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Vitamin C and the ‘incurables’

Reading time: 15 minutes

Modern medicine retains a 19th-century view of infectious disease. Many of the major viral and bacterial diseases-polio, diphtheria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy and tetanus-are viewed just as they were at the turn of the 20th century-as deadly and largely incurable diseases.

Other than antibiotics for infections of bacterial origin, doctors maintain that the only solution to most serious infection is prevention, which is why many of these diseases are vaccinated against-often with dire consequences.
However, there is a considerable amount of buried evidence in the medical literature that vitamin C is a simple, all-purpose elixir that can cure many of those so-called ‘incurable’ deadly infections.

The non-vitamin vitamin

Many of the pioneer researchers investigating vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, believe that it has been misnamed; the term ‘vitamin’ implies that it’s a micronutrient and that the body requires only trace amounts of it. Guinea pigs, higher monkeys, certain species of bats and humans are the only creatures on the planet that do not manufacture their own vitamin C, leading some researchers to propose that the fact that we cannot produce our own vitamin C stores constitutes a defect in our genetic hard-wiring.

Extrapolating the amounts required by healthy animals to humans demonstrates that we require far more than the 75 mg/day suggested as the recommended daily intake (RDI) by health experts and various agencies. Given the same ratio of ascorbate per body weight of, say, a rat, a human being would require something in the order of 2-4 g/day of ascorbate when healthy and up to 15 g/day during illness.

The Hungarian physiologist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1937 for his discovery of vitamin C, found that ascorbic acid was an essential aspect of biological combustion.This led him to postulate that vitamin C was an essential substance for maintaining cellular communication within the body.

Cellular communication occurs through a rigorous electron-exchange system between all of the molecules in the body, and its ‘purpose’ is essentially to maintain a constant flow of electrical and magnetic fields. According to Szent-Gyorgyi, the greater the amount of vitamin C, the better our electron flow and, hence, the more improved the flow of communication between cells (Executive Health, 1978; 14: 1-4).

Essentially, illness of any variety occurs when this electron flow is impaired. Infectious diseases, allergies, autoimmune diseases and all manner of trauma to the body involve the so-called ‘free radicals’. A radical is essentially a molecule that has lost an electron and, when the radical moves outside of its normal location, it is termed a ‘free’ radical. Free radicals are highly reactive and grab electrons from other molecules. This grabbing of electrons becomes a chain reaction: those cells whose electrons are stolen by free radicals will, in turn, leak free radicals onto adjacent cells, thereby causing injury those cells which, in turn, then generate more free radicals.

Viewed from this perspective, illness is a breakdown of the body’s cellular communication system, and such a state requires a massive stimulus to smooth and reestablish the electrical connections.

The only way to stop the cascade of free radicals is with free-radical ‘scavengers’. Although certain nutrients and chemicals in the body can generate free radicals, in the case of severe debilitating illness, most of the systems of the body don’t contain the kind of ‘high-energy’ electrons that can disrupt the destructive cycle-except for vitamin C.

Megadoses of ascorbate are among the few substances able to provide an adequate number of high-energy electrons to put a swift end to free-radical damage and so interrupt the chain reaction that creates free radicals.

When the body succumbs to illness, particularly infectious disease, its need for vitamin C skyrockets.

Szent-Gyorgyi, and other vitamin C pioneers who came after him, all discovered that our vitamin C needs are related to the severity of illness:

the more severe the illness, the more vitamin C is needed to neutralize the free-radical damage and the greater the amount of vitamin C tolerated by the body (see box, page 11).

In essence, disease induces a temp-orary case of severe scurvy-vitamin C deficiency-as the body rapidly burns through its free-radical scavengers (J Orthomol Psychiatry, 1981; 10: 125-32).

Szent-Gyorgyi’s discovery prompted a flurry of interest during the 1940s in vitamin C as a potential curative for a range of infectious diseases. A number of pioneers-whose names are now all but forgotten-carried out and published a wide variety of promising research demonstrating that viral and bacterial diseases could be neutralized, and the body completely detoxified, by massive doses of ascorbate acid. Most promising of all was the research showing the power of vitamin C against the scourge of the times: poliomyelitis.

Monkey business

As Time magazine reported in its 18 September 1939 edition, at the Manhattan meeting of the Third International Congress for Microbiology, an important clue had turned up in the fight against polio. It concerned the work of bacteriologist Claus W. Jungeblut, who’d had a brainwave while studying the statistics from the 1938 Australian polio epidemic. He’d concluded that those people who had contracted the disease were deficient in vitamin C.

