Tea is the second healthiest beverage next to purified drinking water. Among dozens of other tea variations, hibiscus tea was consumed in the ancient Nile Valley during the time of the pharaohs and was regarded as the royalty’s primary beverage, mainly for its ability to improve health.

While the hibiscus flower has over 200 species, the tea is made from Hibiscus sabdariffa, common in North Africa, Thailand, the Caribbean and Latin America. The flower comes from the hibiscus plant, a shrub that produces flowers with reddish-purple centres. The tea is derived from the deep red calyxes, or cup-like structures formed by the sepals.

Why different cultures drink hibiscus tea

Hibiscus tea is a favourite in many countries and is widespread in China, Mexico, Africa, Europe and some Caribbean countries (under different names). It’s enjoyed for various reasons:

  • Egyptians consume hibiscus tea to keep themselves cool in their warm, desert climate. This tea is used as a “refrigerant” to regulate body temperature.
  • Sudanese and Egyptians use hibiscus tea as a ceremonial toast at wedding ceremonies and family gatherings.
  • In Egypt, this beverage is believed to promote cardiac and nervous system health.
  • Locals from Iran drink hibiscus tea as a traditional aid for occasional restlessness and difficulty in sleeping.
  • Mexicans use hibiscus tea as a mild, natural diuretic.
  • People from Asian countries such as Thailand, China, and Malaysia, consume hibiscus petals and flavour them with ginger as they believe this could help lower cholesterol.

More recent studies suggest that hibiscus tea can contribute to overall optimal health by helping regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and assist in weight management.

Why you should opt for tea rather than other beverages

Hibiscus tea is a healthy alternative to sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juices, which are high in synthetic ingredients such as aspartame (an artificial sweetener) and/or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Research shows that consuming high amounts of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners has many side effects, including headaches, insomnia, memory loss, digestive tract disorders and even seizures; while HFCS is linked to high blood sugar (even diabetes), obesity, metabolism problems, and an increase in LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels.

Fructose can also leech out nutrients from your body, such as magnesium, copper, and chromium, as it has no enzymes, vitamins or minerals. And there’s always a danger that HFCS is produced from genetically modified corn—believed to have a number of adverse side effects.

Things to remember when drinking hibiscus tea

Some important factors to consider in choosing a hibiscus tea brand:

  1. The tea should be manufactured according to ancient traditional methods to make sure its taste and high quality are intact.
  2. The tea should not contain any synthetic ingredients or artificial preservatives.
  3. The tea should be certified organic.
  4. The tea’s manufacturer should use only high-quality processes.

Before you do anything, check if your water source is secure. Making tea with water that isn’t efficiently filtered could cancel out any health benefits the tea delivers. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your drinking water is pure and clean:

  • Check with your local water company to see if there are contaminants in your water supply.
  • Install a high-quality filtration system. This should eliminate not just bacteria and chemicals, but also heavy metals and disinfection byproducts.

Although hibiscus tea can be enjoyed plain with either hot or cold water, browsing online you will find loads of recipes you can try to make your tea drinking experience enjoyable.

Adrienne Nicole is an advocate of natural health working for Mercola.com and is a part-time blogger. She spends her free time researching ways to keep fit during old age. She also writes web articles about what she reads and experiences. Recently, she has tried hibiscus tea and other organic beverages.
image: hibiscus flower via Shutterstock