Monthly Archives: May 2012

Herbs & Minerals

When I went to the doctor about my frozen shoulder*, they naturally took an Xray to ensure there was nothing wrong with the skeletal structure. Just by looking at it, you could tell my bones weren’t quite as dense as they ought to be. It doesn’t really surprise me. I’m small-framed, Caucasian, I like sweets & the occasional alcoholic drink, and I smoke**. I knew about all these perils years ago and have tried to ensure I’m getting enough calcium through my diet: dairy; vegetables such as broccoli & spinach; nuts like almonds; oranges; as well as a multivitamin*** a day for good measure. I obviously wasn’t doing a good enough job.

My physiology is very, very similar to my mother’s, so I didn’t want to chance taking calcium supplements. (Cleans her system out, if you get my drift.) When I voiced this concern to the doctor, she suggested a different type of supplement that, in theory, is more easily absorbed than the stuff you find on the shelf at the store. It also contains other minerals to balance everything out. Ordered that ($) and started taking it when it arrived.

I didn’t encounter the same issues Mom has but within a day or so of starting this new supplement, I was getting awful headaches about 4 hours after each dose. When I forgot to take it (happens on occasion), no headache. Strange! But I did a ‘Net search & found out I’m not the only one with this problem. So yes, calcium supplement=headache for me.

Headaches aren’t good but I obviously need to increase my calcium intake. What’s a girl to do? I did what I should have done in the first place … I turned to herbs.

Nettle Urtica dioica, Oatstraw Avena Sativa, and Horsetail Equisetum arvense are all really high in calcium, as are Alfalfa Medicago sativa, Red Clover Trifolium pratense and Parsley Petroselinum spp.  (Alfalfa is also chock-full of other minerals.) I happen to have them all on hand, so mixed up Nettle, Oatstraw & Alfalfa. I’m drinking three cups of the tasty infusion a day. And no headaches!

Using herbs means you’re not taking a ‘standardized supplement’. Therefore, it’s difficult to say just how many milligrams of calcium I’m ingesting with each cup but it’s probably around 400, perhaps even more. The recommended ‘maintenance’ dosage for a woman my age is 1,200 mg/day so I should be far exceeding it between a multivitamin, the infusion and my diet. Hopefully, that will help build my bones a bit.

So, if you find yourself needing to increase your intake of a particular mineral, like me you may be able to do it through herbs, which are usually a lot less expensive than a pill.


*It’s not much better with the more benign forms of therapy, thanks for asking. We’re moving on to more aggressive (and painful) stuff.

** Sugar, alcohol, and especially smoking leech calcium from bones

*** My diet’s not that good because I hate to cook.


Do Herbs Work?

A rant by one of my favorite people, Harold over at Alchemy Works, got me to thinking about a question I’m frequently asked. The answer is a qualified YES.

My answer is qualified because a) there are some issues where herbs won’t help and more importantly, b) not all herbs work the same way on each person. Your physiology is unique and what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. For example, 95% of the population falls asleep when they take Valerian. Not me. I’m bouncing off the walls for several hours if I take it. (And I really do prefer the smell and taste of coffee if I need to stay awake for some reason.)

I often hear, “I took X herb for Y problem and it didn’t work.” When I ask if they tried any of the other herbs that will help with Y problem, the reply is, “No. A commercial on television/Z website/W magazine/T friend said to take that herb.”

This is where I heave a huge sigh. As I said here and probably a lot of other places, research is necessary! Perhaps some other herb this person took is interfering. Perhaps one of their prescription drugs is. Or perhaps their physiology just doesn’t react the same as other folks’.  My personal database lists about 500 herbs and I forget how many medical conditions. Nowhere is there one medical condition/one herb.

Above all, as the old aphorism goes, Know Thyself. With herbal medicine, experimentation is necessary. (With synthetic drugs, too. Just look at how many prescription drugs are available for, oh, high cholesterol.) Maybe you’ll get lucky and your first herb will do the trick. But if that one doesn’t work, do a little more research and try another. Eventually you’ll come upon the one (or combination) that works for you and your problem.