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The red-flowered hibiscus shrub is a widely cultivated ornamental, and because of its pleasant, tangy taste it is a common constituent of herbal beverage teas. Medicinally, hibiscus has been taken internally for the treatment of various forms of digestive upset, along with scurvy, anxiety, and fevers. It is said to have an antiseptic and astringent effect when used topically.
Animal studies have suggested that hibiscus might have a blood pressure–lowering effect . 1 Based on this, preliminary human studies have been conducted. Unfortunately, all of these suffered from marked scientific flaws.
In one study, 54 people with hypertension were given either hibiscus tea or no extra treatment for 2 weeks. 2 By the end of the study, people in the hibiscus group had significantly improved blood pressure as compared to those in the group receiving no extra treatment. Unfortunately, these results mean little; for a variety of reasons, people who are enrolled in a study and given a treatment tend to improve, regardless of whether the treatment itself actually works. In order to actually show that a treatment works, it must be compared against a placebo...
As a widely used beverage tea, hibiscus is presumed to have a high degree of safety. However, comprehensive safety testing has not been performed. Maximum safe doses in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or individuals with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
Some evidence suggests that hibiscus might slightly alter the metabolism of the drug acetaminophen, though the effect is probably not large enough to be very important. 3