This comprehensive list of iron-rich herbs may help ease iron deficiency, promote red blood cell production, and aid symptoms of anemia.
Have you also been informed that you have an iron deficiency? When I went to donate blood and underwent the initial blood tests, the nurse alerted me that I had an iron deficiency. As a result, I was advised that I wouldn’t be able to donate blood until my iron levels improved.
After an initial search, I found out that, surprisingly, almost 80 percent of people, regardless of age or gender, fall short of getting sufficient iron. This deficiency is even more pronounced among vegetarians and vegans who abstain from meat. Women experiencing heavy menstruation and expectant mothers are also vulnerable to iron deficiency.
While there are numerous iron-rich foods and iron supplements, my focus is on herbs known for their potential to boost iron levels and optimize iron deficiency.
While this guideline provides insights into using herbs as potential support for iron deficiency, consulting with medical professionals for accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment is imperative.
What is Iron deficiency anemia – Low Iron levels in the body
Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when the body doesn’t have enough iron, a crucial mineral for making hemoglobin. Consequently, there are not enough red blood cells in the body, including hemoglobin production.
This leads to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and irritability. If not addressed, ongoing iron deficiency can cause anemia. So, it’s important to ensure your body gets enough iron for good health.
The most common cause of anemia is when the body does not have enough iron from food, poor absorption, or after blood loss. To ensure high levels of iron, people may consider taking iron supplements or sourcing iron from food or herbs that contain iron.
Daily iron requirements can vary based on age and gender. Pregnant women, in particular, often require a higher dose, with a daily recommendation of up to 27mg.
Types of Iron and its importance
Iron is a natural element crucial for carrying oxygen in the body through hemoglobin in red blood cells. The body does not create this element, so humans have to get iron from the foods rich in iron or iron supplementation.
There are two types of iron: ferrous (heme iron) from animals and ferric iron (non-heme iron) from plants.
- Ferrous Iron: This water-soluble form of iron is easily absorbed by the body.
- Ferric Iron: This form requires assistance from other minerals, such as vitamin C and fermented foods, for efficient absorption.
Getting sufficient amounts of iron is necessary for health and vitality. Iron deficient people suffer from the more severe form of iron deficiency that can lead to anemia. Although it’s more difficult for the human body to process iron from plants, many herbs high in iron have mechanisms that promote iron absorption into the body.
Herbs rich in iron for anemia
Iron-rich herbs contain non-heme iron. Unlike heme iron found in animal products, non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed by the body. However, vitamin C can boost the absorption of iron from plant-based iron. Thus, incorporating iron-rich herbs into your diet and foods high in vitamin C can increase your iron levels.
Herbs high in iron
One of the highest iron levels is Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae.
Spirulina belongs to the cyanobacteria group, commonly called blue-green algae. It grows in salt and freshwater and is known for its vibrant greenish-blue color and spiral, helical shape.
Spirulina is highly nutritious and is considered a superfood. It is a rich source of protein, vitamins (particularly B vitamins, including B12), minerals (such as iron, calcium, and magnesium), and antioxidants.
One of the highest iron levels is Spirulina, a blue-green algae type. Spirulina belongs to the cyanobacteria group, commonly called blue-green algae. It grows in both saltwater and freshwater and is known for its vibrant greenish-blue color and spiral, helical shape.
Spirulina is highly nutritious and is considered a superfood. Per 100 grams, it contains around 28.5 mg of iron. In addition to being a rich source of iron, it provides substantial amounts of protein, vitamins (particularly B vitamins, including B12), minerals (such as iron, calcium, and magnesium), and antioxidants.
Spirulina is available in various forms, including powdered or tablet supplements. Adding a teaspoon of spirulina powder to smoothies or juices or incorporating it into recipes can be a convenient way to enjoy its nutritional benefits.
The herb with the second-highest iron content is oregano. This culinary herb not only adds flavor to dishes but also contains approximately 22.5 mg of iron per 100 grams. Oregano is easy to grow at home and has versatile uses. Whether sprinkled on pizzas, added to sauces, or used in various recipes, one exceptionally useful iron supplement is infusing it in oils.
Boost your iron intake by consuming iron-rich herbs like thyme (Thymus vulgaris), which has a high iron content of 17 mg per 100 grams. Easy to grow in your herb garden, you can brew thyme into tea or enhance soups. To distinguish thyme from oregano, follow this guide.
Use thyme in longer-cooking dishes such as stews, soups, marinades, gravies, roasts, and braises. Additionally, thyme pairs well with lemon in sweet dishes like tarts or cakes. I also enjoy adding thyme to refreshing drinks like lemonades, smoothies, or homemade sorbets. This will enable you to mix thyme with juices rich in vitamin C to facilitate iron absorption.
This well-known culinary herb has a nutritional profile similar to spinach or kale. In addition to being a good source of iron, parsley also contains vitamin C, which aids increases the bioavailability of iron.
Thyme and oregano are often limited to one teaspoon for culinary use, while parsley (Petroselinum crispum) permits a larger quantity at once. It contains 6.2 mg of iron per 100 g, and you can drink parsley juice or tea. Additionally, parsley is a key ingredient in the traditional Middle Eastern salad tabbouleh and adds a fresh touch to salads, soups, stews, fish and macho peas.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a medicinal herb and great plant-based source of iron. Once you are familiar with nettle, you can easily find it in various places like fields, meadows, along roadsides or even in your backyard. Every part of the nettle plant, from the rhizome through the stems and leaves to the flowers and later the seeds, has medicinal properties. However, the leaves have the most iron and other nutrients.
In addition to herbal iron, stinging nettle has high vitamin C content, important to improve iron absorption in the body.
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a single cup of cooked nettle leaves provides 1.6 milligrams of iron, approximately 20% of the recommended daily intake.
There are various ways to incorporate nettle leaves into your diet. You can brew them into tea, blend them into smoothies, or make this iron rich nettle soup. Personally, I prefer grinding them into nettle powder, which I can then incorporate daily into food, mix it with salt for dressings or salads.
Collecting Dandelion roots and leaves is another way to boost your iron levels. Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) is a medicinal plant used in herbal medicine to support liver health and aid digestion. Because it has a rich potassium content, it is a balanced diuretic, replacing what the body loses. The easiest way to implement dandelion in your daily routine is is by making dandelion leaf tea simply by steeping the leaves in hot water. Another way is to roast dandelion roots and simmer them to create a dandelion root tea. While spring is the ideal time for infusing the flowers or leaves, autumn is the best season for roasting dandelion roots to make tea.
The final herb for anemia on our list is Yellow dock, also recognized as “curly dock” (Rumex crispus). This common weed is widespread in various regions, including Europe, America and Australia. While the iron content in yellow dock may not be as high as some of the previously mentioned herbs, its unique feature lies in its capacity to stimulate the liver to release more ferritin proteins into the bloodstream. This, in turn, aids in boosting iron in the body.
Furthermore, yellow dock is classified as a nutritive herb, contributing to detoxification and accelerating metabolic processes. The best way to implement yellow dock in your diet is to prepare iron syrup.