Create A Living Herbal Apothecary Outside Your Door

Whether you’re an experienced farmer or completely new to the world of gardening, medicinal herbs offer a unique growing experience. In this article, you’ll learn the steps you need to take to create a living herbal apothecary outside your door. If you have the area to cultivate and would like to grow your own herbs, start right here.

Herbs From the Ground Up:

Gardening begins with the soil; it’s the “ground of our being,” to borrow a phrase. If you take care of the soil, the soil, in turn, will nourish and feed the plants you grow for healing and health.

Soil Types:

An important first step in growing outdoors is to find what kind of soil you have. Take a handful of soil from a couple different places in your yard or on your land, make sure each one is somewhat moist, squeeze it gently in your fist, and then examine it. If the soil in your hand is somewhat sticky and holds together in a ball, it is clay soil. This type of soil is high in nutrients but can be heavy and waterlogged. If the herb you want to grow needs good drainage, you should add sand, gravel, or organic matter to the soil to lighten the texture. But if your herb needs rich soil and moisture, clay soil may be fine.

If your sample is grayish and gritty and falls right through your fingers, it is sandy soil. This soil type drains well, but it allows nutrients to wash away easily so it is considered the leanest soil. It warms up earliest in the spring so it may allow you to get a head start on the growing season. If the herb you want to grow needs rich conditions, you’ll need to add amendments {such as compost, organic fertilizers, and other sources of organic matter} to improve the texture of sandy soil and boost its nutrient content.

If your sample is a rich brown color, smells sweetly earthy, and crumbles easily, it is loam soil. This is the ideal soil type because it holds nutrients and moisture, yet it’s well aerated, so roots can easily expand and grow. Depending on the herb you are planting, you might add sand or gravel for better drainage or compost or aged manure to further enrich the soil.

Your site may have more than one type of soil or even a combination of all three types. But no matter which you have, you should pay attention to the level of organic matter your soil contains. Check to see if the sample in your hand looks like it contains bits of dark-colored humus {organic matter, such as composted plants, tiny pieces of bark, and worm castings}. If your soil is lacking humus, consider working in materials such as finely chopped leaves or compost.

pH levels:

Soil’s acidity or alkalinity is measured by its concentration of hydrogen ions or pH {the power of hydrogen}. You can test a soil sample yourself or send it away for testing to determine its pH level. Most herbs and vegetables prefer pH levels to be in the neutral range {6.5 to 7.5}, but some varieties are tolerant of more widely acid or alkaline soils. Excess acidity or alkalinity {below 5.5 or above 8} will make it difficult for a plant to take up nutrients. Sandy soils are often acidic {below 7}, and chalky or limey soils are alkaline {above 7}, but your local conditions play a role, too. You can buy fairly good, inexpensive testing kits at garden stores if you want to do it yourself, or you can ask your local Cooperative Extension Service about their testing service. They may perform several types of analysis, including measuring levels of organic matter and nutrients, and they will make recommendations for amending the soil to create ideal growing conditions for your plants. For example, if your soil is too acidic, you can add amendments to increase alkalinities, such as limestone, calcium, and wood ashes. If your soil is too alkaline, add sulfur, pine needles, leaf mold {composted leaves}, and even highly diluted urea.

Nutrients:

Plants have nutritional needs, just like we do. The three major nutrients, which are usually included in commercial fertilizers, are nitrogen {N}, phosphorus {P}, and potassium {K}. In purchased fertilizers, you’ll see them represented on the label as three numbers separated by dashes: 5-10-5 {meaning 5 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, and 5 percent potassium}. Plants need smaller amounts of other micronutrients, such as boron, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, and molybdenum, and these are often included in fertilizer mixes, too.

Nitrogen is necessary for plants to develop healthy leaves, and you can provide it in several ways. Good sources of nitrogen include compost, aged manure, blood meal, grass clippings, and fish emulsion. Cover crops, also called green manures, are another.

Phosphorus is important for seed, flower, and root development in plants. Good sources are a bone meal, phosphate rock, compost, and fish emulsion.

Potassium {sometimes called “potash”} helps develop roots and fruits and helps plants take up nutrients. Good sources of potassium include wood ashes, comfrey tea {which is also high in calcium, iron, and manganese}, algae powders {such as Maxicrop}, granite dust, and fish emulsion.

How do you know if a plant needs fertilizer? Even without soil test results, you can follow these simple clues: If your herb is stunted and the stems are thin and stiff, or if the leaves are small, have yellowed, or have even begun to fall off, you may need to add nitrogen {N}. If your herb has leaves that are turning purple on the undersides or at the tips, or if the stems are thin and the plant is growing slowly, you may need to add phosphorus {P}. If your herb begins to look “scorched” at the leaf margins or has bleached spots, the stems are weak and wilting, the leaves are curling, and the growth is stunted, you may need to add potassium {K}.

