Grassroots clinicians pick up on Vitamin C treatment for coronavirus

By Jerome Burne

We are all familiar with the popular idea that vitamin C can help with colds and flu. Equally familiar are the routine medical statements that any benefit is marginal at best. Over the last few weeks, however, the situation has been changing rapidly and it looks as if the wisdom of crowds about coronavirus had got it right.

Responding to reports of trials and clinical use of high dose vitamin C on infected patients in China, a grassroots revolution by clinicians in America is underway to test its effectiveness. Meanwhile, official medical bodies in America and the UK are continuing to ignore the possibility that combinations of cheap supplements and old drugs could be useful.  

A few pointers:

  • About ten days ago the claims for high dose vitamin C that had been coming out of China through March were supported by the results from an RCT (randomised controlled trial) of 100 intensive care patients. There was a 30% drop in the death rate.
  • Further trials of the vitamin are planned or underway in South Korea, Malaysia, Italy along with at least four in the USA.
  • Last week it was announced that Covid-19 patients at a Houston hospital have been getting a combination of large doses of the vitamin plus cortisone. None have died. A consortium of five doctors across the States using the same combination have reported similar results.
  • A new Critical Care Working Group in America has just published guidelines for treating these patients with vitamin C and two widely used drugs. 

Grassroots revolution: why it makes sense

The repeated demand for more evidence rings hollow in the face of this crisis and is anyway ignored when it comes to testing drugs on their own. 

The refusal to investigate reveals a lack of understanding of what vitamin C does. To begin with, it is a key player in the immune system’s response to viral infections. Without adequate levels, the system is compromised.

It is also an antioxidant which neutralises the damaging oxidants that the body makes all the time, but especially when using a lot of energy, such as fighting an infection. It also reduces the harmful inflammation this causes. 

A clue to its importance is that the amount of vitamin C found in immune system cells is 50 to 100 times higher than in blood. One of the most common of these immune defenders are the neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), which are heavily dependent on vitamin C. 

Animal use of high dose vitamin C in a crisis

When an infection alert goes out vitamin C stimulates their production and protects them from damage and then shepherds them to the infection sites. A storm of oxidants is produced during battles with the microbes, which vitamin C helps to neutralise. More details on vitamin C and the immune system here

Still not convinced?  How about the fact that the majority of animals can make their own vitamin C, producing amounts 100 times greater than the tiny 70mgs that is our RDA. 

Together with the non-human primates and a few other species, we have lost that ability. And what do the Vitamin C- producing animals do when stressed by infection or other attacks? Ramp up their production. So, it makes sense that we should do the same either via a drip or with a powder.

A common misunderstanding is that we all need the same amount all the time. This has allowed myths to flourish such as the one about high doses being useless because you’ll rapidly pee out the excess. 

Vitamin C. Called up in an emergency 

This is true if you are healthy and not under any stress. But you quickly become not healthy and very stressed when infected by Covid-19 or any other virus or bacteria. Then your system will respond in the same way most animals’ do – call for a major delivery of vitamin C.

That’s why the Chinese doctors, based on their experience of thousands of patients, came up with the simple dosing formula that’s just starting to be copied – but not in the UK. 

When the virus is in your environment, take 2grams a day, enough to support your initial response to an infection and then keep taking that amount every few hours. If symptoms worsen, increase the dose further. This must be worth testing on front-line staff who are still poorly protected. 

This is being done in Chinese hospitals. Patients who are admitted with symptoms are quickly given 6 grams, those in intensive care are getting 12 grams every 12 hours. A detailed protocol is here.

It’s a protocol that is not only in tune with natural reactions but also makes sense because treatment of seriously ill patients largely involves supporting their breathing and supplying oxygen and relying on the immune system to see off the infection. 

Badly infected patients suffer from scurvy

The flexible requirement for vitamin C is vividly illustrated by the discovery that 40 per cent of patients in an American critical care unit with a dangerous immune system disorder called sepsis, had such low vitamin C levels that they could be diagnosed with scurvy. Their levels were as low as 14 when they should be 60-90. 

