Though I am writing this for the “spring” issue, I realize ski season may still be going on! I am an unapologetic back-country ski bum, skiing almost every day, and very aware of the need to maintain healthy bones and muscles, especially as I get older. But whatever your age and whatever your passion–running, biking, hiking, dancing–I believe there is some useful information here on how to use herbs to support the musculoskeletal system.
Herbal teas are an easy and inexpensive way to add vitamins and minerals to your regular diet. There are many commercially available teas, or you can mix your own. Explore the bulk tea section at the Marquette Food Co-op and avoid the extra packaging of tea bags.
The following herbs are especially good sources of vitamins and minerals, so if you are buying teas, make sure they contain at least some of these: nettles, dandelion, alfalfa, horsetail, yellow dock root, raspberry. These herbs are also available as tinctures and supplements, which are sometimes more convenient to include in our busy lives.
Don’t forget that green leafy vegetables and seaweeds are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and iron.
Fresh herbs such as dandelion greens and parsley are often available. Add a whole bunch of parsley to a salad, sprinkle it with seaweed and eat lots of it!
This is off the subject of herbs, but if you include meat in your diet, consider some old-fashioned dinners that involve the use of bones–split pea soup with a ham bone, pot roasts, chicken soup made from whole chicken, “boiled dinner”–as they are a great source of calcium.
There are many herbal allies for those occasions where you may have over-extended yourself and come home injured or sore.
Arnica oil is invaluable for treating sprains and strains and wintergreen oil helps relieve pain and inflammation. Many herbs are rich in salycilates, the compound from which aspirin is derived, and are gentler on the stomach than conventional pain medication. Wintergreen, willowbark and crampbark, either alone or in combination, can provide effective pain relief. Other plants such as wild yam or licorice mimic steroids in their anti-inflammatory capability.
The subject of anti-inflammatory herbs is worthy of a whole article, but don’t forget that inflammation is a signal of something that shouldn’t be ignored.
As always, discuss your use of herbs with your health care provider.
Victoria Jungwirth is the owner of Wilderness Herbs, specializing in local medicinal plants, and living in a remote corner of Marquette County where she and her husband build birch bark canoes. At the time of this writing, Victoria was also a manager at the Marquette Food Co-op.
Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2010 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2010, Intuitive Learning Creations. All rights reserved.