This article looks at the mineral silica, describing its functions in the body, the problems which arise when it is deficient, and the best food sources and supplement forms for getting it into the body. Thanks to its great binding capacity, silica inhibits inflammation and contributes to wound healing. A silica compress replaced every half-hour cools, soothes, and heals burns and sunburn.
The mineral silica is like the big, loud, boisterous friend who often receives the description, “You can’t take him anywhere”, but when you need a strong and loyal bodyguard, he’s your guy. I love this mineral!
In the body, silica’s personality varies according to its use.
When biochemically active, it’s like a noisy, rackety, ‘jack-hammer’, busting through hardened bony spurs and stones, and clearing pockets of settled wastes and crowds of putrid onlookers (‘move it along, there’s nothing to see here’). This may happen with a rapidity and force that can sometimes surprise you, as you feel a rumbling in your bowels and start calculating how quickly you can get to the nearest loo!
When used structurally, silica provides the body – especially the nervous system – with an integrity and resilience that can weather the wildest storms with a balanced calm and clarity.
Silica’s particular qualities make it a very good preventative medicine.
We need it to be better able to handle life (both physically and emotionally) with greater resilience and flow but, as I will explain shortly, our diets often don’t provide us with sufficient amounts because of our fussy food preparation methods.
After oxygen, silica is the most abundant element in sand and soil, and is found mostly as silicon dioxide.
The tetrahedral crystalline structure of a silicon molecule is pyramid or arrow-shaped (kind of like the active head of a jack-hammer) and this goes some way to showing us its potential activities. In the soil, it helps seeds to germinate by breaking through their hard outer shell and, if soil lacks silica, very few seeds would sprout naturally.
In the body, silica assists with the proper elimination of wastes.
It helps to clear debris and waste products around areas of injury and tissue damage, during the healing and repair process. It helps break up hardened and crystallised wastes, such as uric acid crystals which settle in the joints of gout sufferers. It protects calcium metabolism, preventing distortion and loss, and it clears calcium deposits laid down as nodes and spurs on bones, which can cause pain and interfere with joint movement. It also aids the removal of kidney and gall stones, as well as lumps of unexcreted bowel waste putrefying in diverticular pockets within the intestines.
Silica breaks down all these waste products, and aids their movement back into the circulation and out through the proper elimination channels or, in the case of the bowels, directly out through that route. In fact, silica stimulates all the organs of elimination, including the skin, lungs, kidneys and bowels. It is not a quiet mineral!
Along with calcium, magnesium and several trace minerals, silica hardens and gives resilience to bones and teeth, strengthening them and ensuring a proper, balanced ‘laying down’ of minerals onto the bone matrix.
Toddlers who drink a lot of cows’ milk may struggle to metabolise the calcium in it, and this can increase the body’s need for silica. So, if you find your child in the sandpit, eating sand, this tells you that its body is probably seeking more silica.
Increase silica-rich foods in the child’s diet and replace the raw dairy products with soured milk products, like yoghurt, instead. If you must give the child cows’ milk, cook it first and then cool it for drinking. There are also many wonderful vegetable sources of calcium available to create a balance.
Silica is also wonderful for bringing out the best in your skin, hair and nails. Before you rush out for yet another facial treatment or hair conditioner, how about trying a clean out from the inside?
Silica aids elimination through the skin by literally piercing little holes in blocked up areas so that unexcreted garbage, lying in cells and tissues just beneath the skin’s surface, can be released. This may result in a few extra white-head pimples, while the wastes come out, but silica’s motto is always ‘better out than in!’
It corrects both excessive sweating and insufficient sweating by promoting more balanced fluid excretion through all eliminative organs, especially the kidneys. Structurally, it strengthens hair and nails, providing resilience and preventing split ends, split or peeling nails, and rough cuticles.
Perhaps the most important role of silica, often called ‘the communication mineral’, is as an integral component of the myelin nerve sheath. This is the insulating material which surrounds each individual nerve fibre in the body, a lot like the coloured plastic coatings we see around electrical wires. This sheath insulates the signals travelling along the nerves, preventing outside interference, static, ‘crossed-wires’ and short circuits. It ensures that each nerve delivers its information from the brain to the body, or from the body back to the brain, with perfect clarity (no Chinese whispers!)
