11 Herbs High in Vitamin C = Round-Up and Guide

11 Herbs High in Vitamin C (Round-Up & Guide)

In a nutshell, my favorite herbs high in vitamin C include camu camu, cayenne, goji berries (aka “wolfberries”), dried citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit), hawthorn berries, hibiscus flower petals, parsley, and rose hips. 

But why would we need vitamin C-rich herbs, given all the vitamin C supplements readily available at our fingertips with the click of a button?

In this article we’ll review exactly what vitamin C is, its many health benefits and roles in the body, how much vitamin C we really need, and when/why you might want to get vitamin C from nutritive herbs instead of supplements.

Disclaimer:  This article was written for general education purposes, not to replace medical and nutritional advice from your doctor, registered dietitian/holistic nutritionist, and clinical herbalist. Make sure to consult your treatment team for custom advice tailored to your bio-individual needs.

Affiliate disclosure:  This article contain affiliate links*.  As an Amazon Associate and Mountain Rose Herbs* affiliate, I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a type of water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, which plays a role in everything from immunity to skin cell regeneration, healing and repair. 

This vitamin is naturally occurring in certain types of fruits and veggies, and it’s also abundant in a variety of nutritive herbs.

Benefits of vitamin C

Antioxidant 

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, which means it protects our cells from oxidation (cell damage) caused by “free radicals” (harmful substances in the environment).  So consuming vitamin C helps reduce and slow down inflammation and aging.

Co-factor

Alongside B vitamins, certain minerals, amino acids, and other antioxidants, vitamin C acts as a “cofactor” in biochemical processes that keep us alive and functioning, at a cellular level.  This is a big deal!

Skin-protective and tissue-healing

Healthy skin cells contain vitamin C for supporting structure and function, via collagen synthesis. (1

Vitamin C can also help protect our skin from sun damage by acting as an antioxidant for our skin cells.

When I worked as a clinical dietitian in hospital settings, my dietitian colleagues and I would often recommend vitamin C supplementation for patients with wounds, to help promote healing.  That’s because vitamin C Is proven (alongside certain other nutrients) to help promote and accelerate tissue healing. (2)

Immune-supporting

In our immune system, vitamin C is responsible for keeping proinflammatory mediators called “cytokines” under control, while simultaneously activating an important pathway that allows our body to fight infections. (3

Helps enhance iron absorption

Vitamin C is required in order for our bodies to properly absorb and utilize non-heme iron absorption from plants.

(Learn more about iron deficiency anemia here!)

Antiviral and antimicrobial

A 2019 study published in the European Journal of Microbiology & Immunology noted that vitamin C has anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and even anti-parasitic properties which can be attributed to its indirect impact on our innate and adaptive immune response. (4)

Why get vitamin C from herbs versus supplements?

Vitamin C supplements are usually synthetic and even derived from corn. While corn isn’t inherently bad, creating a vitamin from corn is not natural – and many folks (especially highly sensitive peeps) may or may not have an underlying corn sensitivity. (A conversation for another time!)

On another note, the vitamin C which exists naturally in foods and herbs is considered to be more “bioavailable” – aka more easily absorbed and properly utilized by the body. 

Which herbs are highest in vitamin C?

Some of the herbs containing the highest levels vitamin C include, but aren’t limited to:

  1. Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia)
  2. Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
  3. Goji berries /“wolfberries” (Lycium barbarum)
  4. Grapefruit peel
  5. Lemon peel
  6. Lime  peel
  7. Orange peel
  8. Hawthorn berries (Crataegus monogyna)
  9. Hibiscus flower petals (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  10. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  11. Rose hips (Rosa canina)

Vitamin C herbs- a closer look

Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia)

Camu camu berries grow naturally in regions of Latin America and the Amazon, but are available commercially worldwide in dried, powdered form.

Just 1 teaspoon of camu camu berry powder provides a whopping 682 milligrams of vitamin C, (760% daily value) which is pretty significant!

Where to find it

You can find camu camu powder in the health food aisle of many conventional supermarkets, as well as in the powdered supplement aisle of health food stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods, and natural food stores.

Camu camu is also available on Amazon* and via online apothecaries like Mountain Rose Herbs*.

How to take it (suggested use)

Try adding ¼-½ teaspoon of dried camu camu powder to smoothies (like this iron-rich cherry cacao smoothie) for a boost of vitamin C, to help optimize immunity and enhance iron absorption from plant-based iron-rich foods like cacao powder and leafy greens.

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Derived from hot peppers, cayenne is most well-known for its capsaicin content – but most people aren’t aware that it’s also exceptionally high in vitamin C compared to other herbs.

