- Chickweed – Stellaria media
I am back from vacation and excited to see that Duluth has thought about entering into summer. Yesterday and today it was in the mid 50’s. Not too bad, but not as warm and sunny as I’d like. My seedlings are doing well; they are strong although they are still tiny. They need some solar energy! I am especially excited for Chinese scullcap, African marigolds and spilanthes.
Over the past two weeks I have been putting in a conscious effort to get enough iron, mostly through diet. The dizziness subsided the last two weeks until this afternoon, when I stood up and became really dizzy after being stooped over during an hour long weeding session. As a reminder, I decided to investigate sources of iron a bit more just to be sure.
The following sources of iron (mg per 100 grams) is taken from Ruth Trickey, page 250 of Woman, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle.
- Animal – eggs 2, beef 3.4, lamb 2.7, pork 1.3, dark chicken 1.9, light chicken .6, cod .4, sardines 2.4, mussels 7.7, oysters 6
- Grain – wheatgerm 10, wheat bran 12.9, whole wheat flour 4, oatmeal 4.1, soy flour 9 white bread 1.7, whole wheat bread 2.5
- Legumes – green beans 2.5, lentils 2.4, peas 1.2
- Vegetables – broccoli 1, leeks 2, lettuce .9, mushrooms 1, scallions 1.2, parsley 8, potato .6, spinach 3.4, beet 3
- Fruits – dried apricots 4.1, avocado 1.5, currents 1.8, dried figs 4.2, dates 1.2, dried peaches 6.8, prunes 2.9, raisins 1.6, raspberries 1.2
- Nuts and other – almonds 4.2, Brazil nuts 2.8, hazelnuts 1.1, peanuts 2, walnuts 2.4 curry powder 75, yeast 20
I knew Susun Weed would have some iron numbers for some herbs. Same mg per 100 grams applies. Notice some high numbers here!
- Herbs – chickweed 253, fresh dandelion leaves 3, cooked dandelion leaves 29, root 96 (fresh or dried? I am unsure), fresh nettle leaves and shoots 41.8,oat straw 4.6 – 57, kelp 8.9 – 100, dulse 150
My favorite and simplest iron tonic recipe is one I got from midwife Aviva Romm. Start with equal parts yellow dock and dandelion root, simmered and reduced until there is about one cup of liquid remaining. Then add a fourth to a half cup black strap molasses after the liquid has been strained. Take 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon daily. The yellow dock helps the liver use iron more sufficiently, while the dandelion root is a source of iron (and also acts on the liver) and the molasses is an even better source of iron. I do not know how many milligrams of iron are in one teaspoon, but I can imagine that it is not necessarily high in iron, but rather is more bio-available and assists the body is using what iron is present.
Rosemary Gladstar has a nice “Iron-Plus Syrup” (62) recipe that sounds delicious. In fact, after reading about it I want to go make my own!
- 3 parts nettle
- 3 parts dandelion leaf
- 3 parts dandelion root
- 3 parts raspberry leaf
- 2 parts watercress
- 2 parts alfalfa leaf
- 1 part hawthorn berries
- 1 part yellow dock root
- 1 part dulse
- 1/4 part horsetail
Add two ounces of the herb mixture to one quart of water. Simmer, reduce to two cups liquid. Strain and while it is still warm, add one cup sweetener (honey works well), two teaspoons spirulina and two teaspoons nutritional yeast. Add 1/4 cup brandy and 1/4 cup fruit concentrate to finish it; bottle, lable, refidgerate and enjoy! The dosage Gladstar gives is four to six tablespoons a day.
So now I must ask myself, did I make the recommended 10 – 18 mg (depending on your source)? Let’s investigate:
Eggs – 2, half avocado .75, oatmeal 4.1, lentils 2.4, half serving spinach 1.7, half serving almonds 2, = 12.95 grams, plus an undetermined amount from a some potato, raisins, corn tortilla chips, everything else I ate today, plus whatever is in a tablespoon of Romm’s simple iron tonic and a quart of nettle/raspberry leaf tea.
