Silica: The Trace Mineral Requisite for Optimal Collagen Function in the Body

Collagen is a fibrillar(1) protein that makes up almost one-third of our body tissue. It forms the conjunctive and connective tissues in the human body, namely, skin, joints, and bones. Collagen synthesis is absolutely required by all of our vital tissues especially during periods of growth, recovery and repair, but in order for collagen to be ideally synthesized at any age, a healthy amount of the natural compound silica, which declines with age just as collagen does, must also be present in the body.


Silicon vs. Silica

Silicon is a natural trace mineral and an element on the periodic table which exists as a shiny dark gray crystalline form or as an amorphous(2) powder. It naturally becomes the compound silicon dioxide in plants as plants absorb it from the soil and integrate it into their root, stem and leaf structures. Silica is the shortened form of the name of the compound silicon dioxide (SiO2).


What Silica Does in the Body

The human body contains approximately seven grams of silicon present in tissues and body fluids. Silica is used by virtually every cell and internal gland in the body.

“Silicon is the second most abundant element on Earth, and the third most abundant trace element in human body. It is present in water, plant and animal sources. On the skin, it is suggested that silicon is important for optimal collagen synthesis and activation of hydroxylating enzymes, improving skin strength and elasticity. Regarding hair benefits, it was suggested that a higher silicon content in the hair results in a lower rate of hair loss and increased brightness.” —L. A. Araújo et al in Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy

One of collagen’s functions is to provide sound structure for our bones and all our connective tissues including hair, skin (elasticity and structure), and nails. But silica is essentially the foundation of collagen because it connects collagen molecules making them more mobile. Silica is, therefore, a vital cross-linking agent in connective tissue.



Silica also stimulates fibroblasts(3) which secrete collagen type I–the type of collagen found in abundance in youthful skin.


We require silica to:

  1. bond collagen molecules together;

  2. absorb collagen; and

  3. build collagen; silica is required for the enzyme prolyl hydroxylase to help synthesize collagen.

Silica is a vital supporter of collagen. Without enough silica, collagen is incomplete.


Factors Influencing Silica (and Collagen) Decline in the Body

A number of factors are key to the rate of silica and collagen decline in the body including:

  1. Microbiome health: Collagen helps build new muscle cells to support the viability of the stomach lining and intestinal wall. Most gastro-intestinal problems occur because of degradation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Since silicon is an essential component for the synthesis of collagen, it plays a key role in rebuilding this lining for supporting healthy gut function.

  2. Diet: Diets rich in plant foods are very supportive of silica intake.(See the section below entitled, “Foods Rich in Silica.”) And since this form of silica occurs naturally in the plant, it is very bioavailable and the best source of silica you can get.

  3. Stress: An increase in the hormone cortisol produced in the body as a response to stress decreases the ability of the body to absorb silica and produce collagen.

  4. Inflammation: A main enemy of all connective tissue, chronic inflammation interferes with the healing of damaged skin cells which require collagen and silica to repair, at least in part.

  5. Inadequate sleep: It is believed that chronic short sleep causes overall poor nutrient absorption and resulting insufficiency.

  6. Ultraviolet light exposure: There's a proven link between damaging ultraviolet light exposure from the sun and loss of collagen. One study observed collagen under ultraviolet light and found a significant decrease in collagen structure afterward. DNA changes occur in the cells that manufacture collagen as well as free radicals and both of these actions can directly negatively affect collagen through oxidative stress.

Silica: “Beauty Mineral” While there’s no scientific evidence that silica can reverse the effects of hair loss, it has been found to help strengthen hair, among other benefits. Silica promotes lustrous hair and may even prevent or mitigate thinning hair. It works to supply hair follicles with the nutrients they need for hair growth.


A 2005 study (referenced in endnotes) showed how silica helped a number of women’s sun-damaged skin. After the women took 10 mg of silica on a daily basis, their skin’s rough texture was improved.


Collagen not only maintains skin’s youthfulness keeping it firm and elastic, it also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This action cannot occur without adequate silica in the body.


Silica is mostly present in the deeper connective layers of the skin. It has moisturizing effects and accelerates wound healing.


Silica ensures healthy outer cell layers of the skin.


Silica assists our bodies to recover from strain and stress which otherwise ravage our innate beauty.


Other Physiological Benefits from Silica Silica is recommended for:

  • arthritis;

  • joints, joint pain and deformities;

  • spinal disc regeneration;

  • bone weakness and osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, heart valve weakness, and varicose veins;

  • athletic injuries;

  • greater cognitive function;

  • poor skin texture.

We’re born with large amounts of silica and low amounts of calcium. As we age our silica supply declines as they continue to deposit calcium into our glands leading to calcification of tissues and increasing loss of glandular function. Calcium requires vitamin D3 for optimal absorption by the body, but it also requires silica in order to build strong bones and teeth.


Silica enhances bone mineralization and can be very valuable in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. It promotes proper balance between calcium and magnesium in the body leading to better hormonal balance.


Calcium deficiency is almost always associated with silica deficiency. Several studies show that people with broken bones heal much quicker when silica levels are high even if calcium levels are low. If you take a calcium supplement, look for silica content in the formulation to ensure your supplement is a good one.


Since silica lends strength and elasticity to collagen, joints become more flexible, are able to heal more quickly and snap back from daily wear and tear.


Silica also strengthens the digestive, cardiovascular and central nervous systems.


