The Complete Herbal
Guide to Vitamins & Minerals

A-Z of Vitamins and Minerals



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Overview | Minerals | Vitamins | Supplements

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



Minerals are neither animal nor vegetable; they are inorganic. Almost all foods contribute to a varied intake of essential minerals. Most minerals are easy to obtain in quantities required by the body. A major exception is iron for children under age 4 and adolescent girls and women in the childbearing years. These groups need more iron than a normal diet may provide. Iron helps to build red blood cells. It also helps the blood carry oxygen from the lungs to each body cell. Rich sources of iron are meat, especially liver; egg yolks; and dark green vegetables.

Everyone at every age needs calcium. This mineral builds bones and teeth, and it is necessary for blood clotting. The best sources are milk and hard cheese. Others are leafy greens, nuts, and small fishes--such as sardines--with bones that can be eaten.

Phosphorus works with calcium to make strong bones and teeth. A diet that furnishes enough protein and calcium also provides enough phosphorus. Other important minerals are sodium, potassium, iodine, magnesium, zinc, and copper.


A "vitamin" is any one of the organic compounds required by the body in small amounts (micronutrients), to protect health and for proper growth in living creatures. The discovery of vitamins began early in the 20th century. They were first discovered by Dutch physician, Christiaan Eijkmann, who won the 1929 Nobel prize in physiology and medicine.

All living things need vitamins for growth and health and each vitamin has specific roles to play. The body either cannot manufacture them at all or cannot normally manufacture them in sufficient amounts, and so must absorb them from food. They are essential for a healthy life and contribute to good health by regulating metabolism and assisting the biochemical processes that release energy from digested foods. Many reactions in the body require several vitamins, and the lack or excess of any one can interfere with the function of another.

It is very likely that some vitamins remain undiscovered. Eating a healthy, balanced variety of foods ensures getting enough vitamins wether we are aware of them, or not.


A "supplement" is a nutrient or phytochemical supplied in addition to that which is obtained in the diet. Generally these are used to complete or make up a deficiency. A supplement can include all or some of the following:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbs or other botanicals (excluding tobacco)
  • an amino acid
  • any dietary substance used to supplement the diet by increasing the total daily intake (e.g., enzymes or tissues from organs or glands),
  • a concentrate, such as a meal replacement or energy bar
  • a metabolite, constituent, or extract.
Article - Nutritional Supplements: Adding To Your Health?


Vitamin A - aka Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene, Retinol

Vitamin A is needed for strong bones, good vision, and healthy skin. It helps cell reproduction. It also stimulates immunity and is needed for formation of some hormones.

Ascorbic Acid - See Vitamin C


Vitamin B Complexes
Vitamin B1 - aka Thiamine, Thiamin, Aneurin

Your body uses Vitamin B1 to process fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Thiamine helps the boady produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is the body's main energy-carrying molecule.

Article - Vitamin B1
Vitamin B2 - aka Riboflavin

Vitamin B2 is essential for the generation of energy, nerve development, blood cell development, and the regulation of certain hormones.

Article - Vitamin B2
Vitamin B3 - aka Niacin, Nicotinic acid
Vitamin B5- aka Pantothenic acid
Vitamin B6 - aka Pyridoxin
Vitamin B9 - aka Folic acid, Folacin
Vitamin B12 - aka Cyanocobalamin, Cobalamin
Article - Vitamin B12



Calcium is an important component of a healthy diet . Its minor deficit can affect bone and teeth formation, while its excess can lead to kidney stones. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.

In the news:
Calcium may cut severe pregnancy complications: study shows
Vitamin C - aka Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C is essential for the manufacturing of collagen, necessary for tissue repair. It is needed for metabolising phenylalanine, tyrosine, folic acid and iron. Vitamin C is also vital for healthy immune and nervous systems because it strengthens blood vessels, as it is an antioxidant that participates in oxidation-reduction reactions. Also, it is required for utilizing carbohydrates and synthesizing fats and proteins.


Copper works together with iron to make red blood cells and it is the major component of the outer coating of nerve fibers and collagen. Copper is involved in maintenance of immunity and feertility, formation of melanin, and the promotion of consistent pigmentation. It is believed that zinc and copper compete for absorption in the digestive tract so that a diet that is excessive in one of these minerals may result in a deficiency in the other.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin because it can be formed by direct sunlight on the skin. It is an essential vitamin particularly for children because it helps calcium and phosphorus to form straight, strong bones and teeth. In particularly, vitamin D is used to absorb calcium and phosphorus to create bone.


