Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Scientific Name:

Hibiscus sabdariffa

Botanical Family:


Other Common Name:

Roselle, Sour tea, Red sorrel, Karkade

Common names in Spanish:

Flor de Jamaica, Jamaica, Rosa de Jamaica, Acedera de Guinea, Obelisco, Rosamorada

This plant is originally from Africa, where it is regarded as a very important plant for both medicinal as well as culinary uses (Van Wyk, 2015; Small, 2012 ).
Another closely related species, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, is also used in traditional medicine.

Parts of the plant used:

Mainly the flowers (calyxes) and the leaves.

How is it used?

Hibiscus flowers (calyxes) and occasionally the leaves are taken as decoctions or teas (hot or cold), as well as sweetened beverages in many countries around the world (González-Stuart, 2008).

What is it used for?

The ethnomedicinal (traditional medicine) uses of the plant are varied and include of hibiscus flowers for the treatment of various cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, hypotension, and hyperlipidemia, as well as diabetes, and obesity (Cerato et al., 2015; Hopkins et al., 2014; González-Stuart, 2011). The unsweetened tea made from the flowers is used in Mexico to treat coughs (Martínez, 1989).

Guardiola and Mach (2014) undertook a review of the scientific evidence behind various therapeutic uses for hibiscus. Results of research conducted in human clinical trials, animal models as well as in cell cultures were reviewed. Due to the plant’s content of natural antioxidant phytochemical compounds, the authors ascribe a potential therapeutic effect for hibiscus regarding its inhibitory effect on oxidative stress, lipid profile, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.

Protocatechuic acid (PCA) is a natural phenolic compound found in the flowers that has demonstrated antioxidant as well as antitumor effects. For this reason, PCA as well as various other antioxidant compounds contained in hibiscus could act as chemo-preventive agents against various chronic and degenerative diseases (Lin et al., 2011).

Wisetmuen et al. (2013) demonstrated the blood glucose lowering activity of an ethanolic (alcohol) extract of hibiscus flowers (calyxes) in diabetic rats. The researchers concluded that anti-diabetic activity of the hibiscus extract could be in part mediated via the stimulating effect on the secretion of insulin.

Joshi et al. (2015) found that aqueous extracts from hibiscus flowers possess potent antiviral effects against Hepatitis A as well as human Norovirus, and thus could have potential to prevent food borne viral transmission.

At the cellular level, hibiscus’s anthocyanin (a natural pigment that gives flowers their color) content may significantly decrease LDL (“bad” cholesterol) oxidation, and inhibit adipogenesis (formation of fats) via regulation of adipogenic signaling pathways and transcription factors. In this way, it could modulate gene expression of certain microRNAs.

Serban et al. (2015) undertook a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that assessed the possible benefits of using Hibiscus for the treatment of hypertension. The results of the meta-analysis demonstrated a significant effect of hibiscus in decreasing lowering both systolic as well as diastolic blood pressure. The researchers concluded that more controlled clinical studies are needed in order to validate these results.

Another comprehensive review of animal and human studies focused on the value of hibiscus for the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia or high levels of fats in the blood (Hopkins et al., 2013). The reviewers also researched the possible effects of hibiscus on blood cholesterol levels. The results showed that hibiscus does exert both antihypertensive as well as LDL cholesterol-lowering effects in animal models.

Hibiscus flower has recently been touted as being useful as a weight loss supplement in Brazil and other regions, but more controlled clinical research is needed before it can be recommended as such (Cercato et al., 2015).

Research undertaken by Byalakere et al. (2015) on extracts of various medicinal plants, including hibiscus, used for the treatment of dental caries and other oral aflictions, showed that they are capable of inhibiting certain dental caries and periodontal bacterial pathogens involved in periodontitis. Evidence from research currently shows that individual plant extracts may be beneficial against certain bacterial species that cause caries or periodontitis.

