zero waste vitamin

***Please speak with your healthcare provider about your nutritional needs.

I’m not a huge fan of taking supplements, what many of us know as “vitamins”. Many of them are overpriced, over packaged and overhyped. I believe in eating a nutrient dense diet full of plenty of plant foods. But there are a few instances when we cannot get everything that we need from our diet alone, or when we need extra support.

Supplemental vitamins are like a nutrition safety net that can help to maintain the vitamins and minerals our body needs.

The most noted example of the benefits of taking supplemental vitamins is during pregnancy. The problem with most multi-vitamin, prenatal and B-complex supplements today is the use of folic acid in place of folate.

If I asked you which of these vitamins was found naturally in food, folate or folic acid, would you know the answer? If not, you’re not alone. Medical professionals, nutrition experts, and health practitioners frequently mix up the two, simply because the terms are often used interchangeably.

Folic acid is often considered to be a supplemental (artificial) form of folate. But it’s important to know that there is a distinction between these two different compounds. For some, excessive doses of the synthetic form of this nutrient are not necessary and may even be harmful, especially for those with the MTHFR gene mutation.

So, what’s the difference?

Folate is a general term for a group of water-soluble b-vitamins, also known as B9. Therefore, the two terms are often used interchangeably, unfortunately.

But here is the important part: folic acid refers to the oxidized synthetic compound used in dietary supplements and food fortification, whereas folate refers to the various tetrahydrofolate derivatives naturally found in food.

The form of folate that can enter the main folate metabolic cycle is tetrahydrofolate (THF). Unlike natural folates, which are metabolized to THF in the mucosa of the small intestine, folic acid undergoes initial reduction and methylation in the liver, where conversion to the THF form requires dihydrofolate reductase. The low activity of this enzyme in the human liver, combined with a high intake of folic acid, may result in unnatural levels of unmetabolized folic acid entering the systemic circulation.

In short, folic acid can build up in our system and prevent proper methylation, the body’s natural form of detoxifying itself.

Whether you’re searching for a B-complex vitamin, a multi, or prenatal vitamin, when it comes to supplements, plant-based vs. synthetic is the way to go.  There are a ton of options on store shelves but like many other zero-waste homes, I like to DIY. I do this in the form of a tincture because it’s the easiest and most cost-effective way that I have found. It also creates very little waste in the process.

My whole family takes this multi-vitamin tincture daily, with a few other supplements like mineral drops, a probiotic, DHA, and B-12. I personally take it during preconception, pregnancy and while nursing. I do change it up a little during pregnancy; I take the tincture every other day and alternate with Mega Foods prenatal vitamin. Just to be sure that I do get the absolute best possible nutrition since I can’t measure the exact amount of nutrients in each of the ingredients when making the tincture.

While the recipe was developed to provide the most optimal nutrition for pregnancy and nursing, it is generally considered safe for the whole family. My son has taken it since he was about 6 months old (now over 2), and my husband takes it as well.

Please be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider to find out of it is the right type of support for you and your family.

zero waste vitamin

Plant Based Ingredients:

Nettle

Nettle is considered an herbal multivitamin all by itself. It’s extremely nourishing and healing to the body due to its antihistamine properties. People have found increased energy and to provide some relief from allergies.

It contains:

  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Choline
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Silica
  • Protein
  • Chromium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Sulfur
  • Boron

Plus, nettle has been shown to be antimicrobial against certain bacteria and against ulcers.  It may help with heartburn.

Dandelion

Dandelion is another nutritional powerhouse. It’s known to help clear the liver gently, providing a natural gentle detox.

It contains:

  • Vitamin C
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vtamin K1
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium

Dandelion is also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Red Raspberry Leaf

Red raspberry is commonly recommended for fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.  It can increase fertility, helps to tone the uterus gently which can make labor easier, and it can boost breastmilk production.  For some women, it can ease morning sickness.

