A lot of people swear that these treatments boosts their immunity, recovery from a hangover, or treat a serious health issue, but just enough supporting research to justify these claims are lacking.
When Mara Landis, the founder of the site Nutmeg Aspirin, got caught up with the flu last year, no remedy seemed to work. She tried vitamin C supplements as well as a few natural options, such as elderberry and Manuka honey. After about 10 days of sticking out a fever, headaches, and sore throat, she turned to IV drips, which are intravenous infusions of medicine, vitamins, electrolytes, and amino acids that promise to fix whatever’s ailing you.
Many depend on these treatments when they’re in a pinch, say when recovering from a hangover, battling jet lag, or fighting off illness. Others frequent IV clinics as part of their wellness routine, and choose options designed to combat aging, boost brainpower, control stress, or even treat medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and chronic pain.
Landis tried the IV drip as a last-piece effort to recover from the flu. She headed for an integrative ENT and received a Myers’ cocktail, which is a mix of water-soluble vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium.
It worked the magic. “Literally I was fine the next day,” Landis says. “It was unbelievable how much it shifted what was going on in my body.” She sent her 16-year-old son to receive a treatment a few weeks later, and he felt good enough to return to school the next day.
What Is IV Nutritional Therapy? And Why Is It Trendy Now?
These IV treatments aren’t exactly new — they’ve traditionally been used in hospitals to help patients rehydrate or restore nutrient deficiencies — but they’re popular now because they’re a quick fix that’s been made available to the masses. Companies have set up brick-and-mortar clinics in many cities, and others offer concierge-style services where they bring needles and infusions straight to a client’s home or office.
IV drips have also seen a boost in popularity thanks to a celebrity following. Chrissy Teigen posted a shot of herself receiving a drip on Instagram, and Adele reportedly receives a $220 concoction meant to keep her vocal chords healthy. Other celebrities who’ve also reportedly jumped on the trend include Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Chris Brown, John Legend, Jane Fonda, Cindy Crawford, Simon Cowell, and Real House wife Lisa Rinna.
The Proposed Benefits of Nutritional IV Therapy
These celebs and others who swear by IV therapy turn to it as a way to deliver nutrients to the body. Natalya Fazylova, a New York–based holistic health and wellness specialist at ReBalance NYC, has been administering IV treatments since 2014. She says that when we take vitamins orally, they travel to the stomach and intestines, but they don’t get absorbed entirely. With IV drips, on the other hand, Fazylova says the vitamins go directly to the bloodstream, leading to “better results.”
She says most IV sessions cost between $150 and $400 and take about 20 minutes to complete, though some of the more intensive ones can take up to three hours.
Does It Really Work?
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York City, warns this isn’t the best way to get your nutrient fix. “If someone is looking to get nutrients or make the most out of what they can put into their body, if I have a choice, I always prefer using my mouth rather than my veins,” she says.
Current research also doesn’t support the purported benefits of IV therapy. One study examined the effect of two months of weekly infusions to treat fibromyalgia syndrome. The researchers found both those who received the IV treatment and those who received a placebo felt better over the course of the study, but there weren’t statistically significant differences between the two groups.
That study suggests there’s a placebo effect at work. After all, if you shell out $250 for a treatment, you may be more willing to believe you’re feeling better so you don’t feel like it was a waste of money.
The Risks Associated With IV Therapy
There are also a few risks to be aware of. For one, these clinics aren’t regulated, so there may be differences in quality and cleanliness from clinic to clinic. There’s also the possibility that you’ll be given vitamins and nutrients in too-high concentrations, which can be dangerous. Compared with oral vitamins, this can happen more easily with IV drips, as none of the vitamins are lost during the absorption process or excreted through urine.
Taking in too much vitamin C, for instance, can lead to stomach issues, including cramps and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic. And a study published May 2012 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found taking in high doses of certain supplements may increase your risk for certain types of cancer. (Interestingly, on the flip side, high doses of vitamin C are also used as a treatment for certain types of cancer in complementary medicine, according to the National Cancer Institute.)
Fazylova says people with allergies should be careful and need to know all the ingredients before the IV is administered. She also advises people with heart conditions to be extra cautious because taking in too many extra electrolytes can lead to heart arrhythmias. (The Mayo Clinic points out similar evidence.)
Taub-Dix recommends making sure that whatever is in the IV solution won’t interact negatively with any medications you’re taking. “If you have medical conditions or are on other vitamin supplements or medications, then you really need to check with your healthcare provider to be sure you’re not going to get anything that will interact with something you’re already taking,” she says.
There’s also a risk of infection simply from having a needle inserted into your body. “Anytime you make a hole in your skin, you’re leaving yourself open to infection,” Taub-Dix says.
A Closing Note on IV Drips and What to Know Before Trying Them
“If it’s a one-shot deal and that works for you, great, but I wouldn’t have it be something you rely on,” Taub-Dix says. She says a better plan would be to adjust your diet or consider oral supplements that can help you feel better long term.
Risks and lack of evidence surrounding IV drips aside, Landis is still a fan. “I know that I felt one way the day before and another way the next day,” she says. “I trust myself to know how I feel and decide for myself whether or not something works. I know for myself and I have spoken to many others, and I know that this works.”