Hibiscus tea is one of the latest trends on social media; because of its wonderful color, excellent taste, and medicinal properties, this beverage seems to be increasingly appreciated among people around the world. The tea is incredibly refreshing, whether hot or cold and is surely a visually appealing decorative addition to any table or gathering. The hibiscus flowers, also known as Roselle petals, are not only used for making tea but can also pair excellently in culinary uses with other food or drinks. However, let’s leave all the taste and aroma part aside; hibiscus tea is really known for its outstanding medicinal use. That is important to bear in mind, because, unfortunately, there are some side effects to this beverage as well.
In the case of hibiscus tea, the appearance seems to be slightly deceiving. Such a wonderful ruby-colored drink cannot possibly be of any harm. Nonetheless, some of the latest and current studies are showing slightly unsatisfying results. It has been proven that hibiscus tea, in fact, can cause some adverse effects. So, for the safety of all the hibiscus lovers out there, we are going to look at those side effects in the following paragraphs.
1. Hibiscus Tea and Pregnancy
During pregnancy, expecting mothers are required to introduce major changes to their diet. This includes, among all, giving up beverages like coffee or teas that are high in caffeine. Hibiscus tea, however, is zero-caffeine drink but is still a huge no-no during pregnancy. Why is that?
Even though it has numerous medicinal properties, that can be extremely useful during pregnancy, hibiscus (and its tea version) are advised to be taken with caution. The reason for that lies in the evidence which indicates potential adverse effects during pregnancy, for both the mother and the baby. For example, it can cause;
- Hormonal disbalance – hibiscus tea, which is either made from the flowers or the roots, can affect estrogen levels. According to some studies and research, the Roselle flowers can be effective in causing increased production of estrogen, disbalancing the hormonal levels and causing irregular estrous cycles. The studies have been conducted in experimental mice, however, the researches have advised that hibiscus might have the same effect on women.
Moreover, hibiscus tea can also prevent ovulation in women. Regular consumption can disrupt menstrual cycles and cause a serious problem in women that are trying to conceive. This means that the anti-conceptive properties of hibiscus tea are so strong that they can actually prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and growing in the uterus. Studies have shown that hibiscus was 100% effective in conception prevention in mice. That is why hibiscus tea can be consumed as a form of natural birth control. However, these contraceptive effects still need to be proven in official studies and research. On the other hand, women who are trying to conceive, or are already pregnant should completely avoid hibiscus tea consumption.
- Uterus contracting – studies have shown that Hibiscus extract, supplementation, and tea can induce uterine contraction. For example, in experimental mice, hibiscus injection has shown bladder response, as well as uterine contraction. In some mice, there was a change in rate and amplitude of the contractions even though they were given the same dose. In humans, however, hibiscus tea can cause fluctuations in hormone levels. This, in turn, can cause so-called emmenagogue effects. This means that there could be bleeding, stimulation of menstruation and blood flow to the uterus.
As mentioned, in some expecting mothers there could be uterine contractions as well, which in some cases have cause miscarriage. Therefore, hibiscus tea should not be consumed, at least in the first trimester. However, if you’re still willing to consume this beverage even after the first trimester, make sure to discuss this topic with your doctor prior to consumption. Make sure to also pay attention to the so-called ‘pregnancy teas’, which are usually herbal teas containing hibiscus. They can have strong medicinal effects that can be counteractive in pregnancy. Overall, it is very important not to consume hibiscus during pregnancy, so that both the mother and the baby can stay safe.
2. Hibiscus Tea and Drug Interaction
Hibiscus as a plant, supplement, extract, and beverage has shown signs of interaction with certain medications. For example; it can have positive effects when taken with anticancer or antiviral agents. However, when it comes to other medications, it can lower the efficacy and implementation of the drug. Hibiscus tea can alter and decrease the efficacy of anti-inflammatory medication or can decrease the antimalarial efficacy in some drugs. Here’s a list of more diseases and medication hibiscus tea can interact with;
- Antidiabetic medication – the interaction with antidiabetic medication can be moderate when it comes to hibiscus. It is effective in lowering blood pressure, but diabetic medication has the same purpose. This can result in blood pressure going too low, which can cause additional adverse effects on your health. Therefore, make sure to monitor the dose of your diabetic medication, and of course, discuss with your doctor the simultaneous consumption of hibiscus tea and the diabetic drug. Some drugs used for diabetes include Amaryl (glimepiride), DiaBeta (glyburide), Glucophage (metformin), insulin, etc.
