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Rosemary Gladstar’s Iron Syrup

recipes Sep 21, 2021

This recipe is from my well-loved copy of Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar, published in 1993.

Rosemary calls it Iron-Plus Syrup.

The 'plus', is the addition of vitamin C and other mineral-rich herbs that help the body absorb iron.

*Read my commentary at the bottom.


  • 3 parts nettle
  • 3 parts dandelion leaf
  • 3 parts dandelion root
  • 3 parts raspberry leaf
  • 2 parts watercress
  • 2 parts alfalfa leaf
  • 1 part hawthorn berries
  • 1 part yellow dock root
  • 1 part dulse
  • 1/4 part horsetail


  1. Use two ounces of herb mixture to one quart of water.  Over low heat, simmer the liquid down to one pint. This will give you a very concentrated, thick tea.
  2. Strain the herbs from the liquid.  Compost the herbs and pour the liquid back into the pan.
  3. To each pint of liquid, add one cup of honey (or a combination of honey and maple syrup, or even sugar).   Most recipes call for two cups of sweetener per pint of liquid making a 1:1 ratio of sweetener to liquid. This ratio helps preserve it and allows it to be shelf-stable for longer. Sugar was added in large quantities in the days before refrigeration to help preserve the syrup. Though this does aid in preserving the syrup, I find it much too sweet for my taste. Since most people now have refrigerators I generally suggest less sweetener. Apply by taste.
  4. Warm the honey (or other sweeteners) and the liquid together to mix well. Most recipes suggest cooking the honey and tea together for twenty to thirty minutes or longer over high heat to thicken it further.
    It does certainly make for a thick syrup, but I'd rather not cook the enzymes out of the honey so I suggest warming them only enough to mix them well.
  5. When finished, you may choose to add 1/4 cup of brandy to the finished syrup.  Brandy helps to preserve the syrup.  For children, I would add half the amount, if at all.  When they take it, they will be getting such a small dosage of the brandy that it will not harm them.  However, some parents may wish to omit it and that is fine.  Just know that it will not keep as long in your fridge without alcohol, (may only last 2 weeks as opposed to a few months).
    After adding the honey or maple syrup, stir in two teaspoons of spirulina powder and two teaspoons of nutritional yeast for each pint of syrup you've made. Add one-eighth cup of brandy and one-fourth cup of fruit concentrate. Fruit concentrates, available at natural food stores, are concentrated extracts of fresh fruit and add additional vitamins and minerals as well as a delicious fruity flavour. Do not add juice, as it will dilute the syrup and encourage possible fermentation.

The suggested dose is 4-6 TBSP daily. half of this for children.
- Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Healing for Women

Seraphina's tips

I use honey as a sweetener but also add a bit of molasses for the B vitamins, a small amount of iron and for the taste. I add approximately 4 TBSP of molasses, but truthfully I just add it while tasting the syrup to get the right flavour.

It's difficult to find watercress around here. So instead I simply leave it out or replace it with other nutritionally dense herbs such as schizandra berry, rose hips, a bit of comfrey leaf, and plaintain leaf. If you cannot find an ingredient, simply leave it out.

It's important you use fruit concentrate, and not fruit juice. Fruit concentrate is more costly but worth it. I use black cherry concentrate, pomegrate concentrate or elderberry concentrate when I can find it. The recipe calls for only a little bit, but don't worry, it's powerful stuff so you can keep it at the back of your fridge without it going bad. Alternatively, you can freeze it for the next time you make syrup.

I do like to add brandy to help preserve the syrup. To make it even more power-packed I use a herbal tincture based in alcohol so the brandy portion is medicinal. I'll use whatever I have on hand that makes sense to add such as yellow dock tincture, rose hip tincture, hawthorn tincture, codonopsis etc.
But if you do not consume alcohol or don't have tinctures on hand, once again just omit the alcohol. The syrup will still last quite a while in the fridge because all these ingredients, plus the sweetener, plus the fruit concentrate are high in antioxidants and degrade slowly. Just be sure you use a good clean jar with a tightly fastened lid.

And don't forget - label your jar! Include all the ingredients and be sure to label the syrup with the date. Take it from me, the worst is wondering what's in that mysterious jar at the back of the fridge..... Also, keep impeccable recipe notes so you know what batch turned out especially well. This way you can repeat your success. Or, improve upon it if it doesn't work out.



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