Intravenous (IV) Nutritional Therapy (Vitamin Drips)

Intravenous (IV) Nutritional Therapy (Vitamin Drips) Image

Procedure Time: 30-60 minutes

Recovery Time: No downtime

Results Duration: Routine top-ups are recommended

Cost: Varies dependent on brand and type, approx. £100 - £350 per infusion

Anaesthesia: None

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Intravenous or IV Nutritional Therapy delivers a controlled dose of electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients directly into your body intravenously or directly into your bloodstream through your vein.

Intravenous (IV) products Intravenous administration of vitamins and products that are prescription-only medicine (including 0.9% saline) that are used to improve or enhance well-being constitutes treatment of a disease or disorder.

In the 1960s, the use of IV delivered vitamin cocktails was proposed as a more effective method for delivering a dose of essential vitamins and minerals than food or pills. The most famous, and earliest cocktail of vitamins and minerals delivered to patients in this way was that developed by American doctor, John Myers, this became known as the Myers’ Cocktail. Many clinics and commercial products still use this concept. Brands include Intravita, Reviv and Vitamin Drip. IV nutritional therapies are solutions for those with a feeling of being run-down, who are in need of a ‘pick-me up’, as an anti-ageing aid, for immune system boosting, as a hydration cure for hangovers, for jet-lag or for those looking to achieve optimum sporting performance. The aim is that you will feel rehydrated and have a restoration of optimum vitamin levels and improved energy. Expect to pay £100 - £350 for a single IV infusion, depending on its ingredients and the brand used.

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Intravenous (IV) Nutritional Therapy (Vitamin Drips) FAQs

In the 18th century when doctors discovered that eating citrus fruit (containing vitamin C) counteracted scurvy amongst sea-faring sailors the science of why was lacking. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that a Russian surgeon proposed the theory that our foods contain nutrients that are essential for good body health.

As understanding grew throughout the 20th century, knowledge increased about which vitamins were present in which foods, and cured which ailments or promoted which cell proliferation within the body. The medical community began to both prescribe and make synthetic versions of common vitamins to improve the health of those afflicted by deficiencies and diseases. Today, most vitamins and minerals are widely available in oral tablet and liquid forms in high street chemists and supermarkets, as well as prescribed by general practitioners for conditions such as anaemia (iron supplementation) and rickets (vitamin D supplementation).

Not all of us have perfects diets - fussy eaters, busy lifestyles with little cooking from scratch and a tendency towards fats and sugars from processed foods mean that many of us are not getting the best combination of vitamins and minerals from diet alone, which can lead to deficiencies and related illnesses. Add to that hectic work and life schedules, burning the candle at both ends with little thought for getting enough sleep and many of us are fatigued and dehydrated to boot.

Some therefore turn to oral vitamin supplementation as part of their diet; but there has been a recent rise in popularity for the use of IV or intravenously delivered vitamin drips instead; although this is nothing new.

This treatment is offered and marketed using different names including Intravenous (IV) Hydration, Intravenous Micronutrient Therapy (IVMT) and Intravenous Nutritional Therapy (IVNT).

If you are considering IV Nutritional Therapy, the following information should give you a basic understanding of the procedure. It can’t answer all of your questions, as the outcome of the procedure depends on the individual patient and surgeon. Please ask a surgeon about anything you don’t understand.

Intravenous or IV Nutritional Therapy is the process by which a practitioner places a needle in a vein in your arm, attaches a cannula with a tube to a drip solution housed in a special bag which hangs from a stand. This delivers a controlled dose of electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients directly into your body intravenously or directly into your bloodstream through your vein. This is similar to saline or other medicine filled drips which are delivered in a hospital environment to those who are ill or recovering from trauma.

In the 1960s, the use of IV delivered vitamin cocktails was proposed as a more effective method for delivering a dose of essential vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream than via oral options (food or pills) due to how our bodies digest, absorb and expel that which we ingest by mouth.

Their use has been touted over the years to ‘cure’ or mitigate the effects of everything from chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, respiratory and cardiac conditions, migraines and even cancer.

The most famous and earliest cocktail of vitamins and minerals delivered to patients in this way was that developed by Baltimore based American doctor, John Myers, in the 1960s, thus this became known as the Myers’ Cocktail.

