Hypertension, or high blood pressure, greatly increases the risk of a variety of diseases, including heart and brain diseases, and impacts 1.13 people worldwide. Therefore, it is critical that this disease is treated early on before it leads to more issues. Furthermore, less than half of people with hypertension are diagnosed and effectively treated for it. Therefore, having a treatment with few side effects that can be taken with or without a diagnosis is crucial.

The plant used for creating Bissap tea, or more commonly known as Hibiscus tea, is used to create not only tea but also jams, spices, food, and soft drinks. But did you know that such a widely consumed plant also has medicinal benefits? It has been studied for its impacts on several different medical issues, including hypertension. One study conducted by our partner organization, the Antenna Foundation, found that consuming Bissap tea resulted in nearly 10X as many hypertensive patients reaching their target blood pressure (BP) when compared to those who did not consume Bissap tea. This treatment was found to be safe and effective, with only 1 in 11 participants reporting mild side effects at a dosage above the therapeutic dose. However, following the project, many of the participants stopped consuming the tea as it was difficult to find in the region and they were unable to travel due to civil unrest. Furthermore, the flowers that were available were often too expensive for them to purchase for it to become a longterm treatment option. 

Photo of the community garden where the plants will be grown provided by Mercy Hands for Humanitarian Aid

Therefore, Mercy Hands Europe has partnered with Mercy Hands for Humanitarian Aid and the Antenna Foundation to begin a 1-month long pilot project throughout the month of July training internally displaced people in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq to grow this plant. This will increase the availability of the plant in the region while simultaneously providing a sustainable source of income for those involved in the project. By increasing the availability of this plant, more people will have access to an affordable treatment for hypertension. After the pilot study, we hope to expand the project to increase the number of people benefiting from it. Finally, this project promotes gender-equality by ensuring that there will be an equal number of men and women selected to be trained to cultivate this crop. Overall, we cannot wait to see all of the benefits that this plant is able to provide to the people of the region.