Vitamin P, more correctly called flavonoids or bioflavonoids, is a class of substances that are used for many different purposes in plants and are important for human health. It is found in a number of foods and herbs, ranging from red peppers to tea. Though the term "vitamin P" was used to describe these substances from the 1930s to 1950s, it's now outdated.
Types and Sources
There are over 6,000 different types of flavonoids, which are generally categorized by their chemical structure. Some of the categories most commonly used in nutritional supplements are flavones, isoflavones, anthrocyanins, and flavonols. They're found throughout the world in many different types of plants, including many of those eaten by humans. Some of the best sources of vitamin P include black currants, licorice, citrus fruits, beans, garlic, and dark chocolate. They're also found in most wines and teas.
The main benefits of vitamin P come from its function as an antioxidant. It can neutralize and fight the effects of oxidation and free radicals in the body, which are both associated with aging, cellular damage, and conditions like cancer, Parkinson's disease, asthma, ulcers, allergies, among others. It also helps prevent colds, reduces inflammation, and promotes capillary and circulatory health. In addition to this, flavonoids are thought to increase and regulate the concentration of another antioxidant, glutathione, and has a symbiotic working relationship with vitamin C in which each substance increases the other's effect. Though studies are ongoing, they appear to have an antiviral effect as well, and may help with herpes and certain retroviruses.
Dosage and Side Effects
There are no specific dosage recommendations set for vitamin P, but most daily supplements contain between 500 and 1,000 mg. Most people can get enough flavonoids from a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, but it's important to realize that cooking and processing foods can greatly decrease the concentration of these substances, so those trying to get all of their vitamin P from foods should consider eating more raw or lightly cooked foods. No side effects have been widely reported for these substances even when taken in very high doses, though some people do report having diarrhea, and people may have individual allergies to certain types of bioflavonoids.
Role in Plants
As in humans, vitamin P plays many different roles in plants, including helping seeds and fruit develop, and protecting leaves from ultraviolet (UV) rays. They are also used as signal molecules between plant cells and help protect plants from bacteria, fungi, and pests. Additionally, they play a large role in attracting pollinators to plants to help them reproduce by affecting the plants' color, flavor, and smell.