IV Vitamin Therapy: Your Questions Answered

In your opinion: Does it work? Why or why not?

DW: I believe that IV vitamin therapy is a valuable treatment option when provided by a medical professional, and that it works for many patients. I’ve worked in conjunction with several vitamin infusion doctors and their patients, and have seen the results that they’ve experienced. For many people, the management of chronic dehydration and healthy skin is a great boost to their quality of life. The research in regards to vitamin therapy is limited at this time, but I suspect more research will be performed and released in the upcoming years about the benefits of IV vitamin therapy.

LS: There are very few studies available that have tested the effectiveness of IV vitamin therapies. There’s no published evidence to date that supports the use of this therapy for serious or chronic diseases, although individual patients may claim that it was beneficial for them. Anyone considering this treatment should discuss the pros and cons with their doctor.

DS: I believe there’s a placebo effect in receiving this type of therapy. These treatments are usually not covered by insurance and are pretty pricey — about $150–$200 per treatment — so clients are likely to want the therapy to work since they just paid a lot of money for it. I don’t have anything against the placebo effect, and I think it’s great as long as there’s no risk — but this type of therapy does come with risks. I would rather see someone exercise and eat nutritiously in order to get an energy boost.

What Are Vitamin IV Drips and Are They Even Good for You?

Photo: Getty Images / supernitram

Earlier this year, Kendall Jenner was hospitalized for a “bad reaction” to a vitamin IV drip. She was ultimately fine and able to carry on with her evening plans, which happened to be the Vanity Fair Oscar party, NBD. But I couldn’t help but find myself noting the irony that someone was hospitalized for a voluntary medical treatment. Shouldn’t they be, well, good for you?

Although the service has been around since the 1970s, the recent wave of wellness-minded obsession for celebrities and influencers alike has helped bear witness to the explosion of IV vitamin therapy. A recent survey observed that IV therapies are among the most popular services advertised by naturopaths. They’re now available at a litany of spas and wellness centers, too.

Here, we dug into science to bring you the full scoop on vitamin IV drips-including how they work and what experts have to say about their effectiveness.

What Is IV Vitamin Therapy?

Vitamin IV drips are a custom blend of a saltwater solution (a similar concentration to your blood’s salt level) and vitamins that are cherry-picked by the medical provider-to strengthen your immune system, burn fat, cure a hangover, overcome jet lag, and more.

The idea behind IV (intravenous) vitamin therapy is to provide a more concentrated dose of nutrients. According to the journal Alternative Medicine Review, “intravenous administration of nutrients can achieve serum concentrations not obtainable with oral, or even intramuscular (IM), administration.”

While the “menu” offerings will vary from place to place, the best-known vitamin IV drip is the Myers Cocktail-a mix of magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin C, says Olga Ivanov, M.D., owner the IV Lounge in Orlando, FL. This blend of vitamins has been found to be effective against acute asthma attacks, migraines, fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, acute muscle spasm, upper respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, seasonal allergic rhinitis, cardiovascular disease, and other disorders, she says.

Kollectiv NYC, a spa, offers IV vitamin drips on-site or via concierge through the NutriDrip program and has a much longer menu, offering a litany of drips that have electrolytes for rehydration, along with antioxidants including vitamin C that are great for immunity and fighting off colds, but also for hair, skin, and nails, Dr. Ivanov says. (Others also find it to be helpful for sleep, relaxation, and recovery. See: I Tried Vitamin IV Drips for Recovery and Walked Out Feeling Zen AF)

Does IV Vitamin Therapy Work?

