Does Hibiscus Extract or Tea Reduce Cholesterol?

Hibiscus Extract
RA3RN, istockphoto

Hibiscus is a flowering plant that is native to certain regions of Africa. You have probably seen certain versions of hibiscus in your local health foods store or pharmacy, either in the form of a tea or supplement.

One particular species of hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa, has become increasingly popular due to its flavor and potential health benefits. This particular species of hibiscus has been used in foods and beverages found in certain African and Asian cuisines, including cold drinks, soups, and teas.

This type of hibiscus is currently being studied in treating inflammation, high blood pressure, and lice infestations. Studies also indicate that hibiscus may have the ability to control your cholesterol and triglyceride levels - but does it really do the job?

Can Hibiscus Have an Effect on Your Lipids?

There are only a handful of studies that look at the effect of hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) plant on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In these studies, the material used to make the hibiscus extract was taken from calyx of the plant, which is located at the base of the flower bud. A few studies also included extracts from the leaves and flowers of the hibiscus plant. In most of these studies, these parts of the plant were extracted and made into a tea or capsule. Many of these studies did not state exactly how they made their hibiscus extract preparations, so this may vary widely.

Most people who participated in these studies had diabetes, high cholesterol, or metabolic syndrome.

Varying amounts of hibiscus extract were taken - anywhere between 100 mg to 2000 mg - for up to four weeks. Many of these studies did not see a significant effect on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, there were a few studies that noted that:

  • HDL cholesterol levels were increased by anywhere between 9 percent and 16 percent.
  • LDL was lowered by up to 8 percent.
  • Total cholesterol levels were reduced by about 7 percent.

No one really knows how hibiscus works in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. One component of the plant, hibiscus acid, has been shown in animal studies to lower triglyceride levels. Another healthy component found in hibiscus, anthrocyanin, has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in some studies.

Should You Add Hibiscus to Your Lipid-Lowering Plan?

The verdict is still out on whether or not hibiscus extract can lower your cholesterol and triglycerides. The results from studies are mixed - as are the doses and sources of hibiscus extract used. So, until more studies are conducted, it’s best to rely on more tried-and-true measures to lower your lipid levels. Your healthcare provider will be able to help find a treatment that is right for you.

Taking a hibiscus extract product is not without side effects, which may include nausea, bloating, and heartburn. Although these are usually minor and will go away with time, they might be enough to discourage some people from using hibiscus extract.

If you decide to take any hibiscus-containing products to lower your lipids, you should speak to your healthcare provider first. Hibiscus extract can interact with certain medications or over-the-counter products that you are taking. Additionally, hibiscus extract may interfere with some medical conditions you may have - including high blood pressure or certain gastrointestinal disorders.


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Hopkins AL, Lamm MG, Funk JL et al. Hibiscus sabdariffa L in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies. Fitoterapia 2013: 85: 84-94.

Khosravi HM, Jalali-Khanabadi BA, Afkhami-Ardekani M, et al. Effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoprotein in patients with type II diabetes. J Alt Com Med 2009; 15: 899-903.

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