The vitamin C content of cayenne can vary greatly depending on harvest time, storage and preparation techniques. (5)

According to a 2011 study published by Phytochemistry, cayenne pepper contains about 200 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, which translates to ~1.4 milligrams (2 % daily value) per teaspoon per My Food Data. (6, 7)

  • While this may not sound significant on a one-off basis, a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper each day can certainly add up and compound over the course of weeks, months, or years!

Caution:  Avoid this super spicey add-on if you’re prone to heartburn or heat intolerance!

Where to find it

Cayenne pepper is available for purchase at most local supermarkets.  I recommend going organic to avoid high concentrations of pesticides in herbs/spices.

How to take it (suggested use)

Being a “food as medicine” advocate, I prefer incorporating cayenne as a culinary herb/spice versus as a supplement.  

If you don’t mind the spicy kick, consider adding a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to your buffalo chicken recipe or on your omelet.  

(If you’re not into spicy foods, keep reading! You’ve got options.)

Goji berries / “wolfberries” (Lycium barbarum)

Goji berries grow naturally in China and Tibet, but much like camu camu, they’ve made a recent debut worldwide over the last few decades as an antioxidant-rich  “superfood”. These berries also happen to be high in vitamin C. 

Vitamin C content in goji berries will vary depending on factors such as cultivars,growing regions, genotypic differences, harvesting practices, and other conditions.

But on average, the vitamin C content of goji berries can vary from 30-60 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of berries, according to a 2020 study published by Foods. (8

Based on the nutrition fact label of Nutrient Elements organic goji berries*, 1 ounce (or 28 grams) of their raw organic dried goji berries provides about 18 milligrams or ~20% daily value of vitamin C.

Nutrition Label Showing Vitamin C content per 1 ounce goji berries

Where to find it

Much like camu camu powder, you can easily find dried goji berries online* as well as at natural food stores and in the natural aisle of most conventional supermarkets. 

How to try them (suggested use)

I love dried goji berries!  Try adding them to your cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or trail mix – or snack on them plain (if you feel so inclined).

Grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange peel

The dried peels of citrus fruits (specifically grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange) are often used in herbal medicine, not just as digestive bitters but also as nutritive herbs, due to their high vitamin C content. 

(Fun fact:  Did you know the peels of citrus actually contain significantly MORE vitamin C compared to the edible parts of the citrus fruit?!)

According to a 2018 study published by Food Science & Nutrition, “ vitamin C content of fresh grapefruit, orange, and lemon peels was found to be 113.3, 110.4, and 58.59 milligrams/100 grams, respectively.” (9)

But it’s important to note dried citrus fruit peels will most likely be lower in vitamin C compared to their fresh counterparts, since vitamin C is water-soluble and may be partially lost via evaporation.

Where to find these

Citrus fruits are generally available in abundance in most supermarkets, but the process of dehydrating and cutting/sifting/powdering the peels may be burdensome and time consuming.

In that case, if you’re short on time (and patience too), you can easily find dried lemon/lime/orange/grapefruit peel tea in organic online herbal apothecaries (like Mountain Rose Herbs*) as well as in the herb/spice section of most supermarkets. 

(Tip:  I recommend going organic if you’d rather not extract high concentrations of pesticide residues into your herbal creations!)

How to try them (suggested use)

Note that vitamin C is water soluble, but not very well extracted in alcohol (thinking of herbal tinctures and digestive bitters, which are typically made as alcohol extracts of herbs).

So the best way to reap the vitamin C-specific benefits of dried citrus peel would be to add these into your herbal tea infusions and/or buy them as powders, to add to smoothies.

Or if you’re feeling extra fancy, you can even add some organic lime peel powder* into a homemade key lime recipe! (If you happen to try this, please let me know in the comments how it goes.) 😀

Safety consideration:  Avoid grapefruit if you’re on a statin (cholesterol-lowering medication) or certain psychiatric medications which can potentially interact with grapefruit. Consult your doctor if you’re unsure.

Hawthorn berries (Crataegus monogyna) 

Hawthorn berries grow during the springtime, via a thorny bush after it flowers.  

These edible  berries have been used by our ancestors  for centuries as an herbal ally for supporting heart health and cardiovascular issues. 

  • Disclaimer:  don’t take hawthorn berries if you’re taking medication for heart health due to potential herb-drug interactions!

Research studies are categorizing these berries as being high in vitamin C as well as antioxidants and tannins, making these a nutritive herb and an astringent herb. (10)

Where to find them

You can find organic dried hawthorn berries and hawthorn berry powder in online apothecaries such as Mountain Rose Herbs* or Starwest Botanicals.

How to take hawthorn berries (suggested use)

Consider adding hawthorn berries into an herbal iron syrup recipe to help enhance the iron absorption, or add some hawthorn berries into herbal tea infusions for iron deficiency anemia to reap the benefits of the vitamin C.

