Copyright Statement
All articles are copyright Julene Tripp Weaver. If you are an individual, you may download the article for your personal use. Please contact author directly for permission to quote or any other usage. Find contact info here:

By Julene Tripp Weaver

Why is it important and how can we get enough of it?

Every cell in our body contains calcium. Calcium is our most prevalent mineral making up more then half of the total mineral content of our body. It is also one of the first minerals that begins to deplete from our bodies during HIV infection. When calcium is deficient symptoms that occur include nervousness, insomnia, muscle cramps and numbness, tingling in arms and legs, and bone loss.

As women, most of us are familiar with calcium in its relationship to bone structure because of the concern about osteoporosis. Calcium is the main component of our bone structure and it functions to strengthen bones and teeth; depleted calcium equals bone loss. Calcium has many other roles, it works as an electrolyte in the brain, it combats stress to protect the immune system, it blocks uptake of radioactive material and toxic trace elements we absorb from our diets and the environment, and it is critical to the nourishment of cells.

Bones need to bear weight and exert force against gravity to prevent loss of calcium (studies of astronauts in gravity-less space confirmed this). Being bed ridden causes loss of calcium, if hospitalized it is important for you to get up and move around, at least stand daily if possible. One good way to strengthen bones, and it is never too late, is to do weight bearing exercise. This can be as simple as using one pound donut weights; lift the weight up and down on each of your arms and legs for five minutes a day.

The role of Calcium in the nervous system is vital; along with sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium it is part of an electrolyte brain bath. Electrolytes are a critical component to brain functioning; they act as conductors for nerve impulses. The brain bath is also essential for muscles; since muscles are operated through the nervous system they rely on the brain bath for signals. When we sweat we lose water and electrolytes which weakens the nutrient supply in the brain bath. A common first sign of dehydration is confusion, if not corrected disorientation or seizures can occur. Any deficiency in the electrolytes can cause muscle fatigue, cramp's, heat stroke or the heart's pumping ability to weaken result in spasms, poor heart rhythm and even death. Without enough calcium you can become irritable, cranky, flighty, belligerent, or depressed.

Minerals from food are often better absorbed than minerals from pills, here is a list of food sources for calcium: Cooked bones (homemade soup stock with bones of fish, fowl or beef and one tablespoon of vinegar), chicken, fish (salmon, bluefish, shellfish, halibut, caviar, canned salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies - eat the bones in the canned fish - fish without bones has little to no calcium), dairy products (yogurt, buttermilk, goat milk, milk, cottage cheese, eggs, hard cheeses), seaweed (hijiki, wakame, kelp, agar-agar, nori, kombu, dulse), nuts & seeds (almonds, filberts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts, sesame seeds, tahini, sesame salt [gomasio], cold pressed sesame oil), vegetables (parsley, turnip greens, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, watercress, collard greens, mustard greens, watercress, kale, Chinese cabbage, okra, broccoli, alfalfa, cucumber, celery, carrots, lettuce), vegetables & herbs rich in silicon increase calcium absorption, beans (garbanzo [or chick peas], kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans), grains (amaranth, quinoa, oats, oatmeal, corn tortillas, brown rice, buckwheat, millet), soy products (unpasteurized miso, tempeh), spirulina, molasses, carob powder, dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, prunes), fruit (papaya, elderberries, lemons, oranges, strawberries, apricots, fresh coconut juice), ginger, rice bran syrup. [These are not in order of most potent source.]

Coming in Part II will be a list of herbals that are calcium rich, as well as recipes for how to make mineral rich herbal vinegars and infusions.

What promotes absorption of calcium: stomach acid (hydrochloric acid/HCL) is essential because calcium needs an acid matrix in order to be assimilated. Other necessary components are vitamin D (which you can receive through 10 minutes a day of sunlight on your skin or by taking fish liver oil), vitamin C, protein, exercise, lactose.

Information on Supplements: Calcium-fortified orange juice is the most digestible and absorbable way to get supplemental calcium because the added calcium is in the form of mineral salts. Crumbly tablets of calcium citrate are second best. Calcium gluconate or calcium lactate may also be acceptable sources. Calcium carbonate is essentially chalk so it will cause your bones to become brittle and more susceptible to breakage. Calcium supplements such as bone meal, dolomite or oyster shell tablets have been found to be high in toxic metals such as lead, so it is best to avoid them.

What depletes calcium or interfere with its absorption and what to avoid: caffeine in its many forms including chocolate (it causes a high urinary loss of all the electrolytes and can lead to having kidney or gallbladder stones), anything containing phosphorus acid (often used as a preservative in "enriched" white flour, preserved meats, processed mashed potatoes, nutritional yeast, or it is used as a bubble producer in soda pop, cider, Perrier, sparkling fruit juices -- because it is so frequently used we get an overabundance of it in our typical diets and it pulls calcium out of our bones), excess salt (draws calcium out of our bodies through our urine), white sugar, tobacco & smoking, alcohol, bran, lack of exercise, stress, excitement or depression, too rapid flow of food through the intestinal tract (such as diarrhea or enemas), soy that has calcium carbonate added to it (often tofu is made with this ingredient), greens that are high in oxalic acid (spinach, chard, and beet greens), and mineral oil (this is often found in cosmetics and can cause loss of not only calcium but vitamin D).

Drugs that may deplete calcium: Antacids (they create an anti-acid atmosphere in the stomach, often the cause of digestive problems is really a lack of hydrochloric acid, so when you take an antacid you are actually making the situation worse), aspirin, cortisone & corticosteroids, tetracycline, isoniazid (TB prevention & treatment), thyroid medication, cholestyramine (lowers blood pressure), furosemide (diuretic), anticonvulsant medications and laxatives.

