On GAPS, we eat bone broth for every, single, meal! This article is a great reminder of why I need to keep it up, even after GAPS!
Whenever I eat soup these days, it makes me feel soooo wonderful!
Traditional bone broth in modern health and disease
Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Feb-March, 2005 by Allison
Broth, made from the bones of animals, has been consumed as a source of nourishment for
humankind throughout the ages. It is a traditional remedy across cultures for the sick and weak. A
classic folk treatment for colds and flu, it has also been used historically for ailments that affect
connective tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract, the joints, the skin, the lungs, the muscles and the
blood. Broth has fallen out of favor in most households today, probably due to the increased pace of
life that has reduced home cooking in general. Far from being old-fashioned, broth (or stock)
continues to be a staple in professional and gourmet cuisine, due to its unsurpassed flavor and body. It
serves as the base for many recipes including soup, sauces and gravy. Broth is a valuable food and a
valuable medicine, much too valuable to be forgotten or discounted in our modern times with our
busy ways and jaded attitudes.
In general, broth is a liquid made by boiling meat, bones, or vegetables. There are many types of
broths, based on what is being cooked. For example, Bieler Broth, a vegetable broth made with green
beans, zucchini, and celery is a supportive remedy used in detoxification or cleansing protocols.
ConsommE, a rich broth made from meat, is another example. It is prepared by reducing, or
prolonged simmering. Stock is another word used synonymously with broth, though some chefs
denote stock as being made from bones whereas broth is made from meat. In this paper the two
names are used interchangeably. Soup is a similar term referring to simmered vegetables, meat, and
seasonings, and is defined by Random House Webster's Dictionary as a liquid food. (1) The
difference is that soup contains solids such as meat, beans, grains or vegetables (sometimes disguised
by a puree) while a broth is the liquid in which solids have been simmered and then discarded. Soup
is what we think of as having for a meal. Broth is a starting ingredient for soup, and must be prepared
The ingredients are as follows: bones from an animal, with or without meat and skin, enough water to
just cover the bones, a splash of vinegar, and optional assorted vegetables or their scraps. Making
broth requires almost no work, just put the bones in a pot, add water and vinegar, bring it to a simmer
and walk away. No chopping or tending is needed.
Why then, don't people make it? Stock needs to be prepared in advance to mealtime. It needs to boil
for hours, and the longer it simmers, the better it gets. An easy solution is to routinely put meat scraps
into a pot, instead of the garbage can. Broth can just as easily be extracted from a single chicken
breast bone as it can from a whole chicken, and it need not be raw. Broth can be allowed to simmer
on lowest heat for a day or two. The greatest amount of work is at the end, when it must be strained,
cooled, and put into containers, still not very troublesome. It can be kept in the refrigerator for about
five days, or frozen for months. (2) With stock on hand, homemade soup can be ready for dinner
within 20 minutes. (See Appendix A for more recipe details).
Basically then, broth will contain the ingredients that are in bone. Covering and adhering to the ends
of bones to form a joint, is cartilage. Therefore broth will also contain the ingredients that are in
cartilage. Bone and cartilage are both classified as connective tissue. Connective tissue is one of the
four basic tissue types that exist in animals. It functions to bind or hold together and to support and
strengthen the body. Connective tissue consists of a matrix, and cells that secrete the matrix. The
matrix is the material that fills the space between the cells and is therefore referred to as the
extracellular matrix. It is composed of protein fibers, and ground substance, which can be a liquid, a
get or a solid. Since the cells are few, it is the valuable nutrients from the matrixes of bone and
cartilage, which create the substance called broth. (Table I).
The primary functions of bone are to provide a support framework, protect organs, store and release
minerals, produce blood cells and store energy. In the matrix of bone, the protein, collagen, forms the
fibers. Collagen has the ability to resist a pulling or tearing force, called tensile strength. It is flexible
and rubbery. The other matrix component, the ground substance, is made of mineral salts. Calcium
and phosphorus, in a composite called hydroxyapatite, and some calcium carbonate, form 65% of the
ground substance. Water contributes 25%. The remaining 10% is formed by magnesium, sodium,
potassium, sulfate and fluoride. (3,4) (Table I) The inorganic minerals form a solid ground substance
and give bone its hardness. If bones were made only of collagen they would be rubbery, but if they
were made only of minerals, they would be brittle. Together they make bone flexible and hard.
