by Margot DesBois

Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 20, 2021

Dr. Peters’ Comment:

As the 18th century British sailors taught us, people will die of scurvy if they do not eat fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C. Most animals make their own supply of this essential vitamin, except a few, which, like we humans lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C.  These include a few species of monkeys, some bats and guinea pigs all of which eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables to maintain adequate levels of vitamin C.   A 150 lb. goat will make in his body 200mg per kg, or, about 13,000 mg every day as a baseline supply.  If goats experience stress, they will increase production up to 13 times higher which amounts to an astonishing 170,000 mg in one day.  However, we humans are told by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C  is 1 mg/kg which is about 80 mg daily, probably just enough to prevent scurvy.

Not only is Vitamin C powerful support for the immune system in fighting infection, it is also a frontline antioxidant helping us eliminate toxins from our bodies. Each of us carries a toxic burden in our bodies and, like the goat, need substantially higher daily intake.  We give 50 grams (50,000 mg)  intravenously to patients with hepatitis C or cancer, while a goat makes 3 times that amount. This is part of the reason why wild animals tend to remain vibrantly healthy until they die of old age.

In the current fight against COVID-19, we can learn from the effective and safe orthomolecular viral treatments pioneered by a handful of discerning doctors in the twentieth century. For decades, copious clinical evidence and research has demonstrated that optimal doses of vitamin and mineral supplements can prevent, treat, and cure infectious diseases that afflict vast numbers of people today.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid or ascorbate) is necessary for proper immune system functioning. Anascorbemia, in which levels of the vitamin are inadequate, predisposes one to infection. [1] Ascorbic acid stimulates both the production and phagocytic ability of neutrophils, phagocytes, and lymphocytes. [2] Leukocytes use ascorbic acid to generate the hydrogen peroxide breakdown products that destroy microbial pathogens. [1] Stress on the body, such as from pathogenic load, causes it to expend vitamin C at a higher rate, lowering available amounts unless replenished through increased supplementation. Ascorbic acid is a necessary co-factor in the synthesis of collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the body and is essential for the strength of all organs, including arteries, lungs, bones, and skin. [2-4]

Individuals with a higher intake of vitamin C produce more antibodies (IgG and IgM), as demonstrated in a 1977 study that isolated human subjects from nearly all sources of new infection and supplemented them with different amounts of this vitamin. [5] In guinea pigs, vitamin C supplementation also increases the amount of C1 esterase, the first component of the immune complement system. [3] Low vitamin C levels heighten skin graft tolerance in guinea pigs, presumably by lowering circulating, active lymphocyte levels. [5] In the 1970s, Dr. Yonemoto’s team studied five healthy human adults and found that supplementing with 5 g of vitamin C for a few days doubled new lymphocyte formation, and intake of 10 g and 18 g tripled and quadrupled the control rate, respectively. [5,6] The manufacture of some immune-regulating substances, such as prostaglandin E1, require several dietary micronutrients, including vitamin C. [5] Thus, ascorbic acid promotes parts of the inflammatory response, but it also protects against sepsis by strengthening vascular structure and regulating histamine release and breakdown and normal thrombosis. [1-8]

Supplementation with high levels of vitamin C during a viral illness not only treats the acute infection, but it also helps prevent secondary infections that may arise within a vitamin-depleted environment. [2] Investigators such as Irwin Stone, Linus Pauling, and Thomas Levy have provided copious evidence that vitamin C acts as a potent antiviral and antibacterial substance at gram level doses. [8-10] The vitamin inactivates viruses both in vitro and in vivo, possibly through the generation of free radicals and/or the “Fenton” reaction. [1,3,11] In a 450-page volume, Dr. Thomas Levy assembled reports on high dose vitamin C treating and curing infectious diseases including polio, hepatitis, measles, mumps, viral encephalitis, herpes, influenza, tetanus, streptococcus, and staphylococcus, and significantly improving such formidable diseases as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. [10]

In the middle of the twentieth century, Frederick R. Klenner, MD demonstrated that vitamin C is an ideal agent for killing viruses, bacteria, and other microbial pathogens. He also recognized vitamin C’s ability to neutralize and eliminate most toxins, including microbial products, chemical pollutants, and other poisons. [10-13]. Klenner was one of the first physicians to inject patients with high doses (ranging from 350 mg to 1,200 mg per kg body weight) to treat illness. [12,13] He treated and cured acute poliovirus with frequent injections of ascorbic acid, using body temperature (measure of fever) as a dosing guide. He cured all 60 cases that he treated in a 1948 polio epidemic in North Carolina by administering doses of 6 to 12 g per day, typically over three days. [10] After the initial dose, he applied the same dose every two hours until the patient’s temperature dropped and then increased intervals between doses over the next days. He reported all patients as clinically well–absent of symptoms, including fever; headache; limb, neck, and back pain; nausea; and vomiting, and expressing a general feeling of wellbeing–after 72 hours. [10-13] When three patients experienced clinical relapses, Klenner placed all of the patients back on the treatment (with doses given at longer time intervals) for another 48 hours, until all patients achieved complete, permanent resolution of symptoms. [12,13] No patients developed deformities associated with the disease, and even two advanced cases were reversed. [12,13] Klenner further refined and used this treatment method of building up doses until symptom relief (usually within 72 hours) and then weaning off over several days to two weeks. He would then prescribe a continued oral vitamin C regimen to prevent relapse. [10-13]

