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Iron Overload (Hemochromatosis) Cured by Cabbage

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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

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I had a slime on my bowel movements that spotted my briefs. About three months ago I ate a cabbage leaf and liked, so did it again and noticed a big improvement. I keep it up daily, it works.

Is the reverse also true? should people with low iron counts refrain from eating cabbages?

Wow, this is interesting, I've just found that I'm also iron overloaded. I've been avoiding cabbage because it's also an goitrogen and I'm hypothyroid. I used to eat tons of cabbage because I like it and I love homemade coleslaw. I figured my consumption was harming my thyroid. I never tested my ferritin until after I quit the cabbage.

So the question is, should I eat more cabbage and risk shutting down the thyroid more, or eat less and go through bloodletting?

I believe cabbage and broccoli are of the same family. Are there any other linkages?

Questions: how much cabbage? cooked? raw? how often? How long before an improvement in iron levels (decrease) is seen?

How much cabbage (quantity) and how often did Ken D. eat the cabbage?

What form did he eat?....cooked, raw, in coleslaw? How long before he saw results?
Your answer would be appreciated.

Marge, if you re-read Ken's note, you will see that he said he simply swapped coleslaw for french fries when he went out to eat. Moderation is always a good rule. If all of a sudden you eat lots of cabbage every day, you'll develop a deficiency or something the like in other areas. Nature keeps things in balance, we should too.

In restaurants, deep fried fish also is served with french fries, mostly with seasoned salt. Total OVERLOAD of salt and grease. I always order cole slaw instead, and pour ice water onto it to dilute the sweetness and mayo.

Wow. It's amazing how much research isn't documented by science, but works just as well (if not better) than prescription drugs. Thanks!

Maybe it wasn't the cabbage at all, maybe it was giving up all those french fries. :).

Another good source for a natural chelate is Gree Tea extract in capsul form. This can knock out up to 40% of iron as you take in food. In short take the capsule with the meal.

Maybe it wasn't the cabbage at all, maybe it was giving up all those french fries. :).

Does anyone know about chelation? If chelation rids you of heavy metals in the brain. This is important for me to know. Fran

Neurotox Res. 2010 Apr 6. [Epub ahead of print]
Metal Toxicity, Liver Disease and Neurodegeneration.
Butterworth RF.

Neuroscience Research Unit, St-Luc Hospital (CHUM), University of Montreal, 1058, Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC, H2X 3J4, Canada,

That's interesting, because other websites seem to indicate that cabbage is high in iron...

I'd be curious to know if this is just an old wive's tale...

My mom has hemochromatosis and I heard this segment on NPR and told her about it. She is now eating cabbage on a daily basis to see if the next time she get her blood taken the numbers have gone done. It is very exciting to hear about such a simple cure. I hope this helps her.

I have Hemochromatosis, my ferritin number was in the 900's when diagnosis was made. After 2 years of biweekly phlebotomy, my level at last testing was 58. I have been eating cabbage once per day for the last week since my daughter told me of this post. I am due for ferritin level testing in 3 months, July, 2010. I love cabbage, so eating it daily is not a problem. I am hoping to return in July to find that the ferritin level has not more than doubled like would be expected. I will keep you posted.

I found that I have hemochromatosis. Controlled treatment as of 4 years ago. Chronic headaches seemed to start about 1 year ago. Any connections with that and neck arthritis?/tension headaches?

I am told that I have tension headaches but not 100% certain. I wonder if there is some type of exam (MRI, CT, etc...) that can show one way or another?

In a cookbook I found (see link) designed for people like me with Hemachromatosis and Diabetes Type 2, there is a recipe for coleslaw espousing the benefits of cabbage. While I'm aware of cabbage's (particularly red cabbage's) detoxification qualities and it's benefits to the liver, I am still skeptical due to it's large quantity of iron. I will ask my gastroenterologist about this soon.

My best friend was just diagnosed with hemachromatosis, so I am researching
everything I can find. Is the cabbage working for any of you? She was told not to eat broccoli due to the iron content.

I am very curious about your ferritin levels now...did the cabbage make a difference in your level??

I have Haemochromatosis and also have daily headaches for all my adult life -been diagnosed as tension/migraine/sinus and structural. I always suspect the iron overload for a least some of the blame for these very debilitating headaches. Medication, you name it -I've tried it!

Would so appreciate any information or suggestions!
Thank you

Tea blocks our absorption of iron, I presume green tea will also

Years ago my husband developed headaches after he started taking my Multivitamin that was fortified with iron. He developed headaches and the doctor told him men did not need iron in the same quantity as women and to switch to a vitamin with extra iron. He did and the headaches stopped.