Not too bad, but there is room for improvement, especially in improving iron absorption.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women.
Trickey, Ruth. Women, Hormones, and the Menstrual Cycle.
Weed, Susun. Healing Wise.
Ruth Trickey’s Woman, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle is one of my favorite books. I am always reading this book in hopes that eventually it will all sink in! What drew me to it currently is the sneaking suspicion that I am iron-deficient. For many months, I have been experiencing bouts of dizziness, tiredness, and my legs sometimes become very tired after just a little exertion. Once I asked myself, “am I experiencing anemia?” I have had regular dreams in which I am hemorrhaging blood in someway or another. Last year I had a blood test in which I had 11 grams/dL, while the normal range is 12 – 16 grams/dL for women, after which I made efforts to increase my iron intake…but I feel my efforts were not sufficient.
Why would someone be low on iron? Take a look at the graph on this page for risk factors.
“Iron requirements for women are around 80 per cent higher than for men because of menstruation and child-bearing. It is estimated that iron deficiency is the commonest nutritional disease worldwide and that half of all woman consume less than the recommended amount of 10 – 15 mg daily” (249).”
How do you know if you are iron deficient or anemic? A blood test like I had can be helpful. However, one can be deficient even if the hemoglobin (blood levels of iron) are fine. Besides the red blood cells, iron is also found in the liver, marrow, spleen, muscles and can be deficient in these areas while hemoglobin is normal.
When the blood cells are lacking iron during anemia, the red blood has an impaired ability to carry oxygen around the body, and the following symptoms may be present
- shortness of breath
- limb fatigue
- poor stamina (249)
Iron deficiency has these symptoms:
- sore tongue, and cracks in the corner of the mouth
- concave fingernails
- low resistance to infection
- in children, low resistance to infection and failure to thrive, slow learning, poor appetite
- poor digestion due to low levels of gastric acid (249)
To increase available iron, one must increase iron absorption and increase iron intake. Food labels are misleading because rather than give the milligrams of iron present, the label gives the percentage. As we read above, women need 80% more iron than men. Does the label reflect the percentage for men, for women, or for an average? Iron should be given in milligrams, like the way protein is given in grams, and not in a percentage. By the way, many online sources recommend not 10 – 15, but 18 milligrams of iron a day.
To increase iron absorption, it seems that stimulating gastric acid production is the way to go. Think foods high in vitamin C, sour lemon juice, vinegar, bitter fruits and vegetables, aperitifs and Swedish bitters. Consume these foods while or right after eating iron-rich foods. The same applies to taking an iron supplement; pair it with a vitamin C supplement. My herbal “supplements” include a daily iron tonic taken at the the same time as I take elderberry and rose hip syrup.
Here’s another reason to quit the stimulant cycle; to increase absorption also means to decrease (or flat out avoid) black tea and coffee.
“The tannin in tea binds with iron, making it difficult to absorb. Coffee also reduces absorption, especially if taken with or after a meal, but not taken more than one hour before eating (250).
I have to wonder if soda, diet or regular, also decreases absorption.
As I searched the web for charts on sources of iron, it became obvious that there is a lack of straight forward information on iron content. Many sites simply state, “iron is in meat, shellfish, whole grains”. Other sites are completely dedicated to “non-meat forms of iron”, and while they have some sort of graph of what foods are high in iron, they don’t have the milligrams per serving. Then there are the sites, often from the medical community, that have just short list of popular foods.
This is a good reference site. as it has lots of research based info, and is more scientific than journalistic.
When searching for quality information about herbs, nutrition or the like, I look for sites that are advertisement-free, are not the first hits or even on the first pages of hits, have scientific wording, and appear like they made an effort to not be biased or trendy. Unfortunately, to be one of the top hits on google a website has usually invested a lot of money to get there, with the interest of making more money. Luckily, Rob, my husband, is a web programmer and knows all about this which has changed my perception about internet searching. There is a cultural myth that”if it is the first search result, it is valid and good”.