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Can herbs really help our bones?

 

The answer to the question is ..... yes, some herbs have been proven to support bone health. So, this month we’re going to look at the world of herbal teas, particularly those that may help support your bones. We’ll explore therapeutic benefits of herbal infusions and consider the impact on bone health. There’s a lovely recipe at the end for a Raw Root Vegetable Salad that incorporates some herbs to support our bones and general health.

Unveiling the potency of herbal teas.

Herbal teas have long been revered for their medicinal properties, offering a gentle yet potent approach to holistic healing. From soothing digestion to calming the mind, they possess a wealth of therapeutic benefits.

 

Here are some properties of herbal teas:

  • Rich in minerals: calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, etc.

  • Supportive of connective tissues: some have a high silica content, which plays a role in formation of connective tissues, including bone.

  • Anti-inflammatory: some herbs, e.g., ginger or turmeric possess anti-inflammatory properties, which may add to a healthier skeletal system.

  • Hormonal balance: hormones play a vital role in bone density, especially in postmenopausal women.

  • Antioxidant protection: many herbs are rich in antioxidants that provide protection against damage to bone tissues.

  • Caffeine-free alternatives: excess caffeine intake has been associated with decreased calcium absorption, making herbal teas, often caffeine-free, a good alternative. However, some contain caffeine – green tea, yerba mate and ordinary black tea.

  • Hydration and nutrient absorption: staying well hydrated is essential for overall health, including bone health. Herbal teas contribute to daily fluid intake, promoting hydration.


Additionally, proper hydration supports the absorption of nutrients necessary for bone health.

 

NB: Drink a maximum of 1-2 small cups of any of these herbal teas per day, or any others of your choice. Remember, though, that herbs can be powerful medicine, so be cautious. If you’re taking medication and you’re considering using herbs, you should first consult your health care provider.

 


I’m going to highlight 3 herbal teas in this month’s blog: hawthorn, nettle and thyme.


Hawthorn tea: the nutritious fruit

Hawthorn is an astonishingly versatile plant and is widely grown across the world as a medicinal and edible plant, containing more than 170 compounds discovered so far. It is rich in amino acids (the building blocks of life), minerals (1st in calcium content among fruits, also contains iron, magnesium, copper and zinc), pectin, vitamin C and several other less well-known components such as epicatechol and choline. Many studies have shown that hawthorn has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-cardiovascular disease, and digestion-enhancing properties [1]. This is due to a number of its main chemical constituents, some of which may help support your bones.

 

It's timely to mention hawthorn in April as I gaze out my window to the lovely red hawthorn that I planted a few years ago in my garden and which has just opened its new leaves. The flower buds are waiting to open when it gets a little bit warmer. The young leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible. Small amounts (1-2 teaspoons) can be added to green salads and grated root salads. The developing flower buds are particularly good.

 

To make hawthorn tea add 1-2 teaspoons of dried, or ½-1 teaspoon fresh leaves and/or berries to a pot of boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes. You can add some lemon and/or honey if you wish. Sip and enjoy.

 

Side effects of hawthorn can include dizziness, nausea, and digestive symptoms. Hawthorn might interact with beta blockers, such as atenolol, nadolol or propranolol. It may slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery, so stop using hawthorn at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. Check with your healthcare professional.

 

 

Nettle tea: nature’s mineral treasure

Now let’s look at nettle tea - a herbal infusion brimming with bone-supporting minerals like calcium, magnesium and silica. Yes, I am talking about stinging nettles! So be careful when you pick them and avoid plants that are growing either by a busy road where they are absorbing vehicle fumes or hedgerows where dogs might be tempted to ‘water’ them.

 

Like hawthorn, nettles have amazing characteristics. The leaves are rich in fibre, minerals, vitamins and antioxidant compounds. Stinging nettle is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-infectious, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure) and has the potential to prevent cardiovascular disease.[2] Nettle tea may cause diarrhoea, constipation and upset stomach in some people. If this happens to you, stop taking it immediately.

 

To make a cup of nettle tea, put about a tablespoon of fresh leaves into a mug and add boiling water. Leave to steep for 5-10 minutes, strain and serve. I use gloves to pick the leaves and try to pick the smaller new leaves at the top of the plant. Alternatively, you can buy a box of nettle teabags in many health food shops.

 


Thyme tea: it’s not just for cooking

Finally for this blog, we’re looking at thyme. If you’re a gardener, this may already be growing in your garden either because it’s pretty or because you use it in cooking. This lovely little humble herb has extraordinary healing properties. It's also rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, calcium and manganese, all of which play important roles in bone health. Vitamin K is essential for bone mineralisation, helping to build and maintain strong bones, while manganese helps the body form connective tissue and bones, and calcium provides structural support and promotes bone density. Vitamin K also activates proteins involved in calcium binding – essentially it directs calcium ingested towards bones and prevents it from depositing in soft tissue, which we don’t want to happen. There are a few studies investigating the effect of thyme and other herbs on bone health. One small study [3] compares taking thyme capsules with taking calcium and vitamin D. Those taking thyme had reduced calcium loss, which is positive for anyone with osteoporosis.

 

To make a cup of thyme tea, put about a tablespoon of fresh leaves into a mug and add boiling water. Leave to steep for 5-10 minutes, strain and serve.

 

If you are allergic to thyme or similar plants like basil, oregano, sage and lavender, you may experience negative symptoms, including skin sensitivity if you touch the leaves, or nausea, heartburn, diarrhoea and vomiting if you eat it or drink thyme tea. If you suffer any of these symptoms, stop taking the tea immediately and, if necessary, seek medical help. Allergies are serious and not to be taken lightly.


Photo by Tamara Shchypchynska



Incorporating shiatsu into your routine can further enhance the healing journey facilitated by herbal teas. Shiatsu practitioners target specific acupressure points on the body, promoting balance and vitality.


This month’s point is on the Bladder channel. It is Bladder-11 (Bl-11), also known as the Great Shuttle. It’s not an easy one to get to yourself, so if you can get someone to help you that’s great. In a short video, I am going to attempt to find and stimulate Bl-11 on myself. This point is thought to strengthen the bones and joints and is said to help with pain and stiffness of the neck, spine, scapula and knees and to help prevent degeneration of bone in the elderly. So it’s ideal for us. You can watch the video here.

 

 

Complementing the healing benefits of herbal teas, qigong offers a pathway to infuse vitality from within. Through gentle movements, mindful breathing, and visualisation, qigong harmonizes the body's energy flow, promoting overall well-being, including bone health. If you want to make your cup of herbal tea more meditative, then picture yourself enveloped in a cocoon of healing energy as you sip on your herbal infusion – a harmonious symphony of nourishment and vitality.

 

This month’s video is of a form called Lifting the Sky. It is a lovely, gently stretching form that brings additional awareness to your breath. You can watch the form here and join in with the practice. Then have your cup of herbal tea.

 

 

Did you know that humble little herbs could contain such a wealth of support for our bone health and our overall health in general? Let’s say a big thank you to Mother Nature for providing us with all these gifts and nurture your bones with every sip of whichever herbal teas you choose to try.

  

In the May blog, we will delve into the intricate connection between gut health and bone health.

 

With warmth and wellness,

Ettaline





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