As early as in 1935, Jungeblut, a professor of bacteriology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, had claimed that vitamin C could completely inactivate poliovirus (J Exp Med, 1935; 62: 317-21). He’d arrived at this conclusion after experiments in which he induced polio in rhesus monkeys, then injected them with the vitamin after they developed the disease. He’d also come up with evidence showing that the vitamin was able to completely neutralize tetanus, staphylococcal and diphtheria toxins, and the herpes and hepatitis viruses.
Jungeblut found that the injections prevented nearly a third of the monkeys from becoming paralyzed by polio, whereas only 5 per cent of the animals in his control group retained any motor skills (J Exp Med, 1937; 65: 127-46). Jungeblut repeated his study and found identical results with 123 monkeys (J Exp Med, 1937; 66: 459-77), and then tried a different strain of the poliomyelitis virus and, again. obtained the same results (J Exp Med, 1939; 70: 315-32).

Jungeblut’s work gained prominence until Albert Sabin, who went on to develop the live polio vaccine, attempted and failed to replicate Jungeblut’s results. However, Sabin had induced far more severe illness in his monkeys and then used a far lower dose of vitamin C, one that was only 35 per cent of the dose used by Jungeblut.

The upshot of this was that Sabin’s well-reported failure virtually killed
off any further research into vitamin C’s role as an effective remedy against polio for a least a decade (J Orthomol Med, 2006; 21: 102-6).

Klenner’s experiments

It was during the peak years of polio, in the 1950s, that biologist and medical doctor Frederick R. Klenner began experimenting with large doses of intravenous vitamin C after the nutrient became widely available. Klenner specialized in diseases of the chest, but chose to maintain a general practice because of the opportunities it provided him to witness and treat a vast array of illnesses. As a biologist, he was especially interested in the actions of ascorbic acid.

Klenner was an old-style doctor who worked all hours, assisted by his nurse wife, treating patients and making house calls whether or not the patients could pay. Klenner became interested in vitamin C after his wife began suffering from bleeding gums, and
her dentist had recommended full extraction of her teeth.

After reading that high doses of vitamin C had cured similar problems in chimpanzees, Klenner used the treatment on his wife, and her con-dition was completely resolved.
Another of his pat
ients, who was suffering from the complications of viral pneumonia, sparked Klenner’s further interest in the vitamin as a possible treatment. Like Szent-Gyorgyi, Klenner theorized that vitamin C might serve as a gas transporter and so aid cellular respiration (J Appl Nutr, 1953; 6: 274-78).

Between 1943 and 1947, Klenner successfully treated 42 cases of viral pneumonia, an infection of the lungs and often a complication of influenza, using massive doses of vitamin C (South Med Surg, 1948; 110: 36-8). Based on his experience with these first ‘guinea pigs’, Klenner found that different individuals required different dosages and different routes of administration-orally, intravenously or intra-muscularly-depending upon the severity of their symptoms.
He was also inspired by a study in the Australian Journal of Experimental Biology & Medical Science, which reported an average vitamin C level of 19.9 per cent in the urine of polio victims compared with 44.3 per cent in healthy controls.
To Klenner, this suggested the possible presence of a relationship between the body’s saturation level of vitamin C and infectious disease. Indeed, the Australian research had found a definite link between the severity of infection and the amount
of vitamin C maintained in the body (South Med Surg, 1949; 111: 209-14).
This sparked the idea of using vitamin C to treat other viruses-in particular, the poliomyelitis virus.

In 1949, Klenner published a landmark paper in which he described how he’d treated polio and other infectious diseases with vitamin C. Of his 60 patients with polio, all 60 had been cured, with complete resolution of their symptoms (South Med Surg, 1949; 111: 209-14). Fifteen of the 60 had undergone spinal taps to confirm the diagnosis and eight had been in contact with people who were confirmed cases of polio.

Under Klenner’s treatment regimen, patients were routinely well after five days of regular intravenous or intramuscular vitamin C following megadoses of oral vitamin C at regular intervals (see box, right). None of these patients had become crippled in any way, including two patients with advanced disease who, under normal circumstances, would have required an iron lung.

In fact, in a later published report, Klenner described the case of a five-year-old girl with confirmed polio who’d been paralyzed in both legs for more than four days. But after four further days of intramuscular vitamin C, the child began moving her legs and was discharged from the hospital, although Klenner continued to give her oral doses of vitamin C-1000 mg every two hours with fruit juice for seven days.

