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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, May 4, 2020

Vitamin C and Coronavirus: Not a Vaccine; Just a Humble Cure

Commentary by William F. Simmons and Robert G. Smith, PhD

(OMNS May 4, 2020) During the pneumonia epidemic in North Carolina in the 1940's, after American soldiers returned from the war in Europe, a small-town physician used an anti-infective protocol of intravenous vitamin C to cure 42 cases of viral pneumonia. [1] During the same period, the physician used a similar treatment to cure 60 cases of viral poliomyelitis. All patients were clinically well within 72 hours. [2] This seemingly incredible event occurred before there was a polio vaccine. The doctor was Frederick Robert Klenner of Reidsville, North Carolina.

During that same time interval, Klenner used a similar method to cure an assortment of other maladies, including herpes zoster, herpes simplex, chicken pox, influenza, virus encephalitis, measles, and mumps. Over the course of his practice, Klenner discovered that vitamin C was not only anti-viral, but anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-toxin as well. He also discovered that, in general, the higher the dose, the more effective the therapy was against the disease, which resulted in shortening the duration of the anti-infective vitamin C treatment. In his published papers, Klenner found that intravenous injection was necessary to attain adequately high blood levels of vitamin C.

Even before Klenner started his medical practice in Reidsville, it was known that a sufficiently high level of vitamin C was cytotoxic to cancer cells. Several decades later, Linus Pauling and Ewan Cameron used Klenner's intravenous therapy to treat a small group of cancer patients, and found that it increased their survival time. [3,4] Evidently, the high level of vitamin C from their intravenous protocol was cytotoxic to cancer cells -- but spared other cell types. In response, the Mayo Clinic conducted a much larger, more structured study, supposedly using the same vitamin C doses as the Cameron/Pauling study, and found the therapy to be ineffective. But there was an important difference. The Mayo Clinic study used oral doses. Pauling critiqued the study, pointing out that intravenous administration was necessary. The Mayo Clinic denied access for Pauling and Cameron to inspect its data. Some years later, the Mayo Clinic conducted yet another trial, but found the same negative result. Since that time, the wider medical community has written off the approach of using vitamin C against cancer.

After the passage of several decades, this stand-off was broken when others in the field "realized" that the Cameron/Pauling trial had used intravenous administration of Vitamin C, while the Mayo Clinic, although it had used the same dosage of 10 grams per diem, had also consistently used oral administration of the substance -- a fact that Pauling pointed out at the time. [3-5] A group associated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) coalesced around the investigation of the difference between the behavior in the human body of vitamin C given orally and given intravenously -- the so-called "pharmacokinetics" of vitamin C. This group, which includes Mark Levine and Sebastian Padayatty, has repeatedly affirmed that the blood concentration required to be cytotoxic to cancer cells requires intravenous or intramuscular administration [6,7] -- as Klenner had maintained as early as the 1940's.

More recent study of the behavior of vitamin C in the body (its pharmacokinetics) has yielded many results. The NIH group has confirmed many of the results that Klenner achieved during his pioneering vitamin C treatments. They have also confirmed that the efficacy of vitamin C in this cancer treatment is related to generation of hydrogen peroxide, as originally concluded by Linus Pauling. [8-10] Perhaps most importantly, the study of the pharmacokinetics of vitamin C has greatly clarified how vitamin C destroys invading organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. [11-12]

Diseased cells tend to accumulate iron. The ascorbate (vitamin C) ion contributes to the production of hydrogen peroxide. In a reaction called the Fenton Reaction, an iron ion reacts with a molecule of hydrogen peroxide molecule to produce free radicals (reactive oxygen species, ROS) that can oxidize and damage any other molecules in their proximity. When this activity occurs inside the diseased cell, the inner workings of the cell are destroyed, and the cell is rendered inoperative. [13,14] A similar Fenton reaction mechanism can disable viruses before they invade a living cell. [15,16] Any cell types, for example some cancers, that lack normal levels of the catalase enzyme (that removes hydrogen peroxide) are susceptible. [17]

The important point here is that this anti-viral mechanism has nothing to do with the type of the target viral particle or its molecular antigens, which is the strategy upon which modern vaccines depend. If the invading organism mutates, the Fenton reaction process will destroy the cell all the same -- without any need of appropriate antibodies. The diseased cells self-select, since it is they that are hoarding the iron. The increased availability of ascorbate and hydrogen peroxide leaves the healthy cells untouched.

