In the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, Madagascar President, Rajoelina took the world by storm after endorsing an herbal product formulated and manufactured locally by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (MIAR). ”All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness has been provided in reducing and elimination of symptoms from COVID-19 patients in Madagascar,” Africanews a multilingual news media service quoted the president as saying. Though the World Health Organization kicked against the product, the president supported the herbal product. President has directed that drink will be distributed free of charge to the most vulnerable and sold at very low prices to others. Rakoto Fanomezantsoa, a military doctor and director-general of the hospital of Soavinandriana, in Antananarivo, said that one of the components of the herbal tea does strengthen the immune system and eliminates viruses. The product contains the active ingredient Artemesia Annua, the plant of Chinese origin first imported to Madagascar in the 1970s to treat malaria. This should have been Ghana leading the herbal medicine revolution and putting us on the global map in this pressing times. Why? We have the hibiscus Tea with extensive scientific backing for flu management and several beneficial properties. Join me as I delve into this plant with scientific basis.
Origin of the Hibiscus Plant
Hibiscus is a bushy plant with vibrant colored flowers, ranging from white to some of the most vibrant oranges. However, the native color of this plant is red. It was first recorded growing in tropical parts of Africa, it is commonly used to make tea in Egypt (karkade) and Iran (sour tea). Hibiscus flowers are full of potent leaves that are often used for their healing and beneficial properties. However, tea is not the only edible produced by these beautiful flowers; hibiscus is also used to create jams, soups and sauces, with most of the hibiscus farming now happening in Mexico and Jamaica.
The hibiscus has a long history in African, Egyptian, Iranian and even European cultures. While at first, this beautiful flower was used for its scent as a perfume and odor reducer, its healing properties were soon discovered. Those in the middle east have been using this plant for ages to help maintain body temperature, heart health and hydration. In Africa and Europe, the plant is used to support upper respiratory health, and promote circulation.
Benefits From Hibiscus Today
Today, hibiscus flower is still used around the world for the benefits it supplies. The most common natural uses of the hibiscus plant in current times include:
Supporting The Upper Respiratory System: Hibiscus flowers are used all over to help keep the upper respiratory tract healthy and efficient, while soothing the throat when taken as tea.
Maintaining Body Temperature and Healthy Blood Pressure: In short, hibiscus keeps our fluids moving throughout, helping administer the correct transfer between systems and keeping circulation fresh. It also doesn’t hurt that hibiscus flower is rich in vitamin A, B, C and D, while also providing potassium and iron.
Hibiscus tea and immune system Support
Hibiscus Tea contains Vitamin C an essential nutrient for overall immune support, Vitamin C also offers powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial benefits. It interferes with the ability of certain viruses to reproduce, while helping the immune system to eradicate the infection (Singh et al 2017).
The vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of the iron, which is great for maximum rewards all around. Hibiscus flowers contain substantial quantities of flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, which are associated with fever-reducing (antipyretic) activities.
The flowers contain substantial quantities of flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, which are associated with antioxidant, fever-reducing (antipyretic), pain-relieving (analgesic), and spasm-inhibiting (spasmolytic) activities. Of the many polysaccharides, the acidic polysaccharides show the most interesting properties.
Hibiscus Tea as antiviral Agent
Hibiscus Tea has been proven effective in flu management. In a recent 2019 study by Takeda et al titled “Antiviral Activities of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. Tea Extract Against Human Influenza A Virus Rely Largely on Acidic pH but Partially on a Low-pH-Independent Mechanism” published in the journal Food and Environmental Virology. The authors analyzed the antiviral activity of hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) tea extract against human IAV and evaluated its potential as a novel anti-IAV drug and a safe inactivating agent for the whole inactivated vaccine. The in vitro study revealed that the pH of hibiscus tea extract is acidic, and its rapid and potent antiviral activity relied largely on the acidic pH. However, hibiscus tea extract and protocatechuic acid, one of the major components of the extract, showed not only potent acid-dependent antiviral activity but also weak low-pH-independent activity. The low-pH-independent activity did not affect the conformation of immunodominant hemagglutinin protein. Although this low-pH-independent activity is very limited, it may be suitable for the application to medication and vaccination because this activity is not affected by the neutral blood environment and does not lose antigenicity of hemagglutinin. Further study of the low-pH-independent antiviral mechanism and attempts to enhance the antiviral activity may establish a novel anti-IAV therapy and vaccination strategy.