Fifteen days later, according to Klenner’s report, the child had completely recovered both her sensory and motor function (South Med Surg, 1951; 113: 101-7).

After Klenner wrote up his clinical findings, other researchers discovered that vitamin C could kill poliovirus in the test tube in laboratory experi-ments with animals and with polio patients.

Typically, Klenner achieved his best results with megadoses of 50-80 g/day of vitamin C, and subsequent research-ers have reported success with similarly large oral doses of vitamin C (Med Times, 1955; 83: 1160-1).

Nevertheless, Klenner’s greatest contribution was to experiment with the more direct pathways of delivery-intravenously and intramuscularly-and he remained convinced that the intramuscular and intravenous administration of vitamin C raises tissue levels of vitamin C considerably faster and more effectively than taking the vitamin by mouth.

Eager to share his success, Klenner stood before the Ninety-Eighth Annual Session of the American Medical Association on June 10, 1949, during the worst of the polio epidemic, and gave a talk on his treatment regime. For seven years, he claimed, he had been able to treat and cure a vast array of viral infections within 72 hours using frequent intravenous doses of vitamin C.
“I believe that if vitamin C in these massive doses-6000 to 20,000 mg in a 24-hour period-is given to these patients with poliomyelitis, none will be paralyzed and there will be no further maiming or epidemics of poliomyelitis,” he said.

Klenner’s bold assertion was ignored. No researcher even attempted to follow-up on his discovery and not one penny of the $1 million appropriated by Congress towards a cure for polio was used to explore the role of vitamin C.

As Klenner would later write in a paper published in 1959: “Should the disease be present in the acute form, ascorbic acid given in proper amounts around the clock, both by mouth and needle, will bring about a rapid recovery. We believe that ascorbic acid must be given by needle in amounts from 250 mg to 400 mg per kg body weight every 4 to 6 hours for 48 hours, and then every 8 to 12 hours. The dose by mouth is the dose that can be tolerated. To those who say that polio is without cure, I say that they lie. Polio in the acute form can be cured in 96 hours or less. I beg of someone in authority to try it” (Tri-State Med J, 1959; February: 1-8).

Viral hepatitis

Klenner went on to discover that vitamin C is a potent and effective cure for many other so-called ‘incurables’ that claim the lives of millions of people all over the world every year.

Later in his career, Klenner began experimenting again with vitamin C to cure other viral diseases. By that time, he’d fashioned various successful treatment regimes for particular illnesses by combining oral and injectable vitamin C in large doses (see box, page 12). One such disease was viral hepatitis, a dangerous infection of the liver. In this case, his vitamin C regime achieved total resolution of all symptoms within four days (J Int Acad Prev Med, 1974; 1: 45-69).

In one example, he’d treated a young man with hepatitis, who presented with severe jaundice and a high fever. After Klenner gave him massive doses of vitamin C-up to 270,000 mg intravenously, with an additional 45,000 mg orally over little more than 24 hours-the patient soon returned to work.

In another instance, Klenner treated a young man, who had presented with all the usual symptoms of hepatitis, with 135,000 mg of vitamin C intra-venously in combination with 180,000 mg of the vitamin orally. Within a few days, the patient was able to get back to work. His roommate, however, who had received the conventional treatment-which amounted to little more than bedrest-remained in hospital for 26 days (Smith L. The Clinical Experiences of Frederick R. Klenner, M. D.: Clinical Guide to the Use of Vitamin C. Portland, OR: Life Sciences Press, 1988).

Besides Klenner, a number of other doctors have also reported remarkable success with the use of vitamin C on is own to treat viral hepatitis and hepatitis B-albeit without the dramatic and rapid cures that Klenner achieved.
One such doctor reported that, in 63 children with acute hepatitis given a regimen of only 10,000 mg/day of vitamin C for five days, all showed dramatic improvement after five days (Smith, ibid.).

Another doctor treated a young woman, who’d been in hospital for three days being monitored and treated with bedrest, by giving her vitamin C shots of 2000 mg/day for
six days. Although she responded well to the injections and no longer felt ill after just the second one, she nevertheless required a longer period to resolve all her symptoms than Klenner usually experienced with his high-dose regime (Smith, ibid.).

Vitamin C has also been used to prevent hepatitis infection from blood transfusions. Of more than a thousand patients receiving blood transfusions between 1967 and 1973, those who received 2-6 g/day of oral vitamin C for six months after being transfused had a 0.2-per-cent incidence of hepatitis compared with a 7-per-cent incidence in those who didn’t receive any additional supplements after trans-fusion (J Int Acad Prev Med, 1978; 5: 54-8).

Measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox

Modern medicine convinces parents that childhood diseases are highly dangerous and incurable as a rationale for universal vaccination. However,
Klenner was also able to achieve remarkable success against many of the ‘incurable’ diseases that are still being vaccinated against, such as measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, tetanus and diphtheria.

Most of Klenner’s published experience with measles are case reports of individual patients. Nevertheless, as a whole, these cases offer highly compelling evidence that vitamin C can arrest or cure the most intractable or complicated of cases.

His first published case involved his experiments with vitamin C on his own daughters when they’d contracted measles. He discovered that he could control the disease, but not eradicate it, if he administered 1000 mg every two hours for 48 hours at a stretch.

Indeed, all symptoms of measles were only resolved so long as he gave an oral dose of 1000 mg every two hours around the clock for four days (J Appl Nutr, 1953; 6: 274-8).
Klenner soon discovered that he could obtain quicker and better results in infants by giving regular doses of 1000 mg by either intravenous or intramuscular injection for several days; with this regime, babies less than a year old with 105-degree F fevers
and the typical measles rash recovered within days. Klenner even treated a child who had encephalitis, a complication of measles that causes inflammation of the brain. In this instance, Klenner combined three intravenous vitamin C doses (2 g), given over three days, with 1000 mg of oral vitamin C taken every two hours, again for three days (J Appl Nutr, 1953; 6: 274-8). After the boy had recovered completely, Klenner vowed to increase the dosage. Subsequently, any children presenting with encephalitis were treated with more frequent intravenous injections-as often as up to every other hour.

Altogether, Klenner treated six young patients with encephalitis as a complication of a childhood illness. In each instance, after several injections of relatively low-dose (1000-2000 mg) vitamin C every few hours, and regular oral treatment for two further days,
the children were cured.

Klenner enjoyed similar success with mumps in both children and adults; in the case reports in the medical literature, he achieved a 100-per-cent cure rate (33 out of 33 patients), eliminating all signs of mumps-including fever and parotid swelling, and even complications such as testicular swelling-within three days of administering the same mix of injected and oral vitamin C (South Med Surg, 1949; 111: 209-14).

In one instance, he had the opportunity to compare the disease progression when vitamin C was used early on, in the midst of disease, with the use of ordinary treatment (bedrest and aspirin) in three cousins. Once again, by far the earliest resolution-within 72 hours-was seen in the cousin who was given vitamin C from the start, while the one treated with simple bedrest was laid up for an entire week.

Klenner also showed rapid results when treating patients with chicken-pox and those with shingles, the adult form of the disease. Although chicken-pox is a relatively minor illness, shingles is particularly debilitating in adults because it causes severe pain that can persist for weeks, long after the skin lesions have disappeared.

The most remarkable aspect of Klenner’s case studies is the rapid pain relief experienced by his patients. According to one of his studies, by giving his usual combination of injected and oral dosages, seven of eight patients were entirely pain-free within two hours of a single intra-venous dose of vitamin C.

In fact, Klenner’s overall experience with childhood diseases convinced him of the need to give regular, frequent and large dosages, so that his preferred treatment was again to combine injected vitamin C with oral doses.

Nevertheless, in those who preferred to be treated with only oral doses, he was still able to obtain a cure for serious conditions such as hepatitis, although they required what he termed ‘heroic doses’. In the case of a patient with viral hepatitis, for example, a complete cure was achieved after four days of giving the patient 5000 mg of vitamin C in water every four hours. Although each individual dose was relatively low, this meant that, over a 96-hour period, the patient had ingested 120,000 mg.


Klenner, and the other pioneers who came after him-most notably, Robert Cathcart, US biochemist Irwin Stone and chemist Linus Pauling-all experimented with the use of vitamin C against a variety of infectious diseases.

Cathcart, originally an orthopaedic surgeon, began experimenting with vitamin C after reading Pauling’s assertion that the vitamin would stop a cold from progressing. Up to his death in 2007, Cathcart treated some 30,000 patients with major illnesses of all varieties. He also claimed success in patients with mononucleosis, gastroenteritis, scarlet fever and bacterial infections (when used together with an appropriate antibiotic), and in lessen-ing the trauma of surgery (J Orthomol Psychiatry, 1981; 10: 125-32).

