Every once in awhile someone sends us a remedy that is so unusual that it stops us cold. Such was the case when Ken D. contacted us about his dietary solution to a very serious condition called hemochromatosis. In this genetic disorder, iron accumulates in the body and can cause serious damage to the liver, heart, pancreas and joints. People can develop cirrhosis, diabetes, heart enlargement and arthritis. The usual treatment for this condition is regular removal of blood. The reference to a barber’s pole below refers to the historical function of barbers as professionals who did surgery and bloodletting.

“Hemochromatosis runs in my family. We all find it incredibly amusing that the single best known treatment “modern” medicine has to offer is bloodletting.
“When headed to the lab for a phlebotomy session, I would always get a chuckle when the mental image of a barber’s pole popped into my head. I mentioned my condition to a chemist friend of mine, and he told me I should eat cabbage. Huh?
“His explanation was simple: it would help to chelate the iron in my tissues. The long and short of it is that my ferritin levels dropped so significantly once I took his advice that my primary care physician ordered a second test to confirm the results, thinking it must have been a lab error. By the time those numbers came back, they had dropped even more.
“I can’t say it will do the same for anyone else, but if you are willing to swap cole slaw for fries at lunch for a few months (which was all I did) they can find out for themselves.
“Wild, right?”
Ken D.

We checked the medical literature to see whether this connection between cabbage and iron levels in the blood had been documented. We could find no research. We welcome others to try this experiment and let us know how it works.
Joe & Terry
The People’s Pharmacy

Join Over 100,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Rakaia
    Perth Australia

    Hi my levels are very high and my joint pain is sore, I have sudden bursts of extreme itchiness and experience periods of extreme tiredness. I would like to try the cabbage but I am on thyroxin and have read that cabbage is not suitable for me. Also if I was to eat the cabbage how much is recommended per day?

    Many Thanks

  2. A

    Would like an update from these folks about the use of cabbage for hemochromatosis and about using vitamin C.

  3. moring

    would fermented cabbage(sauerkraut) work?

  4. Ben
    Fairless hills, PA 19030

    While in the Philippines two ears ago, my hemoglobin was low and my ferritin was high. My doctor advised that I should have blood transfusion. I did not have it. Instead, I followed the advice of a doctor using alternative medicine.- I dranf daily her juice from an herb called tawatawa juice from an herb called tawatawa in Pilipino language, plus vitamn B 1-6-12, and massage of my lower back for at least 30 minutes daily. Within one week, my hemoglobin level went up by 30 points. Here in USA. I was scheduled for blood extraction of 250 cc monthly but had only four phlebotomies to date as it was postponed several times due to my low hemoglobin. My doctor has schedule a bone marrow test next month to find out the cause. I’ll try to take the cabbage diet. Thanks for the info. Ben.

  5. barb

    I’m juicing with cabbage for better digestion and IBS….My iron levels were also high. ….so I’m hoping this helps. I have found it’s delicious when combined with right produce. DO NEED TO BE SURE to select recipe ingredients that will not cause more iron absorption. This is a way to get more cabbage.

  6. JT
    South Africa

    This is highly useful, please advise what kind of a specialist doctor treats hemochromatosis?

  7. zeke

    Our family gene pool has had hemochromatosis in it for CENTURIES. Yet we all, except one that we can determine by known history, have lived into 80’s and 90’s. Now my age is 79, and my oldest brother is 89. ONE of our siblings died of lung cancer at age 86. We lead a diet controlled-life and blood-letting when needed, usually 6 or more months apart.

    Cabbage is a regular part of our diet: cole slaw, boiled cabbage, in salads, and a raw wedge even. By the way we can trace our known family history into the 1500’s and back to 777 A.D.

  8. toni
    Franklin, TN

    hello all! I am waiting for genetic marker blood test to be returned and will know something this week . (Jan. 2016) I was told my iron was high in a last random blood test and started piecing together the information that two cousins on my mothers side have hemachromotosis.

    My mother died at 64 with heart problems and had other things as well like panic attacks and radical arthritis and other signs of strangeness in the body. Never diagnosed but I’ll bet her Irish heritage and iron overload was at play. You can get some great information on the internet from Bill Bodri, naturopath, at the skeptical nutritionist. I do not have personal experience with him and am still feeling my way through this. But it seems he has a lot of information about this iron disorder and links to doctor/researcher/authors who get down and dirty in the genetics and all the technical info as well as practical things.

