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Silica is a trace mineral, meaning it's considered a nutritionally-essential mineral, but only required in very small (trace") amounts relative to the much higher amounts required of other minerals like calcium and magnesium.
Silica is necessary for the production of many structural compounds in the body such as those found in vascular tissue like arteries and veins, joints, tendons, ligaments, and structural components of skin, hair and fingernails. Silica supplements may be even more beneficial for older people since less silica is retained by the body as we age. Silicon is required by an enzyme involved in the synthesis of new collagen synthesis in these tissues. Without silica, no new collagen can be produced. Incidentally, vitamin C is also required for collagen synthesis, so if you're considering using silica, it'd be a good idea to buy and use vitamin C at the same time.
Silica may be just what a lot of customers with thin and brittle hair or nails are searching for in vain, as it is an essential structural component of hair, skin and nails, yet nearly absent in most diets; even many otherwise excellent multivitamin-mineral formulas lack silica. Without sufficient amounts of silica, the growth rate and quality of fingernails and hair is greatly compromised. Hair and nails will grow more slowly, become thinner, more brittle, and break more easily. The problem tends to get worse over time. Many people faced with this problem don't realize it, and may spend hundreds of dollars on expensive shampoos, conditioners or exotic treatment none of which really work, because none of them can correct the underlying nutritional problem.
Silica supplements may be derived from crude mineral sources but most use the herb Horsetail, Equisetum arvense. There isn't much hard data that suggests that one or the other is superior, but many users do prefer the plant-sourced products.
Customers using silica supplements to support hair skin or joint tissues can do so confidently as it has very low toxicity. Like most minerals, silica supplements should be taken with solid food for best absorption. Better results will be obtained when silica is combined with other structural support nutrients like a multi, glucosamine, protein and extra vitamin C. Keep in mind that hair and nails grow slowly even in the best circumstances, so it's unrealistic to expect sudden or dramatic changes just by using silica. Hair and nails may take several weeks before they show a noticeable difference. Look for changes at the hair roots and nail cuticles which may begin to be noticeable after as little as one week of silica supplementation.