Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, especially type 1 collagen. It’s found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and tendons. It’s what helps give our skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing dead skin cells. When it comes to our joints and tendons, in simplest terms, it’s the “glue” that helps hold the body together.
Healthy skin, nails, bones and connective tissue need collagen to be strong and radiant. Collagen production naturally declines as we age — for most of us at least — yet if we nourish and intake high quality collagen sources, you basically begin to defy the classic aging process.
A fascinating element that a lot of these herbs share in common is their energetic and chemical properties. The “bone mender” category of herbs are naturally high in silica, calcium and minerals, which basically assist in bone strength and healing. Some of these herbs are astringent, yet contain what I like to call “the holy glue” as it's an essential glue (a demulcent quality) in the plant, that once metabolized, becomes an incredibly powerful food for our bones, connective tissue, skin, etc. Not many herbs contain these two oppositional natures, and it is here where this nutrition must be widely used and understood in order to reap the incredible health benefits.
Lets start with one of our favorite adaptogens:
1. ANTI-AGING ADAPTOGEN, HE SHOU WU | (Polygonum multiflorum)
(aka Fo-Ti, Chinese Knotweed)
Physical: The root of the fo-ti plant can restore fertility, help maintain hair color, boost energy, rejuvenate the nerves and brain cells, tone the kidneys and liver, fortify the bones, and purify the blood. Athletes use it to improve their performance and reduce recovery time. This adaptogenic root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 3,000 years. According to legend, the man who first discovered fo-ti was delighted to find that with regular use, it revived his natural dark hair color and sexual virility. Since that time, fo-ti has been regarded as a “youthful tonic,” or “elixir of life.
"He Shou Wu also has a long history of use as a hair growth and rejuvenation tonic. There are literally thousands of first-person reports and a handful of clinical studies of Fo-Ti (or preparations including the herb) demonstrating a remarkable ability to reverse hair loss and restore rich color to white or graying hair. Although the mechanisms are not completely understood, substances with a marked harmonizing effect on the endocrine system (hormone-producing glands) and high zinc content tend to have beneficial effects on hair growth and restoration. " (Read more about Fo-Ti on our friends blog here)
2. ANCIENT BONE HEALER, HORSETAIL | (Equisetum aravense)
Horsetail is one of the oldest plants on the planet. The hollow stems and shoots of horsetail are a rich source of naturally occurring calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other valuable nutrients, including silica crystals. Many of the medicinal properties of horsetail can be attributed to its high silica content, which is easily absorbed by the body.
Silica is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in the development, strengthening, and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Silica also restores weak connective tissues in blood vessels, cartilage, tendons, and in collagen–the body glue that helps hold our skin and muscle tissues together. Silica speeds the healing of bone fractures, is said to help rheumatism and arthritis by improving the elasticity of the joints, and is recommended to athletes for sprains, pulled hamstrings, and torn ligaments.
3. THE IMMORTAL ONE, GYNOSTEMMA | (Gynostemma pentaphyllum)
Gynostemma contains over 80 different saponins (gypenosides) compared to the 28 found in ginseng. As well as these saponins, jiaogulan is a natural antioxidant and a rich source of healthy vitamins and minerals. Many people suggest that gynostemma is one of the best adaptogens found in nature and if you are unfamiliar with the term, they are also referred to as biological response modifiers.
Gynostemma is called the immortality herb for good reason. It was originally brought to scientific attention because population studies revealed that those who consumed it regularly were living longer and significantly healthier lives.
Researchers believe that the main reason for this general benefit is that it contains two very important antioxidants – glutathione and superoxide dismutase. One clinical study revealed that gynostemma taken each day for a two month period reduced many of the signs of aging including fatigue, insomnia, memory loss, diarrhea and poor balance.
Gynostemma has been used for thousands of years for its wide array healing abilities. It’s commonly used for its energizing effects, its digestive help, heart / cardio health, and hormone balancing. It’s demulcent qualities, grant an extraordinary nourishing power to the gut, which is why it has been often used for weight-loss, as it helps flush the intestinal walls while providing an anti-inflammatory effect.
4. ANCIENT MINERALIZER, NETTLES | (Urtica dioica)
Nettles contain a high amount of calcium, silica and sulfur, making it an excellent source to help boost collagen receptors. Nettles are often used in beauty products like shampoo and soap, as it restores, repairs and known for its antiseptic qualities. Stinging nettle is a valuable tonic that can support our immune system, spleen, circulatory system, urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive system and endocrine system, including the adrenals, thyroid, and the pancreas.
Nettle is a multi-vitamin! Other nutrients found in nettles: calcium (according to some sources, one cup of infused nettles contains 300-500 mg of calcium), carotene, magnesium, vitamin A, B + K, Potassium, and protein.
