Natural Aids for Broken Bone Recovery

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Not long ago one of our kids broke her leg while playing outside. Luckily, she recovered quickly and was back on her feet in just four weeks. I believe that the natural broken bone remedies that we used helped her leg get better as quickly as possible.

How Do Fractures Happen?

Bone breaks or fractures occur when the bone can’t sustain the force that is put on it. In some cases, the force (like falling out of a tree) is too much for a healthy bone to handle. In other cases, the force is not quite as strong, but the bone is weakened, causing a break anyway. Weak bones occur most frequently in elderly people or those with osteoporosis.

Can Bone Breaks Be Prevented?

Aside from avoiding high-risk activities, there isn’t a way to avoid getting a broken bone due to excess force on the bone. For instance, you won’t know if you’re about to get into a car accident. However, it is possible to reduce the chances of breaking a bone by making sure the bones are as healthy and strong as they can be.

What Healthy Bones Need

The bones in the body are continuously breaking down and building back up — a process called remodeling. This is how bones grow in children and also how bones mend when there is a break. In order to rebuild, the bones need calcium. If there is not enough calcium intake (or absorption) the bones become brittle.

We have heard a lot about calcium and its role in healthy bones, but we don’t hear as much about the cofactors that help calcium reach the bones. These are just as important!

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are hugely important for overall health and play a role in bone health specifically. According to a 2009 Japanese article, fat-soluble vitamins D and K are essential for supporting bone health. Vitamin D controls calcium and phosphate levels in the blood and contributes to bone growth and strength. Vitamin K (and magnesium) help to activate vitamin D in the liver and kidneys.

Additionally, vitamin K2 helps calcium bind into bones to strengthen them. It also helps calcium to not stay in soft tissue (like the heart) where it can cause problematic calcification. Studies have shown that vitamin K2 is effective at stopping bone loss in people with osteoporosis and can even reverse it.

What About Vitamin A?

Some experts believe that vitamin A intake causes osteoporosis. For this reason, they don’t recommend supplementing with vitamin A or eating large amounts of foods with vitamin A.

On the other hand, there is evidence that vitamin A helps to keep vitamin D levels safe in the body (and vice versa), rather than depleting each other, according to a Weston A Price Foundation article.

This makes sense too since most foods contain nutrients that work together in the body. Foods usually contain nutrients in the appropriate proportions too. Since vitamin A and D are often found in foods together (like in organ meats), it doesn’t make sense that vitamin A intake would be detrimental to vitamin D levels.

What the above article concludes is that vitamin A in balance with other important nutrients in the diet (including vitamin D) is essential for bone health. Vitamin A supports bone health by slowing the growth of bone matrix while increasing mineralization. What the 2004 study above may have been finding was that the balance of vitamin A and vitamin D in the body was off, causing the bone health issues.

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Bottom line: All vitamins and minerals are important, and they need to be in balance!

Magnesium

As mentioned above, magnesium helps to activate vitamin D in the body, but it also helps balance calcium. Magnesium is found to act as an antagonist to calcium. This means it keeps calcium from getting too high in the body (causing calcification).

Magnesium is one of the key minerals used in bone formation. Both calcium and magnesium are needed at a very specific and stable level in the blood. If blood levels drop, both of these are robbed from the bones. So, while we spend a lot of time focused on calcium for bone strength, clearly magnesium is just as important!

Collagen and Vitamin C

Collagen is about 25 percent of the dry weight of bones. Evidence in a 2010 study suggests that bone density is heavily reliant on the quality of the collagen matrix of the bones. In other words, the more collagen production in the body, the better health the bones will be in.

Additionally, vitamin C plays a role in collagen production and has been found to have an effect on bone density.

Balanced Nutrients

While there are some vitamins that are more necessary for bone health than others, it’s important to get a balanced intake of all vitamins and minerals. In fact, supplementing with one nutrient (like calcium) can cause more harm than good when other nutrients are lacking. As mentioned earlier, magnesium and calcium, as well as vitamin A and D balance each other out. That’s why getting nutrients from food is always the best choice since most sources of one nutrient will also contain its cofactors (nutrients that work with it in the body).

