(NaturalNews) Drinking hibiscus tea can significantly reduce blood pressure among people with elevated risks of cardiovascular or kidney disease, according to a new study presented at the annual conference of the American Heart Association.
High blood pressure is a dangerous health condition that triples the risk of heart attack and is responsible for 60 percent of all strokes. The condition is very common in the developed world; one in three people in the United Kingdom, for example, are considered to suffer from high blood pressure.
Researcher Diane McKay and colleagues conducted the study on 65 people between the ages of 30 and 70 whose high blood pressure levels placed them at increased risk of kidney disease, heart attack and stroke. Participants were assigned to drink either hibiscus tea or a placebo three times per day for six weeks.
At the end of the study, blood pressure levels had fallen an average of 7.2 percent in the hibiscus group, compared with only 1.3 percent in the placebo group. Some patients in the hibiscus group actually experienced a 13.2 percent reduction.
"Hibiscus is now the most promising herb for treating blood pressure," said alternative medicine expert Andrew Weill. "Studies have found that people who drank two cups of hibiscus daily for four weeks lowered their diastolic blood pressure by 12 percent -- results similar to those for common blood pressure medication."
Scientists do not know exactly what compounds in hibiscus contribute to its protective effect, but the flowers are known to contain chemicals known as anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve the functioning of blood vessels and strengthen the protein collagen, which helps give structure to cells and tissues, including blood vessels.
Anthocyanins and other components of hibiscus tea are also known to function as antioxidants, cleansing the body of dangerous free radicals that can have been linked to heart disease, cancer and the symptoms of aging.
Beverages made or flavored from the flowers of the plan Hibiscus sabdariffa are popular in many African, Asian and Caribbean countries.