The above list of ailments that vitamin IVs can help treat sounds impressive. But it’s important to note that despite anecdotal support for these therapies, there’s little evidence of their actual efficacy-and only a small amount of published research supporting the use of this treatment. (Related: How to Get the Most Nutrients Out of Your Food)

Many docs out there maintain that it’s a waste of your time and money. “Vitamin infusions for healthy individuals are little more than snake oil-there’s no data to support their use or literature that they offer any meaningful health benefit,” says Rick Pescatore, D.O., an emergency physician and the director of clinical research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Dr. Pescatore adds that “vitamin C administered to healthy people has no effect-since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, all it does is produce expensive urine.” This applies to most vitamins, except for A, D, E, and K, which are fat soluble. With these four, the vitamins can accrue to dangerous amounts and plausibly become toxic, he warns. (Related: Why Healthy Fats Are Important for Nutrient Absorption)

Arielle Levitan, M.D., an internal medicine practitioner in Highland Park, IL, seconds Dr. Pescatore’s concern, adding that the service-which can start around $100-is a costly and perhaps unjustified use of an invasive procedure. “Additionally, these treatments are short-lived,” she says, so they’re best used only as a quick fix if absolutely necessary, as in the case of an illness or extreme intoxication.

What Should You Watch Out for?

If you do want to proceed with IV vitamin therapy, know that there are a few conditions that may make you ineligible, including pregnancy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and uncontrolled diabetes, says Dr. Ivanov. It’s important that you have an evaluation first to make sure you have a therapy and dosage customized for you. “I personally see and clear every new guest which includes assessment of their vitals, allergies, past medical history, and their reason for visiting.” In general, she clears 99 percent of her guests for their therapy, she adds.

While it’s unclear exactly why Jenner was hospitalized beyond a “bad reaction,” it’s plausible that either the IV was not properly administered or the saline mix itself wasn’t formulated correctly, notes Dr. Pescatore. That’s why it’s so important to make sure there’s a licensed medical doctor on staff overseeing the clinic or spa to ensure best medical practices are followed. Likewise, “it is absolutely critical that you have nurses with extraordinary IV skills,” says Dr. Ivanov.

What Can You Do Instead of a Vitamin IV Drip?

“Most of us are vitamin deficient and can benefit from taking the proper combination of vitamins,” says Dr. Levitan. “A personalized multivitamin is a great way to get the right doses and amounts of vitamins based on your individual diet, lifestyle, and health concerns.” Taking a regular daily dose of the right vitamins is a far more physiologic and effective way to replete vitamin needs, she adds, as they’re often digested and absorbed in a way similar to whole foods. (Related: Could Vitamin Deficiencies Be Ruining Your Workout?)

While Jenner may have had the means to get a vitamin IV drip, most M.D.s agree it’s a super-expensive placebo.

  • By Rachel Jacoby Zoldan @rjacoby13

The flu is everywhere and I do mean everywhere: we are officially experiencing the biggest outbreak in years. And when you live in New York City, riding the subway is like Russian Roulette — just clutching a pole during a bumpy ride (and forgetting to wash your hands right after) can lead you down the primrose path of a week in bed, if you’re lucky. When a dear friend of mine, who’d recently had a serious surgery, told me he was going to visit a drip lounge to boost his immunity during his recovery, I was as intrigued as any wellness reporter would be. He’d tried them before to what he felt was great success.

“You will feel like a whole new human,” he affirmed.

So, as I began to sag under the weight of an impending malaise and really needed that “new human” feeling, I booked a drip at NutriDrip’s Drip Lounge in New York City’s East Village. I always thought IV-drips-on-command were for heavily hungover Instagram celebs in desperate need of electrolytes but as it turns out, different formulas of drips are concocted at the minute to serve a multitude of purposes.

I was greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable staff in a room so dim, so relaxing, I’d feel like ordering a drink if it weren’t 11 am and I drank. After discussing my health history, both via email during booking and again in person, I was ushered to the back of the lounge where I sat in a large leather chair to meet Shoko, the nurse practitioner in charge.

