Minerals are required for a plant’s growth and metabolism. They are not manufactured by plants, as are vitamins, but instead are absorbed from the soil. In fact, this is one of the chief functions of the plant’s root, which absorbs minerals via its “free space.” There is a fascinating phenomenon of nature that occurs here, which has only recently been appreciated: It seems that a symbiotic relationship exists between plant roots and certain fungi, whereby a mycorrhixa—or “fungus root” of sorts—enhances plant absorption of the major minerals, including at least potassium, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, molybdenum, and copper. Plants use some of these minerals in the same way as do we humans: Iron, for instance, is used to create the chlorophyll molecule in plants, which resembles our own hemoglobin molecule; zinc is utilized as a component of enzymes, even as it is in us.
The minerals in plants are very important to the health of humans who ingest such vegetation. Interesting here is that phytochemists have determined that the mineral content of a particular species is fairly consistent wherever that species might grow, which shows that plants are determined to acquire minerals for their own particular needs in precisely the right amounts. Should we humans do any less?
Unfortunately, as we saw in Lesson Four, mineral shortages are abundant in our cultivated food supply. This is why wild foods are such a wonderfully viable alternative. As can be seen by examining the chart on page 218 of this workbook, the highest sources of a representative three of the major minerals proliferate in wild greens—staples to wild-foods foragers like chickweed, dandelions, amaranth, violets, watercress, plantain, purslane, cattail shoots, lamb’s quarters, nettles, sow thistle, wild grapevine, and others—instead of in the very best of cultivated produce. Here, by the phrase “the very best,” we are referring to mineral “dense” veggies (like kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli, etc.) as opposed to mineral “sparse” veggies (like iceberg lettuce, the preferred vegetable of the American public).
But, regardless of whether one pursues mineral-“dense” cultivated produce or wild greens or a combination thereof, it is vital to health that such nutritious foods form an integral part of the diet. Not only that, but it is also important that nutrient “robbers"—like refined sugar—are rigorously excluded! Such wise practices not only help insure that our bodies keep running as “lean, mean machines,” but that our minds and spirits remain functioning optimally as well. (Recall here our discussion of Alexander Schauss’ research, referred to on page 216, relative to the importance of diet to behavior, and how criminal behavior has been connected with nutrient-”sparse” diets.)
All good herbalists are nutrition oriented, encouraging wise food choices. With careful planning, they can choose those herbs for a person seeking healing that can also enhance any sub-optimal mineral levels evident in such a one, especially when it is suspected that that one's compliance for consuming any recommended, mineral-rich foods is going to be poor. Here, then capsules or fresh herbs are generally the best forms to use, since minerals are not extracted well in tinctures. Teas are also an option, but here it is important to stress that such should be steeped for several hours and that the dregs at the bottom need be imbibed. (Since it is difficult to confirm compliance on these two factors, this is why we say that fresh herbs and caps are usually best.)
But, let’s now summarize the minerals crucial to the human diet. (This will be a more abbreviated summary than we did with the vitamins, since the minerals are discussed in more depth in the audiocassette portion of this course.) In addition to the major minerals listed below, the body also needs a variety of other minerals and trace elements to function, including: cobalt (helps form hemoglobin & aids RBC function); fluorine (supports bone & fights infection); germanium (optimizes immune function, fights free radicals, & helps oxygenate tissues), lithium (balances mood), vanadium (regulates blood sugar; prevents arterial plaques; regulates blood pressure; aids in circulation), boron (metabolizes & assists uptake of calcium, magnesium, & phosphorous; builds muscle; & enhances brain function & alertness), silicon (important for strong nails, hair, & skin), bromide, strontium, nickel, and many others.
BOTANY, NUTRITION, & PHYTOCHEMISTRY
LESSON QUESTION SHEET
(As resources to answer these and the other questions in Course Two, see only this Workbook.)
1. Which non-B vitamin does our intestinal microflora manufacture?
2. Which vitamin, important in the bodily process called “methylation,” has been shown to markedly help prevent birth defects, and should normally be supplemented in an amount of around 800mcg by a pregnant woman?
3. Which structure in the body stores more vitamin C than any other, though it is small?
4. Whey and root vegetables are good sources of which quasi-vitamin, known to help synthesize nucleic acids?
5. The “sesame-seed factor” is another name for which quasi-vitamin? Aside from sesame seeds, what other, common, domestic food contains this substance? What is one wild food that may contain it? What impact does the “sesame-seed factor” have on blood?
6. Royal jelly is the highest known source of which vitamin that is a forerunner to coenzyme A and most crucial for the production of adrenal hormones?
7. Which vitamin inhibits homocysteine proliferation, helps produce antibodies, and can help with premenstrual bloating, but may be indicated as lacking by muscle twitching, seborrheic dermatitis, or other areas of dry, flaky skin? With which mineral does it work most synergistically?
8. Which vitamin helps form the red-blood cells, contributes to the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, helps synthesize sex hormones and other steroids, and can sometimes lower cholesterol levels, but may be indicated as lacking by canker sores, indigestion, biliousness, or diarrhea?
9. A shortage of which vitamin may be manifested by anemia, fatigue, irritability, soreness and weakness in the legs, and inflammation of the tongue? Why would a person on acid-blocking drugs probably want to supplement this vitamin, and in a lozenge form at that?
10. Which vitamin helps in iron absorption, potentiates the immune system, helps synthesize collagen, and may be manifested as lacking by edema, poor wound healing, adrenal fatigue, and frequent viral infections?
11. Name the four vitamins that are fat-soluble.
12. Which vitamin, seriously lacking in a vegan diet, is important for the secretion of melatonin for sleep?
13. Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid play important roles in which important process that occurs in the body?
14. How, and under what circumstances, was quasi-vitamin U discovered? Which food has the highest amount?