Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Hibiscus And Hypertension


The red calyces of the hibiscus, also known as roselle...


They are one of those weird things that you pass in the produce section of 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 iced-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 sweeten to taste. Now Sorrel, is a Christmas drink consumed in Jamaica and around the Caribbean. Sorrel, is a combination of sorrel hibiscus (pictured above) , ginger, cinnamon, some sugar, little orange peel and some rum.
So Hibiscus is not just another pretty flower. Hibiscus grows in tropical areas throughout the world, and has been used not just as an ornament, but also as a medicine for centuries. The part of this plant used medicinally is the flower, and it was used by the Chinese to treat dandruff and stimulate hair growth. Hibiscus has also been used to treat hemorrhoids and wounds. Hibiscus  mild flavor and has many culinary uses, and the tea, lacking caffeine is consumed in numerous cultures throughout the world. The Hibiscus Flower has even shown to have antibacterial properties. It is considered a mild laxative, and it contains vitamin C and malic acid. Hibiscus has also been shown to relax the uterus and reduce blood pressure. The herb has also been used for indigestion and loss of appetite, as well as for colds, respiratory problems and circulation disorders.

Hibiscus 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 grams 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. Another 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.

The Journal of the Science of Food Agriculture stated that the extract from the hibiscus flower significantly lowered the cholesterol content in the blood serum of lab animals, and successfully prevented oxidation of low-density lipoprotein. The extract has also been used in folk medicine to treat high blood pressure and liver disorder. It is traditionally used in India to lower blood sugar in diabetics. Hibiscus tea known worldwide for health benefits is served hot, cold and as a frozen dessert in Mexico, Central America, Africa, Egypt, The Middle East, Thailand and China. Dried Hibiscus is also added to many dishes around the world. So aside from the scores of studies have tested hibiscus tea on everything from diabetes to brain function. The consensus is, it's a powerful antioxidant that has a wide range of benefits, most notably an ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Always remember if you are under a doctors care or taking prescription medications check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet. Don't have high blood pressure? Hibiscus iced-tea can still help cool you down on a hot day, or warm you on a cool day, while protecting your body against aging, and making your head feel more clear. It's a perfect summer, winter and Christmas drink. Easy, delicious and packed with benefits. If you don't have a health food store close by and your local market doesn't carry it, I suggest the internet. There are so many good companies offering the product you'll trip over them. Good Luck...






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