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A Clinical Trial for Intravenous Vitamin C

BY Dr. Erica Kubanek, ND 

Vitamin C drip

(Editor's update: the COVID-19 situation is moving fast! Since Dr. Kubanek wrote this article, additional nutrients, such as Vitamin D, have also begun limited clinical trials to assess effectiveness in treatment of the virus. We'll keep you up-to-date on the outcomes of these trials in future articles.)

While we’re all hard at work managing the sweeping changes transforming our daily lives, the worldwide scientific community is hard at work to discover a prevention, a treatment, or a cure for the current pandemic. 

At the time of this writing there are well over 100 clinical trials for COVID-19 that are testing many treatments for viral illnesses, and there are many more in the works. 

Currently, there is a lack of effective targeted treatments, and supportive symptomatic care is the only option for those suffering from severe viral pneumonia due to COVID-19. But with this huge push on clinical trials, some answers are very near. 

Clinical trials are testing vaccines, antiviral medications, biologic drugs, and even traditional Chinese herbal remedies. The countries with the most trials are those that have been hit hardest such as China, Italy, and the US. 

Among the many different types of treatment interventions, only a single trial is testing a nutrient. Intravenous (IV) Vitamin C is being tested to treat severe cases of viral pneumonia (along with supportive symptomatic care). 

This trial stands out because IV Vitamin C has long been used for the prevention and treatment of numerous viral illnesses since the early 20th century. 

This clinical trial for IV Vitamin C began on February 10, 2020, in Zhongnan Hospital, right in the epicentre of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. 

The hypothesis is that IV Vitamin C can help improve the prognosis of patients with severe viral pneumonia. 

Though we won’t know conclusively whether the trial was successful for many months after its completion in September, 2020, it will be interesting to discover if this treatment can also help us manage the outcome of this new pandemic. 

However, it is important to know that there are no treatments, let alone alternative treatments, such as IV or supplemental Vitamin C, known to prevent or treat COVID-19. 

Historic uses of Vitamin C 

So, why has this hospital in Wuhan chosen to study this important nutrient? The vitamin was discovered when doctors were looking for the cause of scurvy nearly 100 years ago. 

In the early 20th century scurvy was found to be caused by a severe Vitamin C deficiency. 

Soon after, Vitamin C supplementation became a treatment option for pneumonia due to its association with scurvy as the disease’s most frequent complication. 

Since then, numerous animal and clinical studies have investigated the role of Vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of viral illnesses and lung infections. 

In animal trials, Vitamin C increases resistance to viruses and other illnesses. Although clinical study results have been mixed, Vitamin C, especially in higher doses, shows benefit for numerous viral illnesses from Epstein-Barr to shingles and even the flu. 

A powerful antioxidant 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Its role is important to the immune system to help it fight viruses and other infectious invaders. Vitamin C neutralizes oxidizing agents in the body which, when left unchecked, would otherwise cause damage. 

When the immune system is activated to protect the body from an invader, such as a virus, it uses oxidizing agents (referred to as reactive oxygen species, or ROS for short) as a sort of ammunition. ROS are used to damage and deactivate the viruses. 

But just as the use of ammunition may cause collateral damage, so may ROS. Vitamin C limits this collateral damage, thus protecting the body when the immune system fights a virus or other infections. 

Problematically, Vitamin C is used up quickly as the body fights off invaders. For severe or protracted illnesses, the body can become functionally depleted in protective Vitamin C, which then allows more damage to occur. 

Thus, the body’s need for Vitamin C is greater when it is fighting off an illness and lower when it is healthy. 

Though Vitamin C has historically been considered a direct antiviral, it actually isn’t one. It is concentrated in very high levels in important immune cells where it increases their functioning and other important aspects such as immune cell communication. 

Studies have now shown that Vitamin C has a positive effect on the immune system, thus allowing it to more effectively fight off viruses while preserving the health of the body. 

Vitamin C is a mainstay in my clinical practice to both prevent and treat common viral illnesses (not including COVID-19), and I have seen first-hand the beneficial effects of Intravenous Vitamin C. 

I, for one, am very interested in seeing whether this simple and under-appreciated nutrient may be accepted as an important therapy for the serious complications of this pandemic. 

Dr. Erica Kubanek, ND, is an experienced naturopathic doctor who has been using advanced intravenous nutrient therapies since 2012. She loves providing patients with safe and effective natural options to improve their well-being and elevate their daily lives.