Hibiscus flower petals (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

These sour, astringent, vitamin C-rich flower petals are quite tart but can make a tasty addition to an herbal tea, especially if you add a little honey.

As long as you don’t mind the sour taste or the acidic nature of hibiscus, it’s a fun way to boost your vitamin C intake!

According to a 2020 Biomedicines study, hibiscus contains about 6.7 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of herb. (11)

Where to find hibiscus

I recommend purchasing dried hibiscus flower petals (or powder) from a local or online organic herbal apothecary like Mountain Rose Herbs* or Starwest Botanicals.

How to take it (suggested use)

Add some dried hibiscus flowers into a floral herbal tea infusion blend (along with some chamomile and rooibos) as an effective way to extract and reap the benefits of water-soluble vitamin C.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) vitamin C content - 59 milligrams vitamin C per 100 grams of herb

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

The leaves of this popular culinary herb can be used fresh or dried, to season or garish and enhance almost any savory recipe. 

According to Nutrients (2021), parsley contains ~59 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of herb… pretty significant! (12)

Where to find it

Fresh and dried variations of parsley are available at most supermarkets as well as some farmers’ markets.  You can also easily order dried parsley online.

How to try it 

Consider garnishing and seasoning your food with some fresh parsley, or add parsley leaves into your morning smoothie or cold-pressed green juice for a boost of iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants.

You might even want to give this parsley pesto a whirl, if you’re feeling ambitious!

Last but not least, if you’re navigating iron deficiency, dried parsley leaves can make a great addition to an iron-rich herbal tea blend for anemia.

Rose Hips (Rosa spp) vitamin C content - 200-2580 milligrams vitamin C per 100 grams of herb

 

Rose hips (Rosa spp.)

Rose hips (the seeds of the rose plant most of us know and love) boast a range of ~200 to 2,580 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of fresh herb, depending on the species variation.  (13)

  • Since vitamin C is water-soluble, some of it can be lost in evaporation.  Dried variations of rose hips contain approximately ~14.6% of the content of their fresh counterparts. (13)

Rose hips also contain the highest amount of vitamin C among any fruit/veggie, according to a 2018 Medicines (Basel) study. (14)

Where to find them

If you happen to be a gardener or home herbalist, you may find it’s relatively simple to cultivate and harvest your own rose hips.

Otherwise, much like hawthorn berries and hibiscus flowers, I recommend buying/ordering organic rose hips* or organic powdered rose hips*  from an organic apothecary.

How to try them

Infuse rose hips into a nutritive tea infusion blend, or sprinkle some powdered rose hips into your smoothies for a boost in vitamin C and antioxidants.

How to make a vitamin C tea infusion

Tea infusions are an easy way to extract vitamin C from herbs, since it’s a water-soluble vitamin. They’re also very easy and cost-effective! 

To make your own vitamin C tea infusion, simply steep 1 tablespoon of dried herbs of choice (from the above list) in ~3 to 4 cups of very hot filtered/spring water, for at least 20 minutes. 

The longer you steep it, the more vitamin C you’ll extract (to a certain extent). 

Suggested vitamin C tea blend:  

  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon dried grapefruit peel 

*Replace grapefruit peel with another citrus alternative if taking a statin medication or psychiatric medication to prevent food-drug interactions.*

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

How much vitamin C do I need per day?

For most healthy adults, the minimum recommended daily allowance (RDA)  of vitamin C according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is currently ~90 milligrams per day. for adult males, and ~75 milligrams per day for adult females. (15

However, as a holistic health practitioner I’d recommend aiming for closer to 250-300 milligrams per day of vitamin C for optimal health and wellbeing.

If you’re navigating a virus, an inflammatory condition or you happen to drink alcohol ro smoke cigarettes, you may need even higher levels of vitamin C ranging from 300 to 1000 milligrams per day or more.  

  • This is because a virus and/or a generally proinflammatory state will tend to deplete your vitamin C reserves at a faster rate.

Does paprika have vitamin C?

While it comes from bell peppers, paprika is less concentrated in vitamin C compared to its spicier counterparts.  

1 tablespoon of paprika provides only ~1 milligram (1.5% daily value) of vitamin C, according to Eat This Much.

More resources and related articles 

Conclusion

There’s a wide variety of nutritive herbs rich in vitamin C, which can support you in a multitude of ways (from immune function to skin integrity to iron absorption and lots more).

Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin,herbs high in vitamin C are best taken in whole/powdered form (added to smoothies/oatmeal/cereal/trail mix or in culinary creations), or extracted as nutritive herbal tea infusions.

Make sure to consult with your healthcare providers if you’re taking medication and/or navigating a medical condition which could be potentially impacted by herb-drug interactions.

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