We garden organically and always have. Over the years, we’ve experimented with various soil amendments, but we always come back to the tried and true, slow acting, self-generating superstar – compost. We apply a few inches of it each year. When you feed the soil according to the needs of the herb in question, the plants will be stronger and better able to stave off disease and pest issues.

If plants show signs of nutrient deficiency, that’s the time to top-dress with a few inches of compost or to water with liquid fertilizers, such as comfrey tea, algae liquid made from commercial powders, or fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizers. Start with a watering can full of liquid, follow the directions on the commercial product {if applicable}, and slowly water the soil around the plant until it begins to run off or the soil appears to be saturated.

If you’ve performed a soil test and you know that you have nutrient deficiencies, you can work in any of the dry nutrients at the rate recommended on the label, depending on the needs of the individual herbs. Or you can simply sprinkle the powder on the soil surface, cultivate the soil to work the fertilizer deeper into the ground, and water well.

Mulch:

Mulch is simply organic material that you lay on top of the soil around your plants. It can be wood or bark chips, dry leaves, straw, crushed rock, or grass clippings. Mulch provides a barrier between the soil and the air, which helps to keep moisture in the soil, and it gradually breaks down to provide organic matter to the soil. Keep in mind that different materials may have varying levels of acidity or alkalinity, and most should not come in contact with the stems or trunks of your plants. If your summers are humid {which means that fungal problems are an issue}, be judicious about adding mulch, because some organic materials can introduce pathogens. Sand, gravel, and stone may be better options for you. You can also use agricultural or landscape fabric; just fasten it down with stakes and cut holes for your plants. These fabric {and black plastic or polyethylene, which we do not recommend} are used as weed barriers and water conservation aids. They have their place, particularly if you live in a dry climate or need to discourage a massive preexisting population of an intractable weed or undesirable plant, such as Bermuda grass, but natural mulches usually do the job just as well.

Light:

Most herbs and vegetables need 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to thrive, but this is a general guideline only. Some plants will tolerate a wide range of light exposure, and their sunlight requirements may vary in your local climate, as well. Each herb has its own individual needs.

Water:

drip irrigationHerbs require water to grow, but how much is enough? Growing powerful medicinal herbs is a playful dance between simulating wild conditions {giving plants the same environmental situations that they would encounter in their homeland} and providing cultivated amenities that might improve their potency and health.

Let’s look at essential oil content. Many of the herbs we grow for medicine {and food} are valued for that constituent, and we might want to pay attention to what increases it. Many members of the Lamiaceae, or mint family {basil, catnip, oregano, peppermint, and thyme} come from Mediterranean climates, where summers are hot and dry and winters are mild. They have adapted to dry conditions for much of the year. It stands to reason that, at some point, their essential oils can be diluted if they are over-watered. Yet research has shown that some supplemental water given to these plants increases their foliage yield and essential oil levels.

Where you, the grower, come in is in determining when you’ve given your plant enough water, but not too much. You’ll want to remember that clay soils hold water longer, sandy soils drain faster, and gardens on sloping hillsides lose moisture {which mulch can help retain}. You’ll have to assess water needs based on your conditions and the season, as well as the needs of the individual plants.

If you plan to garden on a larger scale or have limited garden maintenance time, you may want to consider an automatic watering system that consists of overhead sprinklers, drip irrigation, or a combination of the two. These systems are both time- and work-savers, relatively inexpensive, and often sold in easy-to-use kit forms. Overhead watering mimics nature, of course, and we’ve noticed that plants in a hot, dry environment appreciate the humidity it provides. But overhead watering in the later part of the day can set up ideal conditions for fungal diseases to develop, and it also tends to waste water. Drip irrigation can deliver water where it is needed – at the roots of the plants – through a series of tubes and emitters, but the equipment can be easily damaged and requires a fair amount of maintenance. Talk with a garden center about your needs and read product reviews online to be sure that the system you’re considering is a good match for your needs.

Temperature:

This element comes into play in several different ways. How do you know when to sow seeds or set plants into the ground?

First, of course, there’s the temperature of the soil. Some herbs germinate best in cold soil, some in warm. Then there’s timing: You’ll want to learn the last frost date for your local areas so you’ll know when you can safely plant those tender spring seedlings. You can ask your local Cooperative Extension Service or, of course, do an online search. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to choose herbs from our recommendations wisely.

Improving Garden Soils For Herbs

Improving the quality of soil makes you feel deeply satisfied and there are definitely several reasons for such a fulfilling feeling. In fact, the soil is among the most valuable resources we have. As the soil preferences of different herbs are so varied, it is perhaps impossible to provide any guideline on ways to develop a soil that will be excellent for growing all types of herbs.

