Hibiscus sabdariffa


Hibiscus sabdariffa


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Roselle, hibiscus, sorrel, florida cranberry, lemon bush, sour-sour.


Hibiscus sabdariffa is an annual member of the Malvaceae family.  Traditionally, H. sabdariffa has been used as an anthelmintic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aperitif, aphrodisiac, astringent, cholagogue, choleretic, demulcent, digestive, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, purgative, refrigerant sedative, stomachic, and as a tonic.  Hibisvus has been used to treat abscesses, bilious conditions, cancer, cough, debility, dyspepsia, dysuria, hangover, heart ailments, hypertension, liver diseases, neurosis, and scurvy.[1],[2],[3]

Though most varieties of H. sabdariffa are used as ornamental plants, the red calyces of H. sabdariffa are and exported to Europe, Australia and the United States.  There they are used as teas, food coloring and have other culinary uses.[4]

Ranging in height from 5-7 feet in height, H. sabdariffa has narrow, lobed, reddish-green leaves.

Origin / Habitat

H. sabdariffa is native to India and Malaysia, but is presently found growing in many parts of the world and is cultivated commercially with proprietary hybrids being grown in the United States.[1] H. sabdariffa requires warmer climates, well-drained soil and full sunlight to partial shade for growth.

Chemical Constituents

No documentation.

Plant Part Used

Flower, Leaf, Seed

Medicinal Uses


Immune modulation
Loss of appetite
Oral negative-contrast agent


Most Frequently Reported Uses



Dosage Range

Infusion as tea; 1-10g of the dried calyx in boiling water

Most Common Dosage

Five grams used as tea.


Standardization Dosage

Commercial products may be standardized to 9-10mg anthocyanins


Chemical Constituents

Gossypetine, hibiscin, hibiscetine and sabdaretine, sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, 5-avenasterol, hibiscus acid, citric acid, malic acid, protocatechuic acid. [2],[6]




The pharmacological actions of the calyx of H. sabdariffa extracts include powerful antioxidant activity both in vitro and in vivo.[7] H. sabdariffa L. extract showed anti-hypercholesterolaemic, antihypertensive, antinociceptive and antipyretic activity in studies on rats and rabbits. However, no anti-inflammatory activity was displayed.[7] An antihypertensive action has been demonstrated in laboratory and human studies.[8] Though the effects of the H. sabdariffa extracts on smooth muscles in vitro are erratic, they inhibit the tone of certain isolated muscles.

H. sabdariffa does contain some phytochemicals with reported benefits in humans, although they have not been studied as individual constituents, isolated from the calyx. The phytosterols found in H. sabdariffa are reported to have immune modulating function, cholesterol lowering activity and aid in general health during cancer. [9]

The growth of methicillin-resistant bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii was inhibited by the H. sabdariffa calyx and protocatechuic acid, a compound derived from H. sabdariffa calyx.[10] The growth of all test bacteria was effectively inhibited by both. The data from inhibition zone and minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values displayed that both H. sabdariffa calyx extract and the protocatechuic acid effectively inhibited the growth of all test bacteria, both with heat treatment and without. Protocatechuic acid was statistically significantly greater than the H. sabdariffa calyx in antibacterial activity and was concentration dependent in both broth testing and human plasma. However, the difference was lesser in human plasma than broth. It was concluded that H. sabdariffa calyx as well as the isolated protocatechuic acid could be useful as clinical antibacterial agents based on their lower MIC values, heat tolerance and concentration dependent antibacterial activity.

The anthocyanins within H. sabdariffa themselves are divided into the anthocyanidine aglycones and the anthocyanin glycosides. Anthocyanins have been reported to, in leaves and other photosynthetic tissues, have a UV protective activity, by absorbing both blue-green and ultraviolet light in periods in which a plant is under high light and another stress, such as cold or drought.  Acting as powerful antioxidants, anthocyanins can help protect the plant during periods of high stress.

In human diets which are rich in anthocyanins, some beneficial physiological effects have been observed including cardiovascular health, chronic inflammation, bone/joint health, ocular health, cancer prevention and therapy, hypercholesterolemia prevention and therapy, gastrointestinal health and liver diseases.[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17]

When tested against LDL oxidation, laboratory studies have suggested that H. sabdariffa has hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects.[17] Aqueous extracts of dried calyces of H. sabdariffa were administered at doses of 500mg/kg and 1,000mg/kg with continuous cholesterol feeding to hypercholesterolemic rats for six weeks.  In both dosages, significant decreases in serum cholesterol levels, by 22% and 26% respectively.  Both dosages also exhibited decreases serum triglycerides by 33% and 28%, respectively, as well as serum LDL levels by 22% and 32%, respectively.  Serum HDL levels were not affected.  Similar benefits were reported in an animal laboratory study which had used rabbits.[18]  In cases in which animals had H. sabdariffa added to their standard diet, animals had a lower rate of occurrence of both artherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia.

A laboratory study was executed in order to observe the protective effects of H. sabdariffa against cisplatin-induced toxicity in rat reproductive systems.[19]  Ethanolic extracts of H. sabdariffa, were administered orally to rats at a rate of 1g/kg/day for a period of 26 days before the cisplatin toxicity was administered.  H. sabdariffa not only reduced the occurrence of sperm abnormalities and enhanced sperm motility induced by the cisplatin, but increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes and restored sperm motility.  H. sabdariffa was concluded as having potent antioxidant activity in cisplatin treated rats, reducing the effect of the toxicity.


