Vitamin C is essential to humans who, unlike other mammals, do not make their own. Intravenously (IV) administered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) began appearing in published studies in 1950.
But it wasn’t until 1995 that Hugh Riordan and colleagues noted in Medical Hypotheses that, “Given in high enough doses to maintain plasma concentrations above levels that have been shown to be toxic to tumor cells in vitro, ascorbic acid has the potential to selectively kill tumor cells in a manner similar to other tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents.
Most studies of ascorbic acid and cancer to date have not utilized high enough doses of ascorbic acid to maintain tumor cytotoxic plasma concentrations of ascorbic acid. “Data is presented which demonstrate the ability to sustain plasma levels of ascorbic acid in humans above levels which are toxic to tumor cells in vitro and suggests the feasibility of using ascorbic acid as a cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent.1”
Current IV Vitamin C Research
Two decades later, the concept of IV vitamin C has advanced past the hypothetical stage and is associated with good results in cancer patients. The therapy also shows promise for endothelial dysfunction, septic shock and other conditions.2
In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2000, S. J. Padayatty and M. Levine note that intravenous administration of vitamin C produces plasma concentrations that are toxic to cancer cell lines. “We propose that ascorbate treatment of cancer should be reexamined by rigorous scientific scrutiny in the light of new evidence,” they conclude.3
A case report in a later issue of the journal documented an ovarian cancer patient whose disease persisted following chemotherapy. After discontinuing chemotherapy, she began treatment with intravenous ascorbic acid and had no evidence of disease three years following diagnosis.4
Documentation of cancer regression or remission in association with IV vitamin C has primarily been in the form of case histories such as these. Nine cancer patients in Singapore who received high dose intravenous vitamin C experienced survival beyond prognosis or other benefits that were documented in Integrative Cancer Therapies.5 Another case, reported in Yonsei Medical Journal, documented an association between intravenous vitamin C and complete regression of pulmonary metastases.6
A study that included 39 terminal cancer patients who received intravenous vitamin C twice plus orally administered vitamin C for one week resulted in improvement in global health and quality of life.7 Fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain and loss of appetite were all reduced following vitamin C therapy. Similar results were obtained in a study of 53 breast cancer patients who received IV vitamin C in addition to standard therapy for four or more weeks.8
IV Vitamin C and Heart Health
Intravenous vitamin C has also shown cardiovascular benefits. In a study involving 28 patients with variant angina and 24 subjects with normal coronary arteries, intravenous administration of vitamin C significantly improved flow-mediated vasodilation, a measure of endothelial function, in both groups.9 Intravenous infusions of the vitamin has enhanced platelet responsiveness to the anti-aggregation effects of nitric oxide and improved endothelial function in chronic heart failure patients.10 And in a study of 11 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, intravenous vitamin C reversed endothelial dysfunction.11
Vitamin C was found to decrease the vasoconstrictor response and improve flow-dependent vasodilation in comparison with a placebo in 22 patients with high blood pressure following an intravenous infusion of 3 grams vitamin C.12
In patients with a history of Kawasaki disease — a childhood illness characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels — endothelial function was improved by intravenous vitamin C administration.13
Intravenous ascorbic acid may also be helpful for the decrease in endothelial function that occurs in sedentary older people, in those with high blood glucose, or in people with obstructive sleep apnea.14-17 In older men with lower resting femoral artery blood flow, intravenous vitamin C increased blood flow by 37%.18 Authors K. L. Jablonski and colleagues conclude that their results “support the hypothesis that oxidative stress plays a major role in the reduced resting whole leg blood flow and increased leg vasoconstriction observed with aging in men.”
An eight-week study involving 24 late stage cancer patients found the most common side effects associated with IV vitamin C to be minor. One patient with a history of kidney stones developed one after 13 days, which may or may not have been related to treatment with vitamin C.19
With its promising benefits and low incidence of significant side effects, intravenous vitamin C could be something worth asking your health care provider about.
- Riordan NH et al. Med Hypotheses. 1995 Mar;44(3):207-13.
- Galley HF et al. Free Radic Biol Med. 1997;23(5):768-74.
- Padayatty SJ et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Aug;19(4):423-5.
- Drisko JA et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Apr;22(2):118-23.
- Raymond YC et al. Integr Cancer Ther. 2016 Jun;15(2):197-204.
- Seo MS et al. Yonsei Med J. 2015 Sep;56(5):1449-52.
- Yeom CH et al. J Korean Med Sci. 2007 Feb;22(1):7-11.
- Vollbracht C et al. In Vivo. 2011 Nov-Dec;25(6):983-90.
- Hamabe A et al. Am J Cardiol. 2001 May 15;87(10):1154-9.
- Ellis GR et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2001 May;37(5):564-70.
- Richartz BM et al. Am J Cardiol. 2001 Nov 1;88(9):1001-5.
- Solzbach U et al. Circulation. 1997 Sep 2;96(5):1513-9.
- Deng YB et al. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2003 Jan;22(1):34-9.
- Steer P et al. Atherosclerosis. 2003 May;168(1):65-72.
- Eskurza I et al. J Physiol. 2004 Apr 1;556(Pt 1):315-24.
- Mullan BA et al. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2005 May-Jun;32(5-6):340-5.
- Grebe M et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2006 Apr 15;173(8):897-901.
- Jablonski KL et al. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Nov;103(5):1715-21.
- Riordan HD et al. P R Health Sci J. 2005 Dec;24(4):269-76.