Hemochromotosis runs in my sister-in-laws family. It is very serious to the point of causing cancer. I'm sending this to her so she can pass the information to family members.

Hemochromatosis is excess iron. so you should not take vitamins with iron added nor excess of vitamin-C because vitamin C helps the body to create more iron, The best way to get rid of iron is to give blood to blood banks. I have accumulated a lot of info regarding this disease so if you're interested write to me at I will be happy to send you what I have on the subject.

Sure to try the cabbage, will let you know.

I have a genetic form of Hemochromatosis with anemia. This past winter my anemia became life threatening. Stress causes my body to store iron. Sweating causes my body to store sodium. I control the salt problem by drinking saltwater when I sweat heavily. It replaces the sodium lost and keeps my kidneys functioning properly.

Bloodletting is supposed to be the only treatment for iron storage, but for me, my body sees it as I am bleeding to death and have to be saved by storing iron. My body won't release the extra iron unless there is enough hemoglobin in my blood. The only time that happened was after the birth of my children and menopause. So my health has been up and down my whole life.

Doctors have been worse then useless, because quite a few have done things to me or given me things that caused stress. I didn't really figure out until this spring what my problem actually is. I also can't find a form of Hemochromatosis to match my symptoms.

I bought a bag of coleslaw and ate it with mayo. Eating a serving size twice a day, it lasted 3 1/2 days. My urine has turned yellow. Iron? I think so as I seem to be feeling better. Time will tell.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Rhumatoid Arthritis 2yrs ago, i tried everything, lemon fasting(which was great for me too)soup fasting,no meat,no dairy etc.. i managed to keep it at bay, however, i happened to eat ordinary cabbage at dinner for a couple of days, and I felt great, i now eat cabbage every day, i juice it raw too, and you know wot, i hardly have any Arthritis in my body, its an absolute miracle.

I missed eating the Cabbage for one day and i had pain in my feet again.. this is true, i want everyone to find out about this.
Cabbage is a cure for my arthrits.

My doctor said that cabbage is dangerous for iron overload!

interesting! you said nothing quite matched your systems... how did you find out about being both anemic and having Hemochromatosis (what test?)

Also, I have begun to include quite a bit of cabbage to BOOST my iron.... is that ok? (I am vegan).

My husband also has the high iron level, very tired all the time and bruises very easily. He hates cabbage, cole slaw, etc. so is there any other remedies or meds we can try? He does go once a week to the blood bank. I will definitely take him off the Vit C, and Multi Vit.

Thanks for the info

My doctor suspects that I have hemochromatosis and we are working on confirming his diagnosis. Reading the comments on the website have been helpful. I will try the cabbage and see what the results turn out to be. Questions:
1. Can people with this disease donate blood?
2. What should I do about taking vitamin C? I presently take 1000mg daily. Should I cut it out completely, or just reduce to 500mg or less?

Same for me re thyroid.

Thing to note ... RAW cabbage is a no no for thyroid, but cooked cabbage is ok. Literature seems to miss this simple fact!

I have hemochromatosis and diabetes. I am a great consumer of cabbage in all its forms and eat it two or three times a week, every week. I have done this of the past 40 years. This hasn't prevented my iron overload or stopped me from getting cirrhosis (diagnosed too late) but, nevertheless, I feel that it is a very healthy option. Cabbage, like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, has a reputation for fighting cancer and it has the fewest calories and least fat of any vegetable.

I have found a very useful website - some of you with hemachromatosis, like my mom, may find it very enlightening. It's a great deal of information. We are in the process of trying the recommendations I found there. So, I'll try and report back about results.

My Mom has been suffering with this for about 15 years, no kidding. She has Graves disease ( over active thyroid) and her doctors have always just laid all of her other symptoms off on that, until a CBC was run because she was going fast. Her health has been in a downward spiral for quite some time. Now I understand why she developed the thyroid issues to start with.

They first thought she had polycythemia vera. We changed doctors because he wanted to try more of the "wait and see" what happens. My Mom said, "I have to find another doctor, if I wait and see any longer, I will be dead soon!". My poor Momma is very ill. But after 2 phlebotomies this last week I think she's starting to turn the corner. One website I found says that you should replace vitamin c with ascorbic sodium. Because persons with this condition are severely low on vitamin c. Here's a link to the websites that I have found most helpful

The website that mentions vitamin C:

Thank you all each and everyone of you for your abundance of information. Rclay

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Thank you for sharing these resources! We could not confirm the accuracy of the site.

