An Essential Trace Mineral

By Shelley Burns

Originally published in Skin Deep, January/February 2009. Copyright 2009. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All right reserved.

Trace minerals have an important role to play in skin health, specifically in the strengthening and repair of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen makes up 25 percent of the body's protein and gives structure to the skin. It is similar to the poles that hold up a tent.

Silica is a trace mineral responsible for strengthening connective tissue, including bone, hair, and muscle. It is fundamental to healthy skin. A silica deficiency may result in poor wound healing and reduced skin elasticity. Unfortunately, as we age, our silica stores become depleted. This is why our skin begins to lack luster and exhibit premature aging in the form of increased wrinkling.

Studies have shown the effectiveness of silica supplementation in improving hair, nails, and skin. One study reported a significant increase in the skin's thickness and appearance and a decrease in wrinkles with silica supplementation. The same study showed an improvement in minor skin problems like blackheads and whiteheads.

No known side effects
Foods that contain silica include alfalfa sprouts, asparagus,
beets, bell peppers, broccoli, brown rice, celery, kale, leafy green vegetables, mango, rapini, root vegetables, strawberries, swiss chard, dried beans and peas, and whole grain breads and cereals. It is important to note that silica is usually found in the skin or outer layers of foods, so supplementation is recommended. There are no known side effects to this supplementation.

Silica is a water-soluble mineral and thus does not accumulate in the body, so there's no risk of building up too much in your system. The recommended dosage is 25-50 milligrams daily in capsule form. Another option is to consume horsetail tea (Equisetum arvense), which is rich in silica. Boil 2-4 teaspoons of the herb in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Steep the tea for an additional 15 minutes and strain. Consume 2 cups daily.

The bottom line is, if you want to have healthy skin, beautiful hair, strong nails, and great-looking teeth, think silica. Perhaps this trace mineral is our true Fountain of Youth.

Shelley Burns, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, completed studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has certification in complementary and integrative medicine from Harvard University. She can be reached at the Scienta Health Centre at 416-222-5880 or

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