Supplements through IV? Yep, that’s happening.
Given the meteoric rise of supplements—in many ways, strapped to the back of the booming wellness movement—companies aren’t just getting creative in terms of blends and marketing. They’re also finding new ways to pump us full of vitamins and minerals.
A few months ago, you probably saw colorful individual powder vitamin packs on Instagram (think: Pixie Sticks, but with an actual health benefit). But now, celebrities, health fanatics and even Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel are all exploring another way to get their vitamin and mineral fix, faster. Enter IV supplements.
Is it safe to take your supplements intravenously? And does this method beat pills, oral liquids and powders in terms of absorption? Here’s the latest on this growing supplement trend.
The Rihanna tweet that launched a thousand IVs
IVs have long been used as a hangover cure, or a way of treating general dehydration. Studies have shown that it’s a safe outpatient method for helping people rehydrate, and it gets you back in action much more rapidly than by attempting to rehydrate by drinking water alone.
But it wasn’t rehydration that had Rihanna hooked up to an IV in a much-shared post last month. Instead, the singer was receiving a solution of vitamins and minerals. Madonna is another famous face that swears by IV supplements. And the practice of getting either one vitamin—Vitamin C, for example—or a mix of vitamins pumped directly into your veins for a half hour or so is quickly catching on. One company, Drip Hydration, is touting “vitamin drips delivered to your door.” Its Energy Boost treatment costs $249 and includes IV fluids (saline), B12, the B complexes and Vitamin C. Simply book online and they IV will show up at your door.
As with anything, popularity doesn’t equal safety. And it certainly doesn’t mean you should shell out hundreds of bucks for an IV supplement treatment without knowing whether it will actually provide any benefit. When it comes to taking vitamins and minerals intravenously, experts have found both pros and cons.
The pros and cons of IV supplements
Whether your IV fluid is filled with the traditional saline mixture (to boost rehydration) or vitamins, the main reason to use the IV method is that the substance reaches your blood stream faster. Given our penchant for instant everything, it’s no surprise people want to go this route rather than, say, a pill that takes much more time to be absorbed into the body. For people with particular conditions related to the gut, the IV route could be a sensible replacement, since much absorption happens in the digestive system.
A few studies have taken a closer look at the perceived benefits of vitamins taken intravenously. A Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine study found that fibromyalgia patients treated with an IV of the Meyer’s Cocktail—water-soluble vitamins and minerals—did experience some benefits. But it was a small study, and the placebo group also experienced perceived pain and depression relief, so scientists were hesitant to make any sweeping statements based on the findings.
With IV supplements, you are also getting saline in the mixture, which will also deliver the benefits of good hydration. Many patients have shared stories about the “instant boost” they feel after the IV supplement drip. Doctors have confirmed this anecdotal evidence, but stress that it could be more about the placebo effect than the effect of the drip itself. And with only limited research on its benefits, vitamin IV drips shouldn’t be viewed as a long-term solution.
In the end, IV treatments come with risks, no matter what’s in the solution. This method can cause bruising, vein inflammation and infection. And if you can’t verify that the correct mixture is in your IV bag, you could run the risk of overdose or death—although, as we’ve written about before, vitamin overdosing is pretty rare. And keep in mind that every body reacts differently to vitamin and mineral doses.
The bottom line
All these risks become more concerning when you’re getting the treatment outside of a clinic. So if you’re looking to try IV supplements, choose a reputable provider where professionals will ensure your treatment is administered properly. These treatments could be beneficial for a quick boost in energy or other vitamin-related benefits, but they’re not yet a trusted long-term solution—and definitely no substitute for getting nutrients through your diet.
It may not be the most exciting advice, but until we see more research on IV vitamins, safety is your best bet.