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Botanical Description & Habitat

Hibiscus :: possesses anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, cough sedative, antispasmodic, antiscorbutic and emollient properties
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Hibiscus sabdariffa, h. micranthus, h. rosa-sinensis

Common names
Jamaican sorrel
Red Tea

Tropical Africa, now grown in many tropical climates e.g. Jamaica and Mexico.

Medicinal Parts
The dried flowers in herbal tea mixtures.

Historical Properties & Uses

Hibiscus plants are used throughout the world as flavoring and coloring agents in teas and other beverages. A tea made from hibiscus is a brilliant red, with a pleasing sweet taste, though it often leaves a slight astringent after effect in the mouth.

Jamaica, a Mexican beverage made from hibiscus, is one of that country's most popular drinks, and has its fans in the United States also. In tropical countries hibiscus is used in jellies, puddings, baked goods, sauces and desserts of all kinds.

It is seldom used exclusively for medicinal purposes, yet fans believe it does good things for the gastro-intestinal system, such as increase appetite, aid digestion, act as a urinary disinfectant, ward off infection, promote smooth and regular bowel movements, and so forth. People with arthritis maintain it reduces inflammation and produces a functional sense of well-being. Studies have tended to confirm most of these actions.

This herb has not achieved approval status by the German Commission E. Either there was insufficient evidence in favor, or a contraindication.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

The Pharmacological Properties of Hibiscus Support Folklore Use
Research on hibiscus species shows the plant possesses anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, cough sedative, antispasmodic, antiscorbutic and emollient properties. Aldose reductase activity has been found in one species. Its effect on blood parameters has been investigated, finding it thins the blood by decreasing fibrinogen content and prolonging prothrombin time. It also raises blood sugar levels in rats.

Mild central nervous system stimulation and cardiotonic properties have been found. These results are a composite form research done on several species; it should not automatically be assumed at this time all actions are shared equally by all species.

In a 1987 study, hibiscus micranthus demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and neuromuscular blocking properties in several standard animal preparations. It also showed mild cardiotonic activity, while producing a slight fall in blood pressure. A rise in blood sugar was seen in anti-inflammatory trials accompanied by indications of blood thinning effects.

This study was undertaken on the basis of observations of folklore use of hiscuscus species as rheumatoid agents in Saudi Arabia. The authors compared the effects of hibiscus to those of agents with aspirin-like anti-inflammatory and antipyretic action. The attribute observed effects to the presence of flavonoidal constituents. Other investigators have noted similar properties in another species of hibiscus: hibiscus vitifolius.

Some Hibiscus Species May have Anti-fertility Properties
Some interesting studies conducted in India showed one variety of hibiscus, hibiscus rosa-sinensis, has some anti-spermatogenic properties. In rats, a daily dose of 250 mg of an alcohol extract shrunk the seminiferous tubules and completely disorganized testicular tissue and spermatogonial cells, without affecting seminal vesicles or the prostate gland. Lower doses were not effective. What application this research has for humans is totally unclear at this time.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The topical application of this astringent herb in conjunction with the acne product tretinoin (retinoic acid, vitamin A acid) may adversely affect the skin.

1. The tannin in this herb may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea.

2. The tannin in a tea made from this herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.

Hibiscus' analgesic effects may be additive with other analgesics and anesthetics. It may be inhibited by barbiturates even though CNS depressant effects may occur.

The analgesic property of this herb may be reversed or eliminated by p-chlorophenylalanine, cyproheptadine HCl, and phenobarbital. The CNS depressant tendency of this analgesic may be potentiated by chlorpoxthixene HCl, haloperidol, and tranquilizers.

The antacid nature of hibiscus may decrease or delay the absorption of nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.

Due to the spasmolytic nature of hibiscus, it may interact in unknown ways with CNS depressants or stimulants.

There is evidence combining bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the '-static' variety. How this finding applies to herbal antibiotics is not known.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Hibiscus flowers are remarkably safe to use. No toxicity or side effects are expected in reasonable doses.

The German Commission E status is "null" or neutral i.e. while it is not approved, there is no documented risk. There may also be some concern over the claims made by manufacturers i.e. they are unproven.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Use 1 tsp dried leaves per 1 cup water, as desired.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Al-Yahya, M.A., M. Tariq, N.S. Parmar & A.M. Ageel. Pharmacological investigations of hibiscus micranthus Linn. A febrifuge used in saudi arabian folk medicine. Phytotherapy Research. 1(2), 73-75, 1987.

Bhakuni, D.S., M.L. Dhar, M.M. Dhar, B.N. Dhawan & B.N. Mehrotra. Screening of indian plants for biological activity. Part II. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 7(10), 250-262, 1969.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Duke, J.A. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida, 1985.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Oct, 1990.

Fitzpatrick, F.K. Plant substances active against mycobacterium tuberculosis. Antibiotics and Chemotherapy, 4(5), 528-536, 1954.

KIeven, M., D.A. Vanden Berghe, F. Mertens, A. Viletinck & E. Lammens. Screening of higher plants for biological activities. I. Antimicrobial activity. Plant Media, 36, 311-321, 1979.

Kholkute, S.D., S. Chaterjee, D.N. Srivastava & K.N. Udupa. Antifertility effect of the alcoholic extract of Japa (hibiscus rosa-sinenis). Journal Res. Indian Med. Yoga Homeopathy, 9(4), 99, 1974.

Kholkute, S.D. Effect of hibiscus rosa-sinensis on spermatogenesis and accessory reproductive organs in rats. Planta Medica, 31, 127, 1977.

Kholkute & Udupa. Biological profile of total benzene extract of hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers. Jnal Res. Indian Med. Yoga Homeopathy, 13(3),1978.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Parmar, N.S. & M.N. Ghosh. Anti-inflammatory activity of gossypin, a bioflavonoid isolated from hibiscus vitifolius Linn. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 10, 277, 1978.

Parmar, N.S. & M.N. Ghosh. Current trends in flavonoid research. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 12, 213, 1980.

Parmar, N.S. & M.N. Ghosh. Effect of gossypin, a flavonoid, on the formation of galactose induced cataracts in rats. Exp. Eye Research, 29, 229, 1979.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield Publishers, LTD, Beaconsfield, England, 1988.