Hibiscus sabdariffa L. - a phytochemical and pharmacological review

Food Chem. 2014 Dec 15:165:424-43. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.05.002. Epub 2014 May 27.


Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (Hs, roselle; Malvaceae) has been used traditionally as a food, in herbal drinks, in hot and cold beverages, as a flavouring agent in the food industry and as a herbal medicine. In vitro and in vivo studies as well as some clinical trials provide some evidence mostly for phytochemically poorly characterised Hs extracts. Extracts showed antibacterial, anti-oxidant, nephro- and hepato-protective, renal/diuretic effect, effects on lipid metabolism (anti-cholesterol), anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive effects among others. This might be linked to strong antioxidant activities, inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase, inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE), and direct vaso-relaxant effect or calcium channel modulation. Phenolic acids (esp. protocatechuic acid), organic acid (hydroxycitric acid and hibiscus acid) and anthocyanins (delphinidin-3-sambubioside and cyanidin-3-sambubioside) are likely to contribute to the reported effects. More well designed controlled clinical trials are needed which use phytochemically characterised preparations. Hs has an excellent safety and tolerability record.

Keywords: Anthocyanins; Anti-diabetic; Anti-oxidant; Hibiscus acid; Hydroxycitric acid; Lipid metabolism (anti-cholesterol); Malvaceae; Nephro- and hepato-protective; Protocatechuic acid; Renal/diuretic effect; Roselle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hibiscus / chemistry*
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry*
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology


  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts