Anemia is caused because of deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin levels in the blood. It is marked by skin paleness and generalized weakness in the body. Anemia is one of the most common blood disorders, which affects many people globally. It is mostly seen among women in the childbearing age group, but it may also affect young children due to various factors. Anemia is chiefly caused by the association of long standing disease conditions and improper diet.
What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?
The term sickle cell disease (SCD) describes a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. People with SCD have abnormal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S or sickle hemoglobin, in their red blood cells. When a person has two hemoglobin S genes, Hemoglobin SS, the disease is called sickle cell anemia. This is the most common and often most severe kind of SCD.1 Anti-sickling herbs are commonly used in West Africa and are used in treating various health conditions, including sickle cell anemia. Anemic patients in West Africa, where sickle cell anemia (SCA) is endemic, have been treated with natural products, especially herbs. This form of traditional medication is still prevalent in rural communities.2
Here are some herbs that have the potential to treat anemia and improve blood quality.
Nettle, commonly known as stinging nettle, is a herb that contains very high levels iron. For centuries, this plant has been extensively used as a source of medicine, food, and fiber. It has been used in the preparation of nettle tonic, tea, or supplement to help recover from anemia. It is also a rich source of vitamins A (retinol), B group, C (ascorbic acid), and K, which improve iron absorption in the body. The powered leaf extract has been used as an anti-hemorrhagic agent to reduce excessive menstrual flow and nose bleedings. In folk medicine, it is used for the treatment of anemia and considered as blood builders.3
Parsley is a popular green herb native to the Mediterranean and is widely used in western cuisine, commonly used as a garnish. It is an excellent treatment to overcome anemia as it contains a significant concentration of iron and folic acid. Vitamin C present in parsley helps your body to absorb the iron efficiently. Parsley is full of antioxidants, which may prevent cadmium toxicity and has a profound effect on the recovery of anemia.4 Doctors often suggest drinking parsley juice on tea for persons who find it difficult to take iron supplements. Parsley is an effective medicinal plant to increase iron content in the body and recover from anemia.
Dandelion is a herbaceous perennial plant that has medicinal and culinary uses. Dandelion has been used as a remedy for anemia, purifying the blood, and providing immune modulation. It is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and is particularly high in vitamins A and C and iron. It contains more iron and calcium than spinach.5 Dandelion has traditionally been used to fortify and cleanse the blood. It may help bring levels of hemoglobin into normal range in mild cases of anemia.6 Iron-deficiency anemia is mainly caused due to either the lack of iron-rich foods in your diet, or because your body is unable to efficiently absorb the iron present in foods. Dandelion leaves not only contain high levels of iron, but also enhance the body’s ability to absorb this important mineral.
Alfalfa is rich in vitamins and phytochemicals. It also contains high levels of beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and K. The presence of vitamin C in alfalfa helps the body to absorb the iron in food. Physicians practicing traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines have used young alfalfa leaves to treat disorders. It can be consumed in a variety of ways such as sprouts on sandwiches, alfalfa seeds in salads, or it can even be cooked as a vegetable. Alfalfa has many healing properties including its ability to detoxify the body due to its high chlorophyll content. Aalfalfa has been used for treating many conditions by 19th-century physicians in the United States who also used it as a herbal therapy for anemia.7 The results obtained in the study demonstrate that alfalfa concentrate is an effective and more palatable alternative to iron and folic acid supplements for treating anemia in adolescent girls.8
Watercress is an aquatic plant and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. It is rich in vitamin K and contains considerable amounts of vitamin A, C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, manganese, and folate. It contains more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges. It also has very low concentrations of toxic metals making watercress an effective herb to increase iron content in blood and completely safe for human consumption.9
Watercress supplement included in the diet has shown beneficial changes that were greater and more significant in smokers than in non-smokers. Plasma lutein and beta-carotene increased significantly by 100% and 33%, respectively, after watercress supplementation.10
Sorghum, also known as great millet, is a grass species cultivated for its grain. In parts of West Africa, it is used as a herbal treatment for anemia. Recent research has found that supplementing with sorghum bicolor extract along with iron and folic acid before surgery can decrease anemia. Sorghum bicolor extract is from the leaf of the sorghum bicolor strain grown in South West Nigeria. The extract has been shown to have properties that can increase red blood cells. People with preoperative anemia can include sorghum bicolor extract as a simple and low-cost intervention.11
|↑1||What Is Sickle Cell Disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2016.|
|↑2||Ameh, Sunday J., Florence D. Tarfa, and Benjamin U. Ebeshi. “Traditional herbal management of sickle cell anemia: lessons from Nigeria.” Anemia 2012 (2012).|
|↑3||Ahmed, KK Mueen, and Subramani Parsuraman. “Urtica dioica L.,(Urticaceae): A Stinging Nettle.” Systematic Reviews in Pharmacy 5, no. 1 (2014): 6.|
|↑4||Allam, Ahmed A., Salah N. Maodaa, Rasha Abo-Eleneen, and Jamaan Ajarem. “Protective effect of parsley juice (Petroselinum crispum, Apiaceae) against cadmium deleterious changes in the developed albino mice newborns (Mus musculus) brain.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 2016 (2016).|
|↑5||Modaresi, Mehrdad, and Narges Resalatpour. “The effect of Taraxacum officinale hydroalcoholic extract on blood cells in mice.” Advances in hematology 2012 (2012).|
|↑6||Anemia. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2015.|
|↑7||Alfalfa. Michigan Medicine. University Of Michigan. 2015.|
|↑8||Grela, E. R., and K. Pietrzak. “Production technology, chemical composition and use of alfalfa protein-xanthophyll concentrate as dietary supplement.” Journal of Food Processing and Technology 5, no. 10 (2014).|
|↑9||Kisten, Kimona, Denisha Gounden, Roshila Moodley, and Sreekantha B. Jonnalagadda. “Elemental distribution and uptake by watercress (Nasturtium aquaticum) as a function of water quality.” Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B 50, no. 6 (2015): 439-447.|
|↑10||Gill, Chris IR, Sumanto Haldar, Lindsay A. Boyd, Richard Bennett, Joy Whiteford, Michelle Butler, Jenny R. Pearson, Ian Bradbury, and Ian R. Rowland. “Watercress supplementation in diet reduces lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 85, no. 2 (2007): 504-510.|
|↑11||Tayo, Adetokunbo O., Adedoyin O. Dosunmu, Ireti O. Akinola, Adeniyi Adewunmi, Olufemi A. Oloyede, Akinsegun A. Akinbami, Bodunrin I. Osikomaiya, and Samira BL Makanjuola. “An open-label, randomized, parallel-group comparative study of the efficacy of sorghum bicolor extract in preoperative anemia.” Nutrition 33 (2017): 113-117.|