*The combination of Horsetail & Stinging Nettle is used for the building of strong bones*, repair of joint cartilage, to strengthen fingernails, and/or stimulate hair growth. Horsetail's predominant element, natural occurring silicon (up to 70%) is the key ingredient to its curative properties while Stinging Nettles contains a very high source of digestible iron.
5. THE RADIANT ONE, CALENDULA | (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula has been used since ancient times for its phenomenal abilities to restore skin, assist in wound healing and activate collagen receptors to increase the glow. In folk medicine it has been used to prevent wrinkles as it’s said to oxygenate the blood, and increasing overall circulation. The antibacterial and immunostimulant properties of the plant make it extremely useful in treating slow-healing cuts and cuts in people who have compromised immune systems.The University of Maryland Medical Center reports research indicating topical application of calendula cream helps to heal wounds and works as a local and internal antiseptic.
6. THE BONE MENDER COMFREY | (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey has been cultivated for healing since 400 BCE. All Materia Medica from the Middle Ages forward carried descriptions on the uses of comfrey. Comfrey is widely known as “one of nature’s greatest medicinal herbs”, and has appeared in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, as well as in herbals compendiums around the world. Comfrey is a bone strengthening herb, that is very high in calcium, magnesium and vitamin C. In folk medicines it is referred to as “knit-bone” as there are countless of reports demonstrating its strong anti-inflammatory effects and speedy wound healing. Its natural concentration of allantoin is what makes it effective with internal and external repairs of broken bones or tissue.
In the 80’s, reports showed how it can be potentially toxic, due to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids. PAs in extremely large doses may cause potentially fatal damage to the liver. Yet this study was based on lab rats that were overfed an extra-ordinary amount of isolates comfrey over long periods of time. If you study the debate, you will learn that an adult human would need to eat over 19,000 comfrey leaves to ingest an amount of comfrey comparable to the quantity given to baby rats in an experiment that resulted in liver damage.
It saddens me when government authorities ignore hundreds of years of traditional healing and fail to adequately question "research" before deeming a natural remedy unsuitable for widespread use. Because we are never likely to eat 19,000 comfrey leaves in our lifetimes, let alone in a short period of time, we happily eat comfrey as a food. It is one of the main foods we use for strengthening bones.
A note on comfrey: *Although I've considered (and still do!) Comfrey a master plant for years, we no longer integrate it into our formula. Although this plant can be an excellent remedy for those that need assistance with their bones, ligaments and tissues, it has to be taken mindfully. When taken in the right dosage, and paired with the right herbs to harmonize it, it's an incredible medicine. Please do learn about it first before ingesting improperly.
7. THE QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE:
MANGOSTEEN | Garcinia mangostana
Collagen keeps our skin firm and resilient, and protects it from wrinkling. The role of vitamin C in the production of collagen is to interact with amino acids within collagen cells. It adds hydrogen and oxygen to those amino acids, so they may do their part in collagen production. Mangosteen peel has been touted for being not only one of the highest sources of vitamin C found in nature, but it also contains a mega-load of antioxidants.
Mangosteens contain a high amount of polyphenols known as xanthones, which are known for their myriad of healing abilities that it contains. According to scientific studies, xanthones from the pericarp, whole fruit, heartwood and leaf of mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) are known to possess a wide spectrum of pharmacologic properties (including antioxidant, anti- tumor, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-funga and anti-viral activities). It also contains promising chemo-preventive and anti-cancerous properties. [R]
As far as beauty chemistry goes, the high amount of antioxidants has shown to be an excellent skin tonic. Several studies have found that the pericarp was particularly successful at curbing the production of acne-causing inflammation, along with other skin breakouts (like cirrhosis, eczema and inflammation-based rashes). Besides using xanthones to defend the skin, the fruit also promotes microcirculation improving the appearance of skin vitality and radiance. Another study demonstrated that because of its phenolic-rich makeup, mangosteen pericarp extract was able to protect the skin from free radicals [R], showing serious potential as an anti-skin cancer agent. [R]
GREEN COLLAGEN Smoothie Bowl
• 2 cups frozen mango
• 2 big handfuls baby spinach
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 3 fresh medjool dates, pitted
• 4 tablespoons hemp hearts
• ¼ teaspoon ground black cardamom
• ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups coconut water + more according to your preference
• 1tsp plant based Collagen Powder
• unsweetened flaked coconut
• sesame seeds
1. In the bowl of a high powered blender, combine all of the ingredients: mango, spinach, lemon juice, dates, hemp hearts, cardamom, vanilla extract and coconut water. Blend on high, adding more coconut water as you need to get a smooth consistency.
2. Pour the smoothie out into a large bowl.
3. Top with flaked coconut and sesame seeds (or anything you like! Cacao nibs are always a good choice).