Is Hibiscus the Holy Grail of Personal Health?



Hibiscus is a common flowering plant (belonging to the family Malvaceae) found in many Indian homes and gardens, especially in South India. The flowers come in various colors and sizes and they are typically used in prayer. But not many people are aware that the hibiscus flower is also a storehouse of antioxidants and nutrients, with special benefits for the heart.

In Ayurveda, hibiscus extract is used for treating swelling, loss of appetite, nervous disorders, heart disorders, pain in the upper respiratory tract and stomach pain. It is also a diuretic and a laxative. Recently, researchers have discovered that hibiscus is also very good for the heart. 

Hibiscus tea is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of the flower. Let us see in more detail why hibiscus teais an excellent health supplement.

Hibiscus tea can help in weight loss
If you are trying to lose weight, hibiscus tea will supplement your efforts. Hibiscus tea is not only low in calories, it is also a diuretic which means if you drink it first thing in the morning, it will help you flush out toxins from your body. A 2014 study published in Food & Function magazine says that ingesting hibiscus extract will help obese people lose weight, while also improving their liver function. A study published in Medical Hypothesis in 2002 also came to the same conclusion.

Hibiscus aids menstrual health
Hibiscus helps provide relief from cramps and menstrual pain. It helps in restoring hormone balance as well, which can reduce other symptoms of menstruation like mood swings, depression, and overeating.

Hibiscus tea protects the liver
Hibiscus extract has powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants destroy free radicals in the body. Hibiscus is rich in dietary phytochemicals like phenolic acids, flavonoids, saponins, anthocyanins and alkaloids. Anthocyanins, phenolic acids and flavonoids are well-known antioxidants. If free radicals are left unchallenged, they can lead to a variety of chronic diseases and illnesses. Anthocyanins are especially good for the kidneys and urinary tract health. It explains why hibiscus is valued so much in folk medicine. The ancients knew that hibiscus had these properties and they found a variety of uses for it.

Hibiscus tea has anti-cancer properties
The hibiscus flower contains protocatechuic acid, a type of phenolic acid. PCA is not only an antioxidant, it is also an anti-tumor and anti-cancer agent. Hibiscus flower is also a rich source of polyphenols, another type of anti-cancer agents. A study conducted at Taiwan’s Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology found that the polyphenols found in hibiscus extract had a significant inhibitory effect on melanoma cancer cells. Melanoma is a rare cancer of the skin but it is one of the most difficult types to treat. When melanoma cells were doused with these hibiscus derived polyphenols, the polyphenols inhibited the growth of cancer cells, without affecting the healthy cells nearby.

Hibiscus tea is good for the heart
Hibiscus tea is excellent for the heart because it reduces high blood pressure and high cholesterol — the two main reasons why people develop heart disease.

Hibiscus-inset

Hibiscus is loaded with powerful antioxidants like flavonoids, polyphenolics, anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins.

How high blood pressure affects the heart
High blood pressure leads to faster deposition of plaque on the walls of the arteries. Over time, this plaque begins to inhibit the flow of blood. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. The problem with high blood pressure is, it damages the body silently for years before the symptoms start show and this damage is not localised. It affects arteries across the entire body, in the legs, arms, brain, kidneys and heart, leading to health problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart disease, heart attack, chest pain, eye damage and even aneurysms.

High blood pressure also enlarges the left part of the heart, leading to coronary heart disease and eventually heart failure.

How high blood pressure affects the brain and the kidneys
As blood continues to push against a nearly blocked artery, a section of the artery wall enlarges and creates a bulge, called an aneurysm. In worst cases, the aneurysm ruptures, leading to internal bleeding which is often fatal. When this happens in this brain, it is called a brain aneurysm and it can lead to a stroke.

In the same way, high blood pressure also damages the brain and the kidneys. Recently, our external affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj was diagnosed with kidney failure. Do you know, one of the most common reasons for kidney failure is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure damages the arteries that supply blood to the kidney and the tiny blood vessel inside the kidney. High blood pressure is also dangerous to the brain. If it is left untreated, it can lead to mini strokes, dementia, cognitive impairment and in worse cases even stroke.

Why hibiscus tea is good for people with high cholesterol
Many people drink hibiscus tea only to lower bad cholesterol. Green tea is getting a lot of publicity here at the expenses of other types of tea that are also equally good, like hibiscus tea.

There is research to show that diabetic people who drink hibiscus tea regularly have lower cholesterol levels than those who don’t. Animal studies have also found, drinking hibiscus tea lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Drinking hibiscus tea for 2 to 6 weeks reduces blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure. In another study, it was found that ingesting hibiscus extract for 4 weeks brought the same benefits as captopril, a prescription drug used to treat high blood pressure.

The other benefits of hibiscus tea
Hibiscus tea is made from 100% pure dried hibiscus sepals (calyx). It is caffeine free and full of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Taking hibiscus tea regularly will bring a significant improvement in your health, thanks to a reduction in your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.

Note that there are many ways to drink hibiscus tea. The recommended way is to drink it as a tea but there is another way to enjoy this drink. Make a glass of hibiscus tea. Now add twice as much water to it and keep the mixture in the fridge. After an hour or two, the mix will be cold and you can substitute it for water. It is especially cooling in summer.

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