Natural Remedies for Broken Bones

When my daughter broke her leg, I knew I needed to support her body in healing as quickly as possible so she could get back to running and playing. While immobilizing the broken bone is important (using a cast or splint) there are additional ways to support bone mending. Here are some of the ways we did this:

Nutrient-Dense Diet

Eating high-quality, nutrient-dense foods is one of the best ways to support bone health. It’s always best to get nutrients from food sources when possible. Here’s what to look for:

  • Adequate calcium – And it doesn’t have to be from milk! Try leafy greens, sardines, fermented raw dairy, bone-in fish, some nuts and seeds. If you don’t eat dairy, there are still plenty of ways to get enough calcium.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins from foods – Try organ meats, grass-fed dairy, fermented vegetables, and cod liver oil.
  • Amino acids for collagen production – You can find amino acids in healthy protein sources such as pastured eggs, grass-fed and pastured meats, and collagen or gelatin from healthy animals.
  • Magnesium – As mentioned earlier, most foods that contain one nutrient also contain its antagonist nutrient. So, to get more magnesium, eat the foods listed for calcium. Other foods high in magnesium include dark chocolate, wild-caught seafood (especially salmon, mackerel, and tuna), and fruits like avocado and banana.
  • Vitamin C foods – Find lots of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables — especially leafy greens, citrus & tropical fruits, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.

If you eat a real food diet rich with fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein, you will be in a great position to get all of these important nutrients to support your bone health.

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But if you are faced with a broken bone, supplements may be needed to support bone mending. A quality calcium and magnesium supplement (in balance) may support the structure of the bone.

Sleep

I’ve written about the importance of getting adequate (and quality!) sleep before. It’s one of the big contributing factors to overall health. But it can also affect bone health indirectly through melatonin. You may already know that our bodies secrete melatonin (triggered by low light) to prepare the body for sleep.

Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant in the body, scavenging free radicals (and reducing inflammation) in bone cells. Melatonin also interacts with other hormones such as estrogen to affect bone remodeling. According to a 2013 analysis, melatonin may play a part in keeping bones strong because of these functions.

My best recommendations for getting great sleep are:

  • Eat a healthy diet with antioxidant-rich foods, healthy fats, and proteins.
  • Develop a healthy sleep routine – get to bed early!
  • Improve your sleeping environment by shutting out light, lowering the temperature, and choosing more natural bedding.

Sleep is so important for overall health. I make it a priority to go to bed early and get enough sleep each night. I use blue light blocking glasses to help me to get to bed on time too.

Getting better sleep may be a long process but I promise it’s worth it!

Stress Reduction

Just like not getting enough sleep, stress can have a huge impact on health. In fact, it could have more of an impact than diet and exercise! Stress can mess with hormones and affect many functions in the body including fertility and sleep. It can also affect bone density. A 2013 study on male cyclists found that higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) reduced bone mineral density. This is because cortisol blocks calcium absorption and even triggers the metabolization of bone minerals.

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Stress is a big part of modern life, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce it:

  • Get enough sleep – While stress can make getting enough sleep difficult, the opposite is true as well.
  • Reduce toxins – Both in foods and in the environment. Toxins stress the body and cause the liver and kidneys to not work optimally.
  • Find ways to relax – Yes, it can feel like just another thing on the list but it’s important. Even if you can only start with 15 seconds of mindful breathing, find a way to do it. There are a number of apps that can help with this.

You may start with just a few minutes of stress reduction each day but small changes can lead to huge improvements over time.

Herbs

Herbs are another natural remedy that can help mend a broken bone as well as strengthen healthy bones. These are usually used in a poultice on the affected area or taken internally.

