The hibiscus plant, Hibiscus sabdariffa, is a shrub that is thought to be native to Africa. Ethiopian hibiscus is available to both the local and export market. Ethiopian hibiscus is one of the mallow plants that produce beautiful bright red or pinkish flowers.

The plant thrives in warm climates that explain the herbal plant’s widespread growth in the southern Mediterranean and the tropics, including the horn of Africa. The main characteristics of the flower include the beautiful floral blossoms and the calyces (central part of the blossom) which are the main source of herbal beverages.

The colorful hibiscus flower is cultivated worldwide for both its aesthetic appeal and its medicinal uses, primarily in the form of tea. Hibiscus tea is a herbal tea made as an infusion of the crimson or deep magenta-coloured calyces of the flower. It is consumed both hot and cold with a tart, cranberry-like flavour, and sugar or honey is often added to sweeten it.

Although scientific research has been limited, studies suggest that hibiscus tea is beneficial with regard to several of its traditional uses, most notably helping reduce blood pressure and controlling cholesterol. Other health benefits of hibiscus tea include benefitting the digestive and immune system, and ease inflammatory problems. It can also speed up the metabolism and assist in gradual weight loss.

Referred to as “sour tea” in Iran, hibiscus tea has traditionally been used to reduce blood pressure. A study published in the January 2009 “Journal of Human Hypertension” found some validity for that usage.

The study reported that patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes who drank hibiscus tea twice a day for a month experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure levels, although no reduction was noted in diastolic pressure.

Hibiscus contains flavonoids and anthocyanins, which contain antioxidant properties and have been shown to support a healthy heart.

Hibiscus tea has also been used traditionally to treat coughing and poor appetites, and used for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. In addition, drinking hibiscus tea may help with digestive orders, such as an upset stomach, as it can help relax the smooth muscle of the intestine.