Growing in popularity among integrative health practitioners is the use of intravenous (IV) vitamin and mineral therapy. Intravenous administration of vitamins and minerals is a therapy that has potential benefit for a wide range of clinical conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and colitis), migraines, fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, acute muscle spasms, upper respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, seasonal allergies, cardiovascular disease, depression, athletic performance and adjunctive cancer treatment1.
Intravenous therapy is the administration of vitamins and minerals directly into the blood stream using a small needle. IV nutrient therapy is a way of getting the vitamins and minerals into the blood stream quickly and at a higher amount. When taken orally, vitamins and minerals are absorbed via the digestive tract. If the digestive tract is compromised, the nutrients from the vitamin and mineral supplement may not be effectively absorbed and most may be excreted from the body. For example, when given through IV, vitamin C can reach concentrations 10 times higher than through oral supplementation2. As a result, IV therapy can have great benefit for those who have digestive issues or who cannot tolerate oral supplementation or in conditions when a higher blood concentration is required to have the desired therapeutic action.
Dr. John Myers, MD, a physician from Baltimore, Maryland was the first doctor to use IV therapy in 1970’s. It was from him the term “Myers’ Cocktail” was coined. Nutrients in a Myers’ Cocktail consist of magnesium, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, B complex and vitamin C1. After Dr. Myers death in 1984, Dr. Alan Gaby, MD continued to develop the field of IV nutrient therapy. A Myers’ Cocktail is aimed at correcting common nutrient deficiencies, improving energy and boosting the immune system.
In the treatment of cancer, high dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is shown to have anti-tumor effects. Since there are mechanisms in the digestive tract that tightly regulate intestinal absorption of vitamin C, a desirable concentration of ascorbic acid to have the anti-tumor action can only be achieved through intravenous injection, as opposed to oral supplementation2. Studies show that used in conjunction with chemotherapy, intravenous vitamin C can decrease the side effects of chemotherapy, improve quality of life, and decrease tumor size2.
IV therapy poses little safety concerns, with no reported severe adverse effects. In my experience, the most common mild adverse effects are discomfort at the injection site and lightheadedness. These can easily be corrected by adjusting the administration speed and/or solution concentration.
Intravenous therapy is an exciting integrative medical approach that is aimed at correcting deficiencies, improving energy and re-establishing health.
- Gaby AR. Intravenous nutrient therapy: the “Myers’ cocktail”. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Oct;7(5):389-403.
- Bao, James, et al. Effectiveness of Intravenous Vitamin C in Combination with Conventional Chemotherapy in Cancer Treatment. Integrated Healthcare Practitioners 2013 June/July.