This was essentially a multi-vitamin pill for IV delivery. Although there is no documented, published original ‘recipe’, the theory is that Dr. Myers used a 10ml syringe and administered by slow IV push a combination of magnesium chloride (2% solution), calcium gluconate, thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin B-12, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and dilute hydrochloric acid. The exact doses of individual components were unknown but one doctor, Dr. Alan Gaby, who took on many of Dr. Myers’ patients after his death in 1984, treated over 1,500 patients, up to 2002, with his version of the Myers’ Cocktail – the modified Myers’ Cocktail. Many clinics still adopt this concept and adapt it for their own use today, and most commercially available products bear some resemblance to this cocktail.

Some regard IV nutritional infusions as a questionable treatment with evidence to support it being largely anecdotal, with few notable scientific publications or controlled studies. Dr. Gaby himself wrote the most widely quoted clinical paper following his experiences in which he concluded a similarly unproven result with mostly anecdotal evidence. He called for additional research to confirm the effectiveness of this treatment and to determine optimal doses of the various nutrients.

There is a broad range of views both from practitioners and patients alike, that they have had or seen beneficial effects from the IV delivery of nutrients.

If you take liquid or tablet forms of vitamins and nutrients, i.e. taking them orally (by mouth), then they must first be broken down and undergo absorption through the intestines and various other processes before they enter the blood stream. Because of this only a fraction of what we ingest orally actually get delivered to their target. All of the IV micro-nutrient vitamin drips on the market aim to achieve 100% absorption of their nutritive cocktail, directly into the bloodstream to reach the places that they are needed.

There are certain primary supplements which are available in many of the commercially available IV solutions, which can be lacking in individuals. Thus delivery of a cocktail of vitamins and minerals is designed to improve a variety of symptoms. These include:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is considered an essential nutrient for the human body, which it must obtain from an outside (dietary) source as it cannot synthesis it internally. Vitamin C is found in many fruit and vegetables including citrus fruits, tomatoes, melons, peppers, potatoes, pineapples, brassicas and summer berries, plus many other sources. It is a water soluble vitamin which is ingested, used as required, and any excess is excreted out of the body through urine. A continuous supply is needed to maintain good health, otherwise long term deficiency, as we know from historical evidence, can lead to scurvy.

The body uses vitamin C to maintain normal growth and development through collagen synthesis and the formation of a number of different tissues and structures within, as well as when healing and repairing damage to tissues. It is also an antioxidant and plays an active part in preventing oxidative stress from free radicals.

Anecdotally vitamin C is touted as useful against the common cold, however clinical research notes that increased vitamin C consumption does not reduce the risk of catching a cold, nor does it appear to be helpful to take extra once a cold is caught, but there is some limited evidence that those who regularly take vitamin C supplements may reduce the longevity and symptoms experienced from any cold that they catch.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12, which also goes by the name Cobalamin, is another water soluble vitamin which the human body is incapable of synthesising internally. Its primary role is in metabolism, and plays a key role in the formation of blood and the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in animal derived foods, such as meat/poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk and other dairy products, (it is not present in plant based products), as well as in those foods which have been fortified with vitamin B-12, such as breakfast cereals and breads.

According to A hunt et al who published in the BMJ in 2014, a deficiency in vitamin B-12 is relatively common, estimated to affect 6% of those under 60 years of age and 20% of those over that age.

Deficiency is usually related to a decreased intake, as is common with vegetarian and vegan diets, a reduction in the ability to absorb the vitamin due to age, as well as increased bodily requirements that are not being met adequately, such as during pregnancy and breast feeding. More commonly it is due to poor absorption of the vitamin through the stomach due to a condition called pernicious anaemia. Alcohol consumption, even as moderate levels of regularity, as well as having an effect on the hydration of the body, can also impact on the absorption of vitamin B-12 due to the damaging effect that it has on stomach cells.

Vitamin B-12 is often marketed as great supplement to increase energy and endurance for athletic performance, and is often found as a fortifying ingredient in energy drinks, however, unless an individual is clinically deficient in the vitamin, there is no evidence to suggest that this has an effect.


Glutathione is a tri-peptide that is an important antioxidant that helps to prevent damage to cells from free radicals. It is also actively involved in iron metabolism and the synthesis and repair of DNA, proteins and other biochemical reactions. Unlike other nutrients, the human body is able to synthesis glutathione from the amino acids L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid and glycine. It can do this within all the cells in the body but research has shown that the glutathione synthesis which takes place in the liver is the most essential.

Low levels of glutathione are seen in those people with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other traumas or sepsis, as well as in athletes who are over training and pushing their bodies to the extreme.

