Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hibiscus Tea Increases HDL, Lowers LDL and Triglycerides

Hibiscus tea is often served cold with sugar 
Hibiscus tea is often served cold with sugar. (Photo by molossoidea)

When it comes to health benefits and drinks, green tea gets most of the publicity. And with good reason – from what we know, it seems to have the widest range of positive effects out of all beverages. But that's not to say that there aren't other less known drinks out there that have health benefits of their own.

One such beverage is hibiscus tea, a herbal infusion made from the calyces of the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower. Hibiscus is also known as sorrel, roselle, karkadé and flor de Jamaica, depending on the region. Earlier this year, I wrote about two studies showing that hibiscus tea reduces blood pressure. In the second study, hibiscus tea was compared with black tea, and guess what – hibiscus tea wone hands down.

In fact, the group that drank black tea saw an increase in blood pressure. That was black tea – as far as I know, there have been no direct comparisons between green tea and hibiscus tea, but even green tea's effects on blood pressure seem to be small or nonexistent. So green and black tea, while very healthy, may not be enough if you want to cover all bases.

I wrote in the earlier posts that to my knowledge, there had been no studies on hibiscus tea and cholesterol, even though the drink is traditionally used to lower cholesterol. Today, however, I found a paper that shows hibiscus tea is good for cholesterol too (link). Granted, the paper appeared in the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine, which has published some papers that seem to be of questionable quality, but this one seems pretty legit.

For the experiment, 60 patients with type II diabetes were randomly assigned into two groups. One group got black tea and the other got hibiscus tea (which the authors refer to as "sour tea"). The participants were told to drink one glass (1 tea bag in boiling water, steeped for 20-30 minutes) twice a day for a month.

The subjects that drank black tea did not show improvement in any of the parameters measured. None of the changes in total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides and lipoprotein (a) were statistically signifcant.

Those who drank hibiscus tea, on the other hand, saw several improvements in their cholesterol levels. Total cholesterol went from 236.2 to 218.6 mg/dL. HDL increased from 48.2 to 56.1 mg/dL, while LDL decreased from 137.5 to 128 mg/dL. Triglycerides went down rather dramatically, from 246.1 to 209.2 mg/dL. Lipoprotein (a) was unchanged.

The authors also reference several other papers showing similar results in humans and animals. For example, one study showed a reduction in cholesterol levels in healthy men and women taking a hibiscus extract (link). This would suggest that the beneficial effects of hibiscus are not only limited to diabetic patients.

I'm not sure why I didn't find these papers the last time I did a pubmed search, but I'm glad I came across them now. I guess it's time to put hibiscus tea back on the menu, next to green tea and rooibos tea.

My favourite way to drink it is to make a big glass of hibiscus tea the normal way, then after 15 minutes of steeping pour the tea through a sieve into a larger container, add twice as much cold water and put it in the fridge. It's ready to drink in about an hour. It's especially good in the summer, best enjoyed with ice and a little sugar for taste.

For more information on tea, cholesterol and health, see these posts:

The Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea
Black Tea Is More Effective in Activating Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) than Green Tea
Refined vs Red Palm Oil and Cholesterol
Anthocyanins from Berries Increase HDL and Lower LDL

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9 kommenttia:

necomama December 28, 2010 at 8:50 PM  


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Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 3:23 AM  

In Argentina it comes in tea bags, organic. Do you know why it is so acidic?

JLL December 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM  


According to Wikipedia, it contains 15-30% acids, including citric, malic and tartaric acid.

hggh22@gmail.com January 15, 2011 at 12:50 PM  

Are you worried about the saponins in hibiscus (http://is.gd/3E6A1T)

Robb Wolf says: "saponins simply punch holes in the membranes of the microvilli cells. Yes, that’s bad. Saponins are so irritating to the immune system that they are used in vaccine research to help the body mount a powerful immune response. " http://is.gd/aBklxy

Do you ever feel bad (sensitive visceral feeling in body) after large hibiscus tea intake?

JLL January 15, 2011 at 1:32 PM  


Thanks for bringing this to my attention. No, I've never felt bad even after consuming a liter of Hibiscus tea. Robb Wolf says saponins "are bad" but doesn't really say why. Maybe small amounts are even beneficial? Ginseng, for example, contains saponins, and it's considered an adaptogen and good for longevity. I didn't find how much saponins Hibiscus tea contains, though.


Leila Rousseau May 10, 2011 at 12:03 AM  

I love Rosehip tea.

Soya Lecithin Granules (teaspoon or so taken daily) is great for emulsifying (breaking down) cholesterol. It works for my grandparents. Doctors of course don't appreciate it.

Note at cold tea - I always hear when it's cold, it loses its prominent anti-oxidant effects.

Leila Rousseau May 10, 2011 at 12:03 AM  

I love Rosehip tea.

Soya Lecithin Granules (teaspoon or so taken daily) is great for emulsifying (breaking down) cholesterol. It works for my grandparents. Doctors of course don't appreciate it.

Note at cold tea - I always hear when it's cold, it loses its prominent anti-oxidant effects.

Clark Coleman June 18, 2012 at 9:03 PM  

Concerning saponins: A diet high in saponins is correlated with long life in numerous cultures of the world. For example, two of the food sources high in saponins are olive oil and red wine, which have been identified as two of the key ingredients in the Mediterranean Diet. It is because of the longevity of persons who eat these foods their whole lives that the Mediterranean Diet was investigated in the first place.

For a small percentage of the population who has celiac disease or the antibody indicators that they might be developing celiac disease in the future, yes, saponins might not be recommended. For the majority of the population, saponins provide beneficial effects on lowering cholesterol, serve as antioxidants, etc.

Hibiscus flowers, from which the tea is made, have been measured to contain high levels of saponins. Hibiscus tea can be added to the list of foods high in saponins, including spinach, asparagus, olive oil, red wine, and others. Eliminating all these foods is not a healthy idea for most people, but could be recommended for a few.

Anonymous January 16, 2014 at 8:32 AM  

I wouldn't pay too much heed to Robb Wolf. Enjoy your Hibiscus tea.

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