How do you describe a good soil? Well, a soil having outstanding texture, constitution and permeability are considered to be a good soil. In addition, a good soil will also have a wonderful smell. It will also be absorbent, brittle, aerated and finely textured. A good soil is complete with valuable soil life and its health works to put off all toxic organisms from populating it – something very similar to a fit and fine human body naturally fending off all pathogens that are responsible for various diseases. A nourishing or beneficial soil is vigorously inhabited by earthworms as well as microscopic organisms like bacteria. In addition, it also contains certain growths like algae, actinomycetes, protozoa and fungi, which have a complicated interrelationship among them. When all these organisms are present in a soil, it is not only healthy and living but becomes an altogether different world by itself. Each of the organisms mentioned here and some more play a vital role in decaying organic substances present in the soil and thereby, makes it richer.

It is worth mentioning here that clay, as well as sandy soils, are not considered to be the most excellent soil types, as they characterize a disparity of the perfect soil ecology. In fact, not many gardeners get a good soil when they start gardening on a small plot for the first time. Thus, they need to work with the different not so good soil types – either clay or sandy soils and enhance their quality. It has been found that in nearly all instances, clay soils enclose a remarkable range as well as the quantity of mineral nutrients. However, it becomes problematic for the plants to make use of the nutrients present in a clay soil, as the structure of the soil is extremely dense.

You may adopt various organic methods to lighten the structure of a clay soil. Among these, gardening experts recommend that you put rice hull into clay soil and work them down up to roughly three feet in depth. There are other experts who suggest that you use adequate rice hulls making the soil look like rice hulls with bits of clay sticking on them. Subsequently, they recommend that you continue to change the soil by adding organic substances till the soil contains 50 percent original modified clay and 50 percent organic material.

You can speed up the decomposition of the soil by means of scattering the modified soil along with a tea prepared from stinging nettles and manure soaked in unpolluted water for roughly a week or little more over the soil. Before scattering the tea, you should ensure that it has been watered down such that its color turns pale. Alternatively, you may also use bacterial cultures that are prepared commercially for the purpose. Till the land once more in the subsequent year and plant a leguminous cover crop with a view to improving the soil by nitrogen fixation. In case, the cover crop you have planted is deep-rooted, it will bring up nutrients from the subsoil by means of its elongated roots.

On the other hand, unlike clay soil, sandy soil does not contain nutrients. While a clay soil contains nutrients in large variety and amount, it is not permeable and hence, the plants are unable to assimilate those. In contrast, sandy soils do not contain much nutriment but are extremely pervious. You can only use one method to improve the quality of sandy soils. What you need to do is continuously add organic substances like leaves, kitchen wastes, manure, and green manure to the sandy soil. If you continue doing this for about two to three years, these organic substances will work wonders. Well, it is definitely plenty of hard work, but if a gardener is committed, he will agree that the end product is worth undertaking the labor. After three years, when he collects a handful of soil from his garden, he will notice that the soil that was once just sand, has turned out to be alive, sweet-smelling, and spongy making it a good soil.

Cultivation

Like there are several perceptions regarding the different gardening systems, the notions about soil cultivation are also varied. While numerous gardeners employ farm machinery for cultivation, biodynamic gardeners are of the view that machines are extremely heavy and make the soil more compact. Therefore, they like to plow using their hand with a view to maintaining the aeration of the soil.

In fact, a biodynamic gardener will usually engage in ‘double-digging’ his garden’s soil and during the process, separate the subsoil from the topsoil carefully. The concept of double-digging is not a new one. About 2,000 years back, the primeval Greeks were aware of the fact that plants thrive excellently in the earth that has been moved due to landslides. It has been found that these types of soils are loose, excellently aerated, and can also absorb moisture, warmth, and nutrients without any difficulty.

If you are following the biodynamic method of cultivation, the ability to breathe is vital. In fact, when you engage in ‘double-digging’ your purpose is to undertake deep cultivation – for instance, digging up to two spades or roughly 24 inches is believed to be fine. Double-digging also aims to split the hard layers below the soil and enable the moisture as well as the gasses underneath the ground to come upwards, while facilitating the movement of gasses and moisture from the atmosphere downward.

Testing your soil for nutrients and pH

You can save plenty of money if you test the soil of your garden for its nitrogen, phosphorus and potash content with a view to determining the pH level of the soil.

In case you find that the pH level of the soil in your garden is very elevated, you may add a stratum of decayed pine needles, acid peat moss or oak leaf mold. On the other hand, if you want to increase the pH level of the soil you need to include some dolomitic lime in the soil. Properly prepared compost is considered to be the best-balanced material that can be incorporated into the soil. In fact, methodically aged compost naturally aids in rectifying alkaline as well as acidic soil conditions. When you add enough organic substances to the soil, the plants generally have a propensity to endure a wider assortment of alkaline or acidic soil conditions and yet be in excellent health.

