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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 20, 2021

The Treatment of Infectious Disease Using Vitamin C and other Nutrients

by Margot DesBois

(OMNS Jan 20, 2021) In the current fight against COVID-19, we can learn from the effective and safe orthomolecular viral treatments pioneered by a handful of discerning doctors in the twentieth century. For decades, copious clinical evidence and research has demonstrated that optimal doses of vitamin and mineral supplements can prevent, treat, and cure infectious diseases that afflict vast numbers of people today.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid or ascorbate) is necessary for proper immune system functioning. Anascorbemia, in which levels of the vitamin are inadequate, predisposes one to infection. [1] Ascorbic acid stimulates both the production and phagocytic ability of neutrophils, phagocytes, and lymphocytes. [2] Leukocytes use ascorbic acid to generate the hydrogen peroxide breakdown products that destroy microbial pathogens. [1] Stress on the body, such as from pathogenic load, causes it to expend vitamin C at a higher rate, lowering available amounts unless replenished through increased supplementation. Ascorbic acid is a necessary co-factor in the synthesis of collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the body and is essential for the strength of all organs, including arteries, lungs, bones, and skin. [2-4]

Individuals with a higher intake of vitamin C produce more antibodies (IgG and IgM), as demonstrated in a 1977 study that isolated human subjects from nearly all sources of new infection and supplemented them with different amounts of this vitamin. [5] In guinea pigs, vitamin C supplementation also increases the amount of C1 esterase, the first component of the immune complement system. [3] Low vitamin C levels heighten skin graft tolerance in guinea pigs, presumably by lowering circulating, active lymphocyte levels. [5] In the 1970s, Dr. Yonemoto's team studied five healthy human adults and found that supplementing with 5 g of vitamin C for a few days doubled new lymphocyte formation, and intake of 10 g and 18 g tripled and quadrupled the control rate, respectively. [5,6] The manufacture of some immune-regulating substances, such as prostaglandin E1, require several dietary micronutrients, including vitamin C. [5] Thus, ascorbic acid promotes parts of the inflammatory response, but it also protects against sepsis by strengthening vascular structure and regulating histamine release and breakdown and normal thrombosis. [1-8]

Supplementation with high levels of vitamin C during a viral illness not only treats the acute infection, but it also helps prevent secondary infections that may arise within a vitamin-depleted environment. [2] Investigators such as Irwin Stone, Linus Pauling, and Thomas Levy have provided copious evidence that vitamin C acts as a potent antiviral and antibacterial substance at gram level doses. [8-10] The vitamin inactivates viruses both in vitro and in vivo, possibly through the generation of free radicals and/or the "Fenton" reaction. [1,3,11] In a 450-page volume, Dr. Thomas Levy assembled reports on high dose vitamin C treating and curing infectious diseases including polio, hepatitis, measles, mumps, viral encephalitis, herpes, influenza, tetanus, streptococcus, and staphylococcus, and significantly improving such formidable diseases as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. [10]

In the middle of the twentieth century, Frederick R. Klenner, MD demonstrated that vitamin C is an ideal agent for killing viruses, bacteria, and other microbial pathogens. He also recognized vitamin C's ability to neutralize and eliminate most toxins, including microbial products, chemical pollutants, and other poisons. [10-13]. Klenner was one of the first physicians to inject patients with high doses (ranging from 350 mg to 1,200 mg per kg body weight) to treat illness. [12,13] He treated and cured acute poliovirus with frequent injections of ascorbic acid, using body temperature (measure of fever) as a dosing guide. He cured all 60 cases that he treated in a 1948 polio epidemic in North Carolina by administering doses of 6 to 12 g per day, typically over three days. [10] After the initial dose, he applied the same dose every two hours until the patient's temperature dropped and then increased intervals between doses over the next days. He reported all patients as clinically well--absent of symptoms, including fever; headache; limb, neck, and back pain; nausea; and vomiting, and expressing a general feeling of wellbeing--after 72 hours. [10-13] When three patients experienced clinical relapses, Klenner placed all of the patients back on the treatment (with doses given at longer time intervals) for another 48 hours, until all patients achieved complete, permanent resolution of symptoms. [12,13] No patients developed deformities associated with the disease, and even two advanced cases were reversed. [12,13] Klenner further refined and used this treatment method of building up doses until symptom relief (usually within 72 hours) and then weaning off over several days to two weeks. He would then prescribe a continued oral vitamin C regimen to prevent relapse. [10-13]

Klenner implemented variations of this method to cure many other viral illnesses, including herpes simplex, viral encephalitis, mononucleosis, and measles. [1] He often found that patients responded favorably to doses in the tens of grams within a couple of hours. [1] Klenner emphasized the necessity of maintaining tissue saturation levels of vitamin C through continuous administration until the complete eradication of disease. [1]

Other physicians discovered the value of high dose vitamin C treatment both during and following Klenner's career. Claus Jungeblut, MD also studied vitamin C as a treatment for the poliovirus in the 1930s. [12,14] Experimentally, he inactivated the virus "in vitro" by administering vitamin C and determined that polio-infected monkeys receiving vitamin C treatment avoided paralysis significantly more than control animals. [12,14] Clinically, he saw a low vitamin C status in polio patients and found that adequate doses of the vitamin cured the disease. [12,14]

In the 1960s, Robert Cathcart, MD also successfully used the vitamin as an antiviral and described the difficulty, faced by most of these clinicians, of obtaining permission from ethics, university, pharmacy and other committees to use large doses of vitamin C in research studies. [12,15] Cathcart first described the titration of patient doses to bowel tolerance, writing, "The amount of oral ascorbic acid tolerated by a patient without producing diarrhea increases somewhat proportionately to the stress or toxicity of his disease". [15] As with all optimal doses of vitamins, the bowel tolerance amount is highly dynamic. For individuals in good health, this amount falls roughly in the range of 4 to 15 g per day, which can increase to more than 200 g during viral illness. [9,15]

