IV Vitamin Therapy: Trend or Treatment?

Is intravenous administration of vitamins better?

Woman lying in bed with an IV attached to her hand.Feeling blah? Overworked? Achy? Well, there’s a cocktail for that—offered up in a dose of vitamins and minerals tailored to boost your energy levels and increase a flagging immune system.

And administered via intravenous (IV) therapy—directly into your veins.

This “new” trend is actually a re-designed version of the decades-old Myers Cocktail.  Named for Dr. John Myers, the “cocktail” aims to zap fatigue and depression and boost the immune system. Though the ingredients can sometimes be changed to suit individual needs, the basic formula involves, among others:

  • magnesium
  • calcium
  • vitamin B-12
  • vitamin B-6
  • vitamin C

As opposed to oral supplement versions, the IV formula is intended to directly enter the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system and supposedly offering a direct and quick nutrient fix.  

There has been a lot of controversy for a long time over the use of vitamins to fight cancer. Proponents claim that injectable vitamins—and vitamin C in particular—offer numerous benefits to cancer patients. While studies are still ongoing and inconclusive, a recent study has shed some light on the possible benefits of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) administered in IV form to cancer patients. The study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine examined the ability of ascorbic acid to ease suffering (by reducing inflammation), comparing that aspect of the therapy to its ability in shrinking or killing tumors.

In fact, too much Vitamin C may increase cancer or interfere with tumor shrinking treatment, because it benefits healthy cells and cancer cells alike, according to a study in Cancer Research. In other words, Vitamin C is so good at making your body work better, that it helps your cancer cells work better as well.

Research is still needed to determine the extent of the benefits injectable vitamin C can provide for cancer patient. But what about other conditions whose treatment plans could use a boost from IV therapy?

According to one study, IV nutrient therapy reduced fibromyalgia symptoms. Participants in the clinical trial received a modified Myers cocktail; after eight weeks on the once-a-week IV dose, they reported increased energy and decreased pain associated with their condition, leading to an improved sense of wellbeing. Though the effects did not reduce the symptoms entirely, participants noted a “60 percent reduction in pain and an 80 percent decrease in fatigue.”  

But what about your run-of-the-mill fatigue? Does a long day at the office merit an IV cocktail?

Once offered for patients diagnosed with a specific disease, IV therapy is appearing in more and more alternative and homeopathic doctor's offices. Last year, the trend caught on in Canada, where sufferers of chronic fatigue and related conditions hailed the IV drip, catered to each patient based on his or her blood work. The trend is growing in Los Angeles, too, where resources abound for finding a high-dose fix. (Even Michael Jackson is rumored to have tried IV therapy).

Given the recent FDA ban on injectable vitamin C, is it wishful thinking? Are we treading dangerous territory, looking for instant fixes? Instead of indulging in an orange, we pop a pill. Rather than remembering our vegetables, we opt for the—IV drip?

Or, is IV vitamin therapy more than a fad?

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