Trace elements and soil deficiencies

Humus naturally contains trace elements and they are also necessary for any good soil, which is healthy too. Today, there are many soils that are dangerously imbalanced owing to excessive use of chemical and artificially manufactured fertilizers as well as the use of various other inappropriate farming methods. In addition, some types of soils naturally contain very less amount of specific trace elements. Hence, it would be a fine ‘health insurance’ for your garden’s soil if you ensure that the soil in your garden is loaded with all trace elements, which are vital for the plants to flourish.

Organic gardeners usually employ various techniques, for instance, mulching, composting and adding soil amendments such as fish fertilizers and seaweed. All these techniques aid in sustaining the vital trace elements in your soil. In addition, there are certain plants that work to accumulate the trace elements. When gardeners grow these ‘weeds’ between cultivating different crops, compost them or utilize them in the form of green manure, they are particularly helpful in redeveloping or renewing the soil. For example, stinging nettle is one plant that helps to accumulate trace elements like calcium, potassium, sulfur and iron. Similarly, chamomile helps to concentrate sulfur, calcium, nd potash inside the plant’s tissues. Another plant that concentrates trace elements zinc and potash is dandelion. Similarly, valerian improves the content of potash in the soil as well as the adjoining areas where it grows. Gardeners in China grow these plants on the soil directly for fertilizing their crops organically.

Composting

Omitting compost from this article would leave the discussion on soil regeneration or redevelopment incomplete. Precisely speaking, compost is garbage that gets a rebirth in the form of humus. Several organic materials, including weeds, grass cuttings, kitchen scraps (excluding bones and meat), garden residues like stalks and vines, nut shells, leaves, hay, saw dust, manure, sewage sludge form excellent compost. In addition, various organic waste materials like vegetable pulp discarded by juice companies, coffee wastes, leather dust, and wastes from breweries are also good for being used as compost.

Basically, there are two major compost types – aerobic compost (with air) and anaerobic compost (devoid of air). Among the two, aerobic composting is used more often, as it is faster. Below, we will briefly discuss three different aerobic methods.

Indore compost: This aerobic method was developed by Sir Albert Howard, who undertook valuable agricultural research in Indore, a central Indian town. In fact, Sir Howard’s findings laid the foundation for the movement of organic gardening. This compost method is also considered to be the most traditional aerobic practice. This compost method entails making compost in open piles or inside bins. The piles are made such that they usually measure anything between 10 to 30 feet in length, 6 feet in width and about 3 feet to 5 feet in height. The foundation of the pile is made by laying a plant waste layer measuring 6 inches in height and covering the total area on which the pile is supposed to be built. The plant waste layer may comprise several organic matters like saw dust, leaves, straw, hay, garden residue or wood chips. Subsequently, this method involves adding two layers of manure as well as animal bedding to the pile.

Then, you add a thin layer of topsoil measuring about 1/8 inch in thickness to the pile. After that, you may spread phosphate rock, lime, wood ashes or granite dust over the layer of earth. As the height of the pile increases, you need to water it at every stage and repeat the layers in the same order till the height of the pile is about three to five feet. At the same time, it is important that you ensure that the pile maintains its aerating characteristic. In order to keep the pile properly ventilated, you need to make several tubes with wire netting pieces and place them vertically in the middle of the pile, at a distance of roughly 3.5 feet from each other.

After several days of its completion, the pile will heat up and start decaying. Once completed, you can use a pitchfork to turn the heap after two to three weeks and once again after five weeks from its completion. When you follow this procedure thoroughly, within three months the compost or peat will be ready for use.

Compost in 14 days: Another way of making aerobic compost is to follow the method known as compost in 14 days. Compost prepared following this method decays sufficiently and is ready for application in the garden within just 12 days to 14 days. This method entails proper shredding of all organic materials that would be used for making the compost. Unless this is done, this method will not work satisfactorily. Subsequently, the shredded organic substances are blended together and heaped into a pile that is roughly five feet in height and no higher. You need to turn the pile once in two to three days using a pitchfork till the compost is fully prepared.

Biodynamic compost: This method involves using six different herbs, such as chamomile blossoms, dandelion flowers, oak bark, stinging nettle, yarrow blossoms and valerian flowers. These herbs are mixed and put into the compost heap with a view to facilitate the ripening of the compost as well as enhance its aptitude to preserve nutriments. One teaspoon of the biodynamic preparations made appropriately is placed inside a hole measuring about 20 inches in depth and angled downwards into the compost heap. It is important to note that the biodynamic compost preparation with stinging nettle needs to be made in amount of four to five teaspoonfuls, but the preparations with the other herbs should be made in amount of just the level of a teaspoon and not heaped. Subsequently, the holes are filled up with the herbal preparations and closed.

