Herbal First Aid: Joint Health

Joint structures (tendon, ligament, cartilage, and bone) are areas of the body that are prone to injury and degeneration. Due to the avascular nature (no blood supply) of these tissues, injuries can be slow and difficult to heal. Joints are also susceptible to a host of degenerative conditions often associated with aging, such as rheumatism and osteoarthritis. Yet with the proper diet, exercise and herbal supplementation – we can support the health of our joints, heal nagging injuries, and reverse many chronic degenerative conditions.

By nature, the joint structures of our bodies undergo an immense amount stress over the course of a lifetime. Take the knee for instance, (photo) two massive bones (the femur & tibia) bearing the entire weight of our bodies – moving back and forth across each other with every step we take. It is only the menisci and the articular cartilage that separates bone from bone. For many, over the course of a lifetime this cartilage begins to wear away or injuries occur to the joint structures that lead to painful arthritic conditions.

The low level of blood supply to the joints compounds this situation. Typically when our body undergoes repetitive stress or injury (a torn muscle, contusion, etc.) it is the blood that carries the nutrients required for healing to the damaged tissue. However the avascular nature of the joint structure limits the scope of healing that is possible through the blood. Healing joint structures is therefore dependent upon calcium assimilation, and can be though about as a process of re-mineralization – much like a stalactite forming in a cave. Calcium re-mineralization is a slow process, but with patience, rest, proper nutrition and herbal supplementation it is possible to repair and rebuild the joint structures, and to reverse the degeneration of chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

First and foremost it is wise to limit the calcium inhibitors that leach calcium from the body (alcohol, tobacco, refined sugar, processed foods, etc.) and to make sure that there are plenty of whole food sources of calcium in our diet, such as (seaweed, leafy greens, almonds, etc…) Click Here for a comprehensive list of calcium sources and inhibitors, excerpted from Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.

On it’s own calcium is often eliminated from the body through the urine, and we require a number of additional minerals for its proper assimilation and absorption. The first is magnesium – found in all of the leafy greens & seaweeds. Along with magnesium, the rich chlorophyll content of the leafy greens enhances calcium assimilation. Vitamin D, from sunlight is also essential for calcium assimilation. Most important is the mineral silica – a profoundly beneficial substance for the health of our cartilage, connective tissue, skin, hair and bone. Silica enhances calcium absorption and potentiates the metabolism of calcium in our bodies. Silica provides the spark that ignites the process of healing and maintaining the health of our connective tissues, joint structures and bones.

Calcium + Magnesium + Chlorophyll + Vitamin D + Silica

The plant horsetail is the best whole-food source of silica. Horsetail grows wild across much of the country, and the dried herb can be obtained from most suppliers of herbs – try (www.mountainroseherbs.com). I have used the following recipe for horsetail tea with great success to heal meniscus injuries of the knee, relieve numerous arthritic conditions, and re-mineralize the teeth.

  • 1 part horsetail – 1 part oat straw – 1 part kelp powder
  • Mix the dry ingredients – simmer 1 ounce of mixture in 1 pint of water for 60 minutes
  • strain and drink – 1/2 cup – 3x per day – for 3 weeks

*** Note: Horsetail is a diuretic ***

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