Do IV Hydration Therapy & IV Vitamin Therapy Really Work?May 4, 2021 - Katie McCallum
Any Grey's Anatomy, House or ER fan worth his or her salt knows that IV therapy is nothing new. A staple of the medical world, IVs are used to quickly administer medications, replace lost fluids or deliver blood.
What is fairly new, however, is that IV bar, lounge or spa in the strip mall near your house claiming to be able to cure (or even prevent) a hangover. Or maybe you learned about hydration or vitamin therapy from a celebrity you follow on social media.
There are several reasons you may be wondering what all the fuss is about and may even be considering giving this new wellness trend a try.
With a variety of vitamin and nutrient cocktails available, these drip bars and IV therapy lounges claim to:
- Cure hangovers
- Clear your complexion
- Help you lose weight
- Alleviate chronic pain
- Detox your body
- Increase your fitness performance and recovery
- Enhance your focus
- Improve your immunity
- Boost your libido
Basically, there's an IV drip for just about everything.
But with price tags that can range from $100 to well into the thousands, it's only natural to wonder: Are boutique IV drips worth it?
Do IV hydration therapy and IV vitamin therapy actually work?
The idea behind both IV hydration therapy and IV vitamin therapy is that delivering specially formulated cocktails of nutrients, vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants and sometimes even medications via an IV can help replenish, restore and detoxify your body quicker than, say, drinking water, eating healthy or taking a medication orally.
"While it's true that an IV can speed up how quickly things enter your bloodstream, it's unlikely that boutique IV therapy companies can actually achieve what they claim — whether that's curing a hangover, boosting your immune system, enhancing focus and the list goes on," explains Dr. Joshua Septimus, associate professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Houston Methodist Primary Care Group Same Day Clinics.
Dr. Septimus stresses that these drips aren't FDA-approved, meaning there's no clinically-validated study confirming that IV hydration therapy and/or IV vitamin therapy have any real benefit to you.
So, IV hydration therapy can't cure a hangover and IV vitamin therapy can't keep me from getting sick?
Boutique IV therapy companies point out themselves that their IV drips are designed for already healthy individuals.
"If you're healthy, do you need to get your hydration, vitamins and other nutrients from an IV? The answer is a resounding, 'No,'" says Dr. Septimus.
When it comes to keeping up with your health, Dr. Septimus recommends focusing your efforts on what's simple and cheap — two things anyone can keep up with.
"The best way to avoid a hangover is to drink in moderation. If you do accidentally overdo it, know that your body has its own powerful detox system that doesn't need extra help — it just needs time," says Dr. Septimus. "And while vitamin C helps support your immune system, the vast majority of people get all the vitamin C they need from their diet. There's no evidence that getting an IV bag full of it will help stave off illness. In fact, recent studies treating patients who have COVID-19 with vitamin C have failed to show any benefit, either."
If you try one of these IV drips and do feel better afterwards — less hungover, for instance — keep in mind that you might just be experiencing the placebo effect.
"Your mind is a powerful thing, and the placebo effect can certainly help you feel better even if nothing is actually changing in your body. It probably isn't worth the hefty price tag or the risks that come along with these IV drips," adds Dr. Septimus.
Video: What causes a hangover?
Are IV hydration therapy and IV vitamin therapy safe?
"If you receive an IV while in the hospital, it's because you need it," says Dr. Septimus. "IV therapy is a routine procedure that's incredibly standardized and safe in the clinical setting. Most importantly, it's administered by professionals in a medical-grade facility."
The IV drips found in boutique IV therapy establishments, on the other hand, aren't FDA-approved or administered in a hospital or infusion center. Plus, depending who you ask, some say that these businesses aren't regulated well enough.
And regulation matters since IV therapy can come with risks.
The minor side effects of receiving an IV can include pain, swelling and scarring at the IV site, but a person can also develop an infection.
"More concerningly, an improperly administered IV drip can come with fairly serious complications, such as clotting, inflammation, a bloodstream infection and electrolyte imbalance," warns Dr. Septimus. "Then there's the contents of the IV bag. What's actually in that bag and how might it affect your health?"
For instance, Dr. Septimus notes that people with kidney disease or heart disease shouldn't receive IV fluids unless prescribed by their doctor. And individuals who are taking medication should be incredibly cautious about the possibility of serious drug interactions.
And it's not unheard of for someone to be hospitalized due to complications of IV vitamin therapy. You've heard of Kendall Jenner, right?
"IV therapy is a medical procedure, so it begs the question: If you're healthy, are these IV drips really worth the potential risks?" asks Dr. Septimus.
So when paired against drinking plenty of water (maybe even a sports drink) and eating a healthy diet, the price of a boutique IV drip concerns both your safety and your wallet.