Also a 2016 study by Baatartsogt et al titled “High antiviral effects of hibiscus tea extract on the H5 subtypes of low and highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses” and published in Journal Veterinary Medicine Science screened the antiviral effects of 11 herbal tea extracts (hibiscus, black tea, tencha, rosehip tea, burdock tea, green tea, jasmine tea, ginger tea, lavender tea, rose tea and oak tea) against the H5N1 HPAIV in vitro.
Among the tested extracts, only the hibiscus extract and its fractionated extract (frHibis) highly and rapidly reduced the titers of all H5 HPAIVs and low pathogenic AIVs (LPAIVs) used in the pre-treatment tests of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells that were inoculated with a mixture of the virus and the extract. Immunogold electron microscopy showed that anti-H5 monoclonal antibodies could not bind to the deformed H5 virus particles pretreated with frHibis. In post-treatment tests of MDCK cells cultured in the presence of frHibis after infection with H5N1 HPAIV, the frHibis inhibited viral replication and the expression of viral antigens and genes. Among the plants tested, hibiscus showed the most prominent antiviral effects against both H5 HPAIV and LPAIV.
Taking into conclusion the possibility that hibiscus extract might prevent and treat life-threatening viral infection is all the more encouraging; especially considering that it is also known to have a very high threshold of safety. While the researchers did not speculate too deeply on the mechanism of action behind the observed ant-viral activity of hibiscus, noting only the possibility that its anthnocyanin pigment could be responsible, they suggested further studies should be conducted to identify the effectiveness components contained in hibiscus and to elucidate potential anti-viral mechanism in more detail.
They concluded: “Our preliminary study showed that, in addition to the H5 subtype, hibiscus inactivated seven other subtypes (data not shown), whereas P. sidoides extracts inactivated human influenza viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) but not H5N1 HPAIV . Thus, hibiscus may be a promising candidate as a potent anti-influenza drug, irrespective of subtype“.
A 2016 study by Souza et al titled Aqueous Extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa Calyces to Control Aichi Virus with the objective to determine the antiviral effects of aqueous H. sabdariffa extracts against AiV. These extracts show promise to reduce AiV titers mainly through alteration of virus structure, though higher concentrations may have improved effects.
Another study by Hassan et al 2017 titled Hibiscus sabdariffa L. and Its Bioactive Constituents Exhibit Antiviral Activity against HSV-2 and Anti-enzymatic Properties against Urease by an ESI-MS Based Assay results present Hibiscus sabdariffa L. and its bioactive compound PCA( protocatechuic acid)as potential therapeutic agents in the treatment of HSV-2 infection and the treatment of diseases caused by urease-producing bacteria.
Sunday et al 2010 research studied the antiviral activities against Measles Virus (MV) as well as the effects of the extracts on Hep-2 cells. The post-inoculative treatment of Hep-2 cells with plant extracts showed that at 5, 10 and 15 mg/ml concentrations, H. sabdariffa had antiviral activities on Measles Virus.
Another 2015 study by Joshi et al with the objective to determine the antiviral effects of aqueous extracts of H. sabdariffa against human norovirus surrogates (feline calicivirus (FCV-F9) and murine norovirus (MNV-1)) and hepatitis A virus (HAV) at 37 °C over 24 h. The findings suggest that H. sabdariffa extracts have potential to prevent foodborne viral transmission.
Hibiscus Tea for Cardiovascular Support
We are being told that, those patients with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, asthmatic and hypertension died from Covid-19 the more. So let see what hibiscus tea if incorporated into the covid-19 treatment protocol could have on such patients.
A 2007 clinical trial by Lin et al demonstrated that Hibiscus reduced cholesterol by 8.3% to 14.4% after just one month. In this study conducted in Taiwan, 42 subjects were randomized to 3 groups for the study. The hibiscus extract capsules contained 500 mg of dried herb by steeping 150 g of hibiscus flowers in 6 L of hot water for 2 hours and then drying and filtering the extract.
In the study, Group 1 received 1 capsule of extract 3 times daily (1,500 mg/day), group 2 received 2 capsules 3 times daily (3,000 mg/day), and group 3 received 3 capsules 3 times daily (4,500 mg/day) Generally, subjects in group 2 responded well to the hibiscus extract treatment. Groups 1 and 2, but not group 3, demonstrated a significant reduction in serum cholesterol levels at week 4, compared with baseline levels. Also, group 2 demonstrated a significant reduction in serum cholesterol levels at week 2, compared with baseline levels. At week 2, there was a 42.9% responder rate in groups 1 and 3 and a 64.3% responder rate in group 2. By week 4, group 2 had a cholesterol reduction response from 71.4% of the subjects. In group 1, 50.0% were responders, and 42.9% subjects in group 3 were responders at week 4. It appeared that group 2, taking 1,000 mg three times daily, was the optimum dose in achieving cholesterol reduction effects.