We discussed my symptoms and agreed I’d receive an augmented version of the NutriCLEANSE, their most popular, catch-all wellness formula designed to, according to the website, “detoxify against heavy metals and free radicals, energize your body for days, and revitalize from the inside out.” It contained vitamin C, methyl B12, B-complex 100, magnesium, calcium, taurine, multi-trace elements, hydration fluids (of the classic IV variety), plus she added a little selenium and zinc (to help fight invading germs) and the antioxidant glutathione, to fend off free radicals and give my skin what people refer to as a red-carpet worthy glow. Bonus!

“All our drips are designed by a functional medicine doctor, Maurice Beer, and they’re designed so anyone with a normal heart liver and kidney function can take them without a blood test,” Shoko explained deftly. According to their website, Dr. Beer is a board-certified practitioner with a private practice, but is also a clinical instructor in the NYU Nurse Practitioner program and a lecturer at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Right before we started, I remembered how I’d taken my usual fistful of vitamins that morning and asked Shoko if this posed any risks. “The thing about taking vitamins and minerals intravenously is your body fully absorbs them,” she said, adding that because I’d taken them orally, I probably only absorbed 40 percent of their contents anyway. “You just excrete the extra through urine,” she explained.

Nena Kallopoulos receives a vitamin infusion via intravenous drip on the Hangover Bus in the Manhattan borough of New York on Jan. 1, 2015.Carlo Allegri / Reuters Get the better newsletter.

After signing a waiver to acknowledge the risks of IV therapy, such as soreness, bruising, infection and nerve damage (a standard IV insertion disclaimer), she set about prepping my formula. “Everything we use is brand new and sterile,” Shoko reassured as she began the hunt for a ripe vein. Once the drip started, I felt a little lightheaded and on the verge of dizzy, so Shoko immediately slowed the flow of my drip and I felt fine for the remainder of the experience. All told, it took about 10 minutes for Shoko to interview me and prep my solution, and another hour or so for the drip to complete. There was no infection, pain, bruising or nerve damage afterward.

Later that day

At first, the only difference I felt physically was having to pee with a pregnancy-like frequency. As the day’s hustle went on, I realized I felt far more alert and energetic than I usually do at 4 o’clock and again at 6 o’clock, when all the caffeine I’ve had all day wore off. By bedtime, I was exhausted but noticed my sinus headache had subsided somewhat.

After a restorative sleep, I immediately realized upon awakening that whatever sickness I was on the verge of didn’t bother me as much. I’m not a morning person, but I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed like I usually do and felt a subtle boost of energy throughout the day. Also, I was better able to focus during work and was more productive than usual.

Day two

My energy levels were stronger and more even throughout the day — still no 4 pm caffeine crash. My ability to focus was still slightly enhanced and though that feeling of fighting something sinus-y returned a little, it never really materialized into a cold.

Day four

So far, so healthy. I ran into a friend at a coffee shop who actually told me how great I looked — this is not at all a common occurrence. She asked if I was going to an event. Perhaps it was that red-carpet glutathione glow I could’ve sworn I saw in the mirror earlier.

Is it real or just a placebo effect?

As it turns out, I kind of do feel like a whole new human. Dr. Chiti Parikh, co-founder, Integrative Health and Wellbeing Program at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, says some people are low on vitamins to begin with.

“As per the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 10 percent of the U.S. population is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, D, B6, B12 and iron, due to an unhealthy diet or a lack of proper absorption,” she explains. “In certain conditions, IV repletion of these vitamins and minerals can boost the levels in the body more rapidly. As these deficiencies are corrected, one might feel more energetic, clear headed and notice an improvement in the texture of skin and hair.”

Parikh goes on to say that though vitamins B and C are indeed water soluble — meaning your body will just eliminate what it doesn’t need — too much magnesium, for example, can lead to issues like cardiac arrhythmia, so testing your blood to see if you have vitamin deficiencies before trying this is a good idea.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital, conducted a study on the efficacy of IV micronutrient therapy for fibromyalgia patients, with some promise. When I told him how this particular formula worked out for me, he agreed that, under certain conditions, these types of IV solutions could conceivably help ease cold symptoms. “Careful infusions of well-chosen nutrients in reasonable doses could, conceivably, confer benefit,” he says.

