The red calyces of the hibiscus, also known as roselle, is one of those weird things that you pass in the market without even stopping to figure out what the heck it is, let alone what to do with it.
That is unless you've visited Egypt, central Africa, parts of China or the Caribbean. I had my first Hibiscus tea on the island of St. Thomas and it will always remind me of that hot, tropical sunny afternoon when I took my first sip. It tasted like cherry flavored liquid sunshine and made me feel deliciously quenched and happy inside for the rest of the day. Hibiscus tea has a cranberry-rhubarb tartness that is quite pleasant. Not entirely bitter, but not exactly a soothing brew either. If you throw a handful of calyces into a 2-liter pitcher, steep in a couple cups of hot water for a few minutes, this stuff turns blood-red. Add cold water to fill the pitcher, ice and sugar to taste. Sorrel is a Christmas drink consumed in Jamaica and around the Caribbean. Sorrel is a combination of hibiscus tea, ginger, some sugar, little orange peel and some rum.
Hibiscus tea is rich in vitamin C and is naturally caffeine-free. It delivers a variety of beneficial organic acids, which include tartaric, citric and maleic acids. It also has the active flavonoids cyanidin and delphinidin, which gives the tea its red color. Every 100 g of hibiscus contains approximately 49 calories -- 0.1 g of fat, 12.3 g of carbohydrates, 14 mg of vitamin C, 57 mg of iron and 1.7 mg of calcium. It is also rich in beta-carotene, about 300 mg per cup and 57 mg of iron.
According to Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Hibiscus tea is a natural source of antioxidants, vitamin C, cyanidin, delphinidin and other flavonoids. Which prevent free-radical damage that may lead to early onset aging and certain cancers. A December 2008 study performed at Tufts University found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea a day over a six-week time frame helped to lower high blood pressure, particularly among hypertensive people.
A study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension has shown that drinking hibiscus tea can reduce high blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes. A study of 65 subjects published in 2009 found that 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily for 6 weeks reduced systolic blood pressure. The study's lead author has noted that hibiscus flowers contain anthocyanins, which are believed to be the active antihypertensive compounds, acting as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
A study published in 2007 compared Hibiscus sabdariffa L. to the drug lisinopril on people with hypertension. Blood pressure reductions and therapeutic effectiveness were lower than those obtained with lisinopril. The authors concluded that hibiscus "exerted important antihypertensive effectiveness with a wide margin of tolerability and safety, while it also significantly reduced plasma." They attributed the blood pressure reducing effect of hibiscus to its diuretic effect and its ability to inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme through the presence of anthocyanins.
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