The COVID-19 infection has been compared to the flu and severe pneumonia, which can be successfully treated by high-dose vitamin C treatment. [18-23] Although several ongoing clinical trials testing an intravenous anti-infective protocol of high-dose vitamin C are still incomplete, there is no reason to suspect that this protocol would fail since it has succeeded against every virus it has been set against. [24,25] And, considering the chemical strategy upon which it depends, one would conclude that success will be likely.

An intravenous anti-infective protocol of vitamin C is not the highly sought-after vaccine which the pharmaceutical industry is desperate to concoct. Waiting for its development is at the cost of many lives. But intravenous vitamin C is almost certainly the humble cure we seek, available now.

The History of a Viral Cure

At the very end of the year of 2019, patients with an unexplained pneumonia appeared in Wuhan, China. Around a week later, on January 7, 2020, a new coronavirus was detected in a Wuhan laboratory at 9:00 pm. Three days later, on January 10, the laboratory detected pathogenic nucleic acids at around 8:00 pm. People in Wuhan continued to succumb to the coronavirus over the next four weeks, and, by February 4, 20,000 cases of coronavirus had been identified in China, with 406 dead. [26,27]

On January 20, two weeks prior, South Korea, became one of the first countries to be affected by coronavirus outside of China. The United States reported its first case on the same day. [26,27]

Sometime between late January and the first days of February, 2020, the Chinese government placed an order with Dutch State Mines (DSM) for 50 tons of vitamin C. Trucks arrived in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, on February 9, 2020. [28] Three days later, on February 12, Zongnan Hospital in Wuhan announced a trial of intravenous vitamin C against Coronavirus. [24,25] Patients would be administered 24,000 milligrams of vitamin C each day for 7 days. The next day, on February 13, Dr. Richard Cheng, director of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board to the International Intravenous Vitamin C China Epidemic Medical Support Team, and U.S. board-certified specialist in anti-aging medicine, announced a second intravenous vitamin C study, in which 6,000 to 12,000 milligrams per day would be given to moderate and severe cases. Some allowance would be made for the study of oral administration. [25] These announcements were made on the hospital's website, and these protocols were being published all over Asia. But the American news channels did not cover this story. The next day, February 14, the clinical trial commenced at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan, China.

In just two days, on February 16, apparently since the results had been so unambiguous, Shanghai announced an "official" recommendation to use high-dose intravenous treatment of vitamin C to treat COVID-19. The official recommendation called for doses ranging from 50-200 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day, or up to as much as 16,000 milligrams per day. Four days later, on February 20, Xi'an Jiaotong University Second Hospital reported that 4 patients with severe conoravirus pneumonia had recovered. [29]

The next day, on February 21, Dr. Richard Cheng announced a third intravenous vitamin C trial targeting coronavirus. [25] Cheng called for immediate use of vitamin C for the prevention of severe coronavirus infection. He declared that the "current sole focus (in the U.S.) on vaccine and specific anti-viral drugs is misplaced". Cheng further stated that 50 tons of vitamin C had arrived in China about two weeks prior, and was reported in Chinese media, but not in western media. Cheng further maintained that news of vitamin C research for COVID-19 was being actively suppressed.

Six days later, on March 1, a report from a hospital in Daegu, South Korea, claimed that inpatients had been given an infusion of 30,000 mg vitamin C; some got better after 2 days, most had symptoms disappear after one injection. [30]

Two days after that, on March 3, Dr. Cheng reported an intravenous vitamin C study using 12,000 - 24,000 mg / day, administered to the patient immediately upon arrival at the hospital. Cheng again claimed that news of vitamin C research for COVID-19 is being actively suppressed, and that anyone in the West saying that vitamin therapy can stop coronavirus is already being labeled as "promoting false information", and promulgating "fake news." On the same day, the Government of Shanghai, China announced its official recommendation that COVID-19 should be treated with high amounts of intravenous vitamin C.

Three days later, on March 6, a medical team from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University in China reported on the successful treatment of coronavirus patients with vitamin C. In a press release posted on the hospital website, the team described how "... patients have recovered after being treated with high doses of the vitamin." The medical team recommended that "vitamin C treatment should be initiated as soon as possible after admission to the hospital." Another hospital, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, was starting another study in which they hypothesized that vitamin C infusions can help improve the prognosis of patients with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI). In yet a further development, the Shanghai Medical Association in China published a consensus on the treatment of coronavirus disease. Based on the study of more than 300 clinical patients and developed by 30 experts in the treatment of new coronavirus pneumonia, it recommended high dose vitamin C for even light infection with the virus. This recommendation, described as the "Shanghai Plan", attracted widespread attention, including on Shanghai television. [31]

Five days later, on March 11, the Japanese published an intravenous vitamin C protocol, and released an educational video explaining the use of high-dose oral vitamin C (1000 mg 3x daily to bowel tolerance) along with other essential nutrients to protect against COVID-19. [32] Other important nutrients to prevent infection were included: vitamin D (2000-5000 IU/d), zinc (20 mg/d), selenium (100mcg/d), and magnesium (400 mg/d, in malate, citrate, or chloride form).

