B Vitamins

Facts Sheet for Consumers

The B vitamins help to maintain health of the nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver, and mouth, as well as promote healthy muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract and proper brain function. 

B-complex vitamins act as coenzymes, helping enzymes to react chemically with other substances, and are involved in energy production. They may be useful for alleviating depression and anxiety as well. Adequate intake of the B vitamins is very important for elderly people because these nutrients are not as well absorbed as we age. There have even been cases of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease whose problems were later found to be due to a deficiency of vitamin B12 plus the B complex vitamins. The B vitamins should always be taken together, but up to two to three times more of one B vitamin than another can be taken for a period of time if needed for a particular disorder. There are spray and sublingual forms that are absorbed more easily, which are good choices for older adults and those with absorption problems.

Because the B vitamins work together, a deficiency in one often indicates a deficiency in another. Although the B vitamins are a team, they will be discussed individually.



Vitamin B1-Thiamine


Thiamine (Thiamine Hydrochloride) enhances circulation and assists in blood formation, carbohydrate metabolism, and in the production of hydrochloric acid, which is important for proper digestion. Thiamine also optimizes cognitive activity and brain function. It has a positive effect on energy, growth, normal appetite, and learning capacity, and is needed for proper muscle tone of the intestines, stomach, and heart. Thiamine also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from the degenerative effects of ageing, alcohol consumption, and smoking.

Beriberi, a nervous system disease that is rare in developed nations, is caused by a deficiency of thiamine. Other symptoms that can result from thiamine deficiency include constipation, edema, enlarged liver, fatigue, forgetfulness, gastrointestinal disturbances, heart changes, irritability, labored breathing, loss of appetite, muscle atrophy, nervousness, numbness of the hand and feet, pain and sensitivity, poor coordination, tingling sensations, weak and sore muscles, general weakness and severe weight loss.

Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of the water-soluble vitamin B1. Its use is reserved for cases such as alcoholic peripheral neuropathy, a disorder involving decreased nerve functioning cause by damage from excessive drinking of alcohol. It is found naturally in small quantities in roasted crushed garlic, as well as in onions, shallots, and leeks. This variant of the vitamin lasts longer in the body, yielding potentially therapeutic benefits that regular vitamin B1 cannot achieve. Benfotiamine may be more effective that thiamine in controlling damage from diabetes because it is a better activator of the enzyme transketolase. This enzyme assists in keeping glucose-derived compounds out of healthy vascular (blood vessel) and nerve cells. The normal supplemental does is 150 to 600 Milligrams per day, taken under the guidance of a doctor or other qualified health care practitioner.


The richest food sources of thiamine include brown rice, egg yolks, fish, legumes, liver, peanuts, peas, pork, poultry, rice bran, wheat germ, and whole grains. Other sources include asparagus, brewer’s yeast, broccoli Brussel sprouts, dulse, and kelp, most nuts, oatmeal, plus, dried prunes, raisins, spirulina, and watercress. Herbs that contain thiamine include alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, sage, yarrow, and yellow dock.



Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin 

Riboflavin is necessary for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell production, cell respiration, and growth. It aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, Together with vitamin A, it maintains and improves the mucous membranes in the digestive tract. Riboflavin also facilitates the use of oxygen by the tissues of the skin. nails, and hair, eliminates dandruff; and helps the absorption of iron and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).

Consumption of adequate amounts of riboflavin is important during pregnancy, because a lack of this vitamin can damage a developing fetus even if a woman shows no signs of deficiency. Riboflavin is needed for the metabolism of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into niacin in the body. Carpal tunnel syndrome may benefit from a treatment program that includes riboflavin and vitamin B6.

Deficiency symptoms include cracks and sores at the corners of the mouth, eye disorders, inflammation of the mouth and tongue, and skin lesions a group of these symptoms collectively referred to as ariboflavinosis. Other possible deficiency symptoms include dermatitis, dizziness, hair loss, insomnia, light sensitivity, poor digestion, retarded growth, and slowed metal response.


High levels of vitamin B2 are found in the following foods; cheese, egg yolks, fish, legumes, meat, milk, poultry, spinach, whole grains, and yogurt.  Other sources include asparagus, avocados, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, currants, dandelion greens, dulse, kelp, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, molasses, nuts, and watercress. Herbs that contain vitamin B2include alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hip, sage, and yellow dock.


 Vitamin B6