Hibiscus has been studied for lowering cholesterol levels, but the evidence suggests that it may lack effectiveness for this purpose, a study reports.
High cholesterol is a condition in which there are unhealthily high levels of cholesterol in the blood. It is also called dyslipidemia, hyperlipidemia, and lipid disorder. Too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for heart disease, which may lead to a heart attack, heart failure (not being able to pump enough blood to the body), and death. High cholesterol levels are also a risk factor for stroke (a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain), which causes nerve damage.
Hibiscus has been studied for possible benefit in people with high cholesterol. The Hibiscus genus contains several species, many of which have been used medicinally. For instance, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has been documented in the ancient Indian scriptures. Hibiscus sabdariffa has been used as a folk medicine in Canada, and appears promising in treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). Hibiscus cannabinus has been studied to treat head lice, although there is currently insufficient available evidence in this area. Hibiscus sabdariffa and compounds isolated from it (for example, anthocyanins and hibiscus protocatechuic acid) are likely candidates for future studies. There is limited reported safety data about hibiscus, although it is popularly used as a tea.
In the current study, reviewers looked at studies evaluating the use of Hibiscus sabdariffa for lowering cholesterol levels. They included a total of six trials conducted among 474 people. The studies varied in terms of treatments used and duration.
Overall, the reviewers observed a lack of significant effect of hibiscus on cholesterol levels and other outcomes. They found that hibiscus lacked effectiveness when compared to other interventions such as black tea or changes in diet, nor did it have any significant changes in comparison to placebo. Hibiscus appears to be tolerated well when used for a short duration of time.
The authors concluded that the available evidence does not support the use of hibiscus for lowering cholesterol levels. Larger, high-quality studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be made on the use of hibiscus for this purpose.
High cholesterol is a common health problem for which many complementary and alternative therapies have been studied. There is strong evidence to support the use of beta-glucan and garlic for reducing cholesterol.
For more information about hibiscus, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.