Monday, February 8, 2021

Blood Pressure Too High? Drink Hibiscus Tea.

Unfortunately, you don't usually get this kind of early warning when you have high blood pressure.  But if you do, one way to beat it is by drinking hibiscus tea.     

Some years ago, Thee Optimist was the victim of an unpleasant and painful ear infection.

The ear infection became so bad at one point, that it required an unpleasant and painful trip to the doctor.  Since Thee Optimist was far away from his highly competent personal doctor at the time, the trip was to a crowded "urgent care" clinic to receive a dose of antibiotics.

Could there be a more unpleasant way to spend time?


Everything's relative.  

In any case, equally unpleasant as the trip was the news the doctor shared.  When checking in to the office, it turned out my blood pressure was a relatively high 150 over 92.  150/92 for you math majors.  

Now, 150/92 wouldn't kill me.  Not at that moment.  But it wasn't what you'd call good.  My blood pressure that day was what a medical professional would refer to as "Stage 2 Hypertension."  A medical professional did, in fact, refer to it in precisely that way.

Here's a handy and colorful chart for you visual learners to click on.  Note that Stage 2 Hypertension is a place where you don't want to be.  The next stop on the train is "Hypertensive Crisis!"

The Silent Killer

High blood pressure is often referred to as "The Silent Killer."  This is because in its early stages, it presents you with no symptoms.  

You feel fine.  No problem.  Nothing's changed, except you're about to have a heart attack, or maybe pop a blood vessel in your brain.  Later, when your blood pressure is insanely high, and your heart is about to explode, you will get symptoms like headaches and dizziness.  

But not right away.  At first, you will be blissfully unaware of the issue.

High blood pressure puts you at high risk for stroke, yes, and heart attack.  Also, kidney failure and diabetes.  If you are alive right now, there's a very good chance that high blood pressure is what will eventually kill you.

68 million American adults are thought to have high blood pressure, and perhaps 15 million of these don't even know.  Worldwide, more than a billion people have it, and fewer than 20% have it under control.

Now I knew I had it, and I couldn't pretend that I didn't know.  

The urgent care doctor indicated she thought I should go on high blood pressure medication to bring it down.  I indicated that I disagreed with this medical opinion, and offered my own: I would bring it down on my own through diet and exercise.

Of course I would.  Because I'm a man, and I'm tough like that.  I don't need blood pressure medication.

Small problem.  Few Americans in my advanced age category exercise as much as I do, and it would be hard to add much more.  Also, I like to eat and drink, and occasionally (though not nearly enough), be merry.  So diet and exercise... uh, yeah.

Another problem.  High blood pressure is a very common affliction in my family, going back as long as anyone can remember.  It's a genetic issue.

So really, I was engaging in a habit that is also a common affliction in my family: Talking out of my ass.

Do not, under any circumstances, spill this stuff on your white couch.

The Answer: Hibiscus Tea

But I was good, and diligent.  Thee Optimist is nothing if not diligent.  Ask anybody.

I had an appointment with my real doctor, my personal doctor, in about six months.  I promised myself that I would have the blood pressure down well before then.  I would find a way.

I started by hanging around CVS, using the free blood pressure machine in the back.  I wanted to make sure it was even true that I had high blood pressure at all.  Maybe I just had the dreaded "white coat syndrome," where your blood pressure spikes when you go to the doctor.  

Nah.  Repeated trips to the pharmacy indicated that I did indeed have high blood pressure.


Research suggests that you could lower your blood pressure by eating a low salt diet.  You could also cut out alcohol, processed foods, and meat.

Why even live, in that case?

You could also try lowering blood pressure by losing weight.  I tend to be on the skinny side, so that wasn't an option, either.  

But then I came across an answer that the medical profession is rather circumspect about: namely, hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus tea is made from the flower of the hibiscus sabdariffa (aka the roselle) plant.  It is a very red drink.  If it gets on anything light in color, it looks just like bloodstains, and it never, ever comes out.

It likely originated in Africa, where it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, and is popular to this day in many parts of the continent.  It is also popular, hot or iced, in Central America, Jamaica and Southeast Asia.   

People flavor it with mint, ginger, sugar, honey, cloves, cinnamon, you name it.  In Trinidad and Tobago, they mix it with beer.

But I was trying to lower my blood pressure.  What about that?

A time of discovery.

Eureka!  It works.

If you look at medical websites and read about hibiscus tea, they will indicate that drinking three cups of it a day "may" lower your blood pressure a modest amount.  It does this by acting as a mild diuretic, similar to water pills a doctor might prescribe.  That's what studies have shown.

Here's what actually happened.  

I started drinking one, sometimes two, cups of it each day.  It is very tart, and on its own, I don't like it very much.  It is quite good with a little honey and raw ginger.

Within a short period of time, less than a month, I noticed during my trips to CVS that my blood pressure did appear to be going down.  But those machines at CVS are fake!  They don't work.  Nobody ever services them.

You can't take what CVS says at face value.

Perhaps three months after I started, I went to the dentist.  They tested my blood pressure before the torture began.  It was 132/80.  That isn't terrible, basically mild high blood pressure, "Stage 1 Hypertension."

But you can't really trust the dentist either.  After all, if your blood pressure is too high, they can't work on you.  If they can't work, they don't get paid.  Hmmm.  I smell a perverse incentive.

I kept drinking the tea.  Now I'd been drinking it for months.

Eventually, the appointment with my real medical doctor came.  This was going to be the true test.  When I arrived, I was nervous.  If ever I would have white coat syndrome, now would be the time.  

I sat down and the nurse put the crushing air bag on my bicep.  She inflated it to just less than what would lop off my lower arm. 

"How is it?" I said, just, you know, casually inquiring.

She glanced at the numbers.  "108/68," she said.  "Pretty good."

Pretty good.  Truer words were never spoken.

In six months, I had utterly destroyed my high blood pressure, bringing the top number down by 42 points, and the bottom number down by 24 points.  Without medication.

In the years since, it has become clear that when I stop drinking hibiscus tea, my blood pressure starts creeping up again.  When I go back on it, my blood pressure goes back down.

If you want to try the awesome, high-quality, organic hibiscus tea that Thee Optimist controls his blood pressure with, Davidson's, you can buy it on Amazon.  

Rest assured that I will not make a penny from this.  I mention it because it is what I actually drink.

Note that hibiscus tea has a whole slew of other purported health benefits, from helping you sleep to killing melanoma cells.  Maybe these things are true, maybe they aren't.  I drink it for the blood pressure benefits, which I know are true.

Also note that Thee Optimist is a blog, written by a crazy person.  It is not anything like advice from a medical professional, nor is it intended to be.  

Consult your doctor before embarking on any program related to your personal health.  

Read related article: Ear Infection Home Remedy Disaster


  1. I always appreciate when authors share their personal medical struggles. While my blood pressure has never been a concern, I have several inflammatory conditions near the middle of my body. And--let me tell ya--no tea is going to fix that sh*t.

    Although I'm pleased to hear that this tea has helped your systolics and diastolics, I wonder if you (contrary to your claims), have been corrupted by the powerful hibiscus tea industry.

    In fact, I think you are obligated to report that Davidson's Tea Company may have received as much as $790 trillion in government subsidies from the first coronavirus stimulus package. I think I may have read that somewhere. But I tend to muck up a lot of facts from different sources.

    Nonetheless, I immensely enjoyed reading your missive.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. The middle of my body becomes very inflamed.