Herbs for Better Calcium

Did you see the recent article warning that calcium supplements boost myocardial infarction risk? (Found here).

This isn’t the first time I’ve run across warnings about calcium supplements. For many years both men and women have been advised to supplement their calcium intake with generalized recommended doses of calcium that don’t take into account the specific nutritional needs of individuals. These standardized doses can be dangerous. Especially when they leave out other vital components necessary for balance. For example; calcium rides alongside magnesium, potassium and vitamin D. And not all forms of calcium are equal. Inorganic calcium goes into the body and then just sits there twiddling its thumbs, gumming things up.

Recent research demonstrates that to prevent bone loss we don’t need more calcium, we need to maintain pH balance in the body. Calcium requires an oxygen rich alkaline environment to build strong bones. The standard Western diet, however, is highly acid forming which makes calcium supplementation ineffective and possibly harmful. We tend to think of milk as a primary source of calcium. However, the pasteurized/homogenized milk we find in the grocery store is acid forming. Its calcium isn’t going to metabolize properly. If you can get raw unpasteurized milk you’ll get a food that is alkaline forming and useful for providing calcium. For more information on acid/alkaline balance and food recommendations check here.

So, the first step in maintaining strong bones is to tilt the diet towards foods with an alkalizing effect in the body. These include most fruits and vegetables and fermented foods. Some of the best are carrots, figs, raisins,limes, stevia, Kombucha,  sea salt.

Next, avoid foods that actually leach calcium out of the body (alas, some of our favorites!): sugars, pastry, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, breads, candy.

Be aware if you’re in a group with higher calcium needs. For example, some drugs, like cortisone, cause brittle bones and require higher intake of calcium and vitamin D. There are some health conditions — like colitis — which up the need for calcium. When recovering from bone fractures, increased bio-available calcium is useful. Herbal calcium is very useful for folks suffering from migraines.

How do you know if you don’t have enough calcium? Two of the first signs are frequent headaches and/ or leg cramps (which can also be due to lack of magnesium).

Homemade Herbal Calcium Supplement

We can make our own calcium supplements using herbs that are high in calcium and related minerals. These minerals are easily absorbed and utilized by the body without risky side effects like myocardial infarction.

Herbalist, Susan Weed, recommends the following for one of the simplest formulas for highly assimilable calcium:

Mix together a handful of each of the following herbs: Stinging Nettle leaf, Horsetail, Oat straw. Use this mix to make an infusion taken throughout the day. To further round out the minerals add alfalfa leaf and parsley.  Prepare it as an infusion with 1tsp to 1 tbs herb per cup of water. Best to prepare overnight, add herbs to quart of water and let it sit. Strain the next morning and sip throughout the day. A quart can last a couple of days, refrigerate.

Dr. Christopher has an herbal calcium product, Calc-Tea, that contains horsetail grass, oat straw, comfrey leaves and lobelia. He points out that the silica in horsetail converts to calcium and the other herbs work in close conjunction. If you want to make it yourself mix 6 parts horsetail grass, 4 parts comfrey leaf, 3 parts oat straw, 1 part lobelia.

You can make the tea with 1 tablespoon of the herbs (combined, cut) per cup of  water and let the herbs sit in the boiling water for 30 seconds or so. Cover and let cool. Heat back up nearly to boiling and then strain. Add honey to 1/3 the volume of tea: that is, if you have three pints of tea made up, you will add 1 pint of honey, making 4 pints altogether. To this add 1/3 volume of raw apple cider vinegar (1 pint of ACV to the mix, making 5 pints). This will keep in the fridge indefinitely.

When I was living with Renee Taylor, the woman who made Hunza health secrets famous, she showed me another calcium trick. If you eat eggs instead of tossing the shells in the compost pit, toss them into a jar of vinegar. The shells give up their calcium to the vinegar and you use the calcium vinegar in your diet.

What if you can’t get the herbs I mentioned above? Go for the wild greens, learn how to identify them and use them liberally. If you want them for their minerals, cook them down. Use them in long simmering soups. Even garden greens will provide bioavailable calcium, amounts depending on the calcium content of the soil.

In these penny pinching times, its good to know that the best kind of calcium is freely found growing around us.

