The Leaders in Natural Traditional

African Medicines



Hibiscus is the name given to more than 250 species of herbs, shrubs, and trees of the Malvaceae family. In southern Africa, the most commonly used species of hibiscus are hibiscus sabdariffa and hibiscus irritants.

Hibiscus is renowned for its beauty as well as its medicinal uses and forms an integral part of African culture. It is used for its beauty in gardens as well as medicinal, cultural and nutritional purposes. Its tea (sour tea) is appreciated for its refreshing properties.

This page will focus on the hibiscus irritants and hibiscus sabdariffa only.


It is commonly found in the Eastern seaboard of South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Medicine uses:

Two clinical trials have confirmed the antihypertensive effect using hibiscus sabdariffa watery infusions. Considering the high prevalence of hypertension, its debilitating end organ damage, and the side effects of drugs used for its treatment, we conducted this experimental study to evaluate the effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on essential hypertension.

The hibiscus irritants and hibiscus sabdariffa are mainly used as teas or washes. Teas are used for bile, coughs, high blood pressure, dysmenorrhoea, menorrhagia, PMS, tonic, dyspepsia, to relieve pressure in the gallbladder, and to relax the uterus. The both plants are used as a wash to treat weeping eczema.

In Kwazulu Natal, Swaziland and southern Mozambique, the fresh leaves of the hibiscus irritants are inserted into the vagina to treat the chronic symptoms of PMS, excessive bleeding and infertility. This plant together with Mathema seems to be particularly effective for endometriosis, menorrhagia and fibrosis.

Alcoholics might consider one item: simulated ingestion of the plant extract decreased the rate of absorption of alcohol, lessening the intensity of alcohol effects in chickens (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk).

Active Ingredients:

Hibiscus sabdariffa Hibiscus is also the source of the hydroxycitric acid (HCA, or hydroxycut) used in many diet formulas. This compound has been long used to fight obesity. Scientific studies with lab animals find that it stops the conversion of carbs in food to body fat. It fights appetite and encourages weight loss, not by increasing energy expenditure but by encouraging the "wasting" of carbohydrate. HCA does not enhance weight loss during low-carb or Atkins-style diets, but it does help weight loss when used with a program of general calorie restriction reducing consumption of carbs, protein, and fats equally.

Pharmacological Effects:

Hibiscus has many medicinal uses, of which some are still under research as researchers are learning everyday more and more of its use.

Researchers are conducting studies to see if the hibiscus is indeed active in lowering blood cholesterol levels. This could be due to the high antioxidant content that contributes to lowering low density lipoprotein levels in the blood.

What the researchers wanted to know: Can hibiscus flowers help prevent the build-up of cholesterol?

What they did: The scientists boiled the flowers and filtered the solution to obtain concentrated hibiscus extract. First, they tested the effects of the extract on cholesterol in samples of human blood. Then, they used two groups of 24 rats each; they fed one group a high-sugar diet and one a high-fat diet. Within each group, some rats were given hibiscus in addition to their unhealthy diet. (Some rats in each group were also fed a normal diet as controls.) The scientists compared the cholesterol levels of the rats given hibiscus with those who ate just an unhealthy diet.

What they found: For rats on the high-sugar diet, hibiscus significantly reduced triglyceride levels in the blood. (Triglycerides are a reflection of fat intake and can contribute to high cholesterol levels.) For the rats on a high fat diet, hibiscus reduced the levels of total cholesterol in the rats' blood and especially reduced the amount of LDL or "bad" cholesterol. Based on their experiments with human blood in the lab, the scientists think that hibiscus makes it harder for LDL cholesterol to bind to artery walls, inhibiting the build-up of cholesterol that can cause blockage and heart disease.

Safety and Toxicity:

The hibiscus irritant was given the name because it irritates the skin when its thorns are touched. Avoid if there are gallstones.


Hibiscus 6-06-2000.txt

Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 65, Issue 3 Abstract, June 1999 Article, Pages 231-236

PII: S0378-8741(98)00157-3

The effects of sour tea (hibiscus sabdariffa) on essential hypertension. M. Haji Farajia,* and A.H.Haji Tarkhanib

a, Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Eveen - Tehran19395-4139, Iran.
b, Iran University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Faculty of Medicine, Eveen - Tehran19395-4139, Iran.

Considering the high prevalence of hypertension, its debilitating end organ damage, and the side effects of drugs used for its treatment, we conducted this experimental study to evaluate the effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on essential hypertension. For this purpose, 31 and 23 patients with moderate essential hypertension were randomly to an experimental and control group, respectively. Patients with secondary hypertension or those consuming more than two drugs were excluded from the study.

Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were measured before and 15 days after the intervention. In the experimental group, 45% of the patients were male and 55% were female, and the mean age of the patients was 51.5±10.1 years. Statistical findings showed an 11.2% lowering of the systolic blood pressure and a 10.7% decrease of diastolic pressure in the experimental group 12 days after beginning the treatment, as compared with the first day.

The difference between the systolic blood pressures of the two groups was significant, as was the difference of the diastolic pressures of the two groups. Three days after stopping the treatment, the systolic blood pressure was elevated by 7.9%, and the diastolic pressure was elevated by 5.5% in the experimental and control groups. This difference between the two groups was also significant. This study proves the public belief and the results of in vitro studies concerning the effects of sour tea on lowering high blood pressure. More extensive tests on this subject are needed.

Journal of Ethnopharmacology

Volume 86, Issues 2-3, June 2003, Pages 181-185

Clinical effects produced by a standardized herbal medicinal product of Hibiscus sabdariffa on patients with hypertension. A randomized, doubleblind, lisinopril-controlled clinical trial

Alternative Medicine Review,  June, 2007  by A. Herrera-Arellano, J. Miranda-Sanchez, P. Avila-Castro

Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (Malvaceae) has been used in different countries as an antihypertensive. Pharmacological work has demonstrated that this effect is probably produced by a diuretic activity and inhibition of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).

Two clinical trials have confirmed the antihypertensive effect using watery infusions, in which a natriuretic effect was also detected. To compare therapeutic effectiveness, tolerability, and safety, as well as the effect on serum electrolytes and the ACE inhibitory effect of a herbal medicinal product prepared from the dried extract of H. sabdariffa calyxes (HsHMP) with those of lisinopril on patients with hypertension (HT), a randomized, controlled, and double-blind clinical trial was conducted. Patients of either sex, 25-61 years of age, with hypertension stage I or II, were daily treated for 4 weeks with the HsHME 250 mg of total anthocyanins per dose (experimental group), or 10 mg of lisinopril (control group). Outcome variables included effectiveness (diastolic blood pressure [DBP] reduction, >or = 10 mmHg), safety (absence of pathological modifications in the biochemical tests of hepatic and renal function), tolerability (absence of intense side effects), effect on serum electrolytes, and effect on ACE activity. Basal analysis included 193 subjects (100 in the experimental group), while outcome variable analysis integrated 171. Results showed that the experimental treatment decreased blood pressure (BP) from 146.48/97.77 to 129.89/85.96 mmHg, reaching an absolute reduction of 17.14/11.97 mmHg (11.58/12.21%, p < 0.05). The experimental treatment showed therapeutic effectiveness of 65.12% as well as tolerability and safety of 100%. BP reductions and therapeutic effectiveness were lower than those obtained with lisinopril (p < 0.05). Under the experimental treatment, the serum chlorine level increased from 91.71 to 95.13 mmol/L (p = 0.0001), the sodium level showed a tendency to decrease (from 139.09 to 137.35, p = 0.07), while potassium level was not modified. ACE plasmatic activity was inhibited by HsHMP from 44.049 to 30.1 Units (Us; p = 0.0001). In conclusion, the HsHMP exerted important antihypertensive effectiveness with a wide margin of tolerability and safety, while it also significantly reduced plasma ACE activity and demonstrated a tendency to reduce serum sodium (Na) concentrations without modifying potassium (K) levels. Further studies are necessary for evaluating the dose-dependency of HsHMP and for detecting lower effective doses.


Common names: Hibiscus (Eng)

Copyright Herbal Africa © 2016   Designed by: Willem van Moerkerken