Tips for treating anemia and iron overload with herbal medicine and diet

Anemia is a common blood disorder than can be improved with herbs. Anemia occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells in the body decreases. About 10 percent of North American women develop iron deficient anemia during their childbearing years. Many children and senior citizens also are diagnosed with anemia each year.

Kind of like the opposite of anemia, iron overload or hemochromatosis is a condition in which the body absorbs too much iron. The blood and body need iron supplies to be balanced -- not too much, not too little. Medicinal herbs can help people with hemochromatosis and anemia.

Woman with pale skin - anemia can be treated with herbal medicine.
© Madja | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This anemic woman is tired of pale skin, brittle nails, thinning hair, and lack of energy. Herbs can help!

There are many types of anemia.

Although there are over 400 types of anemia, three kinds are most common and include iron deficient anemia, Vitamin B12 deficient anemia, and folic acid deficient anemia. Complications from anemia range from feeling tired to coma and even death. The major cause of anemia is poor diet.

Diet can help build up the blood.

Eating iron rich foods such as liver, figs, seafood, molasses, beets, brown rice, whole grains, poultry, eggs, grapes, raisins, yams, and beans can help. Avoid drinking coffee, tea, beer, or cola with meals as these drinks inhibit the absorption of iron. Manganese rich foods including whole grains, greens, legumes, nuts, pineapple, and eggs help increase iron uptake into the system.

Potassium rich foods including broccoli, bananas, sunflower seeds, vegetables, whole grains, kiwi, and dried fruits should be eaten regularly. Adding cultured foods like yogurt to the diet helps replace friendly bacteria that is needed for good digestion.

Vitamin C rich foods are needed for iron absorption.

Citrus, tomato, green pepper, and chives are especially good for anyone with anemia. Some types of anemia benefit from folic acid rich foods including fresh green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, lima beans, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans.

Symptoms of anemia include weakness and fatigue.

There are many symptoms of anemia including weakness, fainting, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lack of libido, ulcers, slow healing, fatigue, skin pallor, violent mood swings, irritability, confusion, depression, and seeing spots before the eyes. Secondary signs include vision problems, apathy, brittle nails, poor appetite, hair loss, yellowish skin, headaches, dark urine, and poor memory. If you suspect anemia or iron overload, a simple, inexpensive test can be done at your healthcare provider's office or your local health department.

There are other causes of anemia besides poor diet.

Low immunity, mineral deficiency, pregnancy, rapid growth in childhood, lupus, blood loss, parasites, excessive menstruation, infection, some hereditary conditions, thyroid disease, lead toxicity, and alcoholism are directly related to many cases of anemia. The frequent use of aspirin, ibuprofen, or other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs may also cause anemia.

Herbal green drinks can help treat anemia.

Green drinks with live enzymes and aloe-vera juice are two herbal remedies for anemia. Iron enhancing herbs include yellow dock, red raspberry or wild blackberry leaf, gentian, yellowroot, turmeric, mullein, nettle, parsley, ginseng, watercress, and dandelion. Many times beet root powder, beet juice, bee pollen, and kelp powder can help.

Anemic individuals should avoid all pesticides and fluorescent lighting.

Minimizing exposure to lead and other toxic metals such as aluminum, cadmium and mercury is also important.

Avoid foods that keep iron from being absorbed.

Foods and supplements that prevent iron absorption include almonds, cashews, chocolate, kale, rhubarb, sorrel, spinach, Swiss chard, calcium, vitamin E, and zinc. Avoid in cases of iron deficient anemia. Antacids also inhibit iron absorption and should be taken with caution.

Anemia is the most common blood disorder. For more information about anemia, visit

Hemochromatosis causes the body to absorb too much iron.

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, hemochromatosis, also known as iron-overload, causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. Sounds like the opposite of anemia, doesn't it?

The excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart, and pancreas. The excess iron can poison these organs, leading to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart arrhythmias, and cirrhosis.

Tips for fighting iron overload with diet and herbal medicine

Herbs can help protect the body from the harmful effects of too much iron in the blood. Rosemary and ginkgo biloba can help protect the whole body. Dandelion and milk thistle seed can help protect the liver. Astragalus and ginseng can help keep the immune system healthy. If iron levels get too high, schedule a blood donation or see a doctor to have blood removed.

Iron overload -- red blood cells absorb too much iron
© Dmitry Sunagatov | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Red blood cells can absorb too much iron. This dangerous condition is known as iron overload or hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis can be inherited.

Many people inherit a faulty gene that causes hemochromatosis — hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disease in people with Northern European ancestors, especially viking ancestry. In middle age, hemochromatosis is more likely to be serious in men. Women are more likely to develop serious symptoms after menopause, when they no longer lose iron with menstruation and pregnancy.

Symptoms appear in midlife.

Signs and symptoms of hereditary hemochromatosis usually appear in midlife. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, poor skin color (grayish tint), depression, loss of sex drive, liver problems, pancreas abnormalities, enlarged spleen, and heart palpitations. Other related issues include diabetes, infertility, impotence, hypothyroidism, and some cancers.

Use turmeric / curcumin to help fight iron overload.

It is thought that turmeric, which contains curcumin, can help remove iron from the blood. Turmeric is a wonderful spice to keep in the kitchen. The health benefits of turmeric are numerous and include lowering bad cholesterol levels and stopping arthritis pain.

Join Charlie Gallagher as he explains Hemochromatosis

The following video talks about hemochromatosis and what will happen if you are diagnosed with this iron overload condition:

Blood donations really help hemochromatosis.

Iron can be dropped to safe levels by regularly removing blood from the body through blood donations.

Herbal remedies for iron-overload

Home remedies include avoiding iron supplements and multivitamins containing iron, avoid taking vitamin C with iron rich foods (vitamin C helps the body absorb iron), and drinking tannin rich tea (tannins decrease iron absorption).

Treating iron overload with diet

Diet should include lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds. Avoid red meat, sugar, and alcohol. Venison, lamb, beef, liver, shrimp, and mussels contain high levels of iron. When eating meat, choose lean pork, chicken, and fish. Spinach contains lots of iron but it is not easily absorbed due to the presence of oxalates so it is considered a safe nutritional choice for people with hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis is like rusty metal.

High iron levels in your body can be compared to the damaging effects of rust, eating away at tissue and organs. High iron levels cause your body to produce more harmful free radicals than the immune system can handle.

Hemochromatosis is not rare in a meat eating society.

Hemochromatosis can be overlooked by a doctor who is concentrating on treatment of other diseases. Many doctors still believe what they learned in medical school – that hemochromatosis is rare and only happens in older men. When hemochromatosis is discovered early and treated before organ damage occurs, a person can live a normal, healthy life. Any family physician is qualified to diagnose and prescribe treatment for a hemochromatosis patient. 

* Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal remedy or iron supplement especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.

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