The next day, on March 12, the Government of Shanghai stated that China is now officially recommending that high amounts of intravenous vitamin C be used to treat the novel coronavirus COVID-19. [33] The recommended dosage depends on the severity of the individual's illness, but it ranges from 50 to 200 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. That equates roughly to 4,000 to 16,000 milligrams per day in adults.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus was ravaging New York City. On March 24, twelve days after the Government of Shanghai announced its official recommendation, the New York Post reported that Northwell Health, New York state's largest health system, which operates 23 hospitals there, were treating "seriously sick" coronavirus patients with intravenous vitamin C, and were using it system wide. [34] Dr. Andrew Weber, a pulmonologist and critical-care specialist at the hospital, said that the treatments were started based on work done with coronavirus patients in Shanghai, China. Patients entering these New York hospitals were given doses of 1500 milligrams of vitamin C immediately, with two or three recurring doses totaling 3000 to 6000 mg/day. The patients receiving vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C, according to Dr. Weber. Weber said that vitamin C helps the body fight off an inflammatory overreaction to the infection which occurs as a result of coronavirus, a condition called sepsis. Pulmonologist Weber said that vitamin C levels in coronavirus patients drop dramatically when sepsis develops. "It makes all the sense in the world to try to maintain this level of vitamin C", said Weber. Jason Molinet, a spokesman with Northwell Health confirmed for the New York Post that vitamin C treatments for coronavirus patients are being "widely used" across the hospital system.

In Seattle, emergency physician Dr. Ryan Padgett contracted COVID-19 with severe pneumonia and was saved over several days in the period March 12-23 by the application of high-dose intravenous vitamin C along with a drug approved to treat cancer, both for the purpose of blocking the life-threatening "cytokine storm" in the lungs. [35] And in Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Jeff Brown also contracted COVID-19 with severe pneumonia, was given hydroxychloroquine, which didn't help, and was finally saved by the same combination of cancer drug and high-dose intravenous vitamin C. [36,37] In Houston, Texas, an experimental combination of intravenous high-dose vitamin C and drug treatment for patients with COVID-19 with severe pneumonia has been working exceptionally well. Dr Joseph Varon said, "To date, we have 0% mortality at United Memorial Medical Center. Zero percent. I know it's too good for people to believe in this but it's working." [38]

Moreover, a group of critical-care doctors widely spread across the United States has set up a website that provides an explanation, a press release, and a protocol for the treatment that they have used to effectively prevent patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia from needing a ventilator and from death. [39] They implore doctors to use the protocol or a similar one on COVID-19 patients at the earliest opportunity after admission to save lives. [40]

In the meantime, on April 8, approximately 100 days since the unexplained pneumonia appeared in Wuhan, the lockdown in China is now being lifted. [27]

Yet, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the efficacy of an intravenous vitamin C protocol against coronavirus, the FDA, the CDC, and many respected members of the medical community inexplicably jeopardize their own credibility, apparently, to save the irrelevant business model of the pharmaceutical industry. The respect will be hard to win back. And that is right and proper.

(Texas resident William F. Simmons studied Greek, Hebrew and Arabic at universities in his home state, as well as in Jerusalem and Amman, Jordan. He read A Physician's Handbook on Orthomolecular Medicine in 1982, and has been keenly interested in the topic ever since. Robert G. Smith is a physiologist and Associate Research Professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Smith is the author of The Vitamin Cure for Arthritis and also The Vitamin Cure for Eye Disease.)


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2. Klenner FR. (1949) The treatment of poliomyelitis and other virus diseases with vitamin C. South Med Surg. 111:209-214.

3. Cameron E, Pauling L. (1978) Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: reevaluation of prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 75:4538-4542.

4. Cameron E, Pauling L, Leibovitz B. (1979) Ascorbic acid and cancer: a review. Cancer Res. 39:663-681.

5. Jaffey M. (1982) Vitamin C and cancer: examination of the Vale of Leven trial results using broad inductive reasoning. Med Hypotheses. 8:49-84.