In a central cavity, bone also houses marrow. There are two types of bone marrow, red and yellow.
Red bone marrow is the location for the manufacture of the cells in blood. It produces the cells in
their immature forms. The final conversion into mature blood cells occurs outside the bone marrow.
The cells made in the red marrow are myeloid stem cells, the precursors to red blood cells, and
lymphoid stem cells, the precursors to white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells carry and
deliver oxygen to other cells, white blood cells are part of the immune system, and platelets allow for
clotting. Red bone marrow also contains collagen protein fibers, sometimes called reticulin fibers,
classified as type III collagen. (5) (Table I) In comparing why less chicken parts compared to beef
parts are needed to produce a similarly strong tasting broth, the authors of The Best Recipe cookbook
suggest that chicken bones have a higher concentration of red marrow, and that this considerably
enhances flavor. (6)
Yellow bone marrow is a storage site for energy in the form of lipids or fats. It contains adipocytes
within which fat is stored. It also contains a small amount of blood cells and type III collagen fiber.
(7) (Table I)
Cartilage is deposited in varying places in the body including the nose and ear. The joint cartilage is
the primary type that gets incorporated in broth. It functions as a shock absorber and to reduce
friction. In the matrix of cartilage, the fiber component is collagen protein and elastin protein. Like
collagen, elastin provides strength, but it also provides stretch. It can stretch up to one and a half
times its original length. (8) The other matrix component, ground substance is made of the
glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) chondroitin sulfate, keratin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. The GAGs form
a gel ground substance that gives cartilage its resilience. (Table I)
Cartilage has enjoyed fame as a supplement for osteoarthritis in the form of shark cartilage. It has
been studied for joint disease, and gastrointestinal disease. Prudden found that cartilage dramatically
improved degenerative joint disease, including rheumatoid arthritis. He also found that it improved
inflammatory bowel disease. (9)
Cartilage has a poor blood supply. It actually produces chemicals known as antiangiogenesis factors
(AAFs) that inhibit the growth of blood vessels into it. This seemingly unfortunate quality can
actually be used to advantage in the fight against cancer. Cancer cells grow very rapidly. They
achieve rapid proliferation by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels to support themselves.
AAFs are now being used as a treatment to inhibit the growth of blood vessels into cancer cells. (10)
As a medicine, AAFs are given in the form of cartilage. (11)
Cartilage supplementation also stimulates B, T, and macrophage immune cells. (12) According to
Murray and Pizzorno, malnutrition (protein deficiency) is the most common form of immune
suppression in the world. (13) That is because the immune system is composed primarily of protein,
including antibodies, receptors and chemical signalers. When it is further considered that 80% of the
immune system lines the gastrointestinal tract, the role of cartilage gains importance, since it can
nourish both the gut and the immune system. (14)
Pharmaceutically prepared cartilage is very expensive, often prohibitively so. Of course cartilage can
be extracted at home, by making broth. Broth recipes stress the quality that can be obtained from
using highly cartilaginous parts of animals. These parts will be joint areas, like chicken feet and beef
knuckles, trachea and ribs, or anatomy with a concentration of glycosaminoglycans, like hooves and
To summarize, cartilage (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: arthritis,
inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), cancer, decreased immune
system states, and malnutrition.
Collagen and Gelatin
Collagen comes from the word kolla, which means glue. True to its verbal root, it has been used as
glue in the past. It functions to hold the body together. One fourth of all the protein in the body is
collagen. (15) It is the framework for the extra cellular matrix of bone, cartilage and skin. Another
word for collagen is gelatin. Collagen is a scientific term for a particular protein in the body, while
gelatin is a food term referring to extracted collagen. It is usually encountered in powdered form, but
gelatin also describes the collagen extracted into broth. Properly prepared broth will gel, just like Jell-
O, when cooled, because collagen is rubbery and flexible. Webster's Dictionary defines gelatin as "the
O substance extracted by boiling bones, hoofs, and animal tissues." (16) Since collagen is present in
both bone and cartilage, it can be extracted from either of the two connective tissues and be labeled as
gelatin. Most commercial gelatin today is extracted from animal skin, another connective tissue
which contains collagen. (17,18) Gelatin is what most people think of as the main ingredient in broth.
