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.