Several years ago, the health world went crazy over CBD, with shops seeming to pop up overnight and on every corner. Today, the award for most popular health craze has a new winner: IV therapy. Whether it’s infusion clinics touting the benefits of a regular top-up of vitamins and minerals or roving practitioners offering to hook you up with a banana bag that will cure your hangover in the comfort of your own home, IV therapy is having a moment.
Claims of an almost instant feel-good boost sound nice, but are they too good to be true? After three members of the Veracity team had the goldilocks of infusion experiences – one emerged feeling poorly, one didn’t see any difference, and one came out a changed woman – we wondered what the science has to say about whether infusions should play a part in your wellness regimen.
Infusions May Have Gone Viral, But They Aren’t New
Infusions, which became a staple in U.S. hospitals as early as the 1930s, are now one of the most widely used treatments in modern medicine. The treatment involves injecting vitamins, minerals, or nutrients directly into one’s bloodstream, allowing the body to absorb them more quickly than it would through the normal digestive system and at higher absorption rates.
While infusions have long been in the picture, over the past few years they have morphed from a treatment primarily used at the doctor’s office for illness into a trendy recreational wellness tool. Boutique practitioners of IV therapy claim their infusions can do everything from enhancing energy levels and lowering stress to boosting the immune system, rejuvenating your appearance, and optimizing athletic performance. Once considered a luxury reserved for only the rich and famous, IV treatments are now widely available.
But Should You Try It?
Although infusions may seem like a more efficient way to replenish nutrients, for most people they are overkill. If you don’t have a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency, the old-school advice to eat your nutrients through a varied diet and supplements does the job just as well, if not even better, and at a much lower cost. (IV therapies can range anywhere from $65-85 for a B12 shot to several hundred dollars for more elaborate infusions.)
Dr. Aalia Al-Barwani, founder of Albidaya Wellness, says that, while infusions are a great way to get vitamins and other nutrients into your system, most healthy people can absorb the necessary amounts of vitamins and nutrients through their own digestive systems. Plus, “There is little scientific evidence backing treatment with IV therapy and clinics are not regulated by the FDA,” she says.
“In theory, IV treatment when necessary in a medical setting can be more effective over oral because of its direct nature. However, because of the risks that come with regular use in non-clinical settings, such as at these IV centers, [boutique IV treatments are] not advisable or supported. Also, being able to allow better absorption of the minerals and vitamins does not translate into an effective immunity boost or other health benefits that these centers advertise.”
If you are concerned about a vitamin or hormone deficiency, it’s always a good idea to get tested so you know exactly what’s going on inside. You should also think about consulting with a doctor. In instances of an actual deficiency, particularly with things like B12 or iron, infusions may be warranted.
But if you’re mainly interested in an overall boost in wellness, or if you’re just curious about what this trend is all about, the verdict is basically “meh.” Between the unregulated industry and the fact that science says you’re probably better off getting your nutrients the old-fashioned way – through your diet and supplements – this might be one wellness ride you want to sit out.
As for why three different people would have three different experiences with IV infusions? This remains something of a mystery. For the average, healthy person, IV hydration therapy can't cure a hangover and IV vitamin therapy can't keep one from getting sick. But there is a chance that the most effective medical cure of all may be at play here: the placebo effect.