Bone broth differs from gelatin in that it also contains minerals and GAGS. Traditionally made stock
uses bone and cartilage and produces a higher quality result. It also produces a safer result
considering that commercial gelatin contains small amounts of monosodium glutamate (MSG). (19)
Although it seems obscure today, gelatin has been studied and recommended, with great enthusiasm,
by the medical community in the past. In 1937 Dr. Pottenger said, "Gelatin may be used in
conjunction with almost any diet that the clinician feels is indicated." (20) From the late 1800s to the
mid-1900s, gelatin was the subject of many studies, and these were summarized in the book. Gelatin
in Nutrition and Medicine, by Dr. Gotthoffer. (21) In her article, Why Broth is Beautiful, nutritionist
Kaayla Daniel speculates that one of the reasons gelatin is so infrequently studied today, is due to a
lack of standardization. Without a consistent item, researchers in the past found it difficult to
reproduce findings. (22) In Gotthoffer's survey, one general area of health prescription clearly comes
to the fore, and that is digestion. Most notably, he refars to over 30 years of research on gelatin's
ability to improve the digestion of milk. In the early 1900s gelatin was therefore recommended as an
ingredient in infant formula, to decrease allergic reactions, colic and respiratory ailments. Gelatin was
also reported to increase the digestibility of beans and meat (which gives credence to the practice of
serving meat with gravy). It was also found that gelatin increased the utilization of the protein in
wheat, oats and barley, all gluten containing grains. (23) Gluten is a notoriously difficult to digest
protein for many people. Those that suffer from gluten allergy are diagnosed with Celiac disease, a
Gotthoffer also found gelatin to be prescribed for both hyper- and hypostomach acidity. He cites three
physicians who report gelatin to "work better and more rapidly than bismuth and tannin" in clinical
practice. (24) A more recent study by Wald, demonstrated that glycine (a main ingredient in gelatin)
stimulates gastric acid secretion. (25)
Another recent study found that "geiatin as feed supplement protected against ethanol-induced
mucosal damages in rats." (26) This directly supports the traditional thought that broth is healing and
coating to the gastrointestinal lining, and gives a scientific explanation for broth's ability to calm and
soothe. Gelatin has also been found to improve body weight as well as bone mineral density in states
of protein undernutrition. (27) Additionally, studies have shown that convalescing adults, who have
lost weight because of cancer, fare better if gelatin is added to their diet. It is said to be tolerated
when almost nothing else can be. (28)
Some of the medical communities in other parts of the world value gelatin too. In Chinese herbal
medicine, gelatin is an important herbal remedy, in use for thousands of years. Its Chinese name is e
jiao. It is classified as a tonic herb. Tonics strengthen or supplement insufficiency and weakness. They
are considered nourishing and enhance the body's resistance to disease. They are used for states of
deficiency. Gelatin is used to tonify the blood, in particular. This correlates to Western medical
knowledge since, as we will see, glycine, a key ingredient in gelatin, plays a vital role in the blood.
(Table II) Also if gelatin is extracted from bone, then marrow, where blood cells are produced is also
extracted. Chinese studies have shown gelatin to increase red blood cell and hemoglobin count,
increase serum calcium level, increase the absorption and utilization of calcium, and prevent and treat
myotonia atrophica (muscle wasting). (29)
To summarize, gelatin (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: food allergies,
dairy maldigestion, colic, bean maldigestion, meat maldigestion, grain maldigestion,
hypochlorhydria, hyperacidity (gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, ulcer, hiatal hernia) inflammatory
bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome,
malnutrition, weight loss, muscle wasting, cancer, osteoporosis, calcium deficiency and anemia.
Over 15 types of collagen have now been identified, but histology classifies three main types. (30)
Type I is in bone, skin, ligaments, tendons and the white of the eye. Type II is in cartilage. Type III is
in bone marrow and lymph, and is also called reticulin fiber. (31) (Table I)
Protein fibers are created by stringing together amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Collagen
differs from the average protein in that it is composed of a high concentration of certain amino acids.
Specifically, about one third of collagen is composed of glycine, the smallest amino acid. Another
third of collagen is composed of proline (and hydroxyproline, the active form of proline). (32) The
small size of glycine along with the properties of proline, allows for the unique triple helix shape of
collagen. A smaller portion of the amino acids lysine (and hydroxylysine) are also incorporated into
collagen. The remaining structure is made from other amino acids that vary. (Table II)
Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. It results in symptoms such as bleeding
gums, bruising, and poor wound healing. These manifestations are actually due to a deficiency of
collagen, because vitamin C is needed to synthesize collagen. It converts proline into hydroxy
proline. (33) Collagen, along with minerals are needed for the creation and healing of bone. It is also
integral to cartilage formation and repair, along with GAGs.
To summarize, collagen (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: poor wound
healing, soft tissue injury (including surgery), cartilage and bone injury (including dental
Glycine is the simplest amino acid. It contributes to the manufacture of other amino acids and is
incorporated into important structures in the body. It is a primary ingredient in the synthesis of heme,
the vital portion of our blood that carries oxygen. It is used in the synthesis of creatine, which buffers
energy and shuttles energy across membranes in muscle tissue, especially the heart. It contributes to
the synthesis of bile salts. It is incorporated into purines and pyrimadines, and nucleic acids, which
form our DNA and RNA. It is used as a cofactor in phase I detoxification, during the final oxidation.
(35) It is one of the three amino acids needed to form glutathions the key phase II detoxification
enzyme. Glycine is used in gluconeogenesis, the synthesis of glucose from amino acids (protein)
during times of fasting, and therefore affects the stabilization of blood glucose levels. (36)
Glycine is classified as a nonessential amino acid because we can synthesize it within our body. Not
all scientists believe it is unnecessary to consume it though. In fact, Yu and associates found that
glycine metabolism is directly responsive to dietary glycine and that prolonged abstinence in the diet
may limit the formation of heme, glutathione, purines and creatine. (37) Jackson has concluded that a
marginal state of glycine is more common then previously thought. (38) Jackson also found that
certain conditions increase our need for glycine, such as sickle cell anemia and pregnancy. In the case
of sickle cell anemia, the high rate of heme destruction increases the requirement for glycine. (39) In
pregnancy, the growing fetus creates a demand for glycine that is two to ten times greater than
normal, and two to ten times greater than the need for other amino acids. (40)
Additional studies have reported positive results with glycine for health conditions. Fogarty states
that glycine is "associated with a strongly reduced risk of asthma." (41) Wald demonstrated that
glycine stimulates gastric acid secretion. (42) In a study on wound healing, Minuskin theorized that
glycine was particularly helpful due to its high concentration in connective tissue and also due to the
increased need for creatine in wound healing. (43) It has also been found to be the rate limiting step
in rapid growth, of which both wound healing and fetus growth are an example. (44) Lastly,
Ottenberg stated that "the ability of the liver to perform protective synthesis is limited by the amount
of glycine available," and further recommended gelatin as a glycine supplement for patients with
jaundice and other liver problems. (45)
Broths are often used in modified fasting and cleansing regimes. In the fasting state, glycine is used
for gluconeogenesis. During periods of fasting when no food or energy source is being consumed, our
body breaks down our own protein tissues, such as muscle, to create energy from. If broth is
consumed, it supplies an outside source of glycine, which limits or prevents degeneration during the
fast. Since glycine is also used for phase I and II detoxification, it puts broth into the category of a
liver tonic (or liver supportive). Broth helps the body to detoxify during a cleanse, and in fact at any
time it is eaten.
To summarize, glycine (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: anemia, fatigue,
detoxification, blood sugar dysregulation, muscle wasting, wound healing, pregnancy, infant and
childhood growth, asthma, hypochlorhydria, jaundice and liver support.
Proline is found in most of the proteins in the body. One of its main roles is in the structure of
collagen. It is therefore incorporated into connective tissues such as bone, skin, ligaments and
tendons, and cartilage. Proline is also considered a nonessential amino acid, but as with glycine, it
may be considered 'conditionally essential' in that it is important to consume proline dietarily.