Scurvy is, of course, the original vitamin C deficiency disease suffered by sailors, who lacked fruit or vegetables. What killed them was pneumonia. The vitamin C in oranges and limes prevented the scurvy 

The finding doesn’t make sense if you assume people only need a fixed amount. It makes perfect sense, however, if these patients have been using up huge amounts of it to battle their infection. Many of the Covid-9 patients dying in intensive care units actually die from sepsis caused by pneumonia. 

This was the work of Professor Paul Marik, chief of Eastern Virginia Medical School’s critical care department who, together with 8 other critical care physicians, has developed a protocol that tackles the severe problems that arise as the disease develops. 

The normally protective immune response goes into overdrive and dangerous inflammation (sepsis) starts to cause havoc. It damages the lining of the blood vessels causing clotting. The clotting and the inflammation then make it increasingly hard for the lungs to get enough oxygen.

 Cheap drug and supplement cocktail  

 The solution, set out in detail in the previous reference, is a combination of vitamin C plus the anti-inflammatory drug hydrocortisone and a blood thinner. ’Started within six hours of a Covid-19 patient reporting shortness of breath,’ says Professor Marik ‘this can dramatically reduce the need for ICU beds and ventilators.’

The group has selected a range of both drugs and nutrients which, in different combinations, can also treat patients at different stages These include vitamin D, zinc, and the hormone melatonin, along with hydroxychloroquine, statins and antibiotics.

 Hydroxychloroquine is currently attracting attention because zinc, which can slow or block virus production in an infected cell, needs something to carry it in. This old drug is one of the compounds that can do that. Professor Marik’s team has run the protocolon 30 ICU patients so far with zero deaths. 

Trials already underway in USA

This approach is being taken up by other experts, several of whom are starting trials registered at the US-based clinical One is at the Cleveland clinic where 520 patients will be getting vitamin C or zinc or vitamin C + zinc for 10 days. The aim is to see which is better at cutting the chance of infection.

Another, run by the genetic research lab Progentabiome , also aims to reduce the risk of infection by giving 200  patients supplements of vitamins C, D and zinc, along with the old malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. A third trial is an RCT with 200 patients that gives half of them 72 hours of high dose vitamin C to see if it can reduce the lung injury that the infection can cause.

These are all trials that promise to provide valuable information about how best help both front line staff, many of whom are lacking full protection, as well as seriously patients. 

But not all trials are obviously useful. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is sponsoring one that is supposedly designed to discover whether vitamin C or hydroxychloroquine can cut the risk of getting infected. What’s strange, or possibly suspicious, is that there is no placebo. Instead, the drug is compared with vitamin C

The clinical trial that went wrong

‘This trial incredibly stupid,’ remarks GP Dr Malcolm Kendrick who is an expert on the way clinical trials can be fiddled. ‘No-one has suggested that either Vit C or hydroxychloroquine stops you getting infected. Only that they may improve survival/length of stay once you have been infected.

‘What’s more, the way this trial is set up, means you will never know if either works better than placebo; is the same as placebo; worse than it. If one is ‘better’ than the other, they could still both be better than nothing.

‘The only explanation that makes sense is that it’s intended to discredit both vitamin C and hydroxychloroquine, both likely to show up as ineffective, removing rivals to new vaccines.’ 

Meanwhile, here in the UK, there is no official interest in vitamin C, rather an active campaign to dismiss its use as fake and quackery. See previous post. But just as the pandemic has revealed a variety of faults and failures in our social organisation, so it has highlighted a shortcoming of the NHS. 

Ignoring nutrition doesn’t do nurses and favours?

That sounds like heresy given the astonishing dedication and bravery of front-line workers, but they are among those suffering from the official refusal trial or take seriously the potential for nutritional and lifestyle treatments for a variety of disorders. 

It’s clear from a rummage through obscure government documents concerned with pandemic preparedness, that nothing other than drugs formed part of the plans for tackling the next epidemic. No hint that the diseases linked with poor diets, such as diabetes and obesity, might make people more susceptible to viral infection. 

