I am thrilled and so grateful to present Robin Rose Bennett with her special Bone Health article.

Herbs for the Health of your Bones

by Robin Rose Bennett, Founder Wisewoman Healing Ways

www.WiseWomanHealingWays.com

I am a woman, so of course I’m concerned about the health of my bones. Like everyone else I’ve been bombarded with warnings about osteoporosis being an inevitable outcome of getting older. Not only that, but since I was a small child I have suffered from bone loss in my mouth or what’s now called juvenile periodontitis.

At 16 I was told I wouldn’t have a tooth left in my mouth by the time I was 20. Fortunately that dire prediction didn’t prove true, and though I have lost some teeth much later, and must pay good attention and tend to myself consistently, my mouth is healthy, in fact healthier than it has been in my whole life.

It is said that within every challenge lies an opportunity or blessing. When I received that prediction, I began to look for answers to this serious health problem.  And this led me to discover the magic and power of herbal medicine, which has been serving me well for 30+ years and continues to be the soulful center of my approach to health-care for myself, and for those I serve as an herbalist. I say ‘soulful’ because the herbs themselves are generous healers and medicine beings. That is their purpose and they have always stayed true to it. Plants were helping people to heal long before anyone began turning them into little pills we could buy at the health food store.

Herbal medicine is truly the people’s medicine and can be found right in our kitchens. The methods I use and teach are focused on preparing the plants in ways that help us to receive their healing gifts (vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and other constituents) as fully as possible and to do this in a low-tech way that anyone can do well. Also, recognizing that most of us feel over-committed, overloaded and tired, I know we need simple, easy ways to take care of ourselves so that we will fit self-care into our lives.

The herbs I favor are both gentle and potent. I use commonly available herbs to awaken the vital force within the body to heal itself. These herbs are nourishing (meaning they build actual substance in the body, like whole foods) and tonifying (meaning that regular, rhythmic use of them will help an organ or system to function better).
In many ways, bone health is all about taking in and assimilating an abundance of minerals. Assimilation requires that the minerals are being taken in a form our bodies know how to make use of. Here are my top three most reliable approaches to herbal nourishment of our bones:

Herbal Infusions- water based herbal preparations using dried herbs
Bone broths– long steeping (24 hours) soup stocks made with a splash of vinegar and immune and bone nourishing mushrooms, carrots, onions, garlic, and mineral rich herbs such as parsley, seaweeds, rosemary, and sage.  See below for recipe
Herbal Vinegars– vinegar based herbal preparations using fresh herbs

Herbal infusions are simple to make and offer us an excellent way to get our bone nourishing minerals on a daily basis. Boiling water opens up the cell walls in the plants and draws the minerals and vitamins out of the plant into the liquid that we are drinking.
Directions for infusions are as follows:


Ball Jar

  • Add 1-1 1/2 cup of dried herbs to a quart jar (ball jars work well)
  • Pour a quart of boiling water over the herbs, filling the jar to the top capping it air-tight.
  • Let the herbs steep overnight, or between 8-12 hours.
  • Once it’s made, pour the liquid through a strainer into another jar.

This transforms an herbal beverage into a medicinal strength infusion.

  • Squeeze out the herbs to get every drop, and then put the infusion in the refrigerator or heat it up and put it into a stainless steel thermos to drink throughout your day.

You can drink infusions hot, cold, or room temperature.
Drink between 2 -4 cups a day for optimum bone health.
And experiment, sometimes an herbal taste you don’t care for hot will taste perfectly acceptable drunk at room temperature or cold.

Oatstraw Oatstraw – Avena sativa – Oats release even more minerals if they are boiled in some water for a few minutes before being poured into the jar to steep overnight. They are well known for their abundance of highly assimilable minerals such as magnesium, chromium, sodium, silicon, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. These build and strengthen our bones, teeth, nails, and hair. Oats make a sweet, mellow tasting brew that is infinitely more satisfying and safer than swallowing a bunch of mineral supplements. Oatstraw (the stalk on which the seed grows, often including the seed, too) also helps to lubricate the joints. Add one half gallon of infusion to a bathtub to soak out aches and pains (and calm your nerves and beautify your skin at the same time).

Oatstraw can be used as a daily bone-building tonic, alternating with or combined with other mineral rich infusions of herbs such as nettles (Urtica sp.), red clover (Trifolium pratense), red raspberry (Rubus idaeus), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa).

Many people who are gluten intolerant find their body accepts this infusion. A small percentage finds it doesn’t agree.  When symptoms arise, pay attention.

Nettles

Nettles

Nettles- Urtica dioica- is one of the most vitamin and mineral rich, nourishing tonics on earth. Its high calcium content makes nettles useful in preventing osteoporosis, as well as in building strong bones. It is a very green tasting infusion that some women love and others find takes getting used to. Nettles has an abundant supply of chlorophyll, calcium, chromium, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese and vitamins A, C, and K. Nettles is the energizing complement to Oatstraw’s soothing nature.

Red Clover

Red Clover- Trifolium pratense is another valuable nourishing herb for our bones, as well as hormonal, reproductive, and immune systems. It, like nettles, is also deeply supportive of the lymphatic and nervous systems. Red clover offers a complete and digestible protein, containing all of the 22 known amino acids. Red clover is high in the vitamin B complex, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and has many additional benefits including its delicious taste. The fresh flowers are delightful to eat in salads.