Research shows that proline levels drop significantly when it is absent from the diet. (46)
Proline has also been shown to have beneficial effects for memory and the prevention of depression.
There are other compounds in broth that gel besides collagen. The ground substance of cartilage is
made of proteoglycans, huge sugar and protein molecules. Attached to a core protein are long strands
of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) also called mucopolysaccharides. These structures are naturally
jellylike. As mentioned, the GAGs in cartilage are hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate and to a lesser
degree, keratin sulfate. Hyaluronic acid forms a central strand to which chondroitin and keratin
Hyaluronic acid is strongly negatively charged, which allows it to attract and bond a large amount of
water. This molecule is therefore aptly entitled hydrophilic, or water-loving. Dr. Francis Pottenger,
who researched gelatin in the 1930's, believed that this hydrophilic nature was at the root of gelatin's
digestive benefits by attracting digestive juices to the surface area of our food. He coined the term
"hydrophilic colloids" to describe this process. (48,49) Hyaluronic acid is viscous and slippery. It
lubricates joints and helps in wound healing by assisting migration of phagocytes.
Chondroitin Sulfate is a jellylike substance, now famous as a supplement for joint pain associated
with osteoarthritis. It functions to support and provide adhesiveness. It lines blood vessels and plays a
role in lowering atherosclerosis, cholesterol and heart attacks. (50)
Minerals have three major functions in the body. First, they provide a structural base for connective
tissue like bone. Second, they create electrical potentials allowing for conduction of nerve signals and
movement across cell membranes. Third, they act as catalysts for enzymes in physiologic processes,
and as Paul Bergner says in The Healing Power of Minerals, "transform the food and air we breathe
into energy, vibrant health, and consciousness." (51)
Minerals are essential to life but they are not easy to digest. In the stomach, the presence of
hydrochloric acid is necessary to physically break down our food, but also to extract elemental
minerals from the food that we've eaten. A similar reaction takes place in the making of broth. An
acid is necessary to remove the minerals from the bone. This is the purpose of using vinegar (acetic
acid) when making broth. As stated in
The Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, "If inorganic minerals are removed by soaking bone in a
weak acid such as vinegar, it results in a rubbery, flexible structure." (52) This rubbery flexible
structure is the leftover collagen/gelatin. The chemical reaction that extracts the minerals is an acid
base reaction, in which the vinegar is the acid, and the minerals are the base. (53)
According to The Best Recipe cookbook, the US FDA and Department of Agriculture set no
standards of definition for chicken broth or stock. The authors were wondering why commercially
available broth was so flavorless, lacking in body and generally inferior to the homemade version.
Their conclusions were that the ratio of water to chicken must be high, giving a dilute result, and that
the high, long heating involved in canning destroys the flavor compounds. Canned broth that tasted
good to them had high sodium and MSG. They did find that broth sold in aseptic packaging, which is
subjected to a shorter duration of heat, called flash heating, tasted more flavorful than canned broth.
Since there are no standards for the preparation of, or ingredients in, commercial broth, it is possible
that manufacturers are skipping the vinegar step, or perhaps not even using bones, both of which
would leave the broth devoid of minerals. This may be why canned soup does not contain the same
amount of minerals as home cooked. The milligrams of minerals in vegetable soup increase 2-8 fold
when cooked at home. (55)
Bone contains calcium and phosphorus, and to a lesser degree, magnesium, sodium, potassium,
sulfate and fluoride. Bone is an excellent source of minerals. All of the minerals present in bone,
except fluoride, are macrominerals, which are essential for proper nutrition and are required in greater
amounts than 100mg/day. (56) The only macromineral not present in bone is chlorine. Minerals have
numerous functions in the body beyond the composition of bone, which is why the body will rob the
bones and tissues to maintain steady levels of minerals in the blood and other fluids.
