one’s diet and lifestyle has an impact on overall health and well-being. One key component is to incorporate herbs and spices into a cleaner diet—beginning with hibiscus.

An Astringent All-Rounder

Findings of the recent Bursa Uludag University study confirm that supplementation with hibiscus “has valuable beneficial effects in protecting against the harmful impacts of diabetes.”

Hibiscus has astringent qualities, which can constrict cellular connective tissue and return a certain “tone” and resilience to it. Its astringency is especially therapeutic in complications that often come with diabetes, such as foot ulcers. For that and the following examples, hibiscus is valued as a medicinal herb.

Type 2 Diabetes

Patients who suffer from this long-term condition often display a higher risk of inflammation and plaque build-up in their arteries—similar to those with Type 1 diabetes.

A randomized controlled clinical trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine showed that hibiscus tea significantly improved blood lipid profiles in diabetes patients.
Fifty-three patients partook in the month-long study. The group was divided into two sub-groups. One group was instructed to drink “sour tea” (hibiscus tea), while the other group drank black tea twice daily.
Researchers concluded that “a significant decrease in the mean of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, triglycerides, and Apo-B100 were seen in this [hibiscus tea] group.”
This is not the only clinical trial in which “sour tea” is the subject of study.

‘Sour Tea’–The Healthy Refresher

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials investigated the effects of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. Two independent reviews and 390 participants later, the results indicated the plant’s antihypertensive effects. Both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lowered during the trial timeframe.

This confirmed the results of an earlier clinical trial published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which “showed an 11.2% lowering of the systolic blood pressure [SBP] and a 10.7% decrease of diastolic pressure [DBP] in the experimental group 12 days after beginning the treatment” with hibiscus tea. Three days after the end of the trial, participants’ blood pressure increased again by 7.9 percent for SBP and 5.6 percent for DBP—suggesting that regular consumption of hibiscus tea may be beneficial.

Improvement of Cardio-Metabolic Markers

Hibiscus’ health potential was the topic of a 2022 systematic review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews that investigated cardiovascular disease in relation to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and inflammation.

Researchers compared 17 randomized controlled studies and concluded that individuals would likely benefit from the intake of hibiscus tea, especially if consumption lasts more than eight weeks.
Hibiscus supplementation was also deemed safe, according to the study, “No other adverse effects of hibiscus were reported across the included studies in this analysis at doses up to 10 g/day [grams per day].”
Be aware that an herb-drug reaction between hydrochlorothiazide (a diuretic drug) and hibiscus tremendously increased urine volume in test animals. This could potentially increase the risk of dehydration.

Effects on Cholesterol

Cholesterol is another marker that diabetes patients must monitor frequently. A study published in the Natural Medicine Journal that compared the efficacy of hibiscus and black tea, found that hibiscus had a broader application. “Hibiscus consumption reduced most of the lipids and lipoproteins and increased HDL,” whereas black tea only accomplished the latter.

An Antibacterial Flower

A research paper published in the African Journal of Food Science confirmed the antioxidant qualities of hibiscus and also reported its antibacterial effects. Tests were conducted in-vitro in agar plates, including water and alcohol extracts.

Results showed that hibiscus displayed “significant natural phenols content and antioxidant activity.”

Healthy Adults Also Profit

Another 2024 study published in Biomedical Reports investigated the plant’s effects on healthy individuals. Thirty study participants drank 200 milliliters of roselle tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) twice per day for 30 days.

Researchers measured their physical fitness once weekly and found “that roselle significantly improved six parameters of physical fitness”—strength, balance, oxygen consumption, left- and right-hand grip, and vertical jump.

They suggested that the tea may be used without the risk of severe side effects as a supplement to improve physical fitness.

Why Teas Are a Good Choice

Teas are easy to make. All you need is a jar, water, and the medicinal herb. Teas can be prepared in two different ways.

1. The most common preparation is an infusion (hot or cold), but some herbs need to be macerated—meaning the herb takes longer to release its medicinal constituents.

2. Some medicinal constituents in herbs need alcohol or a source of sugar, for example, vegetable glycerin, to draw out fats or tannins, respectively. Vinegar can replace alcohol when minerals are extracted out of plant material.

The following recipe is an example of the first method.

Refreshing Hibiscus Tea With Rosehips and Lemonbalm

Ingredients

4 teaspoons dried and cut hibiscus flowers

4 teaspoons dried and cut rosehips

1-2 teaspoons dried and cut lemon balm—or use a small twig or two of fresh lemon balm leaves

2 liters water

1 lemon

Instructions—Hot or Iced

  1. Use a glass jar (2 liters or 70 ounces)
  2. Add dried flowers and herbs into the jar
  3. Bring water to a boil and pour over the potpourri
  4. Add lemon balm if using fresh leaves
  5. Allow to steep for at least 20 minutes if enjoying the tea hot—for up to 8 hours or overnight if you chill the tea in the refrigerator
  6. Strain and add fresh lemon slices

Note: I always brew my hibiscus tea hot. For a quick chilled version, simply add ice cubes after straining.

An Excellent Combination

The combination of hibiscus, rosehip, and lemon balm lends itself perfectly to a pleasant summer tea. In addition to all of hibiscus’ health benefits, these herbs come with their own medicinal qualities.

Rosehip, for example, was the subject of a 2023 systematic review published in the journal Cureus. According to the review, its benefits are manifold and evidence “suggests that oral supplementation with rosehip extract may lead to a decrease in LDL-C and fasting blood glucose, with additional effects on cardiovascular risk markers such as systolic blood pressure, visceral body fat, and BMI [body mass index].”
Lemon balm guards the liver against toxification. A 2024 review released in Frontiers in Bioscience-Scholar hails Melissa officinalis as beneficial for “anxiety, sleeping difficulties, palpitation, hypertension, depression, dementia, infantile colic, bruxism, metabolic problems, Alzheimer’s disease, and sexual disorders.”
Hibiscus boasts a plethora of potential values for anyone wanting to stay or become healthy, particularly for diabetes patients who want to improve their condition by utilizing herbal helpers.
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