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If you’ve ever had a broken or fractured bone, you probably remember the weeks and weeks of waiting on the sidelines of your life. Fortunately, the only time I’ve had this experience was when I got stress fractures in several bones in both my feet after running my second triathlon in old running shoes. (There is a reason that you are advised to update your equipment in endurance sports.) One foot was worse than the other, so I got to live, work, drive and socialize in a boot cast.
I don’t remember that time with any fondness, so I empathize greatly with readers and customers who ask me for suggestions on how to help heal broken and fractured bones. This past week, I received a call from someone who wanted advice for a stress fracture in the heel of a student athlete. I was happy to help them with information that I didn’t have when I suffered my own running injury.
The wonderful news is that you can do things to encourage bones to knit. This is a perfect time to see how allopathic medicine and alternative medicine can complement each other so well. When a bone is broken or fractured, you will, of course, head to the nearest medical facility for an X-ray. If needed, your doctor will set the bone, cast it or suggest the necessary brace and give you advice on how and how long to restrict your activities. If you then incorporate herbs, like boneset, that can help heal bones, you’re ahead of the rest of the population that goes home and simply waits for inactivity to do the trick.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is such an easy plant to grow that it would be silly not to have some available if you have physically active (or clumsy) family members. Boneset is in the same family as Joe-Pye weed, and it’s native to much of the United States. Here in Ohio you’ll find it growing in heavy clay, which is moist some of the year and hard as concrete the rest.
The most remarkable part of the plant is that the stem is arranged as if it is perforating the slightly leathery opposing leaves. The leaves run north and south at one node and the west and east at the next, alternating this way all up and down the stem. Its small white bloom turns to white fluff in the fall, when the wind carries away its seeds. It is generally considered a prairie weed, but can be grown in a perennial garden, as well, with showy results.
Boneset has a long history of being used for fever relief and for its antibiotic/antiviral qualities. The folklore behind its name is often called into question. Many in the academic circles of herbalism have struggled to isolate the common compounds we would expect to see in a plant that assists with bone health. Still, anecdotal evidence brings us story after story of people who have successfully used its leaves for broken bones. Matthew Wood, a well known herbalist and author, reconciles this by finding evidence that it appears to increase blood flow to the periosteum, which is the fibrous membrane covering the surface of our bones.
Someone wishing to support their healing bones might sip a boneset tea while continuing to follow their doctor’s orders for rest. It’s worth mentioning that boneset isn’t a pleasant-tasting plant—it’s very bitter, but many have found it worth enduring. If you’re not in a hard cast, it can also be helpful to soak the appendage in question in a comfrey (Symphytum spp.) tea. Comfrey is very high in calcium and has also been used for mending bones.
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