Magnesium Sulphate

Magnesium sulphate is commonly used as a pharmaceutical preparation of magnesium and is more readily known in common parlance as Epsom Salts. Magnesium sulphate given intravenously or as an intramuscular injection is used to treat eclampsia with evidence supporting its vasodilatory capabilities.

The supplementation of magnesium sulphate can be used to treat hypomagnesemia which can occur on an ad-hoc basis due to an inadequate intake of magnesium from one’s diet due to chronic diarrhoea, malabsorption problems (as seen with weight loss patients), excess alcohol consumption and chronic stress, as well as in those taking medications which have a diuretic effect. Insufficient levels of selenium, vitamin B6 and vitamin D from sun exposure can also have an effect on the body’s levels of magnesium.

A deficiency in magnesium causes symptoms including weakness, muscle cramps, tremors or shakes due to the impact in the nervous system as well as heart rhythm abnormalities.

Calcium Gluconate

Calcium gluconate is a mineral supplement which according to the World Health Organisation is one of the most important medications needed in any basic healthcare facility. Given as an intravenous solution it is the most widely used form of calcium for treating hypocalcaemia or low serum calcium levels in the blood. Such low levels are most commonly caused by a vitamin D deficiency.

The various supplements available, in IV ready ampoules, are in themselves prescription only and can only be sourced from a pharmacy by a prescribing physician. The product brands available formulate these into a usable/deliverable drips and clinics wishing to offer them often have a licence to use that brand.

The solution or diluent used for any IV infusion fluid is an important factor. In the case of delivering IV nutritional therapies this choice is usually between a 0.9% sodium chloride (saline solution) or a 5% dextrose solution, an isotonic carbohydrate (sugar solution) that contains glucose in sterile water, depending on the ‘ingredients’ being used and the desired effect from the therapy in terms of hydration and energy boost.

Most of the brands also offer single, intramuscular injection or ‘booster’ product options for delivery of key nutrients.

Some of the brands available include Intravita, Reviv and Vitamin Drip®.

IV nutritional therapies are generally marketed as solutions for those with a feeling of being run-down who are in need of a ‘pick-me up’, as an anti-ageing treatment to improve skin tone and produce a ‘healthy look’, as an aid for getting over cold or flu or for immune system boosting, as a hydration cure for hangovers, for those who are jet-lagged due to hectic travel schedules or for those who are very sporty to the level of a serious athlete and thus require increased vitamins and minerals for optimum sporting performance.

It is widely thought that most of us are dehydrated and lacking in key vitamins a lot of the time. Most of the evidence of beneficial effects from this type of treatment is anecdotal.

During your first visit to a clinic, you should explain what you expect from an IV vitamin treatment. Your practitioner should discuss any potential problems connected with the treatment, such as allergies. You must both discuss which formulation will be best for you and for treating your specific concerns.

In most cases, as you will otherwise be a healthy individual who has not sought help or a diagnosis for symptoms which could be related to a vitamin or nutrient deficiency, there should be no problem with you having treatment. The practitioner should however take a full medical history to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t have the treatment. This will be done alongside lifestyle screening and vital sign checks (bloody pressure, pulse, temperature, BMI etc.). Rarely there is a requirement or a desire for a full blood work up to be done on a patient before treatment, some practitioners believe this is unnecessary and others see this as an essential benchmark for the primary starting point with prescribing the best (or avoiding the worst) treatment therapy for the individual. It is up to you to decide the level of investigation you wish to undertake before treatment.

Then you will usually be asked to read detailed information and sign a consent form which means that you have understood what the treatment may do, along with any potential side effects from it.

Your practitioners will then set up an intravenous cannulation, this is the act of correctly placing a cannula inside a vein to provide access for the administration of IV medicines.

This is done by locating a suitable vein, using a needle to enter the vein and then catheterising it so the drip can be attached. This should be a relatively painless, or tolerable pain as the needle is inserted (just as when having a blood sample taken) so no anaesthesia is required.

The IV solution is then directly administered into the bloodstream during an IV push of between 30 and 60 minutes, while you sit or lie on a couch in the clinic.

Your practitioner will calculate the IV drip rate or the flow of delivery of an IV infusion based on the specific vitamins and minerals being delivered and how they are taken on by the body, so that the components are delivered at a safe speed and in safe doses.

The aim is that you will feel rehydrated and have a restoration of optimum vitamin levels and improved energy in the few hours post-treatment.

