By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/18/2020
Posted: 1/7/2010
Topics/Keywords: #Vitamins #Supplements #HerbalSupplements #Nutrition #Health Page Views: 3387
I list the vitamins and minerals I take each day.
I yam what I yam.

It's no secret that I take nutritional supplements (commonly called "vitamins") and I am so frequently asked which ones I take that I thought I would list them, and also briefly note what effect each one has.

I can do this because I am not a doctor. A physician, even a naturopathic one, would insist on interviewing you before making any recommendations. And please, note, I am not telling you, dear reader, what you should be taking; I am telling you what I take and why…and you are free to do with information as you will. Just remember, if you are taking any prescription medications, that some supplements can interfere with some medicines—so check with your doctor before you add supplements to your daily regimen.

Supplements can include vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements. Here's what I take:


A vitamin is an organic compound required as a nutrient in tiny amounts by an organism. Because the use of a given compound varies from species to species and even circumstance to circumstance, a vitamin for you might not qualify as one for a dog or a frog, and a dog vitamin might not help you at all. Most vitamins are enzymes, that is, complex molecules that are required to facilitate certain biochemical processes in the body. All of them are available in our food, but the typical diet is so poor that most of us are lacking in one or more vitamins; and so we take concentrated amounts of them to supplement what's on our plates.

Many vitamins can be synthesized, and the synthesized versions are cheaper than their naturally-occurring counterparts. However, side-by-side photomicrographs of synthetic and natural vitamins show that, at a molecular level, the "fake" and "real" compounds are not identical. And Dr. Linus Pauling, Nobel prize winner who first discovered the benefits of Vitamin C, recently found that synthetic vitamin C has almost no biological effect at all. So the vitamins I take are always natural, and as part of a naturally occurring complex where possible.

So-called "Multiple Vitamins" (like One-A-Day brand) are very popular but a major waste of money, as the amounts of each vitamin and mineral they contain are too small to do any good, and are synthetic anyway.

Vitamin A (1000 I.U.)

Vitamin A is a vitamin which is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal. This molecule is absolutely necessary for both scotopic and color vision. Vitamin A also functions in a very different role, as an irreversibly oxidized form retinoic acid, which is an important hormone-like growth factor for epithelial and other cells.

Vitamin A also helps regulate the immune system, which helps prevent or fight off infections by making white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses, and also may help lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) fight infections more effectively.

Finally, vitamin A promotes healthy surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts [8]. When those linings break down, it becomes easier for bacteria to enter the body and cause infection. Vitamin A also helps the skin and mucous membranes function as a barrier to bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin A is measured in what are called international units. This is usually abbreviated to I.U.

I take 1,000 I.U. of vitamin A every day.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is possible to overdose on it. Some people worry about this sort of thing a lot, and so instead of taking vitamin A directly, eat lots of vegetables with carotenoids, which the body can convert into vitamin A without danger of overdose. However, that means a lot of carrots. No human needs more than 1,000 I.U. of Vitamin A a day anyway. The max dosage for an adult male is 3,000 I.U. Children shouldn't take more than 400 I.U. per day. (But they do need it; vitamin A deficiency is estimated to affect millions of children around the world. Approximately 250,000-500,000 children in developing countries become blind each year owing to vitamin A deficiency.)

Vitamin A is often combined in the same capsule as vitamin D; this is a convenient combination and I recommend it.

Vitamin B Complex (100 mg/µg)

The B vitamins are eight water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. Historically, the B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, referred to as vitamin B (much as people refer to vitamin C or vitamin D). Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods. Supplements containing all eight are generally referred to as a vitamin B complex.

Few Americans suffer from extreme vitamin B deficiencies. However, there are sub-clinical deficiencies, that is, problems that occur from insufficient vitamin B, like acne or sleeplessness or nerves, may not send you to the doctor but they are problems nonetheless.

The B vitamins are water soluble, so it's impossible to overdose on them. However, it is important to take them so they are "balanced". Two much of one B vitamin can actually create a deficiency in the others. That's why it's usually not a good idea to take just one or two B vitamins, at least on a regular basis, even though you can buy them separately.

Some of the B vitamins are administered in milligrams, and some are so powerful they are administered in micrograms. If you purchase tablets labeled "B-100" or "B-50" or something like that, the vitamins will be formulated in a balance for you and you don't have to worry about it.

I take one B-100 every day.

B vitamins make some people a little nauseas. They normally come in food, so the best time to take your B complex is with breakfast (or some other meal). You can buy B-150's, but they usually upset my stomach. The B-100's never do.

