Herbal teas typically contain boiled water and dried fruits, herbs or flowers. Some herbal tea ingredients provide good sources of nonheme iron, a type of plant-based dietary iron. Sufficient daily iron intake can help prevent iron deficiency anemia, a condition that causes fatigue, weakness and decreased immune function.
Iron-Rich Herbal Teas
Some herbal teas contain high amounts of iron and other nutrients. Red raspberry leaf, dandelion, nettles and yellow dock all have high amounts of iron, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Dandelion also provides a good source of vitamin A and calcium and nettles provide a good source of calcium, potassium and vitamins A, C and K.
Iron Absorption Hindrances
Several food components, including tannins found in teas, can inhibit the body’s absorption of nonheme iron. The body absorbs nonheme iron less efficiently than heme iron, absorbing only 2 to 20 percent of it, as compared to the 15 to 35 percent of heme iron the body typically absorbs. Black teas and green teas contain tannins, but herbal teas do not. Herbal teas provide a good alternative to tannin-containing teas that may decrease iron absorption. Calcium also hinders iron absorption, however, so avoid adding milk to herbal tea when drinking it alongside nonheme iron sources.
Iron Absorption Boosters
Meat proteins and foods rich in vitamin C can improve your body’s ability to absorb nonheme iron. To maximize your body’s absorption of herbal tea’s nonheme iron, add lemon juice to your tea or have it alongside another citrus fruit, like an orange or grapefruit.
Pregnancy and Herbal Teas
Pregnant women need much higher amounts of iron per day than other women. The National Institutes of Health recommends that pregnant women get 27 mg of iron per day. Iron-rich herbal teas can help prevent iron deficiency during pregnancy. Pregnant women can safely drink most commercial herbal teas in reasonable amounts, according to the American Pregnancy Association, but teas not made commercially or those made with excessive herbs may not be safe. Discuss herbal teas with your doctor or midwife before adding them to your pregnancy diet.