What to Know About Hibiscus for Health

Hibiscus is a genus of colorful flowering plants used for culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes.

There are more than 200 species of hibiscus, all belonging to the Malvaceae family. Hibiscus sabdariffa is the species most commonly used as a medicine.

Hibiscus sabdariffa has been used for centuries in traditional and alternative medicine and is characterized by its edible red flowers. It is native to parts of India and Malaysia but also grows in other tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Hibiscus is thought to possess various bioactive substances, including anthocyanins, flavonoids, organic acids, and phenolic compounds, that may benefit human health. Despite these and other active compounds, the scientific evidence supporting the use of hibiscus for health is weak overall.

This article will discuss the potential uses of hibiscus in the form of Hibiscus sabdariffa. It will also review any side effects, precautions, drug interactions, and dosage requirements of hibiscus.

Dietary supplements are not regulated the way drugs are in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, or NSF International. 

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, they are not necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Anthocyanins, organic acids, phenolic acids, flavonoids, polysaccharides
  • Alternate name(s): Roselle, jamaica, karkadeh, red sorrel, Hibiscus sabdariffa
  • Legal status: Legal and available over the counter in the United States
  • Suggested dose: None suggested, though it's thought to be safe in doses of 720 milliliters (24 ounces) per day for up to six weeks
  • Safety considerations: May cause side effects that may include upset stomach, gas, and constipation

Uses of Hibiscus

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. 

Scientific evidence from human, animal, and lab studies point to numerous potential health benefits of hibiscus. Hibiscus extracts have shown various effects, including:

  • Antibacterial
  • Antioxidant
  • Antidiabetic
  • Kidney protective
  • Liver protective
  • Antihypertensive

These and other possible benefits of hibiscus have been attributed to bioactive compounds, such as organic acids, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids. However, many of the studies on the uses of hibiscus have limitations and are not well-designed. Stronger research is needed to reach conclusions on hisbiscus's benefits.

The research behind some of the more popular uses of hibiscus is outlined below.


Advocates of hibiscus believe that it is a gentler, more natural remedy for hypertension (high blood pressure) than prescription medications because it causes fewer side effects.

In one study, adults with diagnosed stage 1 hypertension were divided into two groups. While both groups received nutrition advice for controlling their hypertension, just one group also received two standard cups of hibiscus tea per day for one month.

By the end of the study, both groups had decreased blood pressure, but those who drank hibiscus tea had more significant improvements in blood pressure parameters. However, it was a small study, with only 46 individuals who participated.

A systematic review (an extensive study on medical literature focused on a single topic) seemingly confirmed these results. Researchers found that both human and animal trials have shown that hibiscus has a positive effect on both systolic (the top or first number) and diastolic (the bottom or second number) blood pressure readings. The review also noted that hibiscus seemed to have the greatest effects on people with higher baseline blood pressure (the first reading taken).

Diuretic Properties

Diuretics are often referred to as water pills because they cause the kidneys to increase urine production to get rid of extra fluid in the body.

Few studies exist that look at hibiscus solely for its potential diuretic properties. Instead, hibiscus has shown diuretic effects in studies focusing on other health conditions.

According to one study of people with hypertension, hibiscus was more effective at increasing urine output and reducing excess fluid than Zestril (lisinopril), an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor used to manage blood pressure. These effects led to improved kidney function in those participants who used hibiscus.

Additional research on hibiscus as a diuretic is minimal. More research is needed before hibiscus can be recommended as a diuretic alternative.


Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is a common side effect of diabetes mellitus. Hibiscus may be able to help.

Hyperglycemia is typically caused by insulin resistance or insufficient amounts of circulating insulin after a meal or snack. Hibiscus has exhibited blood sugar–lowering activity in various studies, possibly by helping to increase insulin levels.

In one study, one group of women aged 30 to 60 with prediabetes took ready-to-brew rosella powder (5 grams) plus 125 milligrams of the natural sweetener stevia for two weeks. By the end of the study, there was a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose in the group that took the powder compared with the control (untreated) group. However, no significant difference in two-hour postprandial blood glucose results was observed between the two groups.

Since much of the research in this area has been performed in labs or on animals, more human trials are needed to affirm the potential role of hibiscus in hyperglycemia in humans.


Dyslipidemia is marked by an imbalance of lipids, including triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, in your blood.

According to a systematic review, hibiscus may moderate blood lipids and improve dyslipidemia. In human trials, hibiscus successfully reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.

Hibiscus has also shown potential in adolescents with altered blood lipids.

In one study, children ages 12 to 18 with dyslipidemia received either 2 grams of hibiscus powder or a placebo daily for one month. The young participants were also recommended to follow a healthy diet and participate in physical activity during the study. Only participants who received hibiscus powder had significantly decreased levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (considered the “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides by the end of the study. However, HDL (considered “good” cholesterol) cholesterol did not change significantly.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Hibiscus has been touted for its potential liver-protective effects. Some researchers have studied hibiscus to see if it could improve symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a disease in which fat accumulates in the liver.

