Vitamin Supplements – Part Three: How to Make Your Own for Less
Knowing there are some great whole-food derived supplements available to address nutrient deficiencies is a comfort. (See Part Two of this series for the companies I recommend.)
But guess what? They’re expensive.
And the true motivation behind this series was to tell you how you can avoid dishing out the cash and still maintain all your supplemental needs, right?!
Here are two ways you can nourish your body for less, but with more substantial results than the so called “Franko-vitamins”:
Step One: Fill Your Plate with Living, Real Food
If you aren’t doing this already (and you should be!) fill your plate with lots of wholesome, real food.
Eat plenty of local, raw (and cooked), organic fruits and vegetables, pastured meats and eggs, butter and raw dairy products. Splurge on quality fresh fish and seafood and think outside the box at snack time. Consider munching on nuts or pumpkin seeds, veggie chips or hummus.
Join a CSA, plant a garden or make friends at your local farmer’s market in order to find the freshest, most nutritive foods you can.
Are you craving certain foods?
Take a peek at this handy little chart to see what your cravings are revealing about potential vitamin deficiencies.
You might be surprised to learn that the momma of all cravings – dark chocolate- can actually be the sign of a magnesium deficiency, a serious health issue affecting more than 65% of the U.S. population.
And if you believe you are deficient, this excellent resource will tell you which foods to include more of in your diet.
(And be sure to check out our informational nutrient chart at the bottom of this post!)
Step Two: Fill Your Cup with Living, Real Food
One of the most synergistic real-food options for acquiring the vitamins and minerals your body needs is through herbs.
My favorite thing!
Herbs are powerhouses of essential nutrients and are the best – and cheapest – supplements nature has to offer. By using quality herbs from organic and nutrient-rich soils you can be sure you’re getting the highest quality nutrition available. Herbs are nature’s own take on preventative medicine as they will bolster your body while facilitating better vitality and minimizing disease!
For the daily nourishment boost we need, I recommend making a powerful multi-vitamin herbal infusion (tea).
And it’s wholly nourishing.
The process of extracting healing properties from plants using water is an ancient art. Herbal “teas” – also called “tinsanes” – are the world’s oldest recorded beverages and have been mentioned as a vital part of health since the earliest writings of history.
Teas can be made by soaking medicinal plant material either in cold water (as with the herbs marshmallow root, comfrey and slippery elm) or in hot water by using a process of infusion (steeping) or decoction (simmering).
You’ve probably read posts elsewhere from naturally-minded mommas about their “multi-vitamin” herbal tinctures, made either with alcohol, glycerin or raw vinegar.
But this is NOT the best way to extract vitamins and minerals from herbs.
Quick lesson in Herbalism 101: Part of the art of herbalism includes understanding the chemical compounds that comprise an herb. Only then can you fully understand how a given herb works to facilitate healing in the body. Furthermore, each compound can only be extracted from an herb in certain solvents, like water, alcohol, glycerin, vinegar or oil. The key is to know which compounds you want to extract and then selecting the corresponding solvent. For instance, in our situation it’s important to know that minerals cannot be extracted by the solvent alcohol, which defeats our primary purpose. And other important compounds we desire (saponins, tannis and flavonoids) cannot be extracted using glycerin. (You can read more about herbs and their chemical compounds here).
For our purposes, we’re looking to extract all minerals, water-soluble vitamins, saponins, tannins and flavonoids from our herbs. In this case, water is the best solvent to use.
That said, keep in mind Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins, so you won’t be able to extract those nutrients in tincture or tea. That is why I heartily recommend taking a cod liver oil supplement alongside your multi-vitamin tea if your budget so allows. The fermented cod liver oil (and the butter oil blend) by Green Pastures is the best.
How to Make a Nutritive Tea
Herbal supplement teas employ the use of several high-nutrient herbs and make for a well-rounded multi-vitamin infusion that can be enjoyed by children or adults.
But the best part is the recipe is wholly versatile.
In fact, what I’m about to share with you isn’t an ordinary recipe… it’s a tool to use to create your own supplemental tea to best fit your personal needs, and the needs of your family. You can easily change things up from day to day and still feel confident that you’re acquiring vital nutrients for any stage of life.
1. To make your own herbal multi-vitamin tea, simply follow the steps laid out in the chart to select the herbs you want to use.
2. Place all the herbs in a glass quart jar and completely fill with boiling water.
3. Allow the mixture to steep for a minimum of 20 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes. (The longer the steeping time the more potent the tea!)
4. Optional: Sweeten with a bit of raw honey, maple syrup or Stevia leaf.
By selecting your herbs based on the steps outlined in the chart you can rest assured knowing your own nourishing infusion contains potent amounts of nutrients calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, and Vitamin C just to name a few.
This infusion is best enjoyed throughout the day. In the summer I like to make mine into an iced tea with a squeeze of lemon, but in the winter nothing beats drinking it hot!
An adult should consume 1 full quart of tea per day and a child can drink up to 2 cups.
There are many different combinations of herbs you can include in your tea depending on your current health situation and nutritional needs. Here are a few to try:
If recovering from a respiratory infection: Yellow Dock* & Licorice Root*
For times of stress: Holy Basil (and other Adaptogenic herbs!), Cinnamon, Cloves
For the lactating mother: Alfalfa, Fennugreek & Blessed Thistle (can be very bitter, so only use Blessed Thistle if you don’t mind the taste)
For the pregnant mother: Alfalfa, Oat Straw, Red Raspberry Leaf, Ginger & Lemon Balm
For muscle tension and insomnia: Chamomile, Oat Straw, Fennel, Passion Flower (very bitter, so only use Passion Flower if you don’t mind the taste)
For digestive issues: Ginger, Dandelion & Peppermint
*These herbs are best prepared using the method of decoction (simmering) in water for 20 minutes prior to being combined with other herbs and proceeding with the infusion process.
You can also select your herbs based on which nutrients you think you may be deficient in. Simply consult this simple chart for more information on which herbs (and real food) would be best to include in your diet.
Note: Herbs are potent medicinal substances and must be used with caution. If you are unsure if an herb poses a health concern for you, be sure to ask your medical doctor and personally research the risks associated with the herb using WebMD or other comprehensive guide. However, herbs are natural substances and as such present far less serious side effects than traditional prescription drugs. Just use caution when consuming. Please see my disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more information.
At the end of the day…
I love how easy it is to ensure my family gets the nutrients they need… for just pennies a day!
My little ones think it’s something special that they are allowed to drink “tea” like a grown-up and have daily tea-parties at the kitchen table.
My husband, a coffee lover, is also happy to make this beverage part of his daily routine.
Either way, whether you invest in a quality multi-vitamin supplement or make your own for less, you’ll achieve better health and vitality from the power of nature. And I’ll drink to that!
Pedersen, Mark, Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs, 2012
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