Somebody tried cabbage and get good results eliminating iron?

I was diagnosed with high level Iron 328. I had 8 oz grapefruit juice first think in the morning for five weeks. It took down to 232 almost 100 points. After my test I researched foods that blocs Iron absorption and foods high in Iron. When I eat food whit Iron content, I also eat absorption blocker.
On Google I found all this foods.

has anyone tried this cabbage/coleslaw to reduce iron?....???

anyone have further info?

I learned that cabbage and broccoli contain calcium. Calcium inhibits the iron absorption from the food. If is eaten with meals or in 2h after meals blocks the iron from that meal.
Seems like cabbage has different reaction depending when is consumed

Very Interesting.

I was researching about cabbage and chelating after reading your article, which is very cool.

I made a raw cabbage, avocado, black bean, alfalfa sprout salad with yogurt and sesame oil today as a new added lunch recipe for controlling hemochromatosis, based on your story. It was quite delicious!

Some things I learned about Cabbage is it is a miracle food. But aside from Cabbage, your Cole Slaw is more interesting. I researched EDTA the drug given for chelating and found that it is put into some foods for preserving them, such as mayonnaise! Did you use mayo in your cold slaw?

I think Mayonnaise would be an oxalate because of the egg factor and dairy, but the fact that EDTA is added could be part of the solution. This link is about EDTA in mayonnaise. I use yogurt in my cold slaw, but I might have to try mayo from the grocery isle. Let me know if you think I'm onto something:)

please read this link:

Okay I just wrote about Chelating and EDTA found as a preservative in Mayo.
Since I have been recently been diagnosed with hemochromatosis, I have been doing lots of research.
So-Iron chelation should not be confused with EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid) chelation.

The only pharmacological iron-chelating agent approved by the FDA for use in humans is intravenous deferoxamine, aka desferrioxamine, (DfO,Desferal*).

But upon more research I found that,

Ethylenediamine Tetraacetic Acid (EDTA)
 has a good iron binding capacity, and while intravenous EDTA chelation is not mentioned in any conventional medical textbook, it does provide options for mild cases of iron overload or as a maintenance schedule for hemochromatosis.

So I stick with my COLD SLAW theory.

This is my first time ever commenting on-line. It's kind of exciting.
I am happy that someone will be able to follow what I am talking about.

This week, I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis and had my first phlebotomy. I also discovered that, over the last 3 months (i.e. prior to the blood letting) my Ferratin levels had decreased from 900 to 500.

After reading this article, I consider it could be caused by eating more cabbage. Over the same period, I commenced eating a raw cabbage salad for lunch every day.

Unfortunately, over that same period, I also changed my entire diet and exercise regime. Sigificantly, I reduced meat portion sizes in general, ate less red meat, took Legalon capsules (milk thistle) and exercised vigoursly for 1/2 hr every day. The bottom line is I can't be certain whether any of the change in Ferritin was caused by the higher cabbage intake.

However, I can safely conclude that my lifestyle changes (which included dietary changes) reduced my Ferritin levels. This sounds like a fruitful area for research.

After I stop drinking the grapefruit juice what took my iron down almost 100 points, I tried the cabbage, not coleslaw, home made fermented cabbage (sauerkraut ). Every day I eat 1 cup in the 2 hour of eating food. I just had my blood test and it went down to 177. It's still a little high but almost made at. Normal is up to 150.

The grapefruit juice also cleaned my liver to normal (AST&ALT)
The recipe for home made sauerkraut: for 1 head cabbage shredded with the knife part of food processor, 1 tbs. see salt end 1 tbs. caraway seed, mix at and lat stand for 20 minutes, than take a glass jar and start filing up, after each handful need to press down whit a pounder so no air left. Live on the top about 2 inches of. Cover with a plate (not air tight) and lat stay in room temperature for 2 days. After you can refrigerate. Before I eat I was of the salt using a very fine strainer to not lose the caraway seed. It is good for months.
It is also very good for digestion.

I also use blacker with the food like beet without vinegar or sweet potato. I also learn that cacao inhibits iron from meat and vegetables.

I learned that vitamin C help iron absorption. Calcium blocks the iron absorption.