It contains:

  • Vitamin C
  • B-complex
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A and E
  • Magnesium

Some midwives and OBs caution against the use of red raspberry during the first trimester. I have never had any problems using it and have never had it recommended that I avoid it. But please, speak to your healthcare provider.

Alfalfa

It’s recommended that those with lupus or blood clotting disorders should not use alfalfa.

It contains:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • B-complex vitamins
  • Biotin
  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Spearmint Leaf

Spearmint not only provides a great taste for the tincture, but it is one of the best herbal sources of folate.  Folate is needed for preventing neural tube defects in the baby during pregnancy, and may also help prevent depression.

It also contains:

  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Thiamin (B3).

One very preliminary study showed it may be helpful in balancing hormones and improving PCOS.  It can also help to easy nausea.

Spirulina

Spirulina isn’t an herb but is a form of algae.  It’s an excellent source of:

  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Vitamins A, C, E, K, B6
  • Folate
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

It’s also an antiviral and antioxidant. Spirulina is one of the few plant sources of EPA and DHA but it is still recommended to find additional sources of these omega fatty acids.

To Make the Tincture:

Choosing Your Base

When making a tincture, you have two options to use as a base: alcohol or glycerin.

I like to make traditional alcohol-based tinctures most of the time because they concentrate and preserve the herbs for years, but glycerin tinctures (glycerite) are an alcohol-free option for children or those who can’t tolerate alcohol. For this multi-vitamin tincture, I use palm oil free glycerin. Find it here.

A tincture is simply a liquid extract of an herb that’s been dissolved in some sort of liquid. The herbs are cold-soaked over a period, allowing their potent elements to transfer into the liquid.

A tea is boiled to extract the medicinal constituents of the herb by steeping for a brief period of time, 5-10 minutes usually. An infusion is done in a comparable way with boiling water but allowing the mixture to infuse (or brew) for a longer period of time, typically overnight.

Alcohol

One of the most prevalent alcoholic bases for tinctures is vodka. It’s colorless, has no taste, no smell, and you can get your hands on it cheap. It’s best to use 80 proof alcohol or higher. And at least 20% ethanol. The alcohol used in tinctures is the kind you drink – ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Keep in mind that rubbing alcohol, with which many people are familiar, is poisonous for internal use. For safety purposes, it’s important to distinguish between the two.

Glycerin

Glycerin is a thick, sweet-tasting liquid that’s clear in color. It’s the natural result of breaking down oil or fat. Although sweet, it contains no sugar and has a low GI index, unlike alcohol. Glycerin is stable when heated and is better for extraction than alcohol. It’s also great at extracting tannins, and it preserves the natural taste of the herb, which can be important for its therapeutic effect. Some research even suggests this substance can have an anti-oxidizing effect on the body. Find palm oil free glycerine here.

Zero waste vitamin

Recipe:

This recipe is made with dried plants. If using fresh ingredients, you may want to add a quarter more of each measurement in the recipe to account for the additional water content.

  • 6 tbsp. nettle leaf
  • 3 tbsp. red raspberry leaf
  • 3 tbsp. dandelion leaf
  • 3 tsp. alfalfa leaf
  • 6 tsp. spearmint leaf
  • 3 tsp.  spirulina
  1. Place all herbs into a quart size glass jar.
  2. Cover with 1 1/2 cups of glycerin (or alcohol) and 1 1/2 cups of water.
  3. Shake to combine.
  4. Set it in a warm, dark place for six weeks.
  5. Strain the finished tincture through a cloth.
  6. Store larger quantities in the fridge and smaller portions in an amber dropper bottle.
  7. Compost tincture herbs when done.

Typically, I take 2 tablespoons daily. While pregnant I take it every other day, alternating with this prenatal.

My son takes 1 tablespoon daily at 2 years old. He started at 6 months with 1/2 teaspoon and we gradually increased as we introduced more foods.

My Husband could take up 3 tablespoons daily. I think he averages about 2 tablespoons daily.

Are you taking any supplemental vitamins currently? Did you manage to find them package-free or plastic-free? I would love to hear any other great brand recommendations below.