    In 1991 a hospital checked to see if I had it and said no. Now I know they didn’t really know how to check for it back then. Whether the genetic marker confirms or not, I know now we can be iron retainers regardless. They have put iron in almost everything! Being post menopausal doesn’t help, no longer removing blood from the body monthly. And to this cabbage thread here, I am very happy to relearn about cabbage and tea being chelators/or removers of iron in the body. I heard it long ago and forgot. or was in denial believing I did not have the condition. It is nothing to mess around with however. I can see having a doc who keeps you informed of your levels would be mandatory. After all when I take my car in I like those in the know to make sure I have enough oil in there! ha! sorry bad comparison…. but my last thought as a health care practitioner and wellness coach myself (spawned by my desire to help others because I have always had trouble feeling well) is that it is important to be mindful not only of how to chelate appropriate amounts of iron out, but not consuming too much in the first place. We need to learn what iron rich foods are and other fun things like red wine, fortified breads and chocolate etc might need to be avoided. There is a Hemachromotosis cookbook on Amazon. Yep. This is going to be fun, I can tell! Geesh! Not really but I hope to forge ahead at 64 with gusto and learn new patterns. Life is such a hoot! I just challenge us all…. Let’s have a lightness of Being! We are the lucky ones to have discovered this so we can get our lives back! much love and good luck to us all! and enjoy your new wellness forthcoming!

  9. Dieter Kotze

    Hi All,

    I am 36 and have been diagnosed with the C282Y mutation. Apparently my liver is still able to breakdown iron but only 50% or something like that. My Ferritin was surprisingly high 1250. It. It did come down to 897 after 3 times of blood donations. I have been informed only to go for the blood every 6-8 weeks since if you do it more than that not enough iron have entered the blood from storage. Thus I go every 6 weeks now. Further my father have been tested last week he is 65, his iron is over 6000. I was reading about the cabbage and we would like to test this to see if it works but for him it might be risky in the sense he cannot afford for the iron to go higher.

    Would like to hear your input on this or people whom have been dealing with this issue for a while. I am using Magnesium supplements every day as I know this is a very important mineral the body needs. It is supposedly to assist and help in keeping metals at bay in our bodies. I guess I will know if this helped in January when I plan to do my next blood test. My wife is a doctor and we found that the older doctors around these parts are not really testing people for iron overload.

    Good luck to everyone else with this condition and would appreciate your comments.

  10. Timmy

    I’ve had HH for over 2 years, and prior to that I had been diagnosed with Fructose Intolerance. As I began eating more pickled krauts and other probiotic foods to help with my FI, I noticed the time between my phlebs were increasing. Yesterday my scheduled phleb was cancelled because my ferritin was mid-range. I haven’t had a bloodletting in 5 months now. If cabbage chelates, then I’m all in. For the past 1 or 2 months I have been making raw cabbage salads or mixing it in with greens. Usually one serving per day, often more. I think there is something to this.

  11. Dazza

    We have an Irish male friend, 80 years old, has, Hemochromatosis, blown up like a balloon, over the last 3 months, Hardly eats as his stomach is being crushed by his increase of something inside getting bigger. He is lethargic, no energy, on small doses of Warfarin, a week. he has one pint of blood taken out once a month, to reduce the iron, he is also off his diabetes medication, when they weaned him of it in hospital, as they said he wasn’t a diabetic. Just wondering, who has had success with Cabbage, and or iPG (Inositol Hexophosphate). Or any other cures???. Or what his life expectancy might be.???

    • "Ann

      I’m not sure your friend has’s symptoms are entirely due to Hemochromatosis. My husband had similar symptoms for a long time.and his stomach was very hard and bloated (he does not have the condition). He was eventually rushed into surgery with an abdominal aorta aneurysm. It might be worth checking this out. I was diagnosed with Hemochromatosis late last year and juice a serve of cabbage with apple, celery and carrot (whatever there is) every day. I’ve had four venesections to date and my levels have come down 1556 to 404. Good luck.

