I have worked in several integrative medicine centres where integrative medicine and functional medicine doctors provided injectable nutrient therapy services. Injectable nutrient therapy has always been popular amongst celebrities such as Tina Turner, Simon Cowell, Rhianna and Madonna to name but a few.

Intravenous vitamin therapy is a method of administering vitamins and minerals directly into the bloodstream. It is used in several Complementary and Alternative Medicine / integrative medicine centres to treat a variety of diseases such as:

  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Asthma
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Parkinson’s disease and macular degeneration

So why use Intravenous administration?

Vitamins and /or nutritional supplement are required for various biochemical and physiological processes in the body.Bioavailability of vitamin C essentially depends on its effective absorption from the intestine and renal excretion. Oral intake of Vitamin C nutritional supplements limits the saturation of gastrointestinal absorption and its renal reabsorption, whereas intravenous administration leads to 100-fold higher plasma concentration of oral Vitamin C. It also outperforms intramuscular administration.

Most injectable nutrient therapy treatments take 1-2 hours and are performed in integrative medicine centres. It is also a popular treatment offered in cosmetic clinics as ascorbate plays a pivotal role in collagen synthesis.

Research evidence

Is there any research evidence that supports the use of Intravenous administration of Vitamin C?

There are numerous Complementary and Alternative Medicine research papers showing that ascorbate inhibits tumour growth in vivo. Conversely, critics of Intravenous vitamin injections feel that it is a marketing gimmick as there is minimal human clinical trial data that supports the efficacy of injectable nutrient therapy. However, akey recent clinical study from the National Institute of Integrative Medicine, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia published in 2016 demonstrated an acute ‘Blood Pressure’ reduction using high-dose intravenous administration of Vitamin C. This study adds support to the use of injectable Nutrient Therapy as a viable integrative medicine therapy.

Since the 1970’s there have been observational studies showing that high-dose Intravenous administration of Vitamin Chas been effective in cancer patients. Other studies have shown that cultured colorectal cancer cells with KRAS or BRAF mutations are selectively killed when exposed to high levels of vitamin C. There have also been some small Complementary and Alternative Medicine clinical studies that showed that intravenous vitamin C treatment combined with chemotherapy can increase cancer survival rates in adenocarcinoma of the pancreas or ovarian cancer. The theory behind the selective cytotoxicity of high-dose intravenous ascorbate is dependent on the generation of H2O2. Normal cells have several ways to remove hydrogen peroxide but cancer cells are less efficient as they contain lower amounts of catalase and are thus the cancer cells are destroyed. A recent Complementary and Alternative Medicine research study from the Cancer Centre at the University of Iowa has shown the selective destruction of cancer cells without affecting tumour tissue. The researchers stated, “Our results suggest that cancers with low levels of catalase are likely to be the most responsive to high-dose vitamin C therapy, whereas cancers with relatively high levels of catalase may be the least responsive.”The researchers are now planning to measure catalase levels in tumours.

So these recent studies seem to confirm that an integrative medicine approach to treating certain cancers using intravenous administration of Vitamin C may be a promising option but a lot more research needs to be carried out.