Can high dose intravenous Vitamin C help build immunity?

High dose intravenous Vitamin C has the following potential benefits-

  • Vitamin C supports your immune system.
  • Vitamin C can help to fight viral infections, prevent viral replication and reduce the symptoms of infections.
  • Vitamin C can be used right alongside other medicines when they are indicated.

How does Vitamin C help?

It is no secret that Vitamin C is good for our health. It has been researched for more than 80 years since it was discovered to treat scurvy back in the 1920’s.

Vitamin C is an efficient water-soluble antioxidant and protects the host cell against the actions of oxidising agents (free radicals) released by phagocytes. Phagocytes (cells which protect the body by engulfing bacteria/viruses) are activated during an infection which releases oxidising agents referred to as reactive oxygen species (ROS). These play a role in the processes that lead to the deactivation of viruses and the killing of bacteria. However, many of the ROS can be harmful to the host cells, and in some cases they seem to worsen the condition e.g. severe acute respiratory infection.

Increased ROS production during the immune response decreases vitamin C levels. There is evidence that blood plasma and urinary vitamin C levels decrease in the common cold and in other infections. Research have also shown the turnover of vitamin C in smokers was 50% greater than that in non-smokers.

A well-publicised review of vitamin C by the Cochrane Collaboration showed in at least 30 controlled clinical trials (many double-blind and placebo-controlled involving a total of over 11,000 participants), Vitamin C in doses ranging from 200 mg to 2,000 mg per day reduces the duration of colds by 7% for adults and 15% for children. Vitamin C in high doses administered before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms in the test population compared with the control group.

According to the European Journal of Nutrition, in a double blind, 5-yr randomised controlled trial involving 439 participants, the probability of suffering from 3 colds over the course of the study period was reduced by 66% in the group supplementing with the higher dose. In a similar study by Journal of Manipulative Physiology Therapy, overall reported flu and cold symptoms in the test group decreased by 85% compared with the control group after administration of megadose Vitamin C (3000mg/ day).

The basis for using high doses of vitamin C to prevent and combat virus-caused illness may be traced back to vitamin C’s early success against polio, first reported in the late 1940s.

Getting enough vitamin C through your food.

Because vitamin C is water soluble, your body can’t produce it so you need the correct daily amount to prevent deficiency.

Citrus fruits and juices are particularly rich sources of vitamin C but other fruits including cantaloupe and honeydew melons, cherries, kiwi fruits, mangoes, papaya, strawberries, tangelo, tomatoes, and water melon also contain variable amounts of vitamin C. Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, red and green peppers, peas, and potatoes may be more important sources of vitamin C than fruits.

However, the vitamin C content of food is strongly influenced by season, transport to market, length of time on the shelf and in storage, cooking practices, and the chlorination of the water used in cooking. Heating and exposure to copper or iron or to mildly alkaline conditions destroys the vitamin, and too much water can leach it from the tissues during cooking.

Boosting your intake with supplements.

Depending on your lifestyle, your vitamin C requirements will be different. People who have stressful lifestyles, who are physically active, pregnant or breastfeeding mums, smokers, substance abuse, have malabsorption and men more than women, have higher need for vitamin C as they “use up” their vitamin C far quicker to mop up the extra free radicals produced in the body.

At saturation the whole body content of vitamin c in adult males is approximately 20 mg/kg, or 1500 mg. Clinical signs of scurvy (fatigue, swelling of the gum and teeth loss) appear when the whole body content falls below 300–400mg, and the last signs disappear when the body content reaches about 1000 mg. Human studies have also established that ascorbic acid in the whole body is catabolised at an approximate rate of 3% per day.

According to government guidelines, adults aged 19 to 64 need 40mg of vitamin C a day to meet their basic daily requirement. This is very low.

According to National Institute of Health (NIH), the recommended daily dose is:

  • Adults ages 19 and older: 75 mg for women; 90 mg for men
  • Teenagers ages 14 to 18: 65 mg for girls; 75 mg for boys
  • Pregnant women ages 19 and older: 85 mg
  • Nursing women ages 19 and older: 120 mg
  • Active smokers: Additional 35 mg

If you’re eating a healthy, varied and wholesome diet to get enough vitamins and minerals to meet your basic daily requirements, then you may not need supplementation. However as I mentioned above how vitamin C content of food is so sensitive to change and with the stresses of modern life, supplementation is often necessary.

So why give high dose intravenous Vitamin C?

As we have seen, patients with acute viral infections or any infections show a depletion of vitamin C and increasing free radicals and cellular dysfunction. Decreases in vitamin C levels during various infections imply that vitamin C administration might have a treatment effect on many patients with infections. According to a research paper published in the Scottish Medical Journal in 1973, supplementation at the level of 200mg/day was insufficient to normalise leukocyte vitamin C levels in common cold patients, but when 6 g/day of vitamin C was administered, the decline in leukocyte vitamin C induced by the common cold was essentially abolished.

Of course, 6g of Vitamin C is a very high dose and although vitamin C is not toxic, intakes of 2–3g/day can produce unpleasant diarrhoea from the osmotic effects of the unabsorbed vitamin in the intestinal lumen in most people. Gastrointestinal disturbances (diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramps) as well as headaches and insomnia can occur after ingestion of as little as 1g because approximately half of this amount would not be absorbed at this dose.

A summary of evidence from 45 studies, published by Medwave in July 2018, concluded that vitamin C does not prevent viral cold. However, the nutrient may help some people reduce their symptoms. A meta-analysis of nine clinical trials, published in BioMed Research International in July 2018, also found that a higher dosage of vitamin C, taken at the onset of a cold, helped reduce the duration of the illness and lessen its symptoms. The extra amount, though, only benefited people who had already been taking vitamin C supplements on a daily basis.

Intravenous injection bypasses the gut, avoiding the side effects on the gut with high dose vitamin C and delivers it directly into the blood stream so it can circulate and be absorbed the cells.

How is it carried out?  

  1. Following a careful medical history, a dose is recommended for your needs either as a preventative dose or a therapeutic dose. We can do a pure vitamin C IV push or mixed with other active ingredients to boost immunity e.g. zinc, vitamin Bs and glutathione.
  2. After cleaning your skin, we insert a fine butterfly needle into your vein, typically in your elbow crease and “push” the prepared solution for about 5-10 minutes. We do not believe in diluting the vitamin C in large amounts of fluid which would take longer to infuse and deactivating the vitamin.
  3. After removal of the butterfly needle, we put a plaster on the area.
  4. We advise you not to drink water (sips is fine) in the next hour and avoid any caffeine or alcohol the next 24 hours. You can take your supplements and eat as you would normally would.
  5. Depending on your lifestyle and if you fall ill, you may benefit from having a repeat injection in 1-2 weeks time.

If you would like more information or to book an appointment for this treatment, please email