Generally, people engaged in biodynamic gardening prefer locating their compost heaps close to oak trees, as the oak tree offers a favourable environment beneath its branches, enabling the development of good soil in the surrounding area. The compost piles are situated no less than six feet away from the tree trunk with a view to prevent the development of any disease in the oak tree.

Nitrogen fixing

It is important to note that three key elements are necessary for the health of the soil and among these elements nitrogen affects the growth of plants most significantly. Unlike humans, plants do not have the ability to absorb nitrogen mixed with oxygen and other gases directly from the atmosphere. As an alternative, they have to rely on bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil to obtain this essential element.

It is interesting to note that lightning flashes have an incredible power, possess the aptitude for nitrogen fixation in the soil. A number of scientists are of the view that in fact such type of contact between the soil and lightning enabled the development of first life on our planet. Nevertheless, the bacteria present in the soil are more reliable as well as a common means for nitrogen. This way, these nitrogen-fixing bacteria help to enrich the quality of soils that have low nitrogen content. It has been found that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria thrive on the roots of numerous leguminous plants – precisely speaking, more than 1,350 species. Such plants include alfalfa, beans, clover, peas and vetch. In addition, it has been found that a number of trees also possess the ability to fix essential element in the soil, for instance acacia, autumn olive and red alder. Some shrubs also help in fixing nitrogen and these can be used as hedge plants around a garden as well as orchards to enhance the fertility of the soil.

A number of cover crops like alfalfa and clover are usually cut and put into the earth prior to their blossoming. During this stage, these cover crops release plenty of nitrogen within a period of just a few weeks. This is considered to be an ancient way of green manuring and several cultures around the world have used it over the ages. Occasionally, some gardeners use such nitrogen-rich plants for mulching, instead of cutting and putting them into the soil to decompose and release the essential element. In addition, some gardeners also cut these plants and include them in their compost pile. Irrespective of the manner these nitrogen-rich plants may be used by the gardeners, eventually they yield the same result – provide additional nitrogen to the earth.

A number of legumes are fit for sowing during the later part of summer and they grow all through the winter months provided the temperatures do not drop below freezing point. Such legumes include Austrian winter pea, bur clover, crimson clover, sour clover, rough pea, fenugreek and winter vetch. There are other legumes that grow well during the summer and one of the most common summer legumes is alfalfa. In addition, crotalaria is one legume that can even thrive well in infertile sandy soils found in the southern climates. On the other hand, red clover grows excellently in places having cool temperate climatic conditions. Lots of people inhabiting the southern climates grow plenty of a legume called lespedeza. Sweet pea and cowpea are two legumes that have the aptitude to flourish in nearly all types of soils and everywhere.

Mulching

Mulching the soil has multiple benefits. For instance, when you spread mulch on top of the soil in your garden, it not only safeguards the plants from excessive heat during summer and extreme cold conditions during the winter months, but also enriches the soil, helps to preserve moisture and prevents growth of weeds. In fact, a number of gardeners have turned mulching into a genuine art. Majority of the gardeners are of the view that when the soil in their garden has been drained out they need to develop it again by means of covering it with compost prior to starting the no-digging mulch method.

You can make good mulch using almost all organic substances, for instance, rice hulls, a mixture of saw dust and soybean meal, straw mixed with grated leaves, cocoa hulls, buckwheat hulls, grass clippings, shredded corncobs, cornstalks, pine needles and alfalfa hay. You can used mulch to good advantage in the flower, vegetable and herb gardens; in orchard as well as in the fields. In addition, several gardeners grow different cover crops like millet, soybeans, vetch, rye, clover, alfalfa and buckwheat and cut these plants for using them in the form of mulch. A number of gardeners also include a thin stratum of kelp or seaweed in their mulch, because these plants are loaded with various valuable minerals.

It is very important to consider the quality of nutriments contained by the materials that you are use for mulching. Organic substances like corn cobs, straw and saw dust contain very low levels of nitrogen and hence it would prove to be beneficial if you mix them with leguminous mulch. On the other hand, pine needles are known to be acidic like the oak leaves and therefore they are not very useful for mulching plants requiring an alkaline or neutral soil. However, you may use them for mulching if you are growing strawberries or other plants like azaleas, bearberry, rhododendrons and trailing arbutus.

Magnesium Glycinate: Benefits, Side Effects and Uses

Magnesium is a vital nutrient needed to ensure that the body stays healthy. It is essential to many body processes including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA.

If a person is found to be magnesium deficient, the best remedy is to obtain magnesium naturally. Magnesium that is absorbed naturally from food is not harmful and is excreted in the urine even when consumed at high levels.

Magnesium is also available in a variety of different forms including multivitamin-mineral supplements and other dietary supplements. Supplements can help those who suffer from deficiency. One supplement that is often used is magnesium glycinate.

