an article by Susun S. Weed
is a bone-deep change you are going into, my beloved,"
counsels Grandmother Growth. "You must open
to your very marrow for this transformation. No
cell is to remain untouched. You are to open more
than you ever dreamed you could open, more than
you have opened in birth or in passion. You open
now to the breath of mortality as it plays the bone
flute of your being. What can you do but dance to
the haunting melody, develop a passion for an elegant
posture and a long stride?
"Ah, yes," Grandmother Growth smiles rather
wantonly. "It would do you well to develop
a taste for dark greens tarted with vinegar and
mated with garlic. These things will build strong
flexible bones to support you as you become Crone."
Did you know that your bones are always changing?
Every day of your life, some bone cells die and
some new bone cells are created. From birth until
your early 30s, you can easily make lots of bone
cells. So long as your diet supplies the necessary
nutrients, you not only replace bone cells that
die, you have extras left over to lengthen and strengthen
Past the age of 35, new bone cells are more difficult
to make. Sometimes there is a shortfall: more bone
cells die than you can replace. In the orthodox
view, this is the beginning of osteoporosis, the
disease of low bone mass. By the age of forty, many
American women have begun to lose bone mass; by
the age of fifty, most are told they must take hormones
or drugs to prevent further loss and avoid osteoporosis,
hip fracture, and death.
Women who exercise regularly and eat calcium-rich
foods enter their menopausal years with better bone
mass than women who sit a lot and consume calcium-leaching
foods (including soy "milk," tofu, coffee,
soda pop, alcohol, white flour products, processed
meats, nutritional yeast, and bran). But no matter
how good your lifestyle choices, bone mass usually
decreases during the menopausal years.
For unknown reasons, menopausal bones slow down
production of new cells and seem to ignore the presence
of calcium. This "bone-pause" is generally
short-lived, occurring off and on for five to seven
years. I noticed it in scattered episodes of falling
hair, breaking fingernails, and the same "growing
pains" I experienced during puberty.
I did not see it in a bone scan, because I didn't
The idea behind bone scans is a good one: find women
who are at risk of broken bones, alert them to the
danger, and help them engage in preventative strategies.
There's only one problem: bone scans don't find
women who are at risk of broken bones, they find
women who have low bone density.
I would like to help you let go of the idea that
osteoporosis is important. In the Wise Woman Tradition,
we focus on the patient, not the problem. In the
Wise Woman tradition, there are no diseases and
no cures for diseases. When we focus on a disease,
like osteoporosis, we cannot see the whole woman.
The more we focus on one disease, even its prevention,
the less likely we are to nourish wholeness and
Focusing on osteoporosis, defining it as a disease,
using drugs to counter it, we lose sight of the
fact that postmenopausal bone mass is a better indicator
of breast cancer risk than broken bone risk. The
twenty-five percent of postmenopausal women with
the highest bone mass are two-and-a-half to four
times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer
than those with the lowest bone mass. And that hormones
which maintain bone mass also adversely affect breast
cancer risk. Women who take estrogen replacement
(often given to prevent osteoporosis), even for
as little as five years, increase their risk of
breast cancer by twenty percent; if they take hormone
replacement, the risk increases by forty percent.
Focusing on bone mass, we lose sight of the fact
that a strong correlation between bone density and
bone breakage has not been established, according
to Susan Brown, director of the Osteoporosis Information
Clearing House, and many others. We lose sight of
the fact that women who faithfully take estrogen
or hormone replacement still experience bone changes
and suffer spinal crush fractures.
Bone-pause passes and the bones do rebuild themselves,
especially when supported by nourishing herbs, which
are exceptional sources of bone-building minerals
and better at preventing bone breaks than supplements.
The minerals in green plants seem to be ideal for
keeping bones healthy. Dr. Campbell, Professor of
Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University,
has done extensive research in rural China where
the lowest known fracture rates for midlife and
older women were found. He says, "The closer
people get to a diet based on plant foods and leafy
vegetables, the lower the rates of many diseases,
including osteoporosis." Women who consume
lots of calcium-rich plants and exercise moderately
build strong flexible bones. Women who rely on hormones
build bones that are massive, but rigid.
