To listen to a radio broadcast on this topic from The Herbal Highway, go to this link: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/88126
Back to basics, back to our bones. In my previous article I covered osteoporosis, basic bone info and focused on diet and exercise. In this installment I’ll cover supplements, and herbs; for physical, emotional and spiritual support.
If you have received a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis, you may want to consider supplementation. Also, if your digestive system is not working well and you are not absorbing all of the nutrients that you are eating, you may also want to consider supplementation.
If you simply aren’t eating well it is really best to put your time, energy and money into eating better rather than taking supplements. It is possible to over-do supplements, contrary to popular opinion there can be too much of a good thing. So, the safest route is to eat what you need. Eating well is better for your overall health anyway.
All of that being said, there are two supplements to consider for bone health; vitamin D and calcium.
- vitamin D along with adequate sunshine helps your body to absorb calcium
- adequate sunshine is defined as three times per week for about 10-15 minutes; if you are younger and spend time outside regularly. ‘They’ say older folks need more sunlight because there is an assumption that they are getting out less and their body is now less able to utilize sunlight efficiently. If you are older and spend quality time outdoors, you are likely getting enough sunlight and using it well because your body is used to doing that function. Younger folks who never spend time outside may need additional sunlight along with their elders. For folks that cannot get outside, full spectrum lighting is important.
- The recommended dose for adults is 400- 800 IU; for men and women over 50 it is 800-1000 IU
- Calcium is an important mineral for our bone composition. Calcium citrate is the form most recommended.
- A recent study found no link between increased calcium supplementation and increased heart risk; which has been a concern to some people. (National Osteoporosis Foundation, 2012, http://www.nof.org/ )
- Calcium is also important for healthy nerves and proper heart function.
- The recommended dose for adults is 1000 mg/day; women over 50, 1,200 mg/day; men over 50, 1000 mg/day.
Tea and herbal vinegar are the best ways to take your high mineral herbs. Think of these herbs as concentrated food. Vinegar is especially helpful as it makes the minerals easier to assimilate. I’m not including the full list of what these herbs do, but giving you a glimpse with a focus on bone health.
- Oats – (avena sativa, not oatmeal); straw for tea or vinegar or fresh milky top tincture or vinegar; thought of mostly for adrenal and nervous system support, but is highly nutritive and good for the bones as well
- Nettles – aerial parts; alterative, anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, astringent; nutritive: calcium and magnesium, to name a few; improves hair, skin, nails; warning: do not use leaves post flower (oxalate builds up and can cause kidney irritation/stomach upset)
- Red clover – flowering tops; nutritive: high vitamin and mineral content; alkalizes blood; anti-histamine; warning: fresh plant is estrogenic
- Alfalfa – aerial parts; nutritive: high vitamin and mineral content
The following herbs are less food and more medicine. So that means, take them with more caution and check with your health care practitioner first if you have a serious illness and/or are taking pharmaceuticals.
- Comfrey – leaf; one of its common names is ‘knit bone’; anti-inflammatory; demulcent; stimulates laying down of bone matrix; helps heal broken bones; heals damaged tissue, encourages cellular growth; aids connective tissue healing; also high in calcium and other important minerals; warning: do not use on punctures or deep wounds; leaf is safer than root for liver concerns
- Yellow dock – root; cold and stimulating; blood cleanser; anti-microbial; liver stimulant; high in manganese, magnesium, calcium and other minerals and vitamins; warning: not for acute liver issues/disease, not for long term use
I second that emotion…
Last but not least, let’s talk about the emotional and spiritual aspects of osteoporosis.
On a metaphorical level, our bones are our structure, the frame, what holds us up, our foundation. This can take us to issues of feeling supported, ‘does anyone have my back?’ ‘feeling stabbed in the back’. People often experience their back going out when they have had an emotional upset or betrayal with a close person in their lives. Even though our skeleton is throughout our body, I also relate it most strongly to the root or first chakra; which is again, about our foundation.
It is not uncommon for people with osteoporosis to feel vulnerable and fragile and get very fearful. That real fear of breaking bones can permeate other areas and become a generalized fear. This isn’t helpful. It is important to stay strong in your spirit while you strengthen your bones. Otherwise it can be easy to feel fragile on all levels.
So, when we have a physical issue, it is important to also look at possible emotional, spiritual and energetic patterns as well. You can argue, and it will vary from person to person, what came first; the physical imbalance or the energetic one. In either case, both need to be addressed if both are being impacted. With that in mind, here are some essences to consider. You can think of this list as a starting point, if you don’t find one that speaks directly to you, it will give you an idea of what direction to go in:
First chakra specific: ancestors, survival, root, grounding
- Red rose (Luna Fina, http://lunafina.com/rose_chakra.html) connection to earth and sky
- Valonia Oak (Greek Tree Essences, http://www.melissaassilem.com/) connecting to the earth’s center, awakening kundalini, brings self-reliance; walking without crutches
- Petrified sequoia (Greek Tree Essences, http://www.melissaassilem.com/) survival of the earth, survival fears and physical health; inherited belief systems
Jane Bell once explained that the gem essences in general help with structure, provide a matrix. Since they are mineral and our bones are largely mineral, there is a nice affinity here. Here are a couple of gem essences, from Alaskan Essences (http://www.alaskanessences.com/products/gems.html) that you might consider:
- Peridot – projecting failure when attempting to learn or do something new; feeling unprotected while in ‘the void’; provides support and protection for any new cycle of growth; supports the heart; supports deep experiences of healing and transformation
- Aventurine – lacking stamina; wanting to quit when faced with obstacles; fearful when facing the unknown; strengthens the central, vertical axis (sounds like the spine, right?) which stabilizes us during expansion; provides energetic support structure that helps us move into and through new experiences with grace and perseverance
Other supportive essences:
- Aloe (Desert Alchemy,http://www.desert-alchemy.com/txt/essences.html) – impatience with healing process; resistance to allowing anything you have ‘stuffed’ or repressed to come up; key quality of this essence is feeling supported from within self (so you are providing your own support/structure); cultivates patience and surrender to the healing process; gets you in touch with the underlying joy
- Milky Nipple Cactus (Desert Alchemy, http://www.desert-alchemy.com/txt/essences.html ) – problems with mother connection; issues about nurturing; needing constant attention from others; avoidance of deep issues; brings calming, rooting, belonging to the earth, autonomy; helps ground energy firmly to the earth; brings a secure sense of connectedness to the physical level
- Restructuring elixir (Keeping Time, http://stargazerli.com/essences/essence-elixirs) – for strength and focus in the midst of intense transformation
- Still Here elixir (Keeping Time, http://stargazerli.com/essences/essence-elixirs) – helps you to be present by rooting you in the earth and attuning to the north star
- Coral (Hawaiian Essences,http://janebellessences.com/flower-essences/hawaiian-essences ) – creating structures for pleasure and nourishment in our lives to allow fluidity of movement within our bodies and in the world; good for nourishing bones and fluids; again an essence made from something largely mineral
- Lava (Hawaiian Essences, http://janebellessences.com/flower-essences/hawaiian-essences ) – holds the wild creative potential to flow with change rather than resist it; owning our power to manifest intention into form; resistance; here we have literally, liquid, fluid rock
Hopefully, this has given you some pause for thought to look at how you are nourishing your bones and how you are nourishing your spirit around issues of strength, support and grounding. Take the time to evaluate where you stand in your self care around your bones and see what steps you can take toward improving your attention to this important part of our bodies. Afterall, the foundation is what all else is built upon.