Vitamin B-12 (one dropper)

The B-complex vitamins contain B-12, but we absorb almost none of it. That's because the stomach is not the best route for B-12 absorption. What's more, as we get older, or if we are taking the prescription drug Metformin for diabetes control, even less B-12 is absorbed…and lack of B-12 can cause a lack of energy and inability to get a good night's sleep.

In order to make sure I absorb enough B-12, I buy it as a cherry-flavored, non-sweetened liquid.

I take a dropper of B-12 each morning.

By the way, almost all the B vitamins come from vegetable sources. But vitamin B-12 comes from animal sources. It is possible to buy pills labeled "B-12" that claim to be vegetarian-friendly. But these actually contain a B-12 analog (a similar but distinct molecule) that actually causes a B-12 deficiency where none existed, by blocking the absorption of real B-12! Studies have shown that an astonishing 80% of people in India, which is largely a vegetarian country, are deficient in vitamin B-12. It's possible those people aren't all meditating…some of them might just not have enough energy to move!

Vitamin C Complex (1-5 grams)

This is the magic vitamin that prevents colds and flu. But you have to take enough of it, in its natural form, and with the other nutrients in which it is normally found.

The way it's packaged therefore usually reads something like, "Natural Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids". Alternatively, the specific type of bioflavonoid might be specified, such as Rose Hips or Acerola Cherry or Rutin. As far as I know, none of those is any better than the others.

I normally take 1 gram (1000 mg) of Vitamin C complex a day.

However, if I start to get a cold despite my regimen (and that's pretty rare) I up the dosage.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so it isn't possible to overdose on it in the usual sense. However, if you take it orally (the normal way) it can cause bowel upset if you take more than you're used to. It is possible to build up a tolerance to higher doses. But most people stop at 5 grams or so.

Of all the mammals on earth, only members of the sub-order Anthropoidea (which includes us) and most bats and guinea pigs do not make their own vitamin C in their own bodies. That's why your dog or cat almost never catch a cold. Animals that weigh as much as humans (for example, large goats) make about 45 grams of vitamin C in their bodies each day. That we can ward off most airborne infections with just one gram gives you an idea of how powerful it is.

Vitamin D (400 I.U.)

There are several forms of this vitamin; the most active in humans is called vitamin D3. (In rats, D2 is the most active; so if you are a politician…but no, I won't go there.) D3 is what you make when you hang out in the sun naked. Since few people do that anymore, vitamin D deficiency is rampant. Vitamin D protects against cancers (including skin cancer, naturally) and osteoporosis. Have you noticed that skin cancers have quadrupled in prevalence since "they" started recommending we stay out of the sun and use sunblock? This is no coincidence.

Vitamin D is measured in international units, abbreviated I.U.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is possible to take too much of it. But one would have to take 50,000 I.U. of it over a period of months to reach toxicity; not something that could happen by accident unless you decided to sunbathe on Mercury.

I take 400 I.U. Vitamin D3 each day.

By the way, if you rely on sunbathing to make your own vitamin D, be sure and not wash afterwards: The skin makes the vitamin D on its surface but it still takes time to absorb it. If you run inside and take a shower, the soap will wash it away before it can do you any good.

Vitamin E (1000 I.U.)

Vitamin E helps resist damage due to partially-oxidized molecules calledfree radicals. It has been credited with helping people stay young (one theory of aging is that it is due to an accumulation of free radicals in the body).

Vitamin E is composed of four "tocopherols", alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Of the four, only delta has been studied to any extent and it is the amount of delta present in a supplement by which it is measured. Only in natural vitamin E are all four tocopherols present. Natural vitamin E is listed in the ingredients as "d-Alpha tocopherol". Synthetic vitamin E is listed as "dl-Alpha tocopherol". Avoid the synthetic version, even though it's a lot cheaper.

Another variant of vitamin E is in the form of tocotrienols. This form has not yet been thoroughly studied but it holds promise. I haven't found it for sale as a supplement, yet, though. Of course, vitamin E is present in all it's natural forms in foods such as asparagus, spinach, wheat germ, and many others.

Like the other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin E is measured in International Units (I.U.) However, no toxic does has ever been discovered. That said, people have reported roughly the same results for daily dosages between 400 I.U. and 1000 I.U. I take the larger dose "just in case", because that's the amount Michael has been taking for many years and he looks 20 years younger than his age.

I take 1000 I.U. of Vitamin E daily.


