Herbs High in Calcium
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Pat Hansen
Posted: Before April 1998

Are there any herbs that would be high in calcium, that would supplement bone density loss and what herbs would be useful in treating Crohn’s disease? Also how can I find out more about essiac in treatment for cancer?

A little booklet by the Natural Food Institute, "Powerhouse Plants," (no date; published by the NFI, Box 185 WMB, Dudley, MA 01570, U.S.A.) provides data on many food plants including herbs.

Among the top 20 calcium sources: dried parsley (1468 milligrams per 100 grams), sesame seeds (975 mg/100g), chia seeds (529 mg/100g), boiled lamb’s quarters (258 mg/100g), sesame butter (tahini) (420 mg/100g), carob flour (352 mg/100g), and sunflower seed flour (114 mg/100g). Dried parsley had more calcium than even dolomite powder, a calcium mineral supplement. Fresh parsley has 203 mg/100g.

Other herbs and vegetables from the Richters catalogue with high calcium (100-300 mg/100g) are vegetable amaranth, cooked dandelion greens, mustard spinach, balsam pear, roselle, and watercress.

It is important to realize that some herbs and vegetables can cause bone loss if consumed excessively over a long period. Spinach, sorrel, dock leaves (not root), and orach contain oxalic acid which binds calcium and interferes with calcium uptake. If loss of bone density is a concern, these herbs and vegetables should be avoided. In France some elderly people who regularly eat sorrel soup have suffered from weak bones. Eating these occasionally is not a problem; when these plants are consumed daily, as they are in parts of France, they become a problem.

Crohn’s disease is a grouped under a poorly understood complex of bowel diseases called irritable bowel disease. Current research suggests a bacterial culprit but none has been isolated yet. Given that a bacterium is widely acknowledged to cause ulcers, the bacterial connection for Crohn’s disease has a certain amount of credence.

Although Crohn’s disease was first described in 1932, it no doubt occurred long before then but was diagnosed under more general terms such as "bowel complaints", bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. In the past, many herbs were noted for their carminative properties – their ability to reduce flatulence and bloating. Herbs like fennel seeds are still chewed at the end of meals in India following a tradition that may have its origins as a preventative against digestive distress.

Carminative herbs have anti-bacterial actions also. It may yet be proven carminative herbs help, in part, to control intestinal bacteria. Unwittingly herbalists may have treated Crohn’s and other bowel diseases successfully with herbs for centuries.

Two of the most important herbs for stomach and intestinal problems are goldenseal and licorice. Goldenseal in particular has antibacterial properties. It contains berberine which is one of the few agents that controls giardia, a common gastrointestinal pathogen. Whether goldenseal or any other herbs will help Crohn’s disease is just speculation; to our knowledge no clinical trials have been done on herbal treatment of the disease. People suffering from Crohn’s disease should consult a qualified health care provider for advice on using herbs. We do not recommend the self-administration of herbs.

On Essiac(R), the herbal tonic used in the treatment of cancer, a good source of information is Sheila Snow’s book, "Essence of Essiac," available from Richters.

[Essiac is a registered trademark of the Resperin Corporation, Ottawa.]

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