Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ask the Expert: What is the difference between vitamins and herbs?

Q. What is the difference between vitamins and herbs?

A. Vitamins are a group of molecules that are required by the body in order to carry out normal growth and essential metabolic functions. There are two kinds of vitamins – water-soluble vitamins which include niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, and folate. Then there are fat-soluble vitamins which are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Deficiencies in one or more vitamins can result in deficiency conditions, such as inflammation and damage to the nerves as seen in severe cases of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Herbs, on the other hand, are a class of vascular plants that do not produce woody stems. They can include ferns, club mosses, and horsetails as well. None are essential to carry out bodily processes like vitamins are. Some herbs are edible, can be used as food or seasoning, and may have medicinal properties. Examples of herbs that are currently being studied for their potential health benefits are St. John’s Wort, ginseng, nettles, rosemary, and valerian.

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