The baroquely-named ‘Revised Operating Framework for NHS England in Managing the Response to a Pandemic Influenza Outbreak 2017, advised relying on prompt access to antivirals as the way to deal with it and so we maintained a stockpile of enough antivirals to treat 50% of the population. How well did they work? What was the cost?

There was a tiny chink in the pandemic planning by another group that might just allow non-drug options in. A report from NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group) wasn’t impressed with the total reliance on antivirals: ‘Our view is that there are currently no robust data on treatment effectiveness.’

Consequently, the report recommended being ‘prepared to initiate clinical trials for unproven therapeutics for COVID-19.’ It then went on to acknowledge the possibility that a clinician might want to prescribe an ‘unproven therapeutic (experimental or repurposed)’ outside of a clinical trial framework.’ 

So, there it is. A small window of bureaucratic non-disapproval for any clinician interested in giving this promising approach a try. 


New book: Flu Fighters, then go to box marked ‘ References and Resources’ and click on  Surviving Respiratory Distress – Chapter 9 of Flu Fighters.

A crowdfunding appeal is aiming to raise £50.000 to provide ‘Frontline Immune Support’ for NHS Staff. It will be delivered in packs containing Vitamins C and D +zinc. Already 250 people have signed up and are waiting for delivery. Read more.

Jerome Burne

Jerome Burne

Jerome Burne is the editor of HealthInsightUK. He is an award-winning journalist who has been specialising in medicine and health for the last 10 years and now works mainly for the Daily Mail. His most recent book “The Hybrid Diet” was written with nutritionist Patrick Holford, published 2018. Award: 2015: Finalist for 'Blogger of the Year' Medical Journalists' Association.


  • I note above, the one statement above that included prescribing STATINS!

    We all know statins lower cholesterol.

    We all know that cholesterol is also key to the immune system.

    So the Docs just cannot avoid their favourite stupidity and prescribe statins to impair the patient’s immune response.

  • Prompted by a tweet from Verner Wheelock, have just read ‘The Healing Factor’ by Irwin Stone, published in 1972, available for 49p as an e-book. He studied ascorbic acid (Vit C) for 40 years and explains that we assumed ascorbic acid was a vitamin, needing only tiny doses as its structure was discovered around the same time as other vitamins, whereas his view is that it is a compound made in varying amounts, according to need for many bodily processes (especially immune related), by those animals who can. He references much research done in earlier decades using it to treat polio. smallpox, shingles and more. He describes its anti viral, anti bacterial and anti inflammatory properties, especially when administered intravenously. He also explains that much research using small vitamin sized amounts was never going to work, the ‘vitamin’ idea has been so misleading here and where some of the dismissal comes from. The other really interesting fact is that animal research on non human primates shows that they need something like 50 times the RDA we humans apparently need (can be confirmed by looking up on line veterinary guides, I found RDAs of 55 – 110 mg – per kilo of body weight). All of this research seems to have been overtaken by the rise of the vaccination and then forgotten. So glad that some clinicians are working on it. Ascorbic acid is anti inflammatory, anti viral, anti bacterial, non toxic and cheap – what’s not to like (oops – forgot, not much profit!!) PS the book is a good read!

  • There is no reason why this relatively cheap, harmless and well-tolerated substance (“Vitamin C”) cannot be used in conjunction with whatever drugs or witchcraft modern doctors are visiting upon COVID afflicted patients.
    One can only speculate on the true reasons for their obstinacy.

  • I’m in my 14th week of Covid and have used ascorbic acid to effectively relieve symptoms – during cytokine storms (up to 100g daily) and in the long weeks of recovery(now down to about 15g per day). I cannot understand the suppression of news in the UK about Vitamin C usage and its clinical trials. There are stories about Guava juice, Vitamin D & Vitamin K but nothing of any substance about Vitamin C! I can only think that it is seen as a threat, being a possible alternative to stockpiled drugs.

Leave a Reply

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann