IV Vitamin Therapy: Does It Work?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 12, 2022
4 min read

Intravenous nutrient therapies (IVNT), or vitamin IV therapies, are part of a popular health and wellness trend spreading across the United States. For instance, some celebrities are promoting vitamin IV therapy on social media.

From IV Drip Bars to IVNT health clinics, more and more alternative medicine practitioners are glorifying the use of vitamin IV therapy, so in this article, we'll look deeper into this health and wellness trend. Then, we'll compare vitamin IV therapy's pros and cons, side effects, and cost. 

After that, you can decide if it is the right treatment for you.

Vitamin IV therapy, also referred to as intravenous micronutrient therapy, administers a high dose of minerals and vitamins directly into your bloodstream. While your body ordinarily absorbs nutrients slowly, vitamin IV therapy allows it to rapidly absorb nutrients at higher doses.

Vitamin IV therapy has been promoted as a treatment for several medical conditions over the past few decades. Some of the issues that proponents claim IV therapy will treat include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Withdrawal 
  • Hangovers 
  • Dehydration
  • Cardiovascular disease 

The Myers' cocktail is the most popular IV mixture of vitamins and minerals, named after the doctor who first administered the treatment in the 1970s: John Myers. The Myers' cocktail includes:

  • 2 to 5 mL of magnesium 
  • 1 to 3 mL of calcium
  • 1 mL of vitamin B6
  • 1 mL of vitamin B12
  • 1 mL of vitamin B5
  • 1 mL of vitamin B complex
  • 4 to 20 mL of Vitamin C

One benefit of vitamin IV therapy is that your body can receive proper hydration from the fluids it contains. This dehydration is believed to largely explain why people feel better after receiving this treatment. 

Another benefit of Vitamin IV therapy is that it is an excellent way to supplement vitamins for people with digestive issues that otherwise prevent them from properly absorbing the nutrients in their food.

Alan Gaby, who began treating some of Myers' patients after the latter passed away in 1984, published his own findings after prescribing IV vitamin therapy to an estimated 800–1,000 patients. In addition, he documented 16 years of clinical results, including using the Myers' cocktail in various treatments of many disorders. He reported it to be a safe and effective treatment, and the anecdotal reports of his patients supported these claims.

For example, one of his patients was a small boy, age 5, who had chronic asthma. The boy came to him wheezing and having difficulty breathing. He administered a slow IV vitamin therapy, and the boy's wheezing resolved in a couple of minutes. He also treated multiple patients with chronic fatigue. 

Gaby states in his clinical findings that he performed around 15,000 treatments. He reported that there were no severe adverse reactions, and the treatments were relatively well-tolerated by his patients. 

Unfortunately, not much more research has been published since his findings. However, IV vitamin therapy as a monotherapy or in cooperation with chemotherapy has been found to be beneficial for patients with cancer. While research has found no proof that it cures cancer, it may reduce fatigue and lift the spirits of those undergoing treatment.

One of the risks of vitamin IV therapy is that it bypasses all of your body's gatekeeping functions. As a result, you will overload your bloodstream with vitamins injected all at once instead of allowing the stomach to digest them slowly.

Vitamin toxicity may occur as a result, depending on how many vitamins and minerals are already in your bloodstream. Consequently, many dietitians are concerned about the risks associated with vitamin IV therapy. Without learning about the patient's lab values, medical conditions, and current medications and supplements, therapists may exceed the recommended daily intake of vitamins and nutrients. In this case, your kidneys will work overtime to eliminate the unnecessary vitamins and minerals in your body, but toxicity may still pose a threat if the kidneys are overwhelmed.

Additionally, a high dose of vitamin C may cause your body to produce oxalates, increasing your risk of developing kidney stones. People with renal disease should be cautious about receiving IV vitamin therapy treatments.

Meanwhile, using the IV treatment too frequently may result in nutritional imbalances. For instance, IV therapy may upset electrolyte levels, and a potassium overdose can result in potentially fatal arrhythmias. Overhydration is another risk of receiving treatment too frequently. Nausea, headaches, and confusion can result from overhydration.

Similarly, water-soluble vitamins may become toxic when you receive large amounts of them quickly, resulting in harmful effects. Toxic levels of vitamin A, for example, can cause vision changes.

Like any other IV medication, IV vitamin therapy has some side effects in addition to the risks associated with the chemicals themselves.

For instance, people with low magnesium or potassium levels are more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms, particularly from treatments that contain magnesium or potassium.

People with heart problems should also exercise caution because the treatment can result in fluid overload, which can cause heart or kidney damage. 

Too much thiamin can result in anaphylaxis, a severe and often fatal allergic reaction to the treatment. It also has the potential to lower your blood pressure and cause dizziness.

The IV therapy cost varies significantly depending on where you get your treatment and what comes in the mixture. Unfortunately, most insurance companies will not cover the cost of vitamin IV therapy, so if you decide to get the treatment weekly or even biweekly, it can be pretty expensive. 

Instead, taking vitamins, eating a balanced diet, and consuming sports drinks to rehydrate yourself might be more affordable and healthy. On the other hand, if you have an intestinal disease that prevents you from properly absorbing nutrients, check with your doctor to see if vitamin IV therapy is the right treatment for you.