Hibiscus: Red Infusion with Health Promoting Benefits

Adolfina Koroch, Science



Hibiscus flowers are a rich source of many healthful chemicals that could protect us against chronic and degenerative diseases and premature aging.

Hibiscus sabdariffa (Malvaceae) is a shrub widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world and valued as ornamental, food and medicinal plant. Hibiscus is known with different names in different languages, roselle (English), agua de Jamaica (Spanish), karkade (Arabic) and bissap (Wolof). Hibiscus is a very attractive plant and easily recognized by the red cup shape calyces of the flowers, which are the main component commonly used to prepare cold beverages or hot drinks.

Many human degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes have been associated with oxidative stress. This condition is characterized by an increase in the production of high reactive oxygen species than can damage cells and tissues. Numerous reports show that diets high in plant food products could protect us against the damaging effects of oxygen species.

The intense red color of hibiscus is due to the presence of water soluble pigments known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins not only provide the food industry with natural replacements of some synthetic food colorants, but also have a broad range of biological activities including protection against oxidative stress. In addition to the potent antioxidant activity, hibiscus also possesses anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial activity and can lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

Recent studies have found that hibiscus exhibit cholesterol lowering properties. Hibiscus is also a rich source of minerals including potassium and iron, low in sodium and caffeine-free.

Nowadays, hibiscus infusions (alone or as in blends) are popular drinks in many countries, because they are tasteful, have an appealing red color and a long list of health promoting benefits.

Any question about hibiscus scientific research should be directed to Dr. Adolfina Koroch at akoroch@bmcc.cuny.edu.