  12. Ljerka

    I am little confused with the term cabbage and the photo. Cabbage in my language is kupus and zelje, and what is in the picture is kelj. I am pasting the links below so you can see the difference.

    The main problem is that I do not know what exactly to eat since I’ve been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis, too.

    Cabbage is Brassica oleracea
    (the link is here only to see the picture of cabbage as in my language)
    We eat it raw (salad usually), cooked, sauteed and fermented, too (sauerkraut).

    What is here in your picture is (kelj – Croatian, Serbian word ) Brassica oleracea var. sabauda) Savoy cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. sabauda L. or Brassica oleracea Savoy Cabbage Group) – here,too, the link is to see the picture. We seldom prepare it as salad, we cook it ( preferred style Mediterranean, with olive oil and garlic).

    Can anyone help me with it? (preferably someone who has been using cabbage to cure Hemochromatosis).


    • zeke

      Sauerkraut is in order and the cabbage in Germany is the kind we use. Cabbage juice is also on our sometimes fair. A little red wine , don’t know if helping, but have no knowledge of hindering either.

  13. mary

    So grateful for the cabbage news! My husband is type 2 whose ferritin got elevated on our gluten free diet as he was on iron pills for 8 years, and this elevated the glucose, so I took him off the pills, and he has been donating blood, got the ferritin down but glucose still up, he tested neg. for HH but I think he might have some liver problems from the iron overload, I saw a new thing called DIOS it is iron liver overload without any HH mutation, and there was a lot of talk of the FDA now allowing 20 mg of iron to be added to each pound of flour in US and they said this is probably contributing to metabolic syndrome, and like France does not allow this fortification of their flour and they just don’t have these problems like we do!
    We will be on slaw and cabbage the both of us. Thanks!

  14. gREG
    New South Wales

    Tried this for a month . . Levels stayed the same. (:

  15. akshat

    It could be controlled by drinking tea and coffee… especially drinking green tea too.

  16. Ali
    Wales, UK

    This is interesting. I’ve been doing a lot of research on sulphur and sulphur-based elements like Thiamin (B1), biotin, L-cysteine, Methionine, etc.

    I looked for links between HCT and sulphur deficiency but could find none, but then there seems to be none between it and cabbage either, so that isn’t surprising. I do know though that there are many people out there who swear by the healing benefits of fermented foods like sauerkraut for many different health problems.

    Whilst a close friend does, I don’t have HCT, but I am diabetic. Ensuring I am getting enough sulphur (I use MSM crystals) and extra Thiamin/biotin in addition to my usual B-50 complex has reversed my ‘diabetic’ neuropathy and other issues. I have just ordered some Benfotiamine (a better retained form of Thiamin) to add in to try and increase my energy levels.

  17. cat

    I’m stuck and prob in denial. I just recently found out I have hemacro. omg find it hard to put in words. so scared xx

    • neil e mac

      “Fear reverses all intelligent processes!” – Leland T Powers
      Have your blood monitored; receive regular phlebotomies (blood withdrawn) until ‘ferritin’ levels are lowered, and you’ll be fine. Oh yes, don’t eat anything with vitamin C an hour and a half before or after consuming anything with any significant level of ‘iron’ [ferritin]. Have been diagnosed since 1999; am still kicking up my feet and dancing well through life in my ‘senior daze.’

      • A


  18. cherry

    Great to hear I am not the only one to have high ferratin and I shall try problem was I had low haemoglobin too. I have bought black puddings to see what happens. Keep you posted. I believe tea and coffee reduce the absorbtion of iron but I love tea with each meal. I think the best solution is to pray about it all.

    • Jun
      Manila philippines

      Hi im 59 I have this blood disorder called thalassemia so blood letting is out of the question. I have been on cheation theraphy for the past 2 weeks taking ferriprox tablets 6 tablets a day which is too expensive.
      This cabbage diet will be a great help to me. Will start with it. Thank you for this info.

  19. Diane C
    Orange Park, FL

    For the past seven months I have added cabbage (both raw and cooked) to my diet at least 4 times a week and no phlebotomy has been needed . My HGB is high at 16.5, but my ferritin remains at 49 and holding, which means it is not being stored in my body. My doctor was amazed and confused by my labs and told me to just keep up the good work. When I told her about cabbage being added to my diet she became very interested and stated this information would be shared at the conference she would be attending later this week on Hemochromatosis. THANK YOU so much for sharing this information and am hoping it continues to keep my Hemochromatosis in check. Also am hoping that the medical community might research further the benefits of cabbage with this condition.
    Diane C.