A small human trial assessed the potential role of hibiscus in NAFLD. Study participants with NAFLD were split into two groups, with one group receiving 450 milligrams of hibiscus in capsule form and the other group receiving a placebo (a substance having no therapeutic effect). At the end of the eight-week trial, those who received hibiscus had significant improvements in liver enzymes and liver fat accumulation.

Larger human trials should be conducted to confirm these findings, though.

Roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa red fruit flower blooming in garden

Penpak Ngamsathain / Getty Images

What Are the Side Effects of Hibiscus?

Hibiscus is generally thought to be safe when consumed in standard amounts. But using an herbal supplement like hibiscus carries a potential risk of side effects.

Common Side Effects of Hibiscus

A review of clinical trials on hibiscus reported no significant side effects with hibiscus use in any of the included studies.

However, another review pointed out that much of the data we have on hibiscus is from animal studies. This makes it difficult to understand the full potential of side effects in humans.

Although rare, the side effects most often associated with hibiscus are:

Stop using hibiscus and consult a healthcare provider if you experience side effects.

Severe Side Effects of Hibiscus

Although not severe in all cases, some people may be allergic to hibiscus or other members of the Malvaceae family of plants, which includes the marshmallow plant. Avoid hibiscus if you're aware of an existing allergy to plants in the Malvaceae family.

If you experience an allergic reaction when using hibiscus, stop using it immediately and speak to a healthcare provider.


Despite its perceived safety, hibiscus use should be avoided or limited by certain people.

The following groups should avoid using hibiscus:

  • People who are pregnant: Hibiscus may have effects that cause miscarriage or preterm labor.
  • People who are breastfeeding: Hibiscus may have unknown effects on infants.
  • Young children: There isn't enough solid evidence to know if hibiscus is safe for children under age 12.
  • People undergoing surgery: Hibiscus may lower blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous for people undergoing surgery. To be safe, stop using hibiscus at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Due to an overall lack of scientific data on hibiscus, it is unknown if other groups should avoid hibiscus. Talk with a healthcare provider if you have any medical conditions or are unsure if hibiscus is safe for you.

Dosage: How Much Hibiscus Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs. 

Because hibiscus has not been recommended as medicine by the FDA for any health conditions, no dosage guidelines exist. Therefore, hibiscus dosage may vary for various health conditions and from one brand to the next.

Hibiscus tea has been used safely for up to six weeks at a dose of 24 ounces per day. It is unknown if using hibiscus tea for longer periods of time or at higher doses is safe.

For hypertension, hibiscus has been used in doses ranging from 100 milligrams to 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) per day.

As a rule of thumb, always follow the dosage recommendations on the product label. Or, talk with a healthcare provider about the right hibiscus dosage for you.

How to Prepare Hibiscus Tea

You can use prepared tea bags or dried flowers to make hibiscus tea.

To make hot tea:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a pot or a tea kettle.
  2. Add the tea bag or dried hibiscus flowers to 8 ounces of boiling water.
  3. Steep a tea bag or flowers for several minutes.
  4. If using a tea bag, remove the bag before flavoring or drinking the tea. If using dried flowers, strain the flowers before flavoring or drinking the tea.

To make cold tea, you can steep the tea bags or hibiscus flowers in a water pitcher in the refrigerator overnight.

Can I Take Too Much Hibiscus?

Little is known about the long-term use or safe dosage of hibiscus.

Fortunately, few studies on hibiscus have reported adverse events or toxicity associated with using the plant medicinally. In fact, according to the FDA, hibiscus is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

One animal study looked at the potential of both acute and chronic toxicity of hibiscus. In the study, an acute dose of 5,000 milligrams/kilogram of hibiscus was not found to be toxic in rats. Researchers also found that using hibiscus extract at 50, 100, and 200 milligrams/kilogram body weight for 270 days did not show signs of toxicity.

These results have not yet been repeated in human trials.

Regardless, it's always best to use herbs and supplements only as directed. Using more hibiscus than recommended may increase your risk of side effects.


Like many other herbal supplements, hibiscus may interact with various medications. It may also interact with other supplements or foods.

Hibiscus may interact with:

  • Aralen (chloroquine)
  • Zipsor or Cataflam (diclofenac)
  • Cozaar (losartan)
  • Antidiabetic medications
  • Blood pressure–lowering medications
  • Zocor (simvastatin)
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • Medications metabolized by the liver
  • Other herbs/supplements that may lower blood pressure, such as L-arginine and niacin
  • Other herbs/supplements that may lower blood sugar, such as bitter melon and chromium

There is also some concern that hibiscus may interact with a diuretic called hydrochlorothiazide as well as ACE inhibitors.

These interactions have not been well-established, but you should talk with a healthcare provider before using hibiscus if you take these or other medications. Other interactions may be possible.

Before choosing a new herb or supplement, it's best to carefully read the ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review supplement labels with a healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications. 

How to Store Hibiscus

To prolong shelf life, store your hibiscus in a cool, dry place and keep it out of direct sunlight. This is thew same for hibiscus tea, dried hibiscus flowers, and hibiscus supplements (like capsules and powders).

Be sure to follow any additional storage directions listed on the product packaging. Take precautions and store hibiscus out of reach of small children and pets.

