PTCB Test Prep Vitamins, Herbs, and Supplements

Vitamins, Herbal and Dietary Supplements

Dec 17th, 2019
vitamins, herbal and dietary supplements

Supplements and Vitamins on the PTCB Exam

Technicians are often asked PTCB exam questions on vitamins, herbal and dietary supplements. After all, there are more than just FDA-approved medicines in pharmacies.

As the qualified healthcare professional that sits between the pharmacist and the patient / member of the local community, it’s essential that technicians understand the role of vitamins, herbal and dietary supplements. Part of this process involves knowing when it’s appropriate to discuss the case with your pharmacist. For example – there may be a potential drug interaction, or perhaps you need more clarification on a given herb or supplement.

However, what is clear is that – for the PTCB test – pharmacy technicians are expected to have a basic understanding of vitamins, herbal and dietary supplements.


Vitamins are divided into:

  • Water-soluble vitamins – B vitamins and C
  • Fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K

As their name suggests, water-soluble vitamins – such as vitamins B and C – are soluble in water. This means that excess vitamin may be eliminated through the urine. This means we require a consistent supply of these vitamins daily to replenish what vitamin is lost.

In contrast, fat soluble vitamins are not readily eliminated and so are widely stored within the body for prolonged periods of time. Vitamins A, D, E and K are examples of fat-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin Scientific Name Function
Vitamin A Retinol/retinals Vital for vision, skeletal growth, and regulation of mucous membranes of the oral cavity and eyes.
Vitamin D Calciferol Vital for bone and teeth formation by assisting absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin E Tocopherols Antioxidant properties.
Vitamin K Phytomenadione Vital for blood clotting (coagulation).
Vitamin Scientific Name Function
Vitamin C Ascorbic acid Assists with wound healing, immune system function; and collagen synthesis.
Vitamin B1 Thiamine Promotes normal appetite; essential for the nervous system to function.
Vitamin B2 Riboflavin Vision / healthy skin.
Vitamin B3 Niacin Digestion, appetite, healthy skin.
Vitamin B5 Pantothenic acid Hormone formation and nutrient metabolism.
Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine Promotes formation of red blood cells, insulin and hemoglobin.
Vitamin B7 Biotin Essential to metabolise proteins and carbohydrates.
Vitamin B9 Folic acid Promotes red blood cell formation; important in pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects.
Vitamin B12 Cobalamins Promotes red blood cell production; energy metabolism; and collagen synthesis.

Herbs and Supplements

It’s worth recalling that herbs, supplements, and other forms of alternative medicine – such as homeopathy – are highly popular throughout the United States.

It’s important, therefore, for pharmacy technicians to be aware of these herbs and supplements – identifying the drug and knowing what conditions they may be used to treat. Be aware, though, that because these herbs and supplements are often available over the counter, or within the pharmacy without a prescription, there is often contested evidence as to how effective they are.

Though we list the common indications associated with each herb and supplement, consider that evidence is often lacking as to the actual effectiveness that they have. Many of these drugs are used in the treatment of coughs and the common cold.

Herbs and supplements are examinable on the PTCB test.

Here are the top 20 herbs and supplements you need to know.

ALOE VERA Burns, such as sunburn; dry skin.
BILBERRY Ocular disorders; bowel disturbances.
BLACK COHOSH Premenopausal symptoms.
CHONDROITIN Bone disorders; arthritic bones.
CRANBERRY Maintaining urinary health/reducing infections.
ECHINACEA Colds; reducing symptoms.
EVENING PRIMROSE Premenstrual symptoms.
FISH OIL Cholesterol; blood pressure maintenance.
GARLIC Maintaining blood pressure; heart health.
GINGKO BILOBA Improve memory; cognitive ability.
GINGENG Fatigue; memory; menopause symptoms.
GLUCOSAMINE Osteoarthritis; bone disorders.
GRAPE SEED Allergies.
GREEN TEA Metabolic syndromes.
KAVA KAVA Stress, tiredness, anxiety.
MILK THISTLE Liver disease.
MELATONIN Jet lag; insomnia.
ST. JOHN’S WORT Depression.
SAW PALMETTO Prostate disorders.
SOY Menopausal symptoms.

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.