5 Herbal Supplements to Build Bone
A preceding note on bone health: they are mainly composed of three materials: compact bone, spongy bone, and bone marrow. Compact bone makes up 80% of bone and is what gives bones their strength.
Compact bone is further composed of four different kinds of cells that build, maintain, and break down bone as needed. These lend to the bone matrix, which is comprised of the ever-popular compound collagen and other components including non-collagenous proteins, water, and mineral salts. The proteins provide bones flexibility and the minerals their hardness, together yielding strength.
However, when a bone is damaged, whether due to developing illness like early osteopenia or direct-impact injury causing breakage or fracture, new bone building cells called osteoblasts surround the damaged area to form new bone as they transform into osteocytes. In turn, they transfer minerals and communicate with other cells within the bone matrix.
Nutrition therefore is critical for providing the body with these building blocks that it needs to strengthen and even rebuild damaged bone tissue.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is the baseline as always but when damage has occurred, supplementing with nutritional and herbal supplements can aid in the healing process.
Phyllis Balch, in her book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, recommends boron, calcium, magnesium, glucosamine and chondroitin, silica, vitamin A, vitamin B complex (with extra B5 and folate), vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc, and an amino acid complex when it comes to providing bones with important nutrients. Many of these nutrients do not affect the bone directly, but they function indirectly to support mineral absorption, cell wall permeability, inflammation reduction, and tissue repair.
Seaweeds rich in minerals and protein such as chlorella, spirulina, and dulse are also helpful. Chlorella can be added into green soups as a sprinkled topper and use is great paired with Japanese sweet potatoes and avocado.
When it comes to herbs, the select nutritive herbs have been found to be the most impactful in bone building due to their high vitamin and mineral contents.
Dandelion shoots—the stems, leaves, and flowers—are not only rich in the essential bone-building nutrient calcium but they are have some of the highest amounts of boron in any food, which is critical to strong bones. Add one teaspoon of dried dandelion per cup of boiled water, let steep for at least 10 minutes, then strain and drink three times daily for best results. You can also take it in tincture form here and use the code “THETHIRLBY15” FOR 15% off of your order.
According to the journal Cell Proliferation, a study found that horsetail improved the bone-building ability of osteoblasts, to which minerals bind to form bone. Another study in the same journal found that horsetail also prevented cells from breaking down bone, a process that can contribute to bone diseases like osteoporosis. This might be due to its high content of the mineral silica, which plays an essential role in strengthening bones. Add one teaspoon of dried horsetail per cup of boiled water, let steep for at least 10 minutes, strain and drink three times daily for best results. You can also take it in supplement for here.
The hawthorn berry can be beneficial for bone repair in that it increases blood circulation and oxygenation, aiding in transporting calcium from the bloodstream into the bone. It also stabilises collagen and encourages formation of the bone matrix.
Nettles are one of the most nutritive herbs for bone building, containing an abundance of calcium in a form that is readily absorbed as opposed to processed supplements. Add one teaspoon of dried nettles per cup of boiled water, let steep for 10 minutes, then strain and drink three times daily for best results. You can also add dried nettles to soups or stews to give these foods a nutritional boost. You can also take it in tincture form here and, again, use the code “THETHIRLBY15” FOR 15% off of your order.
According to research published in the medical journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the compound called formononetin found in red clover helped prevent the development of osteoporosis in animals.
Drink it in tea form by adding 1 teaspoon of dried flowers per cup of boiled water, let steep for at least 10 minutes, and strain to drink 3 cups daily for best results.
About the Author
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.
Introduction to Bone Biology: All About our Bones, n.d.; School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist, 2011; What Makes Bones Strong, 2015.
Balch, P. A. (2006). Prescription for nutritional healing. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Balch, P. A. (2012). Prescription for herbal healing: an easy-to-use A-to-Z reference to hundreds of common disorders and their herbal remedies. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Elder Monograph. (n.d.). Retrieved on 4/20/2017 from http://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/1005
Gladstar, R. (2008). Rosemary Gladstar’s herbal recipes for vibrant health: 175 teas, tonics, oils, salves, tinctures, and other natural remedies for the entire family. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.