Recipes for calcium and how to make mineral rich vinegars and infusions:

What calcium can do for you:

* Maintain strong bones and healthy teeth
* Keep your heart beating regularly
* Alleviate insomnia
* Help metabolize your body's iron
* Aid your nervous system, especially impulse transmission

Wild Greens and Herbal sources of calcium: red clover, raspberry leaf, nettles, cleavers, horsetail, coltsfoot, plantain, chamomile, shepherd's purse, borage, chicory, dandelion, chickweed, oatstraw, sage, comfrey leaves, yellow dock leaves, mugwort, peppermint, spearmint, lambswort. Many of these can be eaten as greens, some of them raw others cooked. You wouldn't want to eat nettles raw, but you can cook it in any way you would cook spinach. Chickweed is a great salad green and it grows through the winter.

How to make herbal infusions: take 1 ounce of dried leaves of any of the above herbs and put into a quart size jar, boil up enough water to fill this quart jar, pour the boiled water over the dried plant leaves and put the cap on. Let it sit for a minimum of four hours. Strain into another jar. Drink through out the day. If you are going to drink it over two days store it in the refrigerator. Some of these herbs taste better than others, I suggest starting with oatstraw, also called oatgrass, which has a mild taste and is very high in calcium. The mints, docks and bitters are very strong and are easier to introduce through the vinegars.

The basic theory behind this is that minerals are very small rocks imbedded in the cell walls. Cell walls are very strong, and our digestive system is not set up to break down cell walls. Cooked food is easier to digest and we actually get more nutrition from a cooked carrot than from a raw one. Plants rehydrate because their cell walls are so strong, whereas our cells cannot rehydrate, our cell walls once broken stay broken. Drying the plant begins the breaking down process, the cell walls crack in the drying process. With the cells dried and hot water on them over the period of four hours the minerals dissolve into the water. For roots of plants which are denser the time to make an infusion would be eight hours. For flowers which are more delicate the time is a half hour hour only, any longer and the volatile oils in the flower will make the infusion bitter.

How to make herbal vinegars: take the freshly picked plant and pack a jar tight with the fresh plant material, pour pasteurized apple cider vinegar* over the top, if the jar has a metal lid cover over the top with a layer of plastic and then cap it. Vinegar and metal interact - vinegar rusts metal - so you want to keep them separate or you won't be able to open your mineral rich vinegar in six weeks when it is ready to use. After six weeks open and begin using a tablespoon over your meals - vegetables, rice, beans - on anything you eat; you can put a tablespoon in water and drink it, you can use it in your cooking, and in making stocks. The minerals in the fresh plant go through a osmosis process and in six weeks the vinegar is loaded with all the exact ratio of minerals that your body needs. Not only that but since calcium and iron need an acid matrix to be absorbed the vinegar gives it the perfect environment it needs. Because you put it on your vegetables you will get more minerals from your regular meal.

Some more fantastic vinegar recipes:
Soak your organic bones in pasteurized apple cider vinegar, the bones release their calcium into the acidic vinegar. Take a tablespoonful of this vinegar in a glass of warm water each day and use on cooked greens.

Bone Brew: Use pasteurized cider vinegar, organic bones and an organic egg shell - Do separately because it will fizzle, add the egg shell first and let it fizzle for a day before adding bones. Let it sit four to six weeks to come into solution, one tablespoon equals the mineral equivalent of a cup of milk. Put this vinegar onto cooked greens.

Another interesting recipe is used frequently by the southern Chinese and it is often use by southerners in the US: A broth is made from pig's knuckles, sweet vinegar, ginger and some hard-boiled eggs. The pig's knuckles supply calcium -- the vinegar has several purposes; it dissolves the bone and makes it easier for us to absorb the calcium, it dilates the blood vessels and improves circulation, it stimulates the liver to produce bile which improves digestion. Ginger offsets any tendency to chill following excess sweating. The meat and eggs provide protein.

Three calcium Soups:
1) Barley sprouts and kale. Use whole barley, not pearled. Sprout the barley, if you don't have the time to sprout, soak the barley for eight hours, discard the soak water, and use. The soaked barley must be cooked much longer than sprouted barley - cook until it is soft, add the kale towards the end of the cooking process.
2) Beans cooked with seaweed.
3) Bones from organically raised animals are broken, then cooked into a soup with acid vegetables to extract the marrow and minerals. A similar idea is to include in a soup whole fish such as sardines or anchovies.

Other facts:
* Honey increases calcium retention and rejuvenates the female reproductive system.
* Parsley is helpful in regulating the calcium balance in the body.

Review last months article and use them together to pay attention to your calcium intake. You might want to look at your calcium level the next time you get your blood test results, or ask your doctor for a test. Sweating, bed rest or hospitalization, medications, coffee, cigarette smoke, and even some foods we eat can cause this mineral to deplete from our systems. Creating small changes to replenish and increase our calcium intake are important.
* Pasteurized apple cider vinegar is preferred (pasteurized because this prevents slim mold from growing in your vinegar, slime mold will not hurt you, but it might gross you out and you might not want to use it); it has traditionally been used as a folk medicine in America. Other vinegar's with healing effects are rice vinegar and wine vinegar. It is best not to use white vinegar as it is pure manufactured acetic acid, it is hard to digest and difficult on the mucus lining of the stomach.

Disclaimer: Please be advised this is a sharing of information that is not meant to be used to replace medical treatment and your own intuitive sense of your body and what it needs. Please see your medical provider (Dr., Naturopath, Acupuncturist, etc.) to follow up on suggestions.