Klenner implemented variations of this method to cure many other viral illnesses, including herpes simplex, viral encephalitis, mononucleosis, and measles. [1] He often found that patients responded favorably to doses in the tens of grams within a couple of hours. [1] Klenner emphasized the necessity of maintaining tissue saturation levels of vitamin C through continuous administration until the complete eradication of disease. [1]

Other physicians discovered the value of high dose vitamin C treatment both during and following Klenner’s career. Claus Jungeblut, MD also studied vitamin C as a treatment for the poliovirus in the 1930s. [12,14] Experimentally, he inactivated the virus “in vitro” by administering vitamin C and determined that polio-infected monkeys receiving vitamin C treatment avoided paralysis significantly more than control animals. [12,14] Clinically, he saw a low vitamin C status in polio patients and found that adequate doses of the vitamin cured the disease. [12,14]

In the 1960s, Robert Cathcart, MD also successfully used the vitamin as an antiviral and described the difficulty, faced by most of these clinicians, of obtaining permission from ethics, university, pharmacy and other committees to use large doses of vitamin C in research studies. [12,15] Cathcart first described the titration of patient doses to bowel tolerance, writing, “The amount of oral ascorbic acid tolerated by a patient without producing diarrhea increases somewhat proportionately to the stress or toxicity of his disease”. [15] As with all optimal doses of vitamins, the bowel tolerance amount is highly dynamic. For individuals in good health, this amount falls roughly in the range of 4 to 15 g per day, which can increase to more than 200 g during viral illness. [9,15]

William McCormick, MD pioneered the use of gram dose vitamin C injections in the middle of the century. He declared ascorbic acid a “specific antagonist of chemical and bacterial toxins” and advocated its use as an antiviral and an antibiotic. [12,16] In his discussion on using vitamin C to treat the common cold, Pauling wrote, “I am convinced by the evidence now available that vitamin C is to be preferred to the analgesics, antihistamines, and other dangerous drugs that are recommended for the treatment of the common cold by the purveyors of cold medicines”. [9] It amazes any orthomolecular practitioner that the medical community continues to promote these palliative medications at the expense of public health and ignores the overwhelming evidence supporting vitamin C’s preventive and curative power.

Other vitamins also influence immune system function through a variety of chemical and physical mechanisms. Short term, high dose supplementation with vitamin E leads to an increased ratio of helper T (CD4) cells to killer T (CD8) cells and enhanced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. [17] The body requires vitamin A, or beta-carotene, to maintain healthy mucous membranes and epithelial tissue, including skin, mouth, respiratory membranes, gastrointestinal tract, and genitourinary tract. [17] These tissues and membranes form the primary physical barriers to infectious agents. Vitamin D acts as an immune system regulator, combating infection and preventing autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and thyroiditis. [17] Niacin releases histamine from mast cells, causing temporary vasodilation. [17] However, niacin supplementation does not trigger a drop in overall blood pressure and it ultimately inhibits the continued release of pro-inflammatory molecules and sepsis. [17] This brief summary of some existing knowledge about orthomolecular substances only scratches the surface of the capacity (both known and unknown) of nutrients to heal infectious disease and promote wellness. It seems likely that the COVID-19 pandemic could be slowed or even halted with the widespread use of vitamin and mineral supplements at adequate doses. [18,19]


Orthomolecular Medicine, the practice of using natural molecules at the appropriate doses, to prevent and reverse disease, has a long history of success. [9,17] It is especially relevant today with epidemics of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, eye disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many individuals in our modern society are deficient in the essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and other essential biological molecules. When the deficiencies are corrected with proper diet and supplementation with optimal doses, many progressive diseases can be prevented and reversed.

(Margot DesBois recently graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Biology and completion of pre-medical coursework. She hopes to pursue a medical education in order to practice orthomolecular and environmental medicine. For the past ten years, she has used individualized nutritional therapies under professional direction to treat and manage her own chronic infectious disease and autoimmune complications.)


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  2. Pauling, L. (1977). Linus Pauling before Congress. In R. J. Williams & D. K. Kalita (Eds.), A Physician’s Handbook on Orthomolecular Medicine (45-50). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press. Originally published: Healthline, 1(2).
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