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About dcoda

An herbalist for over 40 years, ten years spent alone in the Ozark Hurricane Creek Wilderness Preserve, working with its brilliant botanicals. I'm an instructor and co-founder of the Ozark Herbal Academy which offers training in medicinal and edible plants through hands-on workshops and online courses.

Posted on August 17, 2010, in Nutrition and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Morning D’Coda! Great post! thanks for the information. Greens are so easy to grow in our gardens. they can be sown early, and then sown again late in the year and will hold over, if given a little protection.

    One of the Favorite times for me, is the early Spring, when the wild greens are getting started. Lambs Quarter, Fiddlehead, even poke-though it takes a little care to taste good. It seems like we wait anxiously for that first taste of green. Kinda like an insurance policy that Spring is really coming.

    We use a lot of comfrey- my grand mother used it as one of her spring lcensers , along with Sassafras, and a local lady , Helen king used to dose almost everyailment or wound with comfrey tea or poultice… boy does that bring back a slew of memories.

    Any way- thanks for the post- it helps -to know sound sources of calcium intake. Take care and Blessings- Nene

  2. Great post. We drink Oatstraw infusion almost daily and I don’t know what I’d do without it. Thanks for the tips about the egg shells!!!

  3. Great post! I’m excited about trying out the eggshell trick as well as getting the herbs mentioned on this page. My mom is always harping about taking calcium supplements, but I’ve never found them very effective for me personally. I have found that taking magnesium supplements does make small differences for me. But more than anything, food makes changes where pills never can.

    I’m wondering about the “silica converts to calcium” statement. I did a bunch of google searches trying to discover where the idea came from. While silicate is important in the early stages of bone regeneration, and part of the bone building process in general, but the silica doesn’t transform into calcium.

    I think it may just be one of those wordy technicalities.

    Like, a lot of people say that enzymes “die” when cooked, because it’s an easy way to remember and think about the effect on enzymes when they are cooked. But enzymes are actually more accurately “bound” in such a way that they become useless to the body.

    It’s a royal pain, but sooner or later someone comes along who knows about science and likes to say “Oh! You have no idea what you’re talking about because you said ‘_____’ and that is just scientifically impossible!” I get hit in the face with that insanity a lot, despite all my years of research and personal experience. It’s infuriating. So I try to know some of the science behind what I’m saying so that I can back my words up. Or use direct quotes with a link to another site.

    Great site you have here, I look forward to reading more.

    😀

    ~Raederle Phoenix

    • I know exactly what you mean about (what I consider) pseudo-scientific bashing. I post a lot on just how unscientific science has become, bias interfering with genuine research. As for the silica, its an energetic process we’re talking about where the energetics of silica influence calcium. Whenever possible, properly prepared “real” food is the way to go…what the body knows how to use. Glad to have you joining this circle!

  4. Thank you, great post. I am working on teeth remineralization, and filler free supplements are very expensive. I am avoiding anything with magnesium stearate and stearic acid, which takes out 99 percent of supplements on the market today. Now I can make my own herbal calcium relatively cheap since I grow my own comfrey and nettles. Just have to buy oat straw, horsetail, and lobelia.

    • You’re wise to avoid the stearates. Fortunately, aside from making our own supplements, there are now whole food supplement powders that don’t have magnesium stearate in them. But these things can be pricey! I’d love to know how the herbal supplement works for you. Hugs, dcoda

  5. I have to wonder about the inclusion of lobelia in that mixture. Lobelia is pretty tricky stuff, it is emetic (makes you vomit) in high doses, and although it is seemingly safe and relaxing in tiny doses, I still don’t understand why it would be in a mix for teeth and bone remineralisation. Thoughts?

    Then there’s the horsetail. Safe enough if picked when very young, but if not, the silica content is harmful to the kidneys. Then there’s the fungal issues that arise if it is not picked on a completely dry day or if it is stored improperly. Picking your own would be far safer than trusting a mail order source for horsetail, for sure!

    Finally, sorry to split hairs, but Susun Weed definitely does not recommend blending the herbs suggested above. She recommends (very strongly) that they be used one at a time and rotated over the course of days. Also, parsley should never be infused overnight, only steeped for a few moments, as it is also harsh on the kidneys.

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