I stopped the grapefruit juice, and I tried the fermented cabbage the one I made and I used Iron blocker food with my meal. I had my blood test after 3 mo. My iron want down to 140, the normal range is up to 150. I believe the cabbage did it. I started with ferritin serum 328

I've been a cabbage eater all my life and usually have fresh cabbage 2 or 3 times a week. I also eat a lot of sauerkraut. I can't say that I've noticed this making any difference to my iron overload but would like to see some research into this. If cabbage can chelate the blood then we need to know.

Hi Jonmac I consumed the home made sauerkraut every day, the recipe is above and also eat food with low content of Iron and together with Iron blocker food. The cabbage is one of them. Did you had vinegar in the cabbage? Vinegar is absorbent for Iron. I was avoiding food containing vinegar when I eat food with Iron. It is working. Need lots of patience.

Wow- I just came across this post (August 2013) and wondered if those that chose the cabbage route are still having success in controlling his/her iron levels. I have hemachromatosis and the phlebotomy (based on my size) drain me... seriously.

Does cooked cabbage or raw cabbage makes a difference in the absorption of the iron?

Thank you for your help/insight. T

My 17 year old daughter was just diagnosed with Hemochromatosis. Her ferritin levels are only a tiny bit high right now (164). We hope to keep her levels low, so maybe eating cabbage will help her. She is a vegetarian, so I'm sure that helps! She hasn't eaten meat in almost 2 years. She does suffer from migraines and lethargy. She also struggles with insomnia. I suspect that these are related to the hemochromatosis.

She was tested after her father was diagnosed with it. Sadly her father has already sustained a fair bit of damage to his liver, and health in general. Hopefully with early detection she will be able to lead a healthy life and manage this easily.

If cabbage can really help, it might be just the thing for her!

There seems to be some confusion in either the posts or me. Many posts talk about blocking iron absorption from food, which is not the same as removal of excess iron already stored in the organs, which would be chelation.

For example, on 3/25/10, BB said:

Another good source for a natural chelate is Gree Tea extract in capsul form. This can knock out up to 40% of iron as you take in food. In short take the capsule with the meal.

It seems to mix up blocking its absorption from food intake with removal of existing iron. From what I've found, we only take in about 5 mg of iron a day from food, insignificant when I use 1 bag of packed red blood cells a week containing 200-250 mg iron (and have for 2 years).

Martha (1/5/13, 3/15/13) says her iron went down while drinking grapefruit juice for many weeks, yet grapefruit is a source of high vitamin C, which promotes iron absorption, so that doesn't make sense to me. On 6/26/13, she mentions she had gone on cabbage AND an iron absorption blocker and her iron went down, but I don't see how she can determine that it was the cabbage, not the blocker, that reduced the iron.

jonmac (12/8/12) has been eating lots of cabbage for 40 years, and it didn't prevent iron overload or getting cirrhosis from the overload.

CT (5/16/10) found information ( indicating cabbage is high in iron. Looking at all the different types of cabbage (, it ranges from 0.17% to 2% iron content, avg. about 0.66%. Also, iron absorption from vegetables (non-heme) is about 10%, compared to animal (heme) which is about 30%. It would seem that someone wanting more iron would choose something other than cabbage, and not a vegetable.

After reading all the posts here, what can I deduce about cabbage and iron overload? Does anyone have any information to clear this up for me?

People's Pharmacy response: We have not seen any research in PubMed to corroborate the testimonials that cabbage may cut iron absorption. The usual treatment for hemochromatosis is bloodletting. Since, as you point out, cabbage is not especially high in iron (except for skunk cabbage, which most people donot eat, and possibly pak-choi or bok choy, which a lot of people do eat), it seems worthwhile to try this as an n of 1 experiment.

Ok I have been a vegan for 21years! I workout 3 to 5 x a week as I'm a fitness model. I have not eaten any meat. no eggs. chicken turkey pork or a meat at all..I just got diagnosed with hemacromatosis with. Level of 600. I was a big eater of cabbage raw n cooked. broccoli and cauliflower as well all the vegetables was a big part of my diet. I did eat a lot of sugar n chocolate.. I have taken it out and level is still same... I don't think clean eating n active lifestyle did any thing to stop me from getting this blood disease. Can't change my diet ro eat any cleaner. not a drinker or smoker. I'm a part time yoga teacher. I was very astonished I of all people got this flare up.. I've had 2 phlebotomys.. my iron level went down just from blood letting. I am told I will be at it a lifetime. I am writing this to tell you this.. no cabbage I ate helped me to not get this or correct it. that it's not about what you eat or what you don't eat its genetic and hereditary as you know. and you can work out and you can eat clean like I have n continue to do.. only medieval bloodletting or chelating drugs is the answer. period!