Uses of magnesium glycinate

Magnesium pills
Magnesium glycinate may be available as a mineral supplement.

Magnesium glycinate is often used because it is the best-absorbed form of magnesium and one of the gentlest on the stomach.

Unlike other forms of magnesium, it may not cause as many adverse side effects, such as gastrointestinal distress or loose stools. This property makes magnesium glycinate a good supplement for bariatric surgery patients.

People who have kidney issues should consult a doctor before taking magnesium glycinate. If they consume too much magnesium, they may have trouble excreting the excess.

Risks and complications

Only a doctor should diagnose magnesium deficiency. They can take blood tests as well as identify the correct plan of action to get magnesium levels back on track.

High amounts of dietary magnesium supplements, including magnesium glycinate, can cause adverse side effects including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. Extremely high intakes of magnesium can lead to irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest, which can be very dangerous.

Magnesium glycinate and other supplements can also interfere or interact with some medicines. These include:

  • Bisphosphonates are used to treat osteoporosis. The body does not absorb these drugs well if they are taken too close to supplements or medications that contain a high amount of magnesium.
  • Antibiotics. These may not be absorbed by the body if they are taken too soon before or after a magnesium supplement.
  • Diuretics can increase or decrease the loss of magnesium through urine.
  • Prescription drugs used to treat acid reflux or peptic ulcers can lead to low blood levels of magnesium when taken over a long period.
  • Extremely high doses of zinc supplements can interfere with the absorption and regulation of magnesium in the body.

Benefits

Foods containing magnesium
Some foods in which magnesium occurs naturally are avocados, bananas, dark leafy greens, seeds, beans, and fish.

Some people do benefit more from magnesium glycinate than others and it can have a more positive effect on their health. This includes people with the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure or heart disease: Magnesium supplements may help to decrease blood pressure a small amount.
  • Type 2 diabetes: People with higher amounts of magnesium in their diets may actually lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Magnesium helps to break down sugars and may reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
  • Osteoporosis: Magnesium plays a role in the development of healthy bones, and people with higher levels of magnesium may have a higher bone mineral density. This is important in helping to reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Migraine headaches: People who experience migraine headaches sometimes have low levels of magnesium in their blood and other tissues. Supplements may help to reduce the frequency of migraines.
  • Depression: Inadequate levels of magnesium seem to reduce serotonin levels, and antidepressants have been shown to raise levels of brain magnesium.

Measuring magnesium levels is not easy because magnesium is found within the cells or the bones instead of in the bloodstream. It is possible for blood tests to be misleading.

Doctors will typically measure serum magnesium concentrations in the blood, saliva, or urine to help make the best determination.

It is important to let a doctor make the final diagnosis as the symptoms commonly associated with deficiency could be related to another health problem.

Magnesium in the body

The recommended daily amount of magnesium depends on a person’s age and sex. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide guidelines for the daily recommended amount in milligrams (mg) below.

Life stage Recommended amount
Infants 7-12 months 75 mg
Children 1-3 years 80 mg
Children 4-8 years 130 mg
Children 9-13 years 240 mg
Teen boys 14-18 years 410 mg
Teen girls 14-18 years 360 mg
Men 400-420 mg
Women 310-320 mg
Pregnant teens 400 mg
Pregnant women 350-360 mg
Breastfeeding teens 360 mg
Breastfeeding women 310-320 mg

Magnesium is found naturally in many common foods. Most people can get the recommended daily dosage by incorporating magnesium-rich foods into their daily diet.

Common foods that contain magnesium include:

  • Legumes, nuts, seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Spinach and other leafy vegetables
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified foods
  • Milk, yogurt, and other milk products

Magnesium deficiency

According to the NIH, most people in the United States do not get the recommended amount of magnesium from their daily diet. Men older than 70 and teenage girls are most likely to have low intakes of magnesium.

Getting too little magnesium does not typically cause any adverse symptoms within the body. The body loses a certain amount of magnesium every day due to normal body functions, such as muscle movement, heartbeat, and hormone production. Though only a small amount of magnesium is needed, it is important to replenish magnesium levels to prevent deficiency.

When people who are not magnesium deficient have a low amount of magnesium in their body, the kidneys help to retain magnesium by restricting the amount lost in the urine. This can work temporarily until the levels rise, but a person who has low magnesium levels for long periods can develop magnesium deficiency.

In addition to not following a magnesium-rich diet, some medical conditions and medications can affect how the body absorbs magnesium. They can also increase the amount of magnesium that the body gets rid of, which can result in magnesium deficiency.

Health conditions that can lead to magnesium deficiencies include:

  • Gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • High thyroid hormone levels
  • Kidney disease
  • Taking diuretics

Certain lifestyle factors can also lower magnesium levels.