Though, this clinical trial was conducted using small subject number and the period was also short of 4 weeks, it demonstrated that, indeed, there evidence of clear reductions in serum cholesterol as early as week 2 of the trial, in the 1,000 mg tid group. Strangely enough, those in group 3, receiving the highest dose (4,500 mg/day), demonstrated the smallest response to the hibiscus extract with an average of 8.3% reduction at week 4. Group 1 received a 14.4% reduction at week 4.
Also, another 2009 study by Khosravi et al involving 60 Type 2 diabetics, typically women, were also placed on either Hibiscus tea from Saudi Arabia or black tea, 1 cup twice per day. Seven of the participants withdrew from the study and after one month, mean HDL cholesterol increased significantly (48.2 mg/dL to 56.1 mg/dL) whereas apolipoprotein A1 and lipoprotein (a) were not significant. There was also a significant decrease in the mean of total cholesterol (236.2 to 218.6), LDL cholesterol (137.5 to 128.5), triglycerides (246.1 to 209.2) and Apo-B100 (80.0 to 77.3) in the Hibiscus group. Only HDLc demonstrated a significant change in the black tea group (46.2 to 52.01). This is what Tori Hudson, ND had to say: “Something as simple as Hibiscus tea in a diabetic, is a welcomed intervention. Achieving a 7.6% decrease in total cholesterol, an 8.0% decrease in LDLc, a 14.9% decrease in triglycerides, a 3.4% decrease in Apo-B100, a 4.2% increase in ApoA1 and a 16.7% increase in HDLc is no small accomplishment with merely two cups of tea per day”.
Also, in 2010, Gurrola et al conducted another study on Hibiscus Tea. In this study, the Hibiscus extract was also studied in 222 patients, some with and some without metabolic syndrome (MS). A total daily dose of 100 mg Hibiscus sabdariffa extract powder (HSEP) was given for one month to men and women, 150 without MS and 72 with MS. Participants were randomly allocated to a preventive diet, HSEP treatment or diet combined with HSEP treatment. The MS patients receiving HSEP had significantly reduced glucose, total cholesterol and LDL-c and increased HDL-c. A triglyceride lowering effect was seen in all groups but was only substantial in the control group that was treated with diet. The triglyceride/HDL-c ratio was also significantly reduced with HSEP in the control and MS groups, indicating a good development in insulin resistance. It has been conjectured that the anthocyanins regulate adipocyte function, which has definite and important implications for both preventing and treating metabolic syndrome. Due to both its hypolipidemic and hypotensive effects, Hibiscus Tea would be an excellent option if incorporated for individuals with metabolic syndrome who is also battling with covid-19.
In another 2010 study this time conducted by Kuriyan et al using a double-blind, placebo control, randomized trial in 69 subjects with raised LDL and no background of coronary heart disease did not appear to show a blood lipid lowering effect from Hibiscus extract. The treatment group received 1,000mg/day Hibiscus extract for 90 days in addition to dietary and physical activity. Body weight, serum LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels reduced in both the extract and placebo groups, with no significant changes between the two. However, Tori Hudson, ND provided an answer to this effect and this is the response: “It is likely that the positive effects were due to dietary and exercise activity. One wonders why the results of this study were negative and the three previous studies above, showed positive results. The doses and product used in all four studies were different. One a tea, another used dried powdered flowers, another used a standardized extract powder of the sepals of the flowers, and this one, an ethyl alcohol/water extract, dried and then powder of the leaves. It is reasonable to consider that these different preparations would yield different results. With more consistent product selection and dosages used in larger randomized trials, we would hope that this would clarify the best intervention to use”.
In 2009, Khosravi et al compared Hibiscus sabdariffa Tea with black tea (BT) in type II diabetics with mild high blood pressure. Patients were randomly assigned to drink one cup of Hibiscus or black tea two times per day for one month. The average systolic blood pressure (SBP) in the Hibiscus group decreased from 134.4 + 11.8 mm Hg at the start of the study to 112.7 + 5.7 mm Hg after 1 month. The average SBP changed from 118.6 + 14.9 to 127.3 + 8.7 mm Hg in the black tea group during the same time period. No statistically significant effects on the mean diastolic blood pressure in either group seen. Huri Hudson further explained this assertion: “This drop in systolic blood pressure is clinically relevant, decreasing systolic blood pressure in pre-hypertensive ranges, to normal systolic blood pressure. We do not know if systolic blood pressure would be lowered by one cup of Hibiscus tea in those with stage I or stage II hypertension”.