Deficiencies of minerals can be acquired, similar to vitamin deficiencies. Generally there are two
ways this can happen, lack of intake in the diet, or lack of absorption in the intestines. Broth can be
an excellent remedy for both of these causes of mineral deficiency because it provides easily
absorbed extracted minerals, plus promotes healing of the intestinal tract. Unlike vitamins, minerals
do not have defining deficiency diseases, but rather a collection of associated deficiency signs,
symptoms and diseases. Interestingly, many of the deficiency symptoms of minerals are mood and
behavior disturbances. This offers a scientific explanation for broth's ability to soothe and stabilize. It
is reasonable to assume that previous to the development of pharmaceutical mineral supplements,
bone broth was an important supply of minerals, especially in the winter when fresh fruit and
vegetables are less available, and warm food is preferred. Even just one generation ago broth was a
part of most household and restaurant repertoires. Yet today, neither nutrition nor science textbooks
list bone as a dietary source of minerals.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in bone, present both as hydroxyapatite (bonded to
phosphorus) and calcium carbonate. It is also the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium is
necessary for the normal functioning of nerve conduction and muscle contraction (including the
regulation of the heartbeat). It facilitates neurotransmitter release, and hormone action via its relay
role as a second messenger, thus playing an important role in mood and endocrine balance. Proper
blood clotting and tissue repair is also dependent on calcium. It is necessary for the passage of fluids
between cell walls. It is a cofactor for the activity of hundreds of enzymes. It is involved in the
production of the body's primary energy source, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), due to its role as a
citric acid cycle intermediate. Calcium is involved in immune function by helping to stabilize mast
cells. It regulates cell reproduction and it also regulates the manufacture of proteins. As we can see,
calcium is a vitally important mineral, so important, that it is maintained at a constant amount in the
bloodstream at all times, to be readily available for the body's needs.
Intake of calcium is reported to be low in the American diet. (57) Calcium (broth) can be considered
for use in the following deficiency signs, symptoms and conditions: pain and inflammation, cramps,
muscle spasms, delusions, depression, insomnia, irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, palpitations,
hypertension, high cholesterol, allergies, brittle nails, periodontal and dental disease, pica, rickets,
osteomalacia, osteoporosis and any situation that creates bone loss such as aging, immobilization,
postmenopause, and caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol use.
Phosphorus is an ingredient of ATP, the body's source of energy. It is therefore a regulator of all
enzymes via activation reactions. It is a component of nucleic acids, which make up our DNA,
phospholipids which make up our cell membranes, and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)
which as a second messenger, relays information into the cells. It buffers acids, and regulates osmotic
Phosphorus (broth) can be considered for use in the following phosphorus deficiency signs,
symptoms and conditions: decreased attention span, fatigue, weakness, muscle weakness, celiac or
sprue disease, rickets, osteomalacia, primary hyperparathyroidism and seizures.
Magnesium is present in enzymes that generate and stabilize ATP. It is involved in over 300 enzyme
reactions and acts as a cofactor for vitamins B1 and B6. It is involved in the synthesis of cAMP, fatty
acids, proteins, nucleic acids and prostaglandins via delta 6 desaturase. It contributes to muscle
excitability, nerve transmission and allows the parathyroid gland to function normally. Magnesium
deficiency is the most common dietary deficiency in the U.S. Magnesium levels in the diets of 10
different, non-industrialized groups, still eating their traditional diets, were 130-2,850% higher than
are consumed in the modern diet. (58) Magnesium deficiency causes a reduction in all antibodies
(except IgE) and antibody forming cells due to its involvement in protein synthesis. (59)
Magnesium (broth) can be considered for use in the following magnesium deficiency signs,
symptoms and conditions: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, nervousness, anxiety,
restlessness, confusion, hyperactivity, insomnia, muscular irritability and weakness, allergies,
immunodepression, kidney stones and heart attack.
Sodium and Potassium
The electrolytes sodium and potassium have a major influence on osmotic balance between cells and
the interstitial fluid (electrolyte balance), establishing ion gradients across cell membranes, and
neutralizing positive and negative charges on proteins and other molecules. Their electrical
conductivity is necessary for nerve signals, muscle contraction (including the heart) and hormone/
neurotransmitter release. Sodium, in particular, is important in nerve and muscle function and
maintaining water balance. Potassium acts as a catalyst in carbohydrate and protein metabolism.
Intake of potassium is low in the American diet. (60) Both minerals are involved in helping us adapt
to stress, and during situations of prolonged stress such as cancer, the body's stores can be depleted.
