Soybean (Glycine max)
It has been noted that vegetarians do not suffer as much from osteoporosis as others due to increased intake of soy products. Studies have shown that isoflavones found in the soybean can improve calcium absorption, prevent bone loss and even reverse it. The isoflavones stimulate the cells that are responsible for building bone and inhibit the cells that break them down. Soybeans are therefore a better way to consume protein for people with osteoporosis than through meat because they cause less secretion of calcium in the urine than the meat protein.
Another reason that soybeans have such a good effect on osteoporosis is that they contain a trace amount of boron. Additionally, the soybean contains the plant estrogen genistein that’s thought to be of great benefit for menopause symptoms and bone health. Genistein has never been associated with an increased risk of vaginal cancer, and presumably acts in a completely different manner than the artificial estrogens do.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa L)
Native Americans used the root of the black cohosh as an herbal relief for menopause symptoms, menstrual cramps, and musculoskeletal disorders: this use continues today. In Germany it’s officially approved for use against menstrual pain. The phytoestrogens it contains have a record of balancing hormones and thereby benefiting bone health. Some traditional experts say the plant-based estrogens in black cohosh prevent osteoporosis. The theory is yet to be scientifically validated.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra
Licorice is a strongly flavored herb also known as sweet root. It has been used medicinally for centuries in both Eastern and Western cultures, to treat all manner of diseases and ailments. These include stomach problems, heartburn, liver problems, skin diseases, stress, allergies, bronchitis, sore throats, colds and tuberculosis. When taken in moderation its key component “glycyrrhizin” is thought to balance hormones and therefore is beneficial in preventing and alleviating osteoporosis.
Chaste tree (Vitex agnus castus)
Chaste tree is a traditional remedy for menstrual pain and menopausal symptoms. It’s the herb’s hormone balancing effect that makes herbalists often recommended it for the treatment of osteoporosis.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
A decrease in bone density loss is associated with the high levels of isoflavones in this herb. There has been little scientific research conducted on the medicinal properties of this plant. Preliminary studies, however, alluded to by the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), state that an extract of red clover isoflavones may decelerate bone density reduction while increasing the bone’s mineral density.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
This dark green and strongly aromatic herb that’s often used as a spice or just as a garnish contains small concentrated amounts of boron. Boron is a trace mineral and helps with the activation of vitamin D, which controls the absorption and use of calcium. It would probably take a lot of parsley to get the needed amount of boron, but eating it regularly could have beneficial impact.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
The ancient Greeks and Romans used horsetail in the treatment of ulcers, wounds, tuberculosis and kidney problems. Horsetail is rich in silica and silicic acids. These help in the process of mending broken bones. They help to produce collagen, a key protein located in connective tissue, ligaments, bone and cartilage. For these reasons it’s widely used as a medicinal herb for osteoporosis.
Kelp (Fucus vesiculosus L.)
Kelp has long been used to treat disorders of the reproductive system in addition to musculoskeletal diseases like osteoporosis. Kelp is rich in minerals and is therefore often recommended as a complementary remedy for osteoporosis.
Avocado (Persea americana)
Avocado is useful for osteoporosis since it’s rich in vitamin D, which helps to transport calcium to the bones. Avocado contains a great amount of oil, which means a lot of calories (around 350), and it’s, therefore, probably not the most slimming fruit there is. But the oil is of the mono-unsaturated variety, which helps to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol that are responsible for clogging the arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes. Avocados are also rich in vitamin E, which is good for the heart and circulation and an important antioxidant.
Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Preliminary studies suggest that a regular intake of green tea may improve bone mineral density in older women, but further studies are needed to confirm this.
Although green tea contains caffeine, and caffeine is known to aggravate osteoporosis, drinking green tea may actually protect against osteoporosis.
The flavonoids found in the green tea are thought to override the negative effects of the caffeine.
Supporting Reference: [Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2010, Pages 279-289]
Other natural herbs that are traditionally used for osteoporosis
- Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa)
- Oat straw (Avena sativa)
- Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
- Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
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White, Martha: Traditional Home Remedies. Time-Tested Methods for Staying Well. Time-Life Books Inc., 1997.
Hoffmann, David: Medicinal Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester. Healing Art Press 2003.
Pizzorno, Joseph E. jr, Michael T. Murray & Herb Joiner-Bey: The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill Livingstone 2002.
Braun, Lesley: Herbs & Natural Supplements: An Evidence-based Guide. 2nd Ed. Marrickville. Elsevier Australia 2007.