I recommend that you use home made fermented cabbage using the following recipe:
1 head of cabbage put through the slicer blade of a food processor, mixed with 1 Tbls caraway seeds, 1 Tbls Sea salt, let stand for 20 minutes in deep pan. Place into glass jar one handful at a time and compact tightly using a sauerkraut pounder between each handful. leave 2 inches from the top of the jar and cover with a plate. Do not make it air tight. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 days, to allow fermentation. After 2 days, or once fermented, you can refrigerate. It will last for several months in the fridge. For this to be effective, you need to eat it with the iron rich food or with in 2 hours after. I also ate sweet potato as another Iron blocking food instead of Sauerkraut on occasion. I also learned that vitamin C and Vinegar help absorption of iron. So you might want to stay away from those while eating iron rich foods.

Cabbage contains calcium, which blocks the absorption of iron in the same way that oxalic acid blocks the absorption of iron in spinach. There are several foods that block iron absorption. You can use Google to find them.

The grapefruit juice (fresh squeezed 8 oz. every morning for six weeks) was consumed first thing in the morning and thus it was a chelate to rid the body of what iron was already in the system. Do not eat anything for at least 15 minutes after drinking the juice. This also cleans the liver of most other impurities. I would not recommend store bought grapefruit juice because of the preservatives and other chemicals mixed in.

The cabbage was to make sure that the body did not absorb any more from the current foods being eaten.

The cabbage that I use does not look like the cabbage in the picture on this page. It looks more like iceberg lettuce. It is tightly wrapped and smooth on the surface. I do not know the name. The label just says "cabbage."

High? I was just tested and waiting for a call from the specialist any day now. I was tested 2 weeks ago at 3600!

My husband has hemochromatosis and he was having symptoms of high iron, so we started eating cabbage once a day and his levels are back to normal.

How much does he eat each day? How long did it take for levels to go down?

Last year in February I was diagnosed with HFE as well. My ferritin levels were above 8,000. I'm pretty sure it was 8,476. A number that's hard to forget. I went to the E.R because I gained 15 lbs in 3 days and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My liver enzymes were very high and my heart was only working 5%.

I'm only 28 and was 19 when I was diagnosed w type 1 diabetes. I've felt, ever since then, just over all unhealthy, under weight, fatigued, joint pain etc.

Over this past year of blood letting I have avoided a heart transplant, my liver enzymes are almost normal again, the joint pain still remains but I've also gained 18 lbs of healthy weight and my heart was tested at 25% now. The improvement over just a years time is remarkable. My ferritin was last tested a month ago at 1,547.

I take two turmeric (95% curcumin), one cayenne pepper, probiotics, and ginger supplements. I owe my life to them, as well as few good heart medications and the best team of doctors anyone could hope for.

I'm going to start eating more cabbage. I try to follow an antiinflamatory diet while avoiding vitamin C, Iron and excess salts, sugar, and white flour. This is not easy by any means. But my liver is healthier then it has been in about 8 years and I feel alive again with a heart that is no longer enlarged.

Good luck to all you hemo patients.. Thanks for the advice!

I had used cabbage juice with cucumber and beetroot daily for one month. This increased heat in my feet and I thought my vitamin c levels are increased. Some other symptoms raised were fatigue and low sex drive. I think this means cabbage beet root and cucumber increased the absorption of iron in the body.

I am interested in trying these remedies for elevated iron levels. Mine is 3700 and I want to try a natural way to lower it. Can you tell me the dosage of turmeric, cayenne, probiotics and ginger that you used. Thank you so much! LD

Since my last comment in 2012 my serum ferritin levels dropped from over 7000 to 2700 due to venesection (phlebotomy). I continue to eat cabbage 3 times a week but I have now given up eating meat.

Unfortunately, I had a stroke recently so I have been told I can't have venesection/phlebotomy (bloodletting) for 8 weeks. My ferritin has since raised to 2900. I don't believe that cabbage or green tea (which I drink 4 times a day) have any value as chelation agents and can't wait to get back to venesection, which to my mind is the only useful way to reduce iron levels. Sorry but there are no miracle cures!

I have High Ferritin Serum due to having HEP c. will cole slaw lower my count?
It is 321 and very dangerous I am told. If you have any information on this please send it to me. Thanks Jan

Wife has super high ferratin level we believe caused by chemo therapy treatments (she has endometrial cancer and multiple chem treatments). We are trying green tea and cabbage, calcium and vitamin e based on this post. Seeing Oncologist today and GP is stumped for now.

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