Hormone replacement regimes do not increase bone
cell creation; they slow (or suppress) bone cell
killers (osteoclasts). There is a rebound effect;
bone loss jumps when the hormones are stopped. Women
who take hormones for five years or more are as
much as four times more likely to break a bone in
the year after they stop than a woman of the same
age who never took hormones. Women who build better
bones with green allies and exercise nourish the
bone cell creator cells (osteoblasts).
Hormone or estrogen replacement, taken as menopause
begins and continued for the rest of your life,
is said to reduce post-menopausal fracture rates
by 40-60 percent. Frequent walks (you don't even
need to sweat) and a diet high in calcium-rich green
allies (at least 1500 mg daily) have been shown
to reduce post-menopausal fractures by 50 percent.
The first is expensive and dangerous. The second,
inexpensive and health promoting. It's easy to see
why more than eighty percent of American women just
"say no" to hormones. It is never too
late to build better bones, and it is never too
soon. Your best insurance for a fracture-free, strong-boned
cronehood is to build better bones before menopause.
The more exercise and calcium-rich green allies
you get in your younger years, the less you'll have
to worry about as you age.
"A woman has lost half of all the spongy bone
(spine, wrist) she'll ever lose by the age of 50,
but very little of the dense (hip, hand, forearm)
bone. Attention to bone formation at every stage
of life is vital; there is no time when you are
too old to create healthy new bone." - American
"Osteoporosis is much less common in countries
that consume the least calcium. That is an undisputed
fact." -T. C. Campbell, PhD. Nutritional Biochemistry
Step 1: Collect Information
Calcium is, without a doubt, the most important
mineral in your body. In fact, calcium makes up
more than half of the total mineral content of your
body. Calcium is crucial to the regular beating
of your heart, your metabolism, the functioning
of your muscles, the flow of impulses along your
nerves, the regulation of your cellular membranes,
the strength of your bones, the health of your teeth
and gums, and your vital blood-clotting mechanisms.
Calcium is so critical to your life that you have
a gland (the parathyroid) that does little else
than monitor blood levels of calcium and secrete
hormones to ensure optimum levels of calcium at
When you consume more calcium than you use, you
are in a positive calcium balance: extra usable
calcium is stored in the bones and you gain bone
mass (insoluble or unusable calcium may be excreted,
or stored in soft tissue, or deposited in the joints).
When you consume less calcium than you use, you
are in a negative calcium balance: the parathyroid
produces a hormone that releases calcium stores
from the bones, and you lose bone mass.
To ensure a positive calcium balance and create
strong, flexible bones for your menopausal journey,
take care to:
· Eat three or more calcium-rich foods daily.
· Avoid calcium antagonists.
· Use synergistic foods to magnify the effectiveness
· Avoid calcium supplements.
Step 2: Engage the Energy
· The homeopathic tissue salt Silica is said
to improve bone health.
· What does it mean to you to support yourself?
To be supported? To stand on your own? To have a
backbone in your life?
Step 3: Nourish & Tonify
· What do we need to make strong flexible
bones? Like all tissues, bones need protein. They
need minerals (not just calcium, but also potassium,
manganese, magnesium, silica, iron, zinc, selenium,
boron, phosphorus, sulphur, chromium, and dozens
of others). And in order to use those minerals,
high-quality fats, including oil-soluble vitamin
· Many menopausal women I meet believe that
protein is bad for their bones. Not so. Researchers
at Utah State University, looking at the diets of
32,000 postmenopausal women, found that women who
ate the least protein were the most likely to fracture
a hip; and that eating extra protein sped the healing
of hip fractures.
