The extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa calyces is used as a cold or hot drink in various parts of the world. While some individuals drink it for pleasure, many others drink the extract to treat certain ailments. The calyx contains various potential bioactive compounds which include anthocyanins (especially delphinidin- and cyanidin-3-sambubiosides), flavonoids, saponins and vitamin C. In this review, literature related to the potential benefits of Hibiscus sabdariffa as hypotensive, hypolipidaemic, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective and antioxidant is presented. Significant benefits of the consumption of Hibiscus sabdariffa calyces have been reported, although the majority of studies used cell or animal models. Potential mechanisms of action and bioactive components have also been examined and identified where possible. The LD50 of the extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa calyces was reported to be above 5000 mg/kg. Daily intake of 150-180 mg/kg was considered safe for humans. This review suggests that Hibiscus sabdariffa calyces have the potential for use as a nutraceutical. However, bioavailability and robust human intervention studies are needed to confirm the antihypertensive, antidiabetic and hypolipidaemic benefits of the consumption of the extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa calyces.
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