But Katz goes on to say that he’s “dubious about indiscriminate use of IV nutrient infusions. Why do it? There are the risks of venipuncture — bleeding, bruising, clotting, and infection — and you are going around the system evolutionary biology has so beautifully designed to be the conduit for nutrients to enter our bodies: the GI tract.”

So what’s the bottom line on these treatments? “While I think it makes sense to study this for specific applications, there is really no evidence to date indicating any meaningful benefit from routine use. My main concern is that it is more reliable as a revenue source for providers than as a genuine therapy for patients,” says Katz.

NEXT: I tried drinking more water for two weeks and this is what happened.

With a new diet or wellness hack cropping up on a weekly basis, the world of health fads never sleeps. Propelled by celebrity endorsements and anecdotal praise, everything from oxygen bars to placenta pills have all enjoyed some time in the limelight. But one of the latest crazes to hit the health scene is IV vitamin drip therapy.

IV vitamin therapy, also known as vitamin IV drip and IV vitamin drip therapy, involves hooking up to an IV bag to receive a vitamins and minerals. Clinics offering these treatments are popping up across the country, as people are seeking this therapy in hopes of fighting off illness, obtaining more radiant skin, beating a hangover, or other purported benefits.

But whether these claims have any merit is a matter of debate. We spoke with two doctors to learn more about who might benefit from IV vitamin therapy—and how—plus whether there are any drawbacks or risks to having it.

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Does IV vitamin therapy work?

IV vitamin clinics often make a number of claims about the benefits of these therapies, suggesting that they might help with hair or skin health, boost immunity, or cure a hangover. But for the most part, experts say the evidence to support these claims are scant.

“I do not know of any convincing evidence that, for example, an IV drip of zinc, B12, C, and magnesium will cure colds and flu,” says Sidney C. Ontai, MD, a family medicine doctor and program director at Texas A&M University’s DeTar Family Medicine Residency.

On the other hand, Albert Ahn, MD, an internal medicine physician and clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, says that IV vitamin drips might provide two clear-cut benefits. For one, IV vitamin therapy ensures that vitamins and minerals are absorbed faster than they would be via oral consumption or supplementation.

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“Some people may prefer that quick fix,” Dr. Ahn says. “Will it boost your stores quicker? Yes it will. But to sustain those stores, you’ll still need to continue to take it in. You’re better off probably taking an oral supplement on a daily basis.”

Additionally, IV therapy may offer some benefit by boosting hydration levels. “It does improve your hydration, and that will, for most people, make you feel better—whether you have a cold or fighting an infection, or you’re a little hungover or feeling a little under the weather,” Dr. Ahn says.

But Dr. Ahn also notes that you can reap the same benefits by simply drinking more fluids. And if a healthy, properly hydrated person shows up for IV vitamin therapy, odds are good they’ll just excrete any fluids that their body doesn’t need.

“If you don’t absolutely need these drips, might just be passing it out throughout the day,” Dr. Ahn says. It’s possible that someone might feel better for a short while after IV vitamin therapy, but for the most part, Dr. Ahn says any benefits to the average healthy person can likely be chalked up to the placebo effect.

Who could benefit from IV vitamin therapy?

IV vitamin therapy may provide significant benefits to people who are struggling with health conditions that make it challenging for their bodies to retain or process nutrients. Delivering nutrients via IV ensures that vitamins and minerals enter directly into the bloodstream (thereby bypassing the gut), which can speed up the replacement of nutrients.

Because of this, doctors routinely prescribe IV vitamin therapy for a number of medical conditions, says Dr. Ontai. For example, he might prescribe IV thiamine for someone going through alcohol withdrawal, IV B12 for renal dialysis patients, or IV multivitamins for people with health conditions that make it challenging for their bodies to tolerate or absorb food in the stomach or intestines.

“With certain conditions, the absorption may be quicker,” Dr. Ahn explains. For example, people with chronic or severe anemia may find that upping their iron intake via oral supplementation leads to an upset stomach or other side effects. In contrast, taking iron via IV may replete stores faster and without provoking stomach issues.

But for the most part, Dr. Ontai and Dr. Ahn agree that a relatively healthy person doesn’t require IV vitamin therapy.

“For your average, healthy, young patient, it’s probably not a necessity,” Dr. Ahn says. “If they have good gut health and healthy habits and a decent diet, should be able to get most of these through food and a normal diet.”

What are the potential drawbacks of IV vitamin therapy?

While the IV vitamin therapy isn’t necessary for healthy people, the good news is that people seeking these treatments are, for the most part, unlikely to do themselves any harm.

“If it makes them feel better, there’s not a whole lot of downside,” Dr. Ahn says. That said, intravenous treatment always carries some potential drawbacks. “Anytime you introduce something intravenously, there are risks,” Dr. Ahn says. For example, people might experience bleeding or bruising at the injection site, and infection is a possibility.

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For this reason, Dr. Ahn stresses that you vet any clinic prior to seeking treatment. “Make sure you’re going to a place that is well-certified and well-staffed and that does everything appropriately,” he says. “You want to make sure everything’s completely sterile because you’re introducing something into the body that could potentially cause problems.”

Beyond that, the biggest risk most people will incur is wasting their time and money. Most IV vitamin therapy treatments cost upwards $200, and they’re not covered by your health insurance. “For most of the extraneous supplements that you take in, what you don’t use is excreted,” Dr. Ahn explains. “Same thing if you get it via IV. Anything that is extraneous or extra, you’re just going to end up getting rid of it.”

What’s more, relying on IV vitamin therapy as a primary source of vitamins and minerals may become inconvenient. “These don’t last for long periods of time necessarily,” Dr. Ahn says, and maintaining weekly appointments are time consuming and expensive.

The bottom line: You don’t need to waste your money on IV vitamin therapy if you’re healthy

Unless you’re suffering from a serious medical issue or seeing a real difference because of IV vitamin therapy, you’re better off obtaining vitamins and minerals through food and perhaps oral supplementation.

“In general, oral administration is adequate and generally safer and more practical for most vitamin deficiencies,” Dr. Ontai explains. “There are very few vitamins that you’re not able to get through food,” Dr. Ahn says. “In most cases, I can’t think of minerals or vitamins, where you can’t absorb them and would have to get it through the IV.”

The average, healthy person is likely to find that obtaining vitamins and minerals via their diet will be a lot easier, cheaper, and probably with less potential risks overall. So eat your vitamins, don’t inject them!

Laura Newcomer Laura Newcomer is a professional copywriter and content strategy consultant who specializes in the health and wellness space.

For many people receiving care in a hospital or emergency room, one of the most common occurrences (and biggest fears) is getting an IV, the intravenous catheter that allows fluids and medications to flow into a vein in your arm or hand.

A trained health professional puts in an IV by sticking a needle that’s inside a thin tube (catheter) through the skin into a vein. Once inside the vein, the needle is removed. The catheter is left in the vein and taped down to keep it from moving or falling out. While IV lines are typically painless, the initial needle stick can be quite painful, especially for those who are a “difficult stick” (when the needle misses the vein, requiring multiple attempts).

IVs can be medically needed when the digestive system isn’t working well, to receive more fluids than you’re able to drink, to receive blood transfusions, to get medication that can’t be taken by mouth, and for a host of other treatments. In cases of massive bleeding, overwhelming infection, or dangerously low blood pressure, IV treatments can dramatically increase the chances of survival.