Vitamin E - aka Alpha-tocopherol

Vitamin E helps to protect vitamin A and red blood cells, it serves as a cofactor in several enzyme systems. It keeps excessive oxidation from occurring that could cause harmful effects in the body.


Fat-soluble vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body for long periods. They are stored mostly in the fatty tissue and in the liver. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. These are generally consumed along with fat-containing foods. Because they can be stored in the body's fat, they do not have to be consumed every day.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a component of vitamin B. It is used in our bodies to make new cells.  Increased folic acid intake is frequently recommended for women who are pregnant or who are trying to get pregnant.

Article - Why Folic Acid Is Important

Fluoride is not technically an essential mineral, because the body can live without it, the benefits that fluoride has on cavity prevention are very well documented. But how does fluoride help prevent cavities?



Vitamin H - aka Biotin

Vitamin H is essential to normal growth and development and overall health. Bacteria in the intestines produce enough biotin for the body so that most people would not need an additional supplement of vitamin H.



Despite its abundance, iodine deficiency is relatively common. Severe iodine deficiency often occurs in people that are afflicted with thyroid disease or a hyperthyroid disorder, or those who have developed a goiter. Symptoms of iodine deficiency may manifest as extreme fatigue, weight gain, facial puffiness, constipation, slowing of both physical and mental processes, and lethargy.


Iron is an essential mineral stored by the body in red blood cells. It is also the most common mineral deficiency in the world. The symptoms of deficiency are tiredness, general weakness, an inability to concentrate, susceptibility to infection, impaired performance, and in general, ill health. Calcium and copper must be present for iron to function properly, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) enhances absorption. Iron is necessary for proper metabolization of B vitamins.

Article - Iron Mineral 101



Vitamin K - aka Phytonadione

Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting, it is one vitamin that is made within the human body--by bacteria that live in the intestinal tract. When foods are processed or cooked, very little of vitamin K contained in foods is lost.




Magnesium is vital for a healthy nervous system, muscle contraction, and for the formation of healthy bones and teeth. Magnesium can also help guard against cardiovascular disease and lower high blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency can adversely affect the immune system Lastly, magnesium may be useful in preventing type II diabetes and its complications, alleviating the symptoms of PMS and minimizing the severity of asthma attacks.


In animal species, manganese deficiency results in abnormal skeletal development. Manganese is the preferred cofactor of enzymes called glycosyltransferases, which are required for the synthesis of proteoglycans that are needed for the formation of healthy cartilage and bone. It is often added to Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements for this very reason.



Omega 3

Many studies have supported the health benefits of increasing omega-3 fatty acids in diets deficient in this nutrient; these studies have also provided information as to the detrimental effects of an omega-3 deficient diet. Many studies have shown that high doses of omega-3 can treat bipolar disorder and depression, while other research has shown a better benefit at lower doses and no benefit, and even worsening of the symptoms at higher doses.

Article - The truth about Omega 3
Article - Omega 3 - How Will It Benefit You?


Vitamin P - aka Flavinoids

Vitamin P enhances the use of vitamin C by improving absorption and protecting it from oxidation. Great sources of this vitamin are found in the edible pulp of fruits, green pepper, broccoli, and red wine.


Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte. Research shows that increasing your potassium intake can lower your blood pressure. Individuals with existing hypertension, as well as those just looking to keep their blood pressure in check, can benefit from potassium.





In recent years, laboratory experiments, clinical trials and epidemiological data have established the role of selenium in the prevention of a number of degenerative conditions including cancer, inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, aging, and infections. Most of these effects are related to the function of selenium in the antioxidant enzyme systems.


Sodium works with chloride and bicarbonate to maintain the body's balance of positive and negative ions in our body fluids and tissues. Without this balance of ions, our bodies electrical systems would not communicate. Sodium holds water in body tissues. The average American diet provides far too much sodium than we need.





Water-soluble vitamins

The water-soluble vitamins include the eight B vitamins and vitamin C. These cannot be stored in the body for long and should be consumed frequently, preferably every day,





Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in every cell in our body. It stimulates the activity of about 100 enzymes, substances that promote biochemical reactions in your body. Among its many functions, zinc maintains a healthy immune system, is needed for wound healing, helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, and is needed for DNA synthesis.

Article - Zinc - The Brain's Anti-Oxidant



Important Disclaimer
The information on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any diseases. Any information presented is not a substitute for professional medical advice and should not take the place of any prescribed medication. Please do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consultation with your physician.

A to Z of Alternative Therapies
A to Z of Botanical Terms
A to Z of Herbs
A to Z of Herbal Actions
A to Z of the Language of Flowers
A to Z of Latin Names
A to Z of Medical Terms