He even experimented on around 250 patients who were positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In a letter published in The Lancet, he claimed that his regime had “slowed, stopped or sometimes reversed for several years” the depletion of CD4+
T cells by giving oral doses of vitamin C that were close to bowel tolerance (see box, page 12). In addition, his patients showed rapid reductions in lymphadenopathy, improved tolerability to antibiotics, complete elimination of malaise and prolonged survival (Lancet, 1990; 335: 235).

In Curing the Incurable (Henderson, NV: LivOn Books, 2002), Thomas E. Levy catalogues virtually all of the scientific evidence for vitamin C and disease, offering a highly persuasive argument that ascorbic acid is probably the most potent all-purpose medicine currently available. The fact that it has been so ignored-and even ridiculed-by mainstream medicine is no accident. If a cheap and simple nutrient were to be seriously consider-ed as the modern alternative to conventional treatment and vaccinations, it would virtually eliminate the whole of pharmaceutical medicine.

Lynne McTaggart

Why such massive doses?

It is well known that vitamin C is an electron ‘donor’-it ‘donates’ its electrons to scavenge free radicals. The resulting end product of this process is dehydroascorbate, which is then converted into vitamin C and, so, can be continuously reused. Because of this ongoing recycling process, far smaller amounts of vitamin C are required by a healthy person.

However, when we become ill, free radicals are formed at a rate faster than high-energy electrons are made available. When the body becomes overwhelmed by free radicals, vitamin C is then destroyed in greater amounts. Most infectious diseases prove fatal because they generate enormous quantities of free radicals. Vitamin C works as a free-radical scavenger by giving up its electrons to neutralize the massive numbers of free radicals.

According to US internist Robert Cathcart, during these infections, the body experiences a state of acute system-wide scurvy. It was his view that doses of vitamin C even as large as 1 to 10 g every 24 hours would do only limited good. He believed that only massive doses of ascorbate-30 to 200+ g every 24 hours-would be able to provide the electrons necessary to completely eliminate the free radicals created by most inflammatory illnesses (Med Hypotheses, 1985; 18: 61-77).

How much vitamin C to take?

Klenner determined the individual dosages he needed to give mostly by feel-by observing the temperature of his patients. When the patient’s temperature went down, the regime was working; when it didn’t, it usually meant that the patient required more vitamin C.

Much of the dosage also depended on the given patient’s own bodily stores of the vitamin. Those with larger deficiencies generally required more than others. For adults with serious infections, Klenner typically administered up to 200 g every 24 hours, partly through injection and partly by mouth. For viral hepatitis, for instance, he advocated 500-
700 mg/kg body weight given intravenously every 8-12 hours, plus a total of 10,000 mg/day of oral vitamin C, taken as smaller doses throughout the day. This regime was to continue for four days, at which point, all evidence of disease would be gone.

US internist Robert Cathcart discovered that one reliable gauge of an individual’s requirements was ‘bowel tolerance’-that is, the amount of the vitamin the patient could ingest orally without experiencing a loosening of stools, a benign form of diarrhoea.
“At least 80 per cent of adult patients will tolerate 10-15 g of ascorbic-acid fine crystals in one-half cup of water in four divided doses per 24 hours without having diarrhoea,” he wrote (J Orthomol Psychiatry, 1981; 10: 125-32).

After experimenting on 11,000 patients, he concluded that bowel tolerance was proportional to the severity of the illness. “A person who can tolerate orally 10 to 15 grams of ascorbic acid per 24 hours when well, might be able to tolerate 30 to 60 grams per 24 hours if he has a mild cold, 100 grams with a severe cold, 150 grams with influenza, and 200 grams per 24 hours with mononucleosis or viral pneumonia,” he wrote.
Cathcart recommended the following dosages.

GSH: Vitamin C’s best friend?

Whereas vitamin C can neutralize toxins and boost the immune system between cells, glutathione (GSH) performs the same function, but within the cells. Like vitamin C, glutathione helps to maintain the electron flow within cells by providing an adequate number of electrons to mop-up free radicals.

Not surprisingly, the two substances work well together in a highly synergistic fashion. Glutathione operates rather like a battery recharger for vitamin C, helping it to maintain electron flow throughout the body, while vitamin C works effectively inside the cells by giving back electrons to increase levels of glutathione, thereby helping to prevent cell damage due to severe glutathione deficiency (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1992; 89: 5093-7).

Although taking ordinary supplements of glutathione doesn’t appear to help boost glutathione levels, l-carnitine, together with alpha-lipoic acid, is effective-at least in test-tube studies so far (Mech Ageing Dev, 2004; 125: 507-12).


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Article Topics: Infectious disease, vitamin C
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