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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Herbal Allies

It is better to make little life changes along the way and feel somewhat in control than to wait until the big "change" is upon us and feel helpless.  Menopause is a natural stage of life that women push out of their minds until forced to deal with it.  Rather than living in dread and fear of the inevitable, why not reduce the risk of weakening bones with a few lifestyle changes now.

When people think of osteoporosis they usually just think about bone strength, but what is really important is the flexibility of the bones.  Flexible bones bend, whereas stiff bones snap (a link to more information).  If you cut and burn firewood you can easily visualize the comparison between green limbs and dry wood. Green wood gives when stressed whereas dry wood too easily succumbs to a good whack with its cracking sound.

It is a mistake to think that all we need is extra calcium to give our bones what they need (a link to more information). Bones are rich in many minerals, such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, silica, iron, zinc, selenium, boron, phosphorus, sulphur, chromium and more.  For our bodies to be able to absorb and utilize these minerals there has to be a balance between the supply and demand, and in a form the body can recognize.  For example, we need enough vitamin D present along with enough high-quality fats for proper assimilation.  We cannot just take our 1000 mg. of calcium a day and think that is sufficient.  Calcium all by itself is like a brittle piece of chalk, and if the body cannot break it down it just gets eliminated.  Municipal water treatment facilities can attest to the fact that on a regular basis, countless undigested vitamin and mineral pills  end up being pulled out of their city sewage filters.

According to the Physicians Desk Reference, "supplements in tablet or pill form are only 10% absorbed by the body."  So frustrating to think we're flushing away our money while just complying with our doctor's advice.
Digestion breaks down foods (and supplements) to find the nutrients hidden inside, and it uses whatever nutrients it finds in a useable size/state.  For the body to be able to use a nutrient, the nutrient must be able to enter a cell. Most of the minerals presented to the body through supplements are not recognized by cells as the minerals needed because they are in sizes and forms that are ineffective for cell assimilation. Calcium carbonate (one calcium atom and three carbon atoms) is not calcium (one calcium atom), chromium picolinate is not chromium, copper glutamate is not copper, etc., and none of these kinds of complex compounds are recognized by the cells as welcome nutrients, nor are they able to bond with water to enter the cell membrane. This would help to explain why people can take calcium carbonate supplements religiously, and yet their bodies continue to rob calcium from their bones causing osteoporosis.

So what are we supposed to do?  Farming practices have left our soils deplete in necessary essential nutrients so we are told we have to supplement our diets. Supplement with plants! 
One of the most amazing attributes of the plant kingdom is it's ability to extract metallic compounds (minerals) from simple dirt and rocks and, with the help of the sun, rain, and soil bacteria, transform those metallic minerals into crystalline, water-soluble forms of the same pure minerals, and in doing so, make them usable to the animal life on the planet, including humans!  The minerals in plants are water soluble therefore in a form easily absorbed by our bodies.

Herbal sources of necessary minerals needed for not only strong bones but all of our bodily systems include:  nettles, red clover, red raspberry, dandelion leaf, lamb's quarters, plantain, chickweed, dock, rose petals, rose hips, chicory, lemon balm and horsetail.  Get past the mentality that these plants are just weeds.  These plants have historically been used as a source of food as well as medicine to give the body what it needs. They grow naturally, are not an agricultural crop, therefore their genetic forms have not been altered and our bodies easily recognize their chemical makeup. Get yourself a good book on edible wild plants and you'll be amazed how many there are that we step on or pass by everyday without a second thought as to why mother nature put them here in the first place. A good source you could use is "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and not so wild) Places.  Written by Steve Brill and Evelyn Dean.

1.  Utilizing plants in the form of tea infusions have been used all over the world for more than 5,000 years.  Tea blends are therapeutic, soothing and nourishing to both the soul and body.  Make tea time a daily ritual and you'll find it a wonderful way to relax and unwind, all while helping your body receive its necessary supplements.
http://www.teavana.com/


These sites are wonderful sources for delicious loose-leaf tea blends and various types of teapots.












chickweed


dandelion
2.  Spring greens have historically been eaten to detox and restore a body after a long, sedentary winter eating heavier foods.  Gather dandelion, nettles, chickweed, lamb's quarters and plantain in the spring when they are young and tender.
Add them to your usual salad or serve them as a cooked vegetable sauteed in a little olive oil or butter and seasoned with sea salt and/or vinegar.

pigweed or lamb's quarters
 3.  Herbal vinegars are a wonderful way to put up herbs for later use.  Natural vinegars, preferably raw with the mother (Bragg's vinegar is a good one), are especially effective for extracting the mineral richness of plants.  Gather your plants in late morning (let the sun dry them a bit from the morning dampness and make sure there hasn't been pesticide used on the area), and fill a mason jar with the fresh leaves, flowers or roots (tear or chop them up to expose more surface area).  Cover with your chosen vinegar and cap (don't use a metal lid).  Let sit for about six weeks, occasionally shake the jar, then strain off the herbs.  You now have an ideal salad dressing loaded with goodness from the plants themselves.


 4. A very informative article on how to make a nourishing, mineral rich soup stock boney brew.
The prolonged cooking of bones in water results in a nutritionally rich broth that promotes strength, tonify blood, and helps to prevent bone and connective tissue disorders. Once made, it can be eaten as a soup of just the broth or used as the base for any soup recipe of your choosing. It may also be used as a base for sauces or added in place of water in the cooking of rice or other grains.
Here is an excellent book on how to make boney brews and delicious recipes.


 5. Weight bearing and rhythmetrical exercise helps to strengthen and maintain flexible bones. The body is meant to move, a sedentary lifestyle just isn't natural.  The body is designed to push, pull, lift, bend and stretch. Don't get in the habit of the all or nothing method of visiting the gym once in a while and going overboard. Programs are great, but overdoing it in spurts can cause injury. Choose various activities you enjoy enough to keep it up and that use different muscle groups.  Alternate running or zumba with yoga or swimming.
Though our society has countless appliances and gadgets to save us time and energy, and we all know time is money, for the good of our health let's sometimes try to pass up on those energy savers.  Walk or bike whenever you can, take the stairs rather than the escalator or elevator.  Do your own labor intensive work, just find little ways to put more movement into your everyday life.

Sources for this post came from The Mineral Water Store nutritional supplementation and herbalist Susun Weed.  Her books include "The Menopausal Years" and "Healing Wise"