The antihypertensive effectiveness and tolerability of a standardized extract from H. sabdariffawas investigated in a controlled, randomized clinical trial with the known ACE-inhibitor, captopril. [19] Patients with and without diagnosed hypertension were included in the 4-week study.  Of the patients aged 30-80, 39 were hypertensive and 36 were not.  Patients administered either a standardized infusion of H. sabdariffa (10 gm dried calyx, standardized to 9.6 mg anthocyanins) daily before breakfast, or captopril 25mg twice a day, for 4 weeks experienced decreased the systolic blood pressure from 139.05-123.73mm Hg and the diastolic blood pressure from 90.81-79.52mm Hg.  Upon conclusion, the difference noted between the blood pressure of both groups was negligible.  The measured amounts of side effects were similar in both groups.  All participating patients experienced excretion of sodium and fluid occurred in all patients, whether receiving the H. sabdariffa extract or the captopril. The H. sabdariffa extract, standardized on 9.6mg of total anthocyanins, and captopril 50mg/day, did not report significant differences in hypotensive effects and side effects.

A randomized, placebo human study investigated the antihypertensive effects of H. sabdariffa tea.[20] 31 patients with diagnosed hypertension were administered H. sabdariffa tea and 23 clinically diagnostically comparable patients received placebo. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were observed for the 15 days of the trial. After 12 days, the group receiving H. sabdariffa tea displayed significant lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure at a rate of 11.2% and 10.7%, respectively.  Conversely, three days after ceasing treatment, both the systolic and diastolic blood pressures increased by a rate of 7.9% and 5.6% respectively.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Individuals taking antihypertensive medications should take caution as H. sabdariffa possesses hypotensive effects. [20]

Based on human data, use caution in individuals on diuretics, renally excreted medications, and/or narrow-therapeutic medications (such as digoxin, theophylline and phenytoin), as H. sabdariffa extracts have been reported to have a natriuretic effect. [8]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Nausea and vomiting may occur with use.

H. sabdariffa extracts have not been reported to be toxic in recommended dosages. [2]

An animal study showed the LD50 of H. sabdariffa was above 5000 mg/kg, therefore, could be considered to have low toxicity.[7]

Caution should be taken in those undergoing radio-contrast imaging of the abdominal area.[21]


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women or by children.

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Cultivation

  3) Safety


  1. Oneyenekwe PC, Alani EO, Ameh DA, Gamaniel KS. Antihypertensive effect of roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) calyx infusion in spontaneously hypertensive rats and a comparison of its toxicity with that in Wistar rats. Cell Biochem Funct. Sep1999;17(3):199-206.
  2. Ali BH, Al Wabel N, Blunden G. Phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological aspects of Hibiscus sabdariffa L.: a review. Phytother Res. May2005;19(5):369-375.
  3. Odigie IP, Ettarh RR, Adigun SA. Chronic administration of aqueous extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa attenuates hypertension and reverses cardiac hypertrophy in 2K-1C hypertensive rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun2003;86(2-3):181-185.
  4. Oboh G, Elusiyan CA. Nutrient composition and antimicrobial activity of sorrel drinks (soborodo). J Med Food. Fall2004;7(3):340-342.
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  7. Hirunpanich V, Utaipat A, Morales NP, et al. Hypocholesterolemic and antioxidant effects of aqueous extracts from the dried calyx of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in hypercholesterolemic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 16Jan 2006;103(2):252-260.
  8. Herrera-Arellano A, Flores-Romero S, Chavez-Soto MA, Tortoriello J. Effectiveness and tolerability of a standardized extract from Hibiscus sabdariffa in patients with mild to moderate hypertension: a controlled and randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine. Jul2004;11(5):375-382.
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  13. Zhao C, Giusti MM, Malik M, et al. Effects of commercial anthocyanin-rich extracts on colonic cancer and nontumorigenic colonic cell growth. J Agric Food Chem. 6 Oct2004;52(20):6122-6128.
  14. Hou DX. Potential mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention by anthocyanins. Curr Mol Med. Mar 2003;3(2):149-159.
  15. Zhang Y, Vareed SK, Nair MG. Human tumor cell growth inhibition by nontoxic anthocyanidins, the pigments in fruits and vegetables. Life Sci. 11Feb2005;76(13):1465-1472.
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  17. Nichenametla SN, Taruscio TG, Barney DL, Exon JH. A review of the effects and mechanisms of polyphenolics in cancer. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(2):161-183
  18. Chen CC, Hsu JD, Wang SF, et al. Hibiscus sabdariffa extract inhibits the development of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits. J Agric Food Chem. 27Aug2003;51(18):5472-5477.
  19. Amin A, Hamza AA. Effects of Roselle and ginger on cisplatin-induced reproductive toxicity in rats. Asian J Androl. Sep2006;8(5):607-612.
  20. Haji Faraji M, Haji Tarkhani A. The effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on essential hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun1999;65(3):231-236.
  21. Varavithya V, Phongkitkarun S, Jatchavala J, et al. The efficacy of roselle (Hibicus sabdariffa Linn.) flower tea as oral negative contrast agent for MRCP study. J Med Assoc Thai. Jun2005;88(1):35-41.