Another randomized, controlled, double-blind clinical comparison study conducted by Arellano et al 2007 on Hibiscus sabdariffa extract with lisinopril on patients with stage I or II hypertension. This is my major interest as it was compared to a pharmaceutical drug Lisinopril. In this study, a dried powdered Hibiscus extract was supplied in 250 mg of water containing a total of 250 mg anthocyanins from Hibiscus extract for 4 weeks and the lisinopril group received 10 mg/day.
The results demonstrated that the Hibiscus extract decreased blood pressure from 146/98 mm/Hg to 130/86 mm/Hg. Blood pressure drops were lower than with lisinopril, but the Hibiscus extract did not modify plasma potassium levels and did not have the mineralocorticoid effects. Grounded on this solid study data, this is what the authors had to say: “Hibiscus extract did have a significant antihypertensive action, and through at least two mechanisms of action: diuretic effects likely as an aldosterone antagonist and ACE inhibitory effects. It was also reassuring to note in the study that the diuretic activity did not alter plasma potassium levels and did not have mineralocorticoid effects”.
Another Hibiscus Tea review conducted by Ngamjarus et al 2010, on blood pressure published in 2010 resulted in five articles. The authors incorporated randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of 3-12 weeks in duration that compared Hibiscus to either placebo or no intervention at all. It will interest you to know that all five of these studies demonstrated significant reductions in systolic blood pressure. Though, the authors could not postulate trustworthy conclusions about the impact of Hibiscus for controlling or lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients, in the articles that met their inclusion criteria, however, they are of the view that hibiscus tea has impact on the treatment of hypertension.
from the study, drinking hibiscus tea may not only help patients recover from cold and flu but also fight the influenza virus to delay the next attack, improves on their immune system and support those with the underlying health conditions in general to improve on their quality of life(QOL). Studies state that hibiscus could be a promising anti-influenza drug according to Baatartsogt et al 2016. Hibiscus tea extract can help fight the avian influenza virus and several drug-resistant viruses. In laboratory experiments, among 11 tea extracts, this tea showed the most potent antiviral property and It is proposed that the antiviral effect is derived from these compounds (Baatartsogt et al 2016) and also boost the immune system as a result of the high vitamin C content. Hibiscus flower brings a lot of benefits to our body, especially when consumed as a tea. Madagascar developed herbal tea from Artemisia and I believe Ghana stand a better chance to put Hibiscus Tea also on the global map. This is the real Ghana beyond Aid Agenda!
NB: This article is my personal opinion based on scientific studies and researches conducted by researchers published in renowned journals. It is for educational purposes, not meant to substitute medical treatment. Always consult your physicians. Stay Safe!
Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, is an honorary Professor of Holistic Medicine-Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine and currently, LLB law Student. He is the formulator of FDA approved Nyarkotey Hibiscus Tea for Cardiovascular Support and wellness, Men’s Formula for Prostate Health and Women’s Formula for wellness. Contact: 0241083423/0541234556
- Baatartsogt et al (2016) High antiviral effects of hibiscus tea extract on the H5 subtypes of low and highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses. Avian Pathology
- Pragya Singh, Mahejibin Khan, Hailu Hailemariam(2017) Nutritional and health importance of Hibiscus sabdariffa: a review and indication for research needs. Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Engineering
- Takeda et al (2019) Antiviral Activities of Hibiscus sabdariffa L.Tea Extract Against Human Influenza A Virus Rely Largely on Acidic pH but Partially on a Low-pH-Independent Mechanism. Food and Environmental Virology
- Doris H. D’Souza, Lezlee Dice& Michael Davidson(2016) Aqueous Extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa Calyces to Control Aichi Virus. Food and Environmental Virology
- Sherif T. S. Hassan,Emil Švajdlenka and Kateřina Berchová-Bímová (2017) Hibiscus sabdariffa and Its Bioactive Constituents Exhibit Antiviral Activity against HSV-2 and Anti-enzymatic Properties against Urease by an ESI-MS Based Assay. Molecules
- Sunday, O. A.Munir, A. B. Akeeb, O. O. Bolanle, A. A. ; Badaru, S. O(2010) Antiviral effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa and Celosia argentea on measles virus. African Journal of Microbiology Research4 No.4 pp.293-296 ref.14
- Snehal S. Joshi, Lezlee Dice& Doris H. D’Souza(2015) Aqueous Extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa Calyces Decrease Hepatitis A Virus and Human Norovirus Surrogate Titers. Food and Environmental Virology
- Tori Hudson. Hibiscus Sabdariffa: A Research Review of Its Uses and Safety. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/whitepapers/Hibiscus_Sabdariffa.pdf