· Acids created by protein digestion are
buffered by calcium. Traditional diets combine calcium-
and protein-rich foods (e.g. seaweed with tofu,
tortillas made from corn ground on limestone with
beans, and melted cheese on a hamburger). Herbs
such as seaweed, stinging nettle, oatstraw, red
clover, dandelion, and comfrey leaf are rich in
protein and provide plenty of calcium too. Foods
such as tahini, sardines, canned salmon, yogurt,
cheese, oatmeal, and goats' milk offer us protein,
generous amounts of calcium, and the healthy fats
our bones need. If you crave more protein during
menopause, follow that craving. CAUTION: Unfermented
soy (e.g., tofu) is especially detrimental to bone
health being protein-rich, naturally deficient in
calcium, and a calcium antagonist to boot.
· Bones need lots of minerals not just calcium,
which is brittle and inflexible. (Think of chalk,
calcium carbonate, and how easily it breaks.) Avoid
calcium supplements. Focus on getting generous amounts
of calcium from herbs and foods and you will automatically
get the multitude of minerals you need for flexible
· Because minerals are bulky, and do not
compact, we must consume generous amounts to make
a difference in our health. Taking mineral-rich
herbs in capsule or tincture form won't do much
for your bones. (One cup of nettle tincture contains
the same amount of calcium - 300 mg - as one cup
of nettle infusion. Many women drink two or more
cups of infusion a day; no one consumes a cup of
tincture a day!) Neither will eating raw foods.
I frequently come across the idea that cooking robs
food of nutrition. Nothing could be further from
the truth. Cooking maximizes the minerals available
to your bones. Kale cooked for an hour delivers
far more calcium than lightly steamed kale. Minerals
are rock-like, and to extract · Green sources
of calcium are the best. Nourishing herbs and garden
weeds are far richer in minerals than ordinary greens,
which are already exceptional sources of nutrients.
them, we need heat, time, and generous quantities
of plant material.
· But calcium from green sources alone is
not enough. We need calcium from white sources as
well. Add a quart of yogurt a week to your diet
if you want really healthy bones. Because the milk
has been changed by Lactobacillus organisms, its
calcium, other minerals, proteins, and sugars (no
lactose) are more easily digested. This carries
over, enhancing calcium and mineral absorption from
other foods, too. (I have known several vegans who
increased their very low bone density by as much
as 6 percent in one year by eating yogurt.) Organic
raw milk cheeses are another superb white source.
· Horsetail herb (Equisetum arvense) works
like a charm for those premenopausal women who have
periodontal bone loss or difficulty with fracture
healing. Taken as tea, once or twice a day, young
spring-gathered horsetail dramatically strengthens
bones and promotes rapid mending of breaks. CAUTION:
Mature horsetail contains substances which may irritate
Step 4: Stimulate/Sedate
· Beware of calcium antagonists. Certain
foods interfere with calcium utilization. For better
bones avoid consistent use of:
Greens rich in oxalic acid, including chard (silver
beet), beet greens, spinach, rhubarb.
Unfermented soy products, including tofu, soy beverages,
Phosphorus-rich foods, including carbonated drinks,
white flour products, and many processed foods.
(Teenagers who drink sodas instead of milk are four
times more likely to break a bone.)
Foods that produce acids requiring a calcium buffer
when excreted in the urine, including coffee, white
sugar, tobacco, alcohol, nutritional yeast, salt.
Fluoride in water or toothpaste.
Fiber pills, bran taken alone, bulk-producing laxatives.
Steroid medications, including corticosteroids such
as prednisone and asthma inhalers. (Daily use reduces
spinal bone mass by as much as ten percent a year.)
Restricted calorie diets. Women who weigh the least
have the greatest loss of bone during menopause
and "neither calcium supplements, vitamin D
supplements, nor estrogen" slow the loss. Among
236 premenopausal women, all of whom consumed similar
amounts of calcium, those who lost weight by reducing
calories lost twice as much bone mass as women who
maintained their weight.
Although chocolate contains oxalic acid, the levels
are so low as to have only a negligible effect on
calcium metabolism. An ounce/3000 mg of chocolate
binds 15-20 mg of calcium; an ounce of cooked spinach,
100-125 mg calcium. Bittersweet (dark) chocolate
is a source of iron. Recent research has found chocolate
to be very heart healthy. As with any stimulant,
daily use is not advised. Chocolate is an important
and helpful ally for women. Guilt about eating it
and belief that it is damaging to your health interferes
with your ability to hear and respond to your body
wisdom. If you want to eat chocolate - do it; and
get the best. But if you're doing it every day -
eat more weeds.