Herbs often used traditionally to help mend bones that are also supported in scientific studies include:

  • Bone Setter (Cissus quadrangularis) – has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is protective against oxidative stress and liver issues.
  • Indian Sarsaparilla (Cryptolepis buchanani) – rich in vitamin C, this herb also has been used in traditional medicine for generations for bone breaks, osteoporosis and a number of other ailments.
  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale or Symphytum uplandica) – also known as knit bone, comfrey has a long tradition of use for bone fractures.
  • Bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea)
  • Arnica (Arnica montana)
  • CBD (cannabinoids)
  • Wild Betel (Piper sarmentosum)
  • Horsetail (Equisetum species) – contains a considerable amount of calcium and other minerals
  • Piplie (Piper longum)
  • Dan Sheng (Salvia miltiorrhiza)
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Other herbs that have traditionally been used for broken bones are:

  • Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Consult with a naturopath or herbalist to find out which herbs would be best to use.

I haven’t personally used all of the herbs above and wouldn’t give them to children without checking with a doctor. Our herbal regimen looked more like:

  • tea made from comfrey, horsetail, and/or nettle while the bone is mending
  • a vitamin C rich herb like hibiscus (it is easy to find this as a tea as well)
  • comfrey poultices or liniment wraps directly on the injury (if allowed by a doctor)

Healthy Lifestyle

Of course, a healthy lifestyle is important for overall health, but it’s also really important for bone health specifically. Exercise is one easy way to ensure bone strength. According to a Harvard.edu article, bone strengthening exercise should include weight-bearing exercise (walking, swimming, tennis, etc), resistance training (weight machines, pushups, etc), and stretching.

Of course, consult your doctor to discuss what kind of exercise is best for you while your bone mends.

Broken Bone Remedies: Is It Possible?

As mentioned earlier, these remedies are not meant to replace immobilizing the broken bone (like a cast or splint does). These are meant to be used alongside whatever your doctor recommends. These remedies help support the body in mending the bone and may also help build healthy, strong bones long term.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

Have you ever used natural remedies for broken bones? What was your experience?

Sources:

  1. Tanaka, K., & Kuwabara, A. (2009). Fat soluble vitamins for maintaining bone health. Clinical Calcium. doi: CliCa090913541360 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19721209
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  3. Crandall, C. (2004). Vitamin A Intake and Osteoporosis: A Clinical Review. Journal of Womens Health, 13(8), 939–953. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2004.13.939 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671709
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  5. Castiglioni, S., Cazzaniga, A., Albisetti, W., & Maier, J. (2013). Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Nutrients, 5(8), 3022–3033. doi: 10.3390/nu5083022 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775240/
  6. Saito, M., & Marumo, K. (2009). Collagen cross-links as a determinant of bone quality: a possible explanation for bone fragility in aging, osteoporosis, and diabetes mellitus. Osteoporosis International, 21(2), 195–214. doi: 10.1007/s00198-009-1066-z https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19760059
  7. Yilmaz, C., Erdemli, E., Selek, H., Kinik, H., Arikan, M., & Erdemli, B. F. (2001). The contribution of vitamin C to healing of experimental fractures. Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, 121(7), 426–428. doi: 10.1007/s004020100272 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11510911
  8. Liu, J., Huang, F., & He, H.-W. (2013). Melatonin Effects on Hard Tissues: Bone and Tooth. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 14(5), 10063–10074. doi: 10.3390/ijms140510063 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676828/
  9. Mathis, S. L., Farley, R. S., Fuller, D. K., Jetton, A. E., & Caputo, J. L. (2013). The Relationship between Cortisol and Bone Mineral Density in Competitive Male Cyclists. Journal of Sports Medicine, 2013, 1–7. doi: 10.1155/2013/896821 https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jsm/2013/896821/
  10. Singh, V. (2017). Medicinal plants and bone healing. National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, 8(1), 4. doi: 10.4103/0975-5950.208972https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5512407/
  11. Smoking and Bone Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/conditions-behaviors/bone-smoking

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