A study by Nagarajappa et al. (2015) evaluated the antimicrobial potential as well as determined the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of hibiscus extracts on pathogenic bacteria involved in dental caries. The researchers showed that the aqueous and ethanol extracts of hibiscus exerted a marked inhibitory effect on two bacterial species: L. acidophilus and S. mutans. The Hibiscus extracts significantly decreased the growth of both species and demonstrated the therapeutic potential of Hibiscus against certain caries-causing bacteria.

Safety / Precautions

  • Decoctions and infusions (teas) of the flowers (calyxes) and occasionally from the leaves are taken internally as part of the traditional medicine of many countries around the world. There are no reported cases of side effects or toxicity in using this herb (González- Stuart, 2014; Gardner and McGuffin, 2013; Hopkins et al., 2013).
  • Limited studies in animals have shown a possible interaction between hibiscus and acetaminophen (paracetamol). For this reason, (Hopkins et al (2013), recommend this pharmaceutical be taken 3–4 hours before drinking hibiscus in order to preclude diminishing the therapeutic effect of acetaminophen.

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!


Byalakere Rudraiah Chandra Shekar, Ramesh Nagarajappa, Shankarappa Suma, and Rupesh
Thakur. Herbal extracts in oral health care - A review of the current scenario and its future needs.
Pharmacogn Rev. 2015; 9(18): 87–92. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.162101.

Cercato LM, White PA, Nampo FK, Santos MR, Camargo EA. A systematic review of medicinal
plants used for weight loss in Brazil: Is there potential for obesity treatment?
J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Oct 28. pii: S0378-8741(15)30197-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.10.038.

Wisetmuen E, Pannangpetch P, Kongyingyoes B, Kukongviriyapan U, Yutanawiboonchai W,
Itharat A. Insulin secretion enhancing activity of roselle calyx extract in normal and
streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Pharmacognosy Res. 2013; 5(2):65-70. doi: 10.4103/0974-

Garner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; pp. 441-444.

Guardiola S, Mach N. Therapeutic potential of Hibiscus sabdariffa: a review of the scientific
evidence. Endocrinol Nutr. 2014;61(5):274-95. doi: 10.1016/j.endonu.2013.10.012.

González-Stuart A. Eating Well with Fruits, Vegetables, Legumes, Grains, and Spices.
El Paso,TX: BPG printing; 2014.

González-Stuart A. Multifaceted Therapeutic Value of Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.-
Malvaceae. Chapter 14. In: Watson R, Gerald J, Preedy V. (Editors). Nutrients, Dietary
Supplements, and Nutraceuticals. New York: Springer-Verlag/Humana; 2011; pp. 215-226.

Hopkins AL, Lamm MG, Funk JL, Ritenbaugh C. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of
hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies.
Fitoterapia. 2013;85:84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2013.01.003.

Joshi SS, Dice L, D'Souza DH. Aqueous Extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa Calyces Decrease
Hepatitis A Virus and Human Norovirus Surrogate Titers.Food Environ Virol. 2015 Jul 5. [Epub
ahead of print]

Lin HH, Chen JH, Wang CJ. Chemopreventive properties and molecular mechanisms of the
bioactive compounds in Hibiscus sabdariffa Linne. Curr Med Chem. 2011; 18(8):1245-54.

Martínez M. Plantas Medicinales de México.
México, D.F.: Editorial Botas; 1989; p. 462.

Nagarajappa R, Batra M, Sharda AJ, Asawa K, Sanadhya S, Daryani H, Ramesh G.
Antimicrobial Effect of Jasminum grandiflorum L. and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. Extracts
Against Pathogenic Oral Microorganisms--An In Vitro Comparative Study.
Oral Health Prev Dent. 2015;13(4):341-8. doi: 10.3290/j.ohpd.a30601.

Serban C, Sahebkar A, Ursoniu S, Andrica F, Banach M. Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa
L.) on arterial hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled
trials. J Hypertens. 2015; 33(6):1119-27. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000000585.

Small E. Top 100 Exotic Food Plants.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 499-503.

Van Wyk BE. A review of commercially important African medicinal plants.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Oct 21. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.10.031.