These include:

  • Drinking too much coffee, soda, or alcohol
  • Eating too much sodium
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Excessive sweating
  • Prolonged stress

People who are deficient in magnesium can experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness

According to the NIH, extreme magnesium deficiency can cause:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

True Aloe

Aloe Vera

Latin Name

L. Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis var miller, Aloe vera var. chinensis, Aloe vulgaris, Aloe vera var. lanzae, Aloe indica, Aloe barbadensis var. chinensis, Aloe vera var. wratislaviensis, Aloe elongata, Aloe vera var. littoralis, Aloe perfoliata var. vera, Aloe perfoliata var. barbadensis, Aloe flava, Aloe chinensis, Aloe barbadensis, Aloe lanzae.

Common Names

Aloe vera, True Aloe

Suggested Properties

Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-viral and energy tonic

Indicated for

Digestive tract irritations such as colitis, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, cleansing stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, bladder and colon, arthritis, asthma, bladder and kidney infections, cancer, constipation, diverticular disorders, haemorrhoids, heartburn, heart disease, HIV, immune stimulation, indigestion, insomnia, kidney disease, leg cramps, leukemia, skin health, stomach distress, tumours, vaginitis, vaginal douche, viruses, white blood cell production and general health tonic.

If you are using oral corticosteroids, such as beclomethasone, methylprednisolone, or prednisone, it is important not to overuse or misuse Aloe vera juice. A potassium deficiency can develop, and you may experience toxic effects from the medication.

Although it is removed, in practice Aloe vera juice may sometimes still contain tiny quantities of the laxative compound found in aloe latex. Should you begin to have cramps or diarrhea do not ingest any more of the juice.

Allergies to aloe vera are very rare. Yet any food can be a potential allergen. Test a small amount on the inner arm to see if any reaction takes place. If no irritation on the skin is observed then it is generally tolerated. If ingestion causes diarrhea, then reduce the amount you ingest, increasing use slowly over several days until the desired amount is tolerated.

Surprising Facts About Aloe Vera

  • With a history that extends back 6,000 years, Aloe vera is believed to have originated in the Sudan.
  • Although it resembles a cactus, Aloe is a member of the lily family.
  • There are 400 species of the Aloe vera plant.
  • Aloe’s health benefits are supported by nearly 700 published scientific and clinical studies.
  • Aloe vera offers over 200 biologically active amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and enzymes.
  • Both Ayurvedic medicines in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine utilize Aloe vera.
  • Aloe vera is the second most frequently used ingredient in Hispanic culture and, in Asian culture, is second only to red ginseng.
  • Native Americans called it the “Wand of the Heaven.”

Aloe vera, also known as Aloe barbadensis, has been a staple for thousands of years in many cultures around the world. Today, it’s used in lotions, ointments, creams, sunburn remedies, and cosmetics, among other things. Traditional uses for aloe vera include soothing burns, moisturizing skin, and healing small wounds. Many people even apply it to reduce the appearance of acne. Aloe vera offers a wide range of nutritional benefits that support more than just skin health. Let’s take a look at some other uses you may not know about.

1. Aloe Vera Supports the Immune System

The immune system requires oxygen-rich blood. Aloe vera supports nutrient absorption, a key factor in maintaining blood-oxygen levels. Oddly enough, one of the ways aloe does this is by keeping the digestive tract clean through bowel regularity.

Aloe also acts as an adaptogen, which keeps cells in balance. It helps protect them from stress and other factors that disrupt their function, in turn making it easier for the immune system to do its job.

Aloe vera is an abundant source of polysaccharides. Research shows these complex sugars improve the efficiency of the immune system. Aloe is also rich in the antioxidants that protect against free radicals.

2. Aloe Vera Supports Normal Digestion

Aloe vera contains two enzymes — amylase and lipase — that are helpful for encouraging normal digestion. Aloe also helps keep your stomach acid levels balanced to support a normal gut environment.

Some preliminary research suggests aloe may also help with ulcerative colitis, a condition in which ulcers form in the intestines. In a clinical trial, 30 patients suffering from the condition were given aloe vera. Fourteen of the thirty patients reported some form of improvement; only four patients in the placebo group reported improvement.

Aloe contains acemannan. Acemannan and other polysaccharides are prebiotics that supports probiotics in the gut. When you have these ‘good guys’ in your gut, you’re apt to digest your food better, get more nutritional value from it, and just enjoy better health. A University of California, Davis study found people who consumed aloe vera absorbed vitamin C and vitamin B12 better.

3. Helps Relieve Symptoms of IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, affects many people. Common symptoms include gas, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal discomfort. Many people have reported experiencing relief after taking aloe supplements.

4. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

Aloe is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including:

  • Vitamin A (beta-carotene): Important for healthy skin, teeth, bones, and eyes.
  • Vitamin C: Vital for energy creation, skin health, and immune function.
  • Vitamin E: Protects the skin from UV damage.
  • Vitamin B12: Keep’s nerve and brain cells healthy. Necessary to replicate DNA.
  • Folic acid: Essential for brain function, liver health, and energy creation.
  • Choline: Supports metabolism and the neurotransmitters needed for memory, focus, and a positive mood.

Aloe contains calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc, all of which are integral to energy creation, hormone balance, cellular reproduction, and immune system function.

5. Aloe Vera is a Great Source of Nutrients and Enzymes

Aloe vera is often called a superfood because, in addition to vitamins and minerals, it offers more than 200 other bioavailable nutrients. It’s especially rich in the following enzymes, which support energy creation, hormone function, digestion, and toxin removal:

  • Alliinase
  • Alkaline phosphatase
  • Amylase
  • Bradykinase
  • Carboxypeptidase
  • Catalase
  • Cellulase
  • Lipase
  • Peroxidase

There is a group of nutrients known as secondary metabolites which are only found in aloe. Some of these include aloe emodin, chrysophanol, aloesin, and aloin. Research shows these nutrients can offer a number of other important health benefits.

6. Aloe Supports Cardiovascular Health

Phytosterols are beneficial compounds in plants and aloe vera is a particularly rich source. Phytosterols help balance LDL cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health. In a five-year study of 5,000 heart disease patients, researchers found those who consumed aloe vera and another plant called ‘Husk of Isabgol’ had better cholesterol and blood sugar numbers.

7. Aloe Vera Boosts Dental Health

A recent study involving 345 participants suggests aloe makes an effective mouthwash that supports healthy teeth and gums. Another study found that aloe vera gel can help fight Candida albicans, a common mouth fungus.

8. Aloe Fights Harmful Organisms

Some plants contain a variety of chemicals and compounds that serve as antiseptic agents and help combat harmful organisms. Aloe vera itself contains six powerful antiseptic agents the human body is able to use: lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamic acid, phenols, and sulfur.

9. Aloe Vera is Ultra Soothing

One of the best uses for aloe vera is to soothe all types of red, swollen, irritated tissue. It contains an enzyme called bradykinase that helps reduce irritation.

10. Aloe Vera May Have Anti-Aging Properties

It appears aloe vera does more than soothe and moisturize. It also offers anti-aging benefits that clear the appearance of wrinkles from the inside out. In one study, 30 women over the age of 45 took an aloe vera gel supplement for 90 days. By the end of the study, the appearance of their facial wrinkles decreased and their skin looked better.

In Conclusion

Aloe vera does a lot more than soothe a sunburn. It’s good for skin and is a potent superfood that delivers powerful nutrition. There are several ways to harness the benefits of aloe vera. You can take it as a juice, a gel, or in pill form. When choosing an aloe supplement, check the ingredients. Some products include ingredients other than aloe vera and may not contain the nutrients, ingredients, or concentrations you expect, acemannan in particular.

What Is Acemannan?

Acemannan pronounced “ace-man-nan”, is a polysaccharide found in the inner part of aloe vera leaves. It’s actually the component that sets aloe vera apart from the 400+ other species of aloe plants. Acemannan has many nutritional qualities and is largely responsible for the benefits aloe vera offers.

Do All of Aloe Vera’s Health Benefits Come from Acemannan?

Aloe vera offers many health benefits and you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of aloe vera products on the market. Topical products like lotions and creams take advantage of aloe vera’s unique ability to soothe skin. Aloe vera also offers a wealth of internal benefits. For example, studies have shown that formulas with acemannan outperform other remedies for oral wounds.

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that, when ingested, aloe vera supports immune health, is very soothing, and even aids digestion. Some research indicates that acemannan can help support normal blood sugar and triglyceride levels. As beneficial as acemannan is, there is a matrix of other vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients working together within the plant.

Best Way to Consume Acemannan

The best way to ensure you’re getting acemannan is to verify that the aloe vera product you’ve chosen is made from the inner aloe vera leaf, not the outer leaf or whole leaf. There are big differences between the inner and outer leaf. For instance, certain compounds within the outer leaf are known to cause severe gastric distress, stay clear!

What about consuming fresh aloe vera straight from the leaf? Certainly doable, but not everyone appreciates the taste, as aloe vera can be bitter and overpowering, even when mixed with juices or smoothies. It’s also difficult to consume the gel from the inner aloe vera leaf without ending up with part of the outer leaf and all that comes with it.

What About Aloe Vera Juice?

Some people prefer aloe vera juice but it can be difficult to find a juice made with only inner leaf aloe vera. Even juices that are made using the gel from the inner aloe vera leaf may still contain other additives.