Minerals are naturally occurring, non-organic substances that we need in order to function. An obvious mineral is calcium, from which our bones are made. Like vitamins, minerals normally come in our food—when we eat properly. Calcium is found in leafy vegetables; zinc in sunflower seeds. But minerals are leached from the ground by modern farming techniques, and too often are not replaced. Once, for example, zinc was present in almost all our vegetables; but it wasn't replaced after a season of farming and now all the soil has been depleted of it. The reason it can still be found in sunflower seeds is that sunflower roots grow very deep, 'way deeper than those of other plants.

Fortunately, minerals can be mined and prepared (via a processed called chelation) for human absorption. They are usually fairly inexpensive, too.

Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous

I've had to class these together because, like the B vitamins, they must be taken in balance with each other; taking too much of one can cause a deficiency in the others.

These minerals are the components of bones and teeth. But they also are found in the blood, where they regulate the activity of the muscles, including the heart. If you are lacking phosphorus, you may suffer restless leg syndrome or muscle twitches. If you are lacking magnesium (or have too much calcium) you can develop kidney stones or migraine headaches.

The only way you can tell for sure is to get a mineral analysis done via your naturopathic doctor.

In my case, I am perennially low on magnesium. I get plenty of calcium and phosphorus from the veggies in my diet; but for some reason I either don't get or don't adequately absorb enough magnesium.

I take 400 mg magnesium a day.

By the way, if you have a magnesium-deficiency emergency—for example, a migraine headache—you can relieve it by soaking in an Epsom salts bath. Just pour into a pleasantly warm tub two cups of Epsom salts (four if it's a garden tub) and soak in it for at least 20 minutes with the lights out. I also find that a baggie of ice chips is handy; I rub one against my upper breastbone and it seems to help.

But as long as I take the 400 mg I rarely get a migraine any more. And I haven't had a kidney stone in decades. (I used to get one every two years whether I wanted one or not.)

Potassium (550 mg)

Also used to regulate the blood and muscles. Especially, a low potassium level has been linked to hypertension (high blood pressure). Since I have hypertension, I take 550 mg of potassium a day to help keep it controlled.

Zinc (50 mg)

Zinc helps keep the skin repaired, the male reproductive system working properly, and the immune system at peak efficiency. Zinc deficiency is usually due to insufficient dietary intake, but other conditions such as liver disease and diabetes can make it even harder to absorb.

If you catch a cold, a little extra zinc can help it clear up faster.

I take 50 mg daily.

Whenever I find myself in conversation with a young man with serious acne, I recommend he start taking zinc and promise the acne will clear up in about three weeks. I've done this maybe two dozen times and my promise has come true every single time!


Herbs are complex substances, all or part of actual plants, that have been dried, pulverized, and put into clear gelatin capsules in measured amounts. All our allopathic drugs from Big Pharma started out as herbs; the pharmaceuticals study the herb, isolate the most active ingredients, and then learn to synthesize something more or less equivalent. The additional components of natural herbs seem to modify the performance of the active ingredient so that side effects are nullified. The synthetic drugs don't have those additional components, so one the one hand, they work faster; on the other, they always have side effects—sometimes horrible ones. (One medicine I was prescribed caused me to bleed from the gums.)

I strongly recommend that you take herbs only under a naturopathic doctor's supervision…with just a couple of exceptions. I don't take these every day, but when I need them they are very helpful.

Valerian Root

If you have trouble sleeping, this may be the solution. Of all the sleep aids studied in the 1980s, Valerian Root was the only one that worked without interfering with the patients' natural sleep cycles.

If I anticipate having trouble sleeping, for example I just won the lottery, I take 3 Valerian Root capsules about an hour before bed.

Be warned: Valerian Root smells like vomit. But it works like a charm.

By the way, you may have heard that melatonin is also an effective sleep aid. When I take it I do find I have more vivid dreams, but I can't say it relaxes me the way Valerian does.


If, despite my intake of vitamin C and zinc, I feel the awful nasties coming on, I take two or three Echinacea capsules twice daily for three days.

This herb gives the immune system a kick start. Consequently you shouldn't take it all the time, just when you feel you need a little something extra to avoid or minimize a viral infection.


No one likes the idea of swallowing a handful of pills; even M&M aficionados like to chew first. But it's a habit that can be developed. I've gotten so I can swallow all my supplements, plus my prescription drugs, in one or two handfuls.

And the noticeably improved heath is, I think, adequate motivation to try.