Boost your Iron!

A friend of mine has asked me to make her and her pregnant friend a batch of iron tonic, and I thought it might be a good idea to put up a post about this for those of you who may either regularly or occasionally struggle with your iron levels.

First I must say that I cannot claim to be the inventor of this genius concoction…the recipe comes from my friend Max the herbalist (here’s a link to his site), and you can buy the iron tonic herbs that are listed in the recipe from his shop.

This tonic is excellent for a few reasons.  First, the taste, although strong, is actually rather nice.  Second, and most important, the iron in the tonic is very easily absorbed by the body.   Indeed, it seems to be much better absorbed than the iron tablets (ferrous sulfate or ferrous gluconate) that are often prescribed by the GP.  These tablets also have constipation as one of the main side effects, and this is a third advantage of taking the tonic…it most definitely does not wreak such havoc on the bowel!  Nor does it cause upset stomach, nausea, heartburn…some of the other common side effects of the tablets.  (Ferrous gluconate is given to people who really struggle with the side effects from ferrous sulfate, but it contains a lower concentration of iron).

As I mentioned above, I’m making this batch for a pregnant friend…the tonic is perfectly safe for pregnant women, and is particularly good to have on hand for the post partum.  It is common for women to have low iron after the birth, and I highly recommend this tonic at that time…you really don’t want to be struggling with fatigue whilst trying to look after a new baby!

A post about iron wouldn’t be complete without also indicating some of the foods that include iron, and you will probably want to ensure these are included in your diet if you’re low on iron:

  • liver (yep, it might not be the tastiest thing in the world but it’s full of nutrients and iron is one of them!)
  • dark green, leafy vegetables
  • some dried fruits (prunes, raisins, apricots, figs…but eat these in moderation because of the sugar content)
  • eggs

Note that some whole grains contain iron, but they also contain phytates which make the iron difficult to absorb.  Similarly, spinach contains loads of iron but the iron is not easily absorbed due to the presence of oxalates.  Sorry Popeye!

I also recommend investing in a good quality black cast iron pan.  Not only are they amazing to cook with, being highly durable, easy to clean and non-stick, but apparently some of the iron is leached into the food (particularly if you cook things like tomato sauce in it) and thus boosts the iron in the diet.

Finally, here is the recipe for the tonic:  I’d love to know how you get on, either making it or taking it!


1 kg unsulphured apricots
1 kg molasses
3 L red wine
5ml/L tincture of ginger, gentian, rhubarb root, yellow dock, damiana and nettle tops (you need 5ml of each herb per litre of tonic, or 30ml of a mix of all of them)

This recipe makes about 4L of tonic…so a rather big batch!  You may want to halve the recipe.


  1. Cover the apricots with water and simmer about 6 hours.
  2. Add molasses and simmer a further 2 hours.
  3. Cool and liquidise.
  4. Add the red wine and stir 5 to 10 minutes until pourable.  Add the tinctures.
  5. Bottle up in 500ml airtight bottles and keep refrigerated once open.

Dosage:  5-10ml 3 times per day.  30ml of tonic provides about 2mg absorbable iron.


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