Silica gives resilience to the nervous system, providing us with the ability to ‘bounce back’ more quickly after setbacks – physical, mental or emotional.
Silica supports the cardiovascular system as well, by helping to maintain strength and resilience of the inner lining of arterial walls, and preventing the arterial narrowing which occurs in the development of diseases such as arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis. It is also suspected to play a role in protecting the brain from aluminium toxicity, which has been associated by some with Alzheimer’s disease.
So, if you feel emotionally or circumstantially overloaded, if you’re wearing a little thin in your resilience to life, or if you feel that life has sent you one hit too many, you may need a bit of extra silica.
If you have poor hair tone or weak fingernails, bite your nails, fiddle with your cuticles or chew your hair, try some extra silica.
If you lack that ‘twinkle in the eye’, feel lots of aches and pains in your bones, experience sneezing fits, suffer foot odour, generally sweat too much or too little, or sweat excessively during tests and challenges like exams or job interviews, you should definitely get some silica into you.
If you have any abnormal calcium deposits, stones and spurs, or a build-up of uric acid crystals, or suffer osteoarthritis or gouty-type arthritis, then silica’s your guy!
Silica and your skin
Silica helps to overcome these skin problems:
“So how do I get it?”, you ask.
Silica is usually found in the tough, rough, fibrous parts of fruit, vegetables, seeds and grains. These are the skins, stalks, seeds, bran and husks – the bits we usually cut off and throw away during food preparation.
Eat your apple or potato or cucumber or kiwi fruit with its skin on! Eat the whole orange instead of just drinking the juice. Put the harder, stalk portion of the lettuce leaf into your salad along with the soft leafy bits. Wherever possible, keep the husk on your grains and nuts. Don’t peel your carrots or your mushrooms. Don’t remove the ‘stringy bits’ from your celery or green beans. And so on…
If you must be a softie and cut all these bits off your fruits and vegetables because they are too ‘nasty’ to chew, why not throw them all together in a pot of water and boil them up to make a mineral-rich stock, very high in silica. You can then put this back into your diet in a stew, soup, sauce, gravy or marinade. (By the way, while vitamins are very sensitive to oxidation and extremes of temperature, minerals are virtually indestructible. So a stock like this is a wonderful addition to your list of nutritious cooking practices.)
Lettuce is one of the best silica sources, and readily available, with the outer, darker, coarser leaves being more mineral-rich than the inner, soft, baby leaves. Oats are a great source, especially the outer husks. Oat-straw tea is a quick and easy way to get a therapeutic silica boost when you need it. Bananas are another lovely source.
Other great sources are high-bran cereals, parsnips, asparagus, dandelion greens, horseradish root, spinach, cucumber, strawberry, sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), fresh apricots, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, millet, fresh apples, cabbage and brown rice. In fact, most vegetables and grains have some silica, in those rough parts.
Keeping silica-rich foods in the daily diet, in the form of unprocessed vegetables and unrefined grains, is the best way to ensure that your body gets what it needs.
Silica is almost lost completely in processed and packaged foods, and silica supplementation is a complex issue. If you need to use a supplement, for a more intensive silica intake, it is best to take colloidal silica or try a liquid silica supplement which contains it in the ‘orthosilicic acid’ form. A liquid silica supplement should ideally NOT contain any preservatives (such as the controversial sodium benzoate) that could potentially ‘undo’ the good you are trying to achieve by taking a supplement. The purer the supplement, the better. You could also consider a homoeopathic silica tissue salt.
When you look at the list of difficulties related to silica deficiency, it’s probably safe to say that each and every one of us is experiencing, or has at some time experienced, a need for extra silica.
Our tendency to throw out the chewy or rough parts of a food probably stems right back to childhood, when mummy cut the crusts off our bread and peeled our apples for us so they were nice and soft. I think it’s time now for a different approach. Kids need to learn to eat the ‘whole’ food as soon as their teeth and gums can handle it. This will then ensure healthier eating habits as they grow into adults with a growing need for silica-resilience. They will be better equipped to go out and face a stressful world, or simply to be able to live life to the max!
Kathie Strmota practices herbal and nutritional medicine and vibrational healing, taking a holistic and co-creative approach to healthcare.
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