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Herbology

Physiology

Muscles, Tendons, and Connective Tissue

Muscle, cartilage, and connective tissue hold our skeleton together. This important system takes a lot of physical abuse, pressure, stress, and daily wear and tear.

If the body also has problems with misalignment, a genetic disposition towards problems such as arthritis, high adrenaline stress, and a fundamentally poor diet or lifestyle, then muscle and joint problems may start to flare up.

Cells

The human body is composed of four broad categories of cell types:

For purposes of this paper we will focus primarily on the muscle and connective tissue cells. We weill not discuss nerve cells, which have the ability to initiate electric signals, and epithelial cells, which are located on the surface of the body or organs

An important concept to understand is how muscle cells contract. We take it for granted when we blink an eye, our heart beats, or we pick up a pencil. But how does this happen? There are three main types of muscle cells:

Contraction Action

Muscles "contract" when proteins slide past one another. A very simplistic description is diagramed below. Muscles are composed of Myofibrils that run the length of the muscle. Each Myofibril contains both thin filament (acton) and thick filament (ayosin). The thick filament does not move. It remains in one position. Instead the thin filament is woven into the muscle's thick filament and it simply slides past the thick filament layers, which increases the area of overlap. This overlap of muscle filaments causes "tightening" and gives the muscle what we know as "contraction."

ATP and Calcium

This process of sliding the thin filament past the thick filament involves something called "cross bridges. For these bridges to attach and for the cross bridges to be activated and slide the thin filament, they require two important ingredients: energy (ATP) and calcium (Ca++).

ATP comes from the breakdown of glucose and fat and is required to propel the sliding motion of muscle filaments. In an environment containing no oxygen (anerobic), only the glucose turns into ATP. Fat cannot break down. But as soon as oxygen is present (aerobic) ATP will also be generated from the breakdown of fat. In fact, when oxygen is present almost TWENTY times more ATP (energy) can be created. This is because the ATP is coming from BOTH the glucose and the fat, when there is oxygen present. Herbs can be very important for improving oxygen circulation throughout the body and specifically for providing the production of ATP (or energy). Some common herbs may include Hawthorne, Gingko, or Prickly Ash.

Calcium is the second necessary ingredient for muscle action. This element is required because the thin filaments (acton) are coated with a layer (tropomyosin). The cross bridges cannot connect to slide the thin filament unless this coating is moved back out of the way. Calcium binds to sites on this coating, and moves it out of the way. The sites are then exposed, attachment of the cross bridges can occur, and contraction ensues. A number of herbs and legumes are very high in calcium and minerals and can ensure proper balance and muscle action. Some common herbs may include horsetail and nettles.

Connective Tissue

Cartilage is found near the ends of bone. This cartilaginous tissue is converted into bone, and the cartilage plat continues to produce more cartilage to takes its place.

Ligaments and tendons are not muscles. They are inelastic connective tissue cells. Their major function is to link muscles to bone and bones to other bones. Connective tissue cells support the structure of the body.

A number of symptoms that appear similar, may in fact have very different causes. When trying to diagnose painful muscles and joints, it is important to also understand a number of systems within the body and how they may contribute to the problem, or maybe even increase the problem.