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You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin B12 Content of Berries and Herbs

hawthorn_berries_shropshire_september_2006_close_upI recently went vegan [and had a question for you].

[Can an individual get sufficient vitamin B12] from alfalfa, burdock root, hawthorn berries, cat nip, or dong quai?

It’s an ongoing debate [in the vegan community].

– @IraGM
Via Twitter

A few of the herbs you ask about contain a certain amount of Vitamin B12, but it’s really a moot point.

First, the majority of the B12 in these herbs is not “human active,” meaning it does not have the same characteristics — or efficacy — of the B12 found in animal products.

Second, many of these herbs also contain B12 analogues, which can often result in reduced absorption of human-active B12.

You should not rely on these herbs for adequate B12 intake.  As a vegan, you are better off with nutritional yeast, fortified foods (mainly cereal and non-dairy milks) or a supplement in pill form.

From my viewpoint, there isn’t much room for debate on this issue.



  1. dave said on June 25th, 2009

    As a 10 year vegan I’m concerned about the “vegan community” for which IraGM is associating. I’ve never heard this up for debate. The community at Vegan Represent does a pretty good job of hashing through the various issues involving veganism. Here’s a dedicated thread on the subject of B12: http://www.veganrepresent.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5002

  2. Andy Bellatti said on June 25th, 2009

    Thank you for sharing that, Dave. I am also always concerned by certain niche groups within the vegan community that dispense inaccurate health advice that can get people into serious problems.

  3. Dave said on June 25th, 2009


    Yes, inaccurate and pseudoscientific is a serious issue that threatens to discredit veganism. There are so many niche diet groups that are technically animal free but veganism is a lot more than what you don’t eat. We do what we can to make sure people who are vegan learn how to critically think about issues and seek scientifically sourced information especially from dietitians like yourself. Thank you so much for your continual efforts of public service. We really appreciate it!


  4. joanna said on June 3rd, 2012

    i heard that there is some b12 in golden or incan berries. however do you know if it is human active? i couldn’t find anything on the net.thank you.

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