The central nervous system depends on calcium and magnesium to carry its nerve impulses accurately throughout the body. Since calcium requires silica to be effective in the body, it follows that silica is vital for good function of the central nervous system.


With skin and the digestive system as our first lines of defense against pathogens, silica plays a vital role in our immunity.


Silica also helps build strong stomach and digestive tract muscles and tissues caused by poor diet or parasites.


Silica is important for healing injuries. Connective tissues play a large role in the natural healing process of the body following an injury involving soft tissue damage. Collagen formation around an area of an injury may be increased with the help of silica in the diet.


Silica strengthens blood vessels. In the cardiovascular system, silica is found to be more prevalent in healthy hearts than diseased ones. Silica is required for a healthy heart.


Silica helps the body to detox from heavy metals and prevent their recirculation. It works to help remove aluminum, mercury, cadmium and lead from the body.


Where Silica Is Found

Silica appears abundantly in the soil, plants, minerals, human tissues and even in water.


In humans, silica content is most concentrated in the connective tissues: the aorta, trachea, tendon, bone and skin and to a lesser degree in the liver, heart and muscle. The epidermis and hair also possess significant amounts of the mineral.


Silica doesn’t accumulate in the body but gets flushed out by the kidneys so most people don’t have enough. Good nutritional supplementation may help the body to retain more silica though getting it through food is always best.


Silica supplements, tinctures and teas commonly come from bamboo or the horsetail plant (Equisetum arvense). Horsetail is the quintessential plant supplement containing high levels of bioavailable silica.


While collagen is abundantly found in animal tissue, silica is more prevalent in vegetables and therefore vegetarian diets consisting of plants-based foods may provide higher levels of silica.


Foods Rich in Silica Consuming the mineral silicon naturally boosts skin for a healthier more radiant appearance.

A green smoothie in a mason jar sits on a rustic table with peeled bananas and scattered spinach leaves

Members of the cucurbit familyCucumbers and melons are excellent sources of silica.


In addition to the super-hydration offered by silica rich melons, they provide highly bioavailable and bioactive trace minerals. Melon is an excellent fruit for restoring weakened ligaments, joints, bones, teeth, connective tissue, and tendons;. Watermelon, for example, contains seven mg of silica per gram of flesh.


Silica is found in high levels inside cucumbers and they have long been used in daily skin beauty regimens. The juice of the naturally hydrating English cucumber, especially, is superb for improving complexion, elasticity and health of skin.


Additional Silica Rich Foods(4) Include:

  • lettuce, spinach

  • avocado

  • potatoes

  • strawberries

  • onions

  • dandelion tea, nettle tea, rosehip tea

  • millet, oats, rice, wheat bran

  • bamboo

  • garlic, onions

  • root vegetables

  • bananas

  • green beans

  • soybeans/tofu

  • plant pectin

Even drinking water appears to be a very bioavailable source of silica appearing to account for greater than 20% of total dietary silica when water is consumer in healthy amounts daily.

(1) fibrillar: relating to, of the nature of, or characteristic of a small or slender fiber

(2) amorphous: without a clearly defined shape or form

(3) fibroblast: a cell in connective tissue which produces collagen and other fibers

(4) Other silica rich foods includes seafood, in particular, mussels, and beer.


Sources:


Sangvanich T, et al. Novel oral detoxification of mercury, cadmium, and lead with thiol-modified nanoporous silica. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2014; 6(8): 5483-5493.


Kaufmann, Klaus. Silica, the Forgotten Nutrient: Healthy Skin, Shiny Hair, Strong Bones, Beautiful Nails : a Guide to the Vital Role of Organic Vegetal Silica in Nutrition, Health, Longevity and Medicine. Canada, Alive Books, 1993.


Extraction of Pectin from Watermelon Rind Mary Campbell ... - Ucanr.edu. https://ucanr.edu/datastoreFiles/608-824.pdf.


Marcos-Garcés V, Molina Aguilar P, Bea Serrano C, García Bustos V, Benavent Seguí J, Ferrández Izquierdo A, Ruiz-Saurí A. Age-related dermal collagen changes during development, maturation and ageing - a morphometric and comparative study. J Anat. 2014 Jul;225(1):98-108. doi: 10.1111/joa.12186. Epub 2014 Apr 23. PMID: 24754576; PMCID: PMC4089350.


Zhang, Tianxing, et al. “Human Biological Rhythm in Traditional Chinese Medicine.” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences, Elsevier, 8 Feb. 2017, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754816301028.


Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PM. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. An Bras Dermatol. 2016 May-Jun;91(3):331-5. doi: 10.1590/abd1806-4841.20163986. PMID: 27438201; PMCID: PMC4938278.


Paxton, Fay. Foundations of Naturopathic Nutrition: A Comprehensive Guide to Essential Nutrients and Nutritional Bioactives. United Kingdom, Taylor & Francis, 2020.


Hechtman, Leah. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Australia, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2018.


Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PM. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. An Bras Dermatol. 2016 May-Jun;91(3):331-5. doi: 10.1590/abd1806-4841.20163986. PMID: 27438201; PMCID: PMC4938278.


Reffitt, D. M., Ogston, N., Jugdaohsingh, R., Cheung, H. F., Evans, B. A., Thompson, R. P., Powell, J. J., & Hampson, G. N. (2003). Orthosilicic acid stimulates collagen type 1 synthesis and osteoblastic differentiation in human osteoblast-like cells in vitro. Bone, 32(2), 127–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/s8756-3282(02)00950-x