Potassium (broth) can be considered for use in the following potassium deficiency signs, symptoms
and conditions: cramping, shallow breathing, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, increased
urination, and heart attack.
Sodium (broth) can be considered for use in the following sodium deficiency signs, symptoms and
conditions: muscle weakness, dizziness, headaches, hypotension, increased heart rate, shock, mental
confusion, stupor and coma.
Sulfur is a component of connective tissues (cartilage and skin, as chondroitin and keratin sulfate),
proteins (enzymes and antibodies), hormones, and B vitamins (thiamin and biotin). It is involved in
energy production, blood clotting, phase II detoxification and bile secretion from the liver.
Sulfur (broth) can be considered for use in degenerative arthritis, and detoxification.
Fluoride is not considered an essential mineral for humans. Its function is to stimulate and strengthen
bone as it is being formed.
Food or Medicine?
Is broth a food or a medicine? It has traditional use as both. As a food it is generally incorporated into
other dishes, serving as a base structure to make soup, stew, sauce or gravy, or to cook grains and
beans in, instead of water. Broth is not a complete protein, since it only contains three amino acids. A
complete protein needs to contain all B essential amino acids. Therefore it is not a meat replacement,
but it can be used as a meat extender. Since glycine is used to make other amino acids, it is
considered protein sparing. In addition, because glycine is used to make energy in gluconeogenesis,
consuming glycine spares your own body protein from being broken down to make energy. Broth is
not a meal replacement, which is why it is used as a starting point for soup, or as the first course of a
As a medicine, it is often used alone, sipped at intervals or drunk much like a tea. The word tea,
besides referring to the popular beverage, also refers to a form of herbal medicine. "Tea" can be used
to describe an infusion or a decoction. To make an infusion, pour boiling water onto herbs, let soak
for 5-10 minutes, discard the herbs, and drink the tea. This is how black tea, is made. A decoction
differs in that it is made by directly boiling the herbs in water, for 20-40 minutes. This method is used
on substances that are tougher, like roots, or bones. Broth is a bone and cartilage decootion, or tea.
What this process is doing, with herbs or bones, is removing the active chemical ingredients into the
water by means of heat, time, and acid, making the nutrients immediately available to absorb.
(Vinegar is also used to remove the minerals from plants when making extractions.) (60)
Using the standard of herbal formulation, broth qualifies as a medicine.
Being both a food and a medicine, broth has some distinct benefits. In general, food is a form of
medicine that has few side effects and is difficult to overdose on. There is less likelihood of forgetting
to take the medicine, since eating is a part of a normal daily routine. This is especially true if the
medicinal food can be incorporated into established eating patterns, such as using broth to cook grain
for a patient who eats grain on a regular basis. Using leftover meat and vegetable scraps to make
medicine is a pretty smart form of recycling. It is an example of using the entirety of what Nature
provides. Most importantly, broth tastes good, it's a delicious food that people enjoy eating, and that
makes the best medicine.
Broth can be thought of as a protein supplement, and a calcium supplement. The chemical ingredients
extracted from broth are glycine and proline (collagen/gelatin), calcium and phosphorus (minerals),
hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate (GAGs), and other minerals, amino acids and GAGs in
It's time we reclaim broth making from the past.
The All New Joy of Cooking describes broth as inherently calming, consoling, and restorative to our
spirit and vigor. (61) Brewing broth fills a home with an aroma of indefinable goodness. That, in
itself, is medicine. Because it's easy to absorb, tastes good, and contains a rich concentration of
nutrients, broth makes a distinctively good medicine.