Drip bars: IVs on demand

And this brings us to a relatively new trend: the option to receive IV fluids even when it’s not considered medically necessary or specifically recommended by a doctor. In many places throughout the US, you can request IV fluids and you’ll get them. A nurse or physician’s assistant will place an IV catheter in your arm and you’ll receive IV fluids right at home, in your office, or at your hotel room. There’s even a mobile “tour bus” experience that administers the mobile IV hydration service. Some services offering IV hydration include a “special blend of vitamins and electrolytes,” and, depending on a person’s symptoms (and budget), an anti-nausea drug, a pain medication, heartburn remedies, and other medications may be provided as well.

And no, it’s not covered by your health insurance — more on the cost in a moment.

Why would anyone do this?

When I first heard about this, that’s the question I asked. Why, indeed? People may seek out IV fluids on demand for:

  • hangovers
  • dehydration from the flu or “overexertion”
  • food poisoning
  • jet lag
  • getting an “instant healthy glow” for skin and hair

Many of the early adopters of this new service have been celebrities (and others who can afford it) including Kate Upton, Kim Kardashian, Simon Cowell, and Rihanna. Or so I’ve read.

Are IV fluids effective or necessary for these things?

Some people who get the flu (especially the very young and very old) need IV fluids, but they’re generally quite sick and belong in a medical facility. Most people who have exercised a lot, have a hangover, jet lag, or the flu can drink the fluids they need. While I’m no beauty expert, I doubt that IV fluids will improve the appearance of a person who is well-nourished and well-hydrated to start with.

And it’s worth emphasizing that the conditions for which the IVs-on-demand are offered are not conditions caused by dehydration or reversed by hydration. For example, jet lag is not due to dehydration. And while oral fluids are generally recommended for hangover symptoms (among other remedies), dehydration is not the only cause of hangover symptoms.

Finally, there’s a reasonable alternative to IV fluids: drinking fluids. If you’re able to drink fluids, that’s the best way to get them. If you’re too sick to drink and need rehydration, you should get care at a medical facility.

Is it worth going to a drip bar?

I’ll admit I’m skeptical. (Could you tell?) It’s not just that I’m a slow adopter (which is true) or that I’m dubious of costly treatments promoted by anecdotes on fancy websites (which I am). What bothers me is the lack of evidence for an invasive treatment. Yes, an intravenous treatment of fluid is somewhat invasive. The injection site can become infected, and a vein can become inflamed or blocked with a clot (a condition called superficial thrombophlebitis). While these complications are uncommon, even a small risk isn’t worth taking if the treatment is not necessary or helpful.

I can see how the idea of IV fluids at home might seem like a good idea. We hear all the time about how important it is to drink enough and to remain “well-hydrated.” It’s common to see people carrying water bottles wherever they go; many of them are working hard to drink eight glasses of water a day, though whether this is really necessary is questionable.

And then there’s the power of the stories people tell (especially celebrities) describing how great they felt after getting IV fluid infusions. If you have a friend who says they feel much better if they get IV fluids to treat (or prevent) a hangover, who am I to say they’re wrong? The same can be said for those who believe they look better after getting IV fluids as part of getting dolled up for a night on the town.

What about the cost?

While the benefits of IV fluids on demand are unproven and the medical risks are low (but real), the financial costs are clear. For example, one company offers infusions for $199 to $399. The higher cost is for fluids with various vitamins and/or electrolytes and other medications. Keep in mind that the fluids and other therapies offered can be readily obtained in other ways (drinking fluids, taking generic vitamins, and other over-the-counter medications) for only a few bucks.

The bottom line on drip bars

In recent years, more and more options have become available to get medical tests or care without actually having a specific medical reason and without the input of your doctor. MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans, recreational oxygen treatment, and genetic testing are among the growing list of options that were once impossible to get without a doctor’s order. While patient empowerment is generally a good thing, IV fluids on demand may not be the best example. Some of these services are much more about making money for those providing the service than delivering a product that’s good for your health.

As for me, I’ll pass on the IV fluid option — unless, of course, my doctor recommends it.

Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling

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