So, here I am on the island of Kos in the Greek Dodecanese Islands. The islands are known for their Byzantine Churches, Crusader Castles, Pure White Sandy Beaches and Vitamin B12 that can be bought over the counter in pharmacies. I bought some yesterday. It’s become a sort of ritual for me when visiting overseas countries. It’s not long before I find myself in one of those neat little Pharmacies where the green cross that morphs into all manner of different medicine related images (this particular one transformed the cross into a snake climbing up a pole) lures me into the cool interior.
I walked into one yesterday. A tall Greek lady who was wearing the obligatory white coat greeted me with a nod of her head.
“Can I help you”
“Do you have any Vitamin B12”
“Yes – but only as part of a mixture of B Vitamins”.
“I need 1mg”
“This will do”.
She reached into a cupboard and produced a small packet that contained three vials.
“You see” she said as she pointed out the list of contents on the back of the package.
‘1mg cyanocobalamin, 1mg of Vitamin B1 and 1mg of Vitamin B6″
The vials were obviously three times larger than the usual ones containing just the B12. I told her I would take them.
“But wait” she hesitated. “Who will inject you?”
“You will? Are you a doctor?”
“No – but I do it all the time”.
She shrugged her shoulders in the Greek fashion.
“That’ll be €1.90”
And there I was walking away from her with no feeling of guilt and knowing that the injection will be safe – having been manufactured and approved by the Greek pharmaceutical compliance agency.
60cents an injection.
B1 is known as thiamine and is found in yeast, grains beans and nuts. It is used to treat digestion problems (including poor appetite), colitis and diarrhoea. It’s also used for AIDS, boosting the immune system, diabetic pain, heart disease, alcoholism, ageing, a type of brain damage called cerebellar syndrome, canker sores, vision problems including cataracts and glaucoma, motion sickness, and improving athletic performance. Other uses include preventing cervical cancer and progression of kidney disease in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Some people use thiamine for maintaining a positive mental attitude; enhancing learning abilities; increasing energy; fighting stress; and preventing memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthcare providers give thiamine shots for a memory disorder called Wernicke’s encephalopathy syndrome, other thiamine deficiency syndromes in critically ill people, alcohol withdrawal, and coma.
(taken from Medicine Plus – part of the National Institutes for Health).
B6 is a generic name for a group of 6 vitamins and they do all kinds of things that are far too complex to go into here (that means it’s too complex for me to understand) and is naturally found in fruit (non-citrus) and offal. Vitamin B6 deficiency can result from malabsorption syndromes, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Certain genetic diseases, such as homocystinuria, can also cause vitamin B6 deficiency (once again my source is the NIH). Anti-epileptic drugs can also lead to a deficiency.
So, I’m very soon going to correct any deficiency in B1, B6 and B12. All for just about 50pence.
September 3rd, 1959. I was one of 289,242 babies born on that Thursday. Apart from me...