In conclusion, rather than revisiting the disorders broth may be applied to, (see Appendix B for a
complete listing) a review of definitions associated with broth may illustrate its benefits more
To 'support and strengthen' the function of connective tissue. To 'support and protect' the function of
bone. To 'store energy,' the function of yellow bone marrow. To act as a 'shock absorber and reduce
friction,' the function of cartilage. To be 'flexible and strong,' the function of collagen. To 'hold it
together' and 'keep it together,' also the function of collagen. To 'soup up,' to increase the power or
speed of. To 'put stock in,' to trust. (62)
Basic Broth Making and Usage
1. Bones -- from poultry, fish, shellfish, beef, lamb*
*** cooked remnants of a previous meal, with or without skin and meat
*** raw bones, with or without skin and meat**
*** use a whole carcass or just parts (good choices include feet, ribs, necks and knuckles)
*** don't forget shellfish shells, whole fish carcasses (with heads) or small dried shrimp
2. Water -- start with cold water
*** enough to just cover the bones
*** or 2 cups water per 1 pound bones
3. Vinegar -- apple cider, red or white wine, rice, balsamic
*** a splash
*** 2 tablespoons per 1 quart water or 2 pounds bones
*** lemon juice may be substituted for vinegar (citric acid instead of acetic acid)
4. Vegatables (optional) -- peelings and scraps like ends, tops and skins or entire vegetable
*** celery, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley are the most traditionally used, but any will do
*** if added towards the end of cooking, mineral content will be higher
Combine bones, water and vinegar in a pot, let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour, bring to a simmer,
remove any scum that has risen to the top, reduce heat and simmer (6-48 hrs for chicken, 12-72 hrs
for beef). To reduce cooking time, you may smash or cut bones into small pieces first. If desired, add
vegetables in last 1/2 hour of cooking (or at any point as convenience dictates). Strain through a
colander or sieve, lined with cheesecloth for a clearer broth. Discard the bones. If uncooked meat was
used to start with, reserve the meat for soup or salads.
An easy way to cook broth is to use a crockpot on low setting. After putting the ingredients into the
pot and turning it on, you can just walk away. If you forget to skim the impurities off, it's ok, it just
tastes better if you do. If you wish to remove the fat for use in gravy, use a gravy separator while the
broth is warm, or skim the fat off the top once refrigerated. Cold broth will gel when sufficient gelatin
is present. Broth may be frozen for months or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
1. Soup -- Make soup by adding vegetables, beans, grains or meat to broth. Briefly cook vegetables
and meat with butter or oil in the bottom of a stockpot (5 minutes). Add broth, and grains or
previously soaked beans if you wish. Simmer until everything is cooked through. Time will vary with
the ingredients used, but count on a minimum of 20 minutes. Season at the end of cooking with salt
and pepper and spices of your choice. Consult cookbooks for specific recipe ideas.
2. Cooking Liquid -- Use broth in place of water to cook rice, beans or other grains. Bring broth to a
boil, add grains or beans, reduce heat and cook for instructed time. Or you can simmer vegetables or
meat in a little seasoned broth until cooked. Remove to a plate, thicken broth with cornstarch,
arrowroot or flour, then pour over vegetables and meat.
3. Gravy -- Make gravy to put on vegetables, meat or biscuits. Put fat (removed from the broth, or use
butter) in a skillet. Add any type of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir constantly until browned.
Whisk in broth and cook till thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Tea -- Don't forget you can just add salt and sip broth like tea. This is especially nice in the winter
or if you're feeling sick. Since broth is simultaneously energizing and calming, it can take the place of
morning coffee, afternoon tea, or evening nightcap. Try it in a thermos and sip throughout the day. Of
course, the most traditional use for seasoned broth is as a first course, to enhance the digestion of any
meal to come.
*Pork cones are not generally recommended for prepared ahead broth, but are cooked into stew and
soup recipes, and boiled pig skin is traditionally consumed for many of the same purposes as broth.
**Raw bones and meat may be browned first in the oven, or in the bottom of the stockpot to enhance
flavor and color.
Alphabetical Listing of Conditions that Broth Benefits
hyperchlorhydria (reflux, ulcer)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis)
intestinal bacterial infections
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
loss of appetite
weight loss due to illness
Table I: Connective Tissue
Extra Cellular Matrix
Ground Substance Protein Fibers Cells
Bone: calcium Bone: collagen I (90%) Bone: osteocytes
phosphorus collagen III
sodium and potassium
Cartilage: Cartilage: Cartilage:
chondroitin sulfate collagen II
keratin sulfate elastin
Table II: (34) Amino Acid Profile of Gelatin
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National College of Naturopathic Medicine, September 2004.
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Bibliography for: "Traditional bone broth in modern
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