  20. Con

    I may have missed the answer somewhere, but a few people have asked but I haven’t noticed and actual answer – DOES THE CABBAGE HAVE TO BE RAW OR IS COOKED OK???

    • Ali

      Probably raw I would think….

  21. sam

    I like these articles and will follow with my experience and cabbage diet

  22. ellie

    I want to know how I can lower my iron levels.

  23. Roy M.

    I was having bloodletting biweekly until I started eating cabbage weekly. Now, I get check ups every three months and my doctor told me that so far I don’t need a bloodletting. It’s been six months and I go in for another check up in another three months. In the mean time, I’m sticking to my cabbage diet.

    • ellie

      hi, I wanna know how I can lower my ferritine levels. pls help. thanks

  24. elizabeth

    My ferritin level keeps increasing. No one seems to be worried. Are there other symptoms , I get the odd sudden warm painless feeling in the body usually arms legs around and inside eyes A most odd feeling.The cabbage is it best eaten raw. Just getting over a 3 month bout of shingles herpes zoster of the face,… any connection?

    • Patricia
      Monroeville, PA

      This is quite interesting. My son was just diagnosed with hemotomachrosis, and about 5 months ago had a severe case of shingles. The worst case his doctor has ever seen. I think it’s related to his recent diagnosis, but I’m not a doctor. Having phlebotomy every week. Levels still high.

  25. Karen S.

    This is a terrific web page, providing a lot of information that can be “tested” for those searching for ways to manage their ferritin levels. I didn’t like all the side effects of the medicine that would be used to lower my levels, so finding this information, and the optional ways to help with this has boosted my confidence, as I am, and have always been one to approach what we do in a more “natural” way. Never do I say its for everyone, as we do need to be cautious when we seek out another path. Thanks so much for being here! Karen S. Franklin-Nashville, Tn.

  26. Karen S.
    Franklin-Nashville Tn.

    I have a condition that is called “Cold Agglutinins Hemolytic Anemia”……with this condition I have had a large degree of “hemolysis”, when you urinate blood. This is a rare autoimmune disease, which can be managed with “Rituxan” (mild chemo). My hemoglobin was so extremely low when first being diagnosed, the had to transfuse. I have been up and down in the 2 1/2 years having this. I have had a total of 38 blood transfusions in this time. I have had elevated ferritin levels, and I am going to try eating cabbage to see if there is any change. I have also read in a book written by a doctor Ip6 also helps in lowering the numbers. Will see where this brings my levels.

  27. Dale

    great news

  28. JR

    This absolutely has worked for me. I am a 37 year old female who was just diagnosed with double C282Y Homozygote mutation Hemochromatosis. Before reading this article I spent 5 months of undergoing 9 phlebotomies (9 pints) and my ferritin level only dropped 130 points. After reading this article I added cabbage once to twice a day to my regular strict diet and within 1.5 months of eating cabbage daily and only 3 more phlebotomies (3 pints), my ferritin level went down a whopping 175 points!!! That basically knocked five months of phlebotomist off my de-ironing process. I will definitely continue eating cabbage and will try to keep you posted with my progress. Thank you very much for posting this article. Very pleased.

    • TT

      Could you tell me the way in which the cabbage was consumed or prepared, and also if cole slaw, the recipe would be divine – thank you.

      Also, I see you are in Maine, any recommendations for a specialist to treat Hemochromatosis?

    • barb

      Hi…I recently started juicing and there are some delicious recipes for using raw cabbage. Just check out the other fruits or veggies combined with it….hope this helps.

    • Mary W
      United States

      Interesting but hard to apply when I’ve been warned about taking vitamin C. Not sure how many hours post eating and before eating it should be taken.

  29. Tiza

    Always take the vitamin C a few hours after you eat and then don’t eat for a couple of hours. We all need vitamin C. It’s dangerous not to have it, but never take it with meals because it will help you store iron. In between meals is okay.

    • Mary Weidner-Ruediger

      A couple of hours doesn’t seem to be long enough.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.