6. Padayatty SJ, Levine M. (2000) Reevaluation of ascorbate in cancer treatment: emerging evidence, open minds and serendipity. J Am Coll Nutr. 19:423-425.

7. Padayatty SJ, Sun H, Wang Y, Riordan HD, Hewitt SM, Katz A, Wesley RA, Levine M. (2004) Vitamin C pharmacokinetics: implications for oral and intravenous use. Ann Intern Med. 140:533-537.

8. Duconge J, Miranda-Massari JR, Gonzalez MJ, Jackson JA, Warnock W, Riordan NH. (2008) Pharmacokinetics of vitamin C: insights into the oral and intravenous administration of ascorbate. P R Health Sci J. 27:7-19.

9. Parrow NL, Leshin JA, Levine M. (2013) Parenteral ascorbate as a cancer therapeutic: a reassessment based on pharmacokinetics. Antioxid Redox Signal. 19:2141-2156.

10. Shenoy N, Creagan E, Witzig T, Levine M. (2018) Ascorbic Acid in Cancer Treatment: Let the Phoenix Fly. Cancer Cell. 34:700-706.

11. Hemilä H. (2017) Vitamin C and Infections. Nutrients. 9(4). pii: E339.

12. Levy TE (2011) Primal Panacea. ISBN-13: 978-0983772804

13. Bae DH, Gholam Azad M, Kalinowski DS, Lane DJR, Jansson PJ, Richardson DR. (2019) Ascorbate and Tumor Cell Iron Metabolism: The Evolving Story and Its Link to Pathology. Antioxid Redox Signal.

14. Li J, Cao F, Yin HL, Huang ZJ, et al (2020) Ferroptosis: past, present and future. Cell Death Dis. 11:88.

15. Levy TE (2013) Vitamin C, Shingles, and Vaccination. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service.

16. Vilcheze, C., T. Hartman, B. Weinrick, and W. Jacobs, Jr. (2013) Mycobacterium tuberculosis is extraordinarily sensitive to killing by a vitamin C-induced Fenton reaction. Nature Communications 4:1881.

17. Glorieux C, Calderon PB. (2017) Catalase, a remarkable enzyme: targeting the oldest antioxidant enzyme to find a new cancer treatment approach. Biol Chem. 398:1095-1108.

18. Marik PE, Khangoora V, Rivera R, Hooper MH, Catravas J. (2017) Hydrocortisone, Vitamin C, and Thiamine for the Treatment of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock: A Retrospective Before-After Study. Chest. 151:1229-1238.

19. Li J. (2018) Evidence is stronger than you think: a meta-analysis of vitamin C use in patients with sepsis. Crit Care. 22:258.

20. Patel V, Dial K, Wu J, Gauthier AG, Wu W, Lin M, Espey MG, Thomas DD, Jr CRA, Mantell LL. (2020) Dietary Antioxidants Significantly Attenuate Hyperoxia-Induced Acute Inflammatory Lung Injury by Enhancing Macrophage Function via Reducing the Accumulation of Airway HMGB1. Int J Mol Sci. 21(3). pii: E977.

21. Hemilä H, Chalker E (2020) Vitamin C may reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation in critically ill patients: a meta-regression analysis. J Intensive Care 8:15.

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30. (2020) Official Statement From China For Recommended Treatment Of COVID-19 Using Vitamin C. March 5, 2020.

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32. Yanagisawa A (2020) Orthomolecular prevention and treatment for new coronavirus COVID19 infection. International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine. Release of educational video for Japan: English version:

33. Government of Shanghai now officially recommends high-dose vitamin C for COVID-19 Coronavirus.

34. Mongelli L, Golding B (2020) New York hospitals treating coronavirus patients with vitamin C. New York Post, March 24, 2020.

35. Read R. (2020) Emergency room doctor, near death with coronavirus, saved after experimental treatment. Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2020.

36. Kolenich E. (2020) A Richmond doctor's dramatic story of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and survival. Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 15, 2020.

37. AP (2020) Richmond Doctor Shares Story of COVID-19 Infection, Survival. US News & World Report, April 18, 2020.

38. Archer P. (2020) Local hospital using experimental drug treatment in hopes of saving lives of COVID-19 patients., April 16, 2020.

39. Front Line COVID Critical Care Group (2020) Early Intervention Protocol for COVID-19 Can Save Lives. April 15, 2020.

40. Front Line COVID Critical Care Group (2020) COVID-19 Critical Care Working GroupUrges Immediate Adoption of Early Intervention Protocol for Any ER or Hospitalized Patient Developing Breathing Difficulty. April 15, 2020.

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