William McCormick, MD pioneered the use of gram dose vitamin C injections in the middle of the century. He declared ascorbic acid a "specific antagonist of chemical and bacterial toxins" and advocated its use as an antiviral and an antibiotic. [12,16] In his discussion on using vitamin C to treat the common cold, Pauling wrote, "I am convinced by the evidence now available that vitamin C is to be preferred to the analgesics, antihistamines, and other dangerous drugs that are recommended for the treatment of the common cold by the purveyors of cold medicines". [9] It amazes any orthomolecular practitioner that the medical community continues to promote these palliative medications at the expense of public health and ignores the overwhelming evidence supporting vitamin C's preventive and curative power.

Other vitamins also influence immune system function through a variety of chemical and physical mechanisms. Short term, high dose supplementation with vitamin E leads to an increased ratio of helper T (CD4) cells to killer T (CD8) cells and enhanced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. [17] The body requires vitamin A, or beta-carotene, to maintain healthy mucous membranes and epithelial tissue, including skin, mouth, respiratory membranes, gastrointestinal tract, and genitourinary tract. [17] These tissues and membranes form the primary physical barriers to infectious agents. Vitamin D acts as an immune system regulator, combating infection and preventing autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and thyroiditis. [17] Niacin releases histamine from mast cells, causing temporary vasodilation. [17] However, niacin supplementation does not trigger a drop in overall blood pressure and it ultimately inhibits the continued release of pro-inflammatory molecules and sepsis. [17] This brief summary of some existing knowledge about orthomolecular substances only scratches the surface of the capacity (both known and unknown) of nutrients to heal infectious disease and promote wellness. It seems likely that the COVID-19 pandemic could be slowed or even halted with the widespread use of vitamin and mineral supplements at adequate doses. [18,19]


Orthomolecular Medicine, the practice of using natural molecules at the appropriate doses, to prevent and reverse disease, has a long history of success. [9,17] It is especially relevant today with epidemics of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, eye disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many individuals in our modern society are deficient in the essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and other essential biological molecules. When the deficiencies are corrected with proper diet and supplementation with optimal doses, many progressive diseases can be prevented and reversed.

(Margot DesBois recently graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Biology and completion of pre-medical coursework. She hopes to pursue a medical education in order to practice orthomolecular and environmental medicine. For the past ten years, she has used individualized nutritional therapies under professional direction to treat and manage her own chronic infectious disease and autoimmune complications.)


1. Klenner FR (1974) Significance of High Daily Intake of Ascorbic Acid in Preventive Medicine. J Internat Acad Preventive Med.

2. Pauling, L. (1977). Linus Pauling before Congress. In R. J. Williams & D. K. Kalita (Eds.), A Physician's Handbook on Orthomolecular Medicine (45-50). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press. Originally published: Healthline, 1(2).

3. Hickey S, Saul AW. (2008) Vitamin C: The Real Story. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pubs. ISBN: 978-1591202233.

4. Gropper SS, Smith JL (2013) Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th Ed, Wadsworth, Centgage Learning. ISBN-13: 987-1133104056

5. Cameron E, Pauling L. (1979). Cancer and Vitamin C: A Discussion of the Nature, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment of Cancer with Special Reference to the Value of Vitamin C (3rd ed.), pp 109-110. Philadelphia, PA: Reprinted 2017, Camino Books.. ISBN-13: 978-1680980134

6. Yonemoto RH. (1979). Vitamin C and Immune Responses in Normal Controls and Cancer Patients. Int J Vitamin Nutrit Res. Suppl. 19, 143-154.

7. Demeda, P. (2018). Highlights from the 46th Orthomolecular Medicine Today Conference. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 33(6).

8. Stone I (1972) The Healing Factor: "Vitamin C" Against Disease. Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN-13: 978-0448021300

9. Pauling L. (2006). How to Live Longer and Feel Better. Oregon State University Press. ISBN-13 : 978-0870710964

10. Levy TE. (2011). Curing the Incurable: Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins, 3rd Ed. Medfox Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-0977952021

11. Levy TE (2013) Vitamin C, Shingles, and Vaccination. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. Aug 27.2013.

12. Saul AW. (2016) Andrew Saul - High Dose Vitamin Therapy for Major Diseases [Video file]. Presentation at Riordan Clinic, Wichita, KS. Retrieved from

13. Klenner FR (1949) The Treatment of Poliomyelitis and other Virus Diseases with Vitamin C. South Med Surg. 111:209-214.

14. Saul AW (2013) Vitamin C and Polio: The Forgotten Research of Claus W. Jungeblut, MD. Orthomolecular Medline News Service. Aug 7, 2013.

15. Cathcart RF (1981) Vitamin C, Titrating to Bowel Tolerance, Anascorbemia, and Acute Induced Scurvy. 7:1359-1376.

16. McCormick WJ (1951) Vitamin C in the Prophylaxis and Therapy of Infectious Diseases. Arch Pediatr. 68:1-9.

17. Hoffer A, Saul AW. (2008). Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone. Basic Health Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1591202264

18. Holford P, Carr AC, Jovic TH et al. (2020) Vitamin C-An Adjunctive Therapy for Respiratory Infection, Sepsis and COVID-19. Nutrients, 12:3760.

19. Downing D (2020) How We Can Fix this Pandemic in a Month. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service.

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