Discard hibiscus as indicated on the product packaging or once it passes its expiration date.

Similar Supplements

Certain supplements and herbs may offer similar health benefits as hibiscus.

It's typically recommended to use only one supplement or herb for a health condition at a time, so talk with a healthcare provider about which may be best for you.

Supplements and herbs that are similar to hibiscus include:

  • Beetroot juice: Substances found in beetroot juice may reduce blood pressure in healthy individuals as well as those with prehypertension. Researchers from one review believe that beetroot juice is a cost-effective and safe treatment option for blood pressure reduction. However, they admit that more research is needed.
  • Juniper: Juniperus communis is a plant that has been used for its potential health benefits for centuries. In folk medicine, Juniper is considered a urinary antiseptic and a natural diuretic. However, research results on its efficacy have been mixed.
  • Ginseng: Various forms of ginseng, including American ginseng and Panax ginseng, are thought to have blood sugar–lowering effects. Although some research has been inconsistent, one review found that ginseng has the most positive effects on people with type 2 diabetes rather than those with prediabetes or no diabetes. According to the review, ginseng is more likely to decrease fasting blood sugar than other parameters of hyperglycemia.
  • Red yeast rice: Red yeast rice is fermented from rice and is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). An analysis of 15 studies concluded that red yeast rice may provide benefits for people with dyslipidemia, specifically hyperlipidemia. Per the review, red yeast rice was shown to be more effective than statins at lowering triglycerides, less effective than statins at lowering total cholesterol, and comparable to statins at lowering LDL cholesterol.
  • Berberine: When it comes to NAFLD naturally, berberine may be able to help. Berberine is a plant compound found to decrease oxidative stress and fat accumulation in the liver. However, the exact mechanism of berberine for NAFLD is not well-understood at this time.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I drink hibiscus tea every day?

    It may be safe to drink hibiscus tea every day, but there isn't solid scientific evidence to back this up.

    It is known that drinking 24 ounces of hibiscus tea a day for up to six weeks is safe. Currently, there aren't studies on hibiscus tea consumption that extend beyond six weeks.

  • What are the side effects of hibiscus?

    Hibiscus has been generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. However, side effects may still be possible when using hibiscus.

    Although rare, common side effects of hibiscus are upset stomach, gas, and constipation.

    In general, side effects should subside after you've stopped using hibiscus, but consult with a healthcare provider if side effects persist.

  • Does hibiscus tea promote weight loss?

    No supplement or herb can cause weight loss on its own. Weight loss should never be expected when using hibiscus or other supplements.

    Hibiscus advocates tout it as a natural remedy for weight loss. And while some research points to the potential for weight loss, very high doses of hibiscus would most likely be needed, which could increase the risk of side effects or toxicity.

  • How do I make hibiscus tea?

    Like other teas, hibiscus tea is fairly easy to make. All you will need is water and a prepared hibiscus tea bag or dried hibiscus flowers.

    To make hibiscus tea:

    1. Boil water on the stove top or in a tea kettle.
    2. Pour hot water into a teacup or mug.
    3. Add the tea bag or dried hibiscus flowers to the water, then steep for several minutes.
    4. Remove the tea bag or strain the flowers from the water and enjoy.

Sources of Hibiscus & What to Look For

Hibiscus tea is not the only option for use. Hibiscus can be found in a number of supplement forms and even in some prepared foods.

Food Sources of Hibiscus

You can purchase hibiscus food products or make your own at home.

Dried hibiscus flowers are used to make tea and other hot and cold drinks. It is also sometimes added to wines, jams, jellies, ice cream, chocolate, and cakes.

In Mexican cuisine, hibiscus is used to make a beverage called Jamaica water. In other cultures, the leaves and seeds of hibiscus may be cooked, roasted, or used to make oils or coffee.

Hibiscus Supplements

Besides tea, hibiscus can be used in other supplement forms. These include powders, capsules, liquid extracts, tablets, and bottled beverages.

Sometimes, hibiscus is paired with other herbs or nutrients to make supplements. Some brands may also add various flavors to hibiscus or hibiscus combination supplements.

Hibiscus supplements are usually naturally vegan and gluten-free, but some brands may use gelatin to make capsules. Gelatin comes from animals and is not vegan. Some hibiscus products are also organic.

If possible, look for a hibiscus supplement that USP, NSF International, ConsumerLab.com, or another third-party agency has approved. These organizations provide voluntary reviews that ensure supplements contain what their labels say. A seal from a third-party agency also indicates that the product is free from contaminants.


Hibiscus is a genus that contains more than 200 species of flowering plants. Hibiscus sabdariffa is the species most commonly used for its potential health benefits. It is thought to possess various bioactive substances, including anthocyanins, flavonoids, organic acids, and phenolic compounds, which may contribute to its health benefits.

Hibiscus can be found in a number of supplement forms, as tea, and even in some prepared foods. Although it may be useful for conditions such as hypertension, hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, and NAFLD, more research is needed.

If you're considering using hibiscus and have questions to be answered, talk with a healthcare provider.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brittany Lubeck, RD
Brittany Lubeck, RD, is a nutrition writer and registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition.