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Drinking a tea made from hibiscus flowers may help lower blood pressure, adding another tool to the chest of natural treatments for this common and serious condition.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 is considered high, while pre-hypertension ranges from 120/80 through 139/89. Systolic blood pressure—the number on top—is considered the most accurate for diagnosing hypertension.
Polyphenols are plant compounds well known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and which have been associated with cholesterol- and blood pressure–lowering effects in preliminary studies. Investigators from Tufts University aimed to determine if hibiscus tea might lower blood pressure in people with pre- or mild hypertension.
Sixty-five people between ages 30 and 70 took part in the study, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition. They were given either 3 cups of hibiscus tea per day (containing a total of 3.75 grams of hibiscus flowers) or a hibiscus-flavored placebo drink for six weeks. Blood pressure measurements were taken at the beginning (baseline) and end of the study period.
After six weeks, systolic blood pressure in people drinking the hibiscus tea was significantly reduced. Compared with the baseline measurements, hibiscus tea lowered systolic blood pressure by 5.5% (almost 6 points), whereas no reduction was seen in the placebo group. Reducing blood pressure by this amount could lead to a 14% reduction in death from stroke and a 9% reduction in death from heart disease in the population at large.
“Adding hibiscus tea to each meal is simple and may be an effective strategy for controlling blood pressure among pre- and mildly hypertensive adults,” said the study’s authors. The blood pressure reduction seen in this study was comparable to that achieved with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) protocol, which recommends large amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and low-fat dairy products. For many people, following complex dietary guidelines may prove difficult, but adding a few cups of tea to the daily routine might be more doable.
(J Nutr 2010;140:298–303)