- High blood pressure medication – the interaction with high blood pressure medication can be moderate to high. Just like in the blood sugar-lowering case, high blood pressure medication is used for lowering the blood pressure. Hibiscus tea can make the blood pressure lower, even more, causing adverse effects for your health. Therefore, it is important to take hibiscus tea or supplementation with caution, if you’re already taking high blood pressure medication. Some drugs used for high blood pressure include Adalat (nifedipine), Calan (verapamil), Cardizem (diltiazem), Plendil (felodipine), etc.
Related: Hibiscus Tea and Blood Pressure
- Chloroquine (malaria treatment medication) – the interaction with malaria treatment medication known as Chloroquine is high. Specialists and doctors strongly advise patients not to take any form of hibiscus with this medication. Hibiscus affects the amount of Chloroquine the body can absorb, which in turn reduces the efficacy of the medication quite considerably. Therefore, people who are being treated for malaria should completely avoid any form, type or product that contains hibiscus, including the tea.
- Diuretic medication – the interaction with diuretic medication is moderate. Studies have shown that there is a possible interaction between hibiscus and diuretic medication in experimental mice. Mice, which were given hibiscus (in humans hibiscus would be considered in the beverage form), have shown a change in urine volume urine pH and urinary concentrations of sodium, bicarbonate and chloride ions. There are, however, no studies or research when it comes to hibiscus-medication interaction humans, but it is believed to have similar effects.
More: Is Tea Acidic?
3. Hibiscus Tea and Liver Damage
Studies have shown that regular or excessive consumption of hibiscus tea can potentially cause liver damage. The reason for that lies in the fact that in high doses this usually healthy beverage can become toxic. The toxicity usually displays in the form of so-called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is actually an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radical contain an uneven number of oxygen molecules, which allows them to interact with other molecules and cause damage or stress. Moreover, oxidative stress creates an excellent basis for further cell damage and possible induction of liver injury.
However, it is important to point out that these studies and research have only been conducted in mice. Though experts believe the same damage injury could possibly occur in humans as well, more studies still need to be conducted, with solid and concrete evidence. Moreover, it would take a lot of hibiscus tea (around 400 cups) to induce any type of liver damage. In those 400 cups, there would be approximately 20mg of iron, which could be harmful to the health of your liver. Therefore, it is essential to balance out the dose of hibiscus tea you take, and of course, discuss the consumption with a medical professional who is familiar with your medical history.
4. Hibiscus Tea, Hallucinations and Impaired Focus
According to several reports, there were cases of hibiscus tea causing the so-called tea drunkenness, hallucination, dizziness, and overall impaired focus. Apparently, the tea can have such a negative behavioral effect that it is recommended not to consume in case of heavy machinery or vehicle operation. Additional side effects also include shortness of breath and increased heartbeat.
Some individuals have also reported feeling inebriated or intoxicated after the consumption of hibiscus tea, especially before bedtime. Of course, not everyone will have the same experience with this beverage, but it is important to bear such a thing in mind and discuss it with a doctor.
Generally, hibiscus tea is exceptionally healthy. But, of course, if taken excessively or in higher doses, it might potentially create health issues. Therefore, in order to take advantage of the health benefits and avoid side effects, make sure to discuss hibiscus tea consumption with a medical professional. It is always important to watch out for potential adverse interactions and side effects when adding a new ingredient to your diet. This is especially important for expecting mothers and people with blood pressure issues and diabetes. Unless your doctor advises differently, you should not be drinking hibiscus tea if experiencing any of the aforementioned medical conditions or states.