Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fighting Colds with Vitamin C and Niacin

My family fights off colds with vitamin C and niacin (straight release or time release niacin, not inositol hexaniacinate). When we get a cold, we take as much vitamin C as we can tolerate (between 10,000 and 100,000 mg/day) until we are healthy again. When we know for sure we are getting a cold, we add 250 mg/day of time-release niacin in the morning (I take straight release niacin in two divided doses of 125 mg each because I don’t mind flushing). Adding the niacin to the vitamin C when we have a cold provides predictable benefits. Under these specific circumstances the niacin acts as a stimulant and a decongestant. We still feel bad, but bad with energy instead of fatigued. Once we’ve taken the niacin, we feel like we’ve turned a corner and that we’re getting better. This predictable effect of niacin lasts only until we’re obviously better – typically only two or three days. We also take 100 to 250 mg of niacin intermittently when we are healthy. On these occasions, the niacin either has no perceptible effect or causes unpleasant side effects.

I’m gaining confidence that taking vitamin C and niacin together to fight colds is really a new idea. I continue to ask around the vitamin user community, and after more than 6 months I’m still waiting for someone to dispute the novelty of the proposal. Equally important, I have already received several reports from others outside my family that the treatment works as described. You can read one of these reports yourself here:

You need to scroll down to the blog entry for Tuesday, July 3rd.

These reports are highly significant. Not many people have tried this treatment. Most of the people who try will not report their results to me. Based on the several reports I’ve received already, the probability is very high that a substantial fraction (>10%) of people who try this treatment will experience the same kind of results that I have reported on behalf of my family.

Around the world, millions take more than 2,000 mg/day of vitamin C for one or more days to fight off colds. My family did this for years because we were convinced by the scientific data that shows that vitamin C in this dose range reduces the duration and severity of colds. In the early days we believed we could feel the vitamin C working. As time passed, and we adjusted to regular supplementation with vitamin C (and more than 10,000 mg/day when we got colds), our ability to feel the vitamin C working faded away. We continued to suffer significantly from colds and to look for more effective treatment. We stumbled across the combination of niacin and vitamin C several years ago, and continue to find that it provides a reliable feeling of effectiveness.

I believe that the difficulty perceiving the benefits of extra vitamin C (and other vitamins) is one of the reasons why it is taking such a long time for society to optimize intakes, especially for children. Parents want to feel the benefits of treating colds with vitamins before they use vitamins to treat their children. When they treat their children with vitamins for colds, they want the children to feel the benefits and welcome the treatment.

A large majority of parents have good immunity against colds and only suffer occasionally. Many of these parents have such good immunity to colds that they really don’t understand how painful a bad cold can be. Almost all pre-school children require several years to gain immunity and suffer considerably. Pre-school children (and their parents) have the most to gain from a highly effective treatment for colds. Niacin and vitamin C are among the safest substances sold as supplements to improve health. The upper intake levels assigned to vitamin C (2,000 mg/day) and niacin (35 mg/day) are not relevant. Trying doses above the upper intake levels for several days to test whether or not the vitamins are effective for fighting a cold is safe. The only risk is a low probability of some temporary discomfort. Readers have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose by giving this treatment a try.


At 8:24 PM, Blogger Bobber said...

Here is a direct link to my blog entry about using niacin with vitamin C:

Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D council suggests taking more vitamin D with colds. This might be especially effective in the winter time and if you live above approximately Atlanta Georgia.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Rusty Hoge said...


Of course, I agree with you regarding high doses of vitamin C. No surprise there. I personally take 250 mg of niacin every day. I have considered upping this, as I believe niacin to be of great value. The flushing you discuss will decrease as supplementation increases, over time.

I do get an occasional cold and, as you do, increase my vitamin C level and doses considerably. I also take extra zinc. I will definitely try upping my niacin to several doses a day.

Most people think about nutrition in the sense of what foods are bad for us. The other side of this coin, I think the more important side, is getting the nutrients our bodies require, in effective amounts, to sustain health. As your experiences teach us, this is not an easy task to master. We are amazingly different in our nutritional requirements and it is difficult to weed out the good information from the bad.

Thank you for your contribution to my health and the health of our readers.


At 10:47 PM, Blogger Steve said...


Thanks for your comment.

Your point that everyone is different is very important. Many people take more than 1000 mg/day of straight release niacin in several doses without any problems whatsoever. Other people suffer considerable discomfort at doses as low as 35 mg/day. The reports stemming from this small minority are the rationale the Food and Nutrition Board uses for setting the UL (safe upper limit) for niacin at 35 mg/day.

Reality is even more complex. Vitamin tolerance even for an individual can vary widely as a function of age and state of health.

This is why your website is so important. It provides a forum for vitamin users to get together and share their experiences.

At 10:53 PM, Blogger Steve said...


Thanks for the direct link. I edited the post and fixed the link.

Thanks also for the tip on vitamin D. I read Dr. Cannell's website carefully. I've started taking 4000 IU/day of vitamin D, and I'm cautiously optimistic that it is helping.

I'm also starting to look through the recent scientific literature on vitamin D. I'm impressed enough by what I've read so far to add extra vitamin D permanently to my supplement program. So now I have to work with my body to figure out how much I can take (I've always gotten 400 IU from the multivitamin I take everyday). Vitamin D has some very serious side effects. 4000 IU is double the UL of 2000 IU so I won't be surprised if I find out first hand about one or more vitamin D side effects soon.

Finally, I enjoyed the post at your blog on vitamin C. I look forward to future posts.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard that taking high doses of vitamin c can result to kidney stones to some people. Is this true?

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Steve said...


Thanks for stopping by.

The accusation that vitamin C causes kidney stones is not true. This fact hasn't made the claim go away. So, how do I know it isn't true? I know because I believe in the clinical experience of the physicians I've interviewed on the subject. They have treated tens of thousands of patients with high doses of vitamin C and never seen a kidney stone.

If one in 10 million individuals gets kidney stones from high doses of vitamin c, it would be extremely difficult to prove the connection.

And what if it were true? These rare individuals would reduce vitamin C intake (omission of vitamin C would kill them from scurvy) and the stones would go away. Kidney stones are painful but not life threatening.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Michael said...

For me, taking Vitamin C after getting a cold never did much except give me an upset stomach. But others claim it helps. Instead, I started getting my Vitamin C daily (as in EVERY day) from a 12 oz glass of orange juice and a multivitamin. The result was no cold for over 13 months! And before this I was getting at least 3 colds a year. See my post about my Vitamin C experience at My Health Blog.


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