There is no recovery required and a simple plaster over the needle entry point is all that will usually be needed. This will heal within a day or so, just as if you had a blood test at your GP.

Generally, this treatment is considered to be safe if correctly delivered.

Minor side effects include bruising and tenderness at the needle insertion point, with potential for inflammation of the vein due to the cannulation. These should be temporary and normally resolve in two or three days.

Some people may feel a little faint or light headed immediately after treatment. Normally this will be monitored before you are allowed to leave the clinic.

Various complications can occur both during and after intravenous cannulation including pain, difficulty introducing the cannula, arterial puncture, thrombophlebitis (inflammation of the vein), blood clot formation, infection and necrosis.

If the IV drip rate means that the treatment is delivered too quickly, some of the vitamins and minerals may be delivered at too high a dose and can cause an adverse reaction. For example, the speed of delivery of calcium gluconate is important as rapid delivery intravenously can cause hypercalcaemia which could cause decreased blood pressure, vasodilation and bradycardia. Your practitioner should be able to calculate correct drip rates.

There is a rare but possible side effect and adverse reaction from this treatment which is anaphylaxis.

It is possible that the results from such treatment may not be as dramatic or noticeable as expected or last for very long.

Most people will feel well immediately after completion of their IV therapy and go on to feel a sense of general wellness, increased energy and perhaps improved hair and nails.

It is very important that you follow the advice of your physician following treatment. Post-treatment advice could include:

• Taking anti-inflammatory or pain medication if the vein is particularly sensitive or inflamed after treatment.
• Not drinking alcohol for a period of time post-treatment
• Not taking additional oral vitamin supplements

To undergo intravenous nutritional therapy treatment, you should be in general good health.

You would likely not be a good candidate for IV Nutritional Therapy if you suffer from heart or kidney problems, shortness of breath, neurological conditions, have uncontrolled diabetes, problems with blood clotting, have had a recent trauma (such as accident or illness), or are currently showing signs of fever or illness.

Pregnant or breast-feeding mothers will normally not be suitable for treatment, unless under the supervision of their GP or obstetrician due to a diagnosed vitamin deficiency. Similarly, the elderly are generally not suitable.

Intravenous (IV) products Intravenous administration of vitamins and products that are prescription-only medicine (including 0.9% saline) that are used to improve or enhance well-being constitutes treatment of a disease or disorder.

Only fully trained and qualified medical practitioners (doctors, dentists and nurses) should perform an intravenous procedure due to the precise needle insertion required during cannulation.

For more information about practitioner training, qualifications and relevant medical organisations please view the information contained within the Legislation section of the Consulting Room.

Intravenous vitamin and mineral therapies of this kind are not something which are available through the NHS, but instead offered through private, slimming, cosmetic or sports clinics.

If you suspect that you have a vitamin deficiency or are suffering any unusual symptoms, please see your General Practitioner for evaluation before choosing this treatment in a private setting. If you have a diagnosable condition, then your GP can prescribe a suitable vitamin or mineral supplement regime for you (which may or may not include an IV solution) or additional treatment via the NHS.

The cost of an IV Nutritional Therapy will depend on the specific brand and the individual product used, as well as the clinic offering the service.

Expect to pay prices starting from £100 up to around £350 for a single IV infusion, depending on its ingredients and the brand used. Some recommend a course of sessions, such as one per week for four weeks which may cost £1,000+.

Booster injections of single vitamins or minerals are normally priced at between £30 and £85.

It is quoted that nutrient deficiencies are common in the population, with research from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report citing that 90% of Americans are nutrient deficient due to their poor diets, with 11 nutrient gaps identified, including calcium, vitamin D, fibre, potassium, vitamins A, B-6 and B-12, zinc, folate, magnesium and iron.

We are facing an obesity epidemic in the UK too due to increased reliance on fast foods and ready meals which carry poor nutritional composition. Many UK workers work longer hours, in more stressful environments than those in the rest of Europe, with both men and women having to juggle a home and social life, children, the daily commute, their job and get at least 7 hours sleep within the 24 hours that it takes us to orbit the sun. But it’s not all doom and gloom, the growth in gym memberships and the numbers of people now regularly participating in half marathons, mud-runners and triathlons means that there is a growing segment of the population who take their health and their athletic performance seriously and are looking to gain improvements and that extra edge.

Intravenous (IV) Nutritional Therapy may be a beneficial treatment for such individuals.