Red Rasberry

Red Rasberry

Red Raspberry– Rubus idaeus- Though most famous as a pregnancy tonic, this tannin rich herb is high in calcium and the associated minerals that will help in mending bones as well as strengthening them.

Alfalfa– Medicago sativa- Like red clover, this herb is in the pea family. Like all the others, it is rich in vitamins and minerals. Alfalfa is said to alkalinize our whole system.

Horsetail – Equisetum arvense – is a bone-building herb whose highly assimilable mineral content, especially silicic acid, is very useful for helping us to rebuild bone and all connective tissue. Horsetail can be drunk as a simple tea and it’s best to use only spring gathered horsetail as the silica content in the plant can be hard on the kidneys when the plant gets older and more brittle. Remember that we don’t want bones just to be hard. We want them to be strong. Strength requires resilient flexibility to withstand pressure and constant impact. Mere hardness will simply break on impact, and be likelier to lead to fractured/cracked teeth and vulnerable bones. Horsetail is a plant that is best used on and off, rather than as a constant daily source of minerals. If there is any pain in the kidney area it is a signal that too much horsetail is being consumed. Adjust the dosage and frequency of use and you will be fine. Horsetail is a kidney healing herb, too, and much of our bone health is actually generated in those amazing organs, our kidneys. One of their jobs is to balance calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood so that it’s not pulled out of our bones and the kidneys produce a hormone that ensures the vitamin D a person receives from sunlight and food becomes activated.

Herbal Vinegars
Finally, Red raspberry or blackberry leaves and stalks (as well as countless other herbs) can be gathered fresh, cut up small, and infused for 4-6 weeks or longer in a glass jar filled with apple cider vinegar and capped with a cork or plastic lid so it won’t rust. Apple cider vinegar excels at extracting the vital vitamins and minerals from these herbs.  These delicious vinegars can be used daily in cooking, in soups, salads, stir fries and especially to bring out and make bio-available the abundant minerals in well-cooked dark, leafy greens such as kale and collards. I rely on herbal vinegars and infusions every day. They strengthen my bones and my whole being.

As with any herbs, it is important to listen to what your body is telling you as to how your feels.

Robin Rose Bennett
© June 2010

Robin Rose Bennett

Robin Rose Bennett, founder of Wisewoman Healing Ways – Herbal Medicine and EarthSpirit Teachings, is a gifted herbalist, writer, and spiritual teacher. Since 1986 she has taught at schools, clinics, hospitals, progressive and holistic organizations, and most joyously, outside with the plants. She is a faculty member of the New York Open Center and the author of two meditation CD’s. She has been a regularly featured guest on radio, and has been a guest lecturer at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, St John’s Hospital, Montefiore Teaching Hospital, Beth Israel’s Nursing program, and Brown University Medical School. She has published a booklet, Wild Carrot: A Plant for Natural, Conscious, Contraception, and is the author of Healing Magic: A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living (Gaia Rose Publishing).

Robin has a private consultation practice in New Jersey and an herbal teaching practice in Bronx, NY. I have happily referred my clients to Robin who’ve reported to have wonderfully supportive outcomes.  Please visit Robin’s website www.WiseWomanHealingWays.com.

Robin can be reached at 973-728-5878

Resources for dried herbs~  Best to go directly to Robin’s website and follow her easy-to-follow directions under “resources”.

Jeans Greens

119 Sulphur Spring Road

Norway, NY  13416

888-845-8327
www.jeansgreens.com

Frontier Natural Products
Box 299
Avoca, NY   14809
800-786-1388

Flower Power
406 E. 9th Street (1st/Ave A)
New York, NY   10006
212-982-6664

Bone Broths:  A perfect rainy day activity
Robin and I put our heads together, sharing our different recipes for nutritionally dense and delicious bone broths.  You can use a combination of bones from a chicken, turkey and/or beef, or one bone source.   I use a whole chicken and Robin uses the bones of previously prepared chicken/turkey/beef.

Ingredients:
Apple cider vinegar
2 large carrots
6 Immune strengthening and bone nourishing shitake mushrooms
1 large onion
Garlic either a whole head or 1/2 a head of peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup of dried kelp (found at whole foods)
Bunch of fresh rosemary and sage
Bunch of parsley

  • Place bones or whole chicken in large pot
  • Cover the chicken or bones with water and and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar.  Let sit  for an hour.  This starts the mineral leaching process.
  • Rough cut the carrots, onions, mushrooms (include the stems), rosemary and sage.  Add to the pot.
  • Add the garlic and dried kelp.
  • Bring to a boil.  Skim off any foam that has bubbled to the surface.
  • Reduce the temperature to low, cover and cook for 12-24 hours.  The longer the better.   If using a whole chicken, remove the meat after it has cooked for 30-45 minutes (check to see that the meat is not pink on the inside).  Remove the meat from the bones to eat later then return the bones to the water
  • During the last 10 minutes add the parsley and recover.

Strain your broth.

When I make my broth, I start early in the morning.  If it cooks for 8-10 hours or so, about 3-4 hours before the cooking day comes to an end, I remove the pot and let the broth cool.  I then put the entire pot in the refrigerator and start the cooking again first thing in the morning.
Once the broth is complete, strain out the ingredients and let it cool, return it to the refrigerator and then skim off the fat that rises to the top.
I have been found in my kitchen with my doggie Dusty having a bone celebration, chewing on the bones from my broth.  After cooking for 20-24 hours the bones are soft and delicious.  Please chew, chew, chew the bones well  ~ as with all your food.

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