Excess phosphorus accelerates bone loss and demineralization.
Phosphorus compounds are second only to salt as
food additives. They are found in carbonated beverages,
soda pop; white flour products, especially if "enriched"
(bagels, cookies, cakes, donuts, pasta, bread);
preserved meats (bacon, ham, sausage, lunch meat,
and hot dogs); supermarket breakfast cereals; canned
fruit; processed potato products such as frozen
fries and instant mashed potatoes; processed cheeses;
instant soups and puddings.
To avoid phosphorus overload and improve calcium
Drink spring water and herbal infusions; avoid soda
pop and carbonated water.
Eat only whole grain breads, noodles, cookies, and
Buy only unpreserved meats, cheeses, potatoes.
Avoid buying foods with ingredients; they are highly
Excess salt leaches calcium. Women eating 3900 mg
of sodium a day excrete 30 percent more calcium
than those eating 1600 mg. The main sources of dietary
sodium are processed and canned foods. Seaweed is
an excellent calcium-rich source of salt. Sea salt
may be used freely as it contains trace amounts
of calcium. Salt is critical for health; do not
eliminate it from your diet.
Increase hydrochloric acid production (in your stomach)
and you'll make better use of the calcium you consume.
Lower stomach acid (with antacids, for example)
and you will receive little bone benefit from the
calcium you ingest. Some ways to acidify:
Drink lemon juice in water with or after your meal.
Take 10-25 drops dandelion root tincture in a little
water before you eat.
Use calcium-rich herbal vinegars in your salad dressing;
put some on cooked greens and beans, too. Step 5a:
· I really wish you wouldn't use calcium
supplements. They expose you to dangers and don't
prevent fractures. A study in Australia that followed
10,000 white women over the age of 65 for six and
a half years found "Use of calcium supplements
was associated with increased risk of hip and vertebral
fracture; use of Tums antacid tablets was associated
with increased risk of fractures of the proximal
· If you insist on supplements, go for calcium-fortified
orange juice or crumbly tablets of calcium citrate.
Chewable calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and
calcium carbonate are acceptable sources. Dolomite,
bone meal, and oyster shell are best avoided as
they usually contain lead and other undesirable
· For better bones, take 500 mg magnesium
(not citrate) with your calcium. Better yet, wash
your calcium pill down with a glass of herbal infusion;
that will provide not only magnesium but lots of
other bone-strengthening minerals, too.
Calcium supplements are more effective in divided
doses. Two doses of 250 mg, taken morning and night,
actually provide more usable calcium than a 1000
Step 5b: Use Drugs
Even if you take hormone therapy (ERT or HRT) you
must get adequate calcium to maintain bone mass,
according to researchers at Columbia University.
That's 1200-1500 mg a day (a cup of plain yogurt,
two cups of nettle infusion, a splash of mineral-rich
vinegar, plus three figs is about that). As you
increase your intake of calcium-rich foods/herbs,
gradually cut back on your hormone dose if you wish.
Step 6: Break & Enter
Bone density tests are frequently used to push women
into taking hormones or drugs. If your bone density
is low, use the remedies in this section and schedule
another test (for at least six months later) before
agreeing to such therapies.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended
to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions
made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose,
treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or
symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided
by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare
practitioner with a specific formula for you. All
material on this website/email is provided for general
information purposes only and should not be considered
medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable
healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical
care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second
PO Box 64
Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact
and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international
reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings,
and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges
conventional medical approaches with humor, insight,
and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine.
Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic
lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one
of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine
and natural approaches to women's health. Her four
best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists
and well-known physicians and are used and cherished
by millions of women around the world. Learn more
article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed 2004 - Republished here with kind permission.