Millennia ago, when they were living amid wild plants that provided abundant sources of vitamin C, our ancestors lost the ability to convert glucose (a kind of sugar from our diet) into vitamin C. We all must ingest vitamin C, which is an essential dietary element In fact if our diet provided no vitamin C we would all die of scurvy, as was the case with sailors on long voyages with no fresh food. Lack of oxygen can kill us in minutes. Lack of vitamin C can take several months during which time the symptoms include extreme weakness, spongy gums, bruising, and hemorrhages.

Almost all people can benefit from taking more supplementary vitamin C than the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 60 milligrams. NOHA Honorary Member Emanuel Cheraskin, MD, DMD, has just published a book1 describing a large number of careful studies using vitamin C supplementation for different diseases and adverse human conditions. We shall describe a few of the studies.

[A group of researchers] provided one gram of ascorbic acid per day (this is roughly 12 glasses of orange juice) for 60 days to 20 clearly-diagnosed infertile, but otherwise healthy, men. A separate control (placebo-supplemented) group consisted of 20 men. At the end of these two months, none of the control group's wives reported pregnancies. However, in all of the vitamin C supplemented group, there was conception! . . . We now know that ascorbate can increase sperm volume, count, and motility. It also reduces the number of abnormal sperm and their stickiness. Finally, improved sperm quality follows.

In a study of 44 school-age identical twins, one of each pair was given 250 milligrams of vitamin C twice a day for five months and the other received an indistinguishable placebo. "In the seven pairs of the youngest group (6 to 11 years of age), in all but one instance, the treated twin grew from 0.64 to 2.54 centimeters more than did the placebo-administered subject. Simply put, this means that in less than one-half year, one twin grew as much as one inch taller."

In the section entitled "Making Healthy Kids Healthier," Dr. Cheraskin describes a study in Zagreb, Yugoslavia where 70 milligrams of ascorbic acid was given daily to 49 adolescent boys for two months. Their blood levels of vitamin C increased and "there was a bonus of improved oxygen utilization". No such changes occurred in the 42 children receiving a placebo. Thus, the capacity for physical performance was enhanced in these already healthy adolescents.

During allergic reactions, histamine is released. Antihistamine drugs are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms. Vitamin C is an effective natural antihistamine.

Vitamin C helps us withstand both extreme heat and extreme cold. Dr Cheraskin gives the following impressive example of heat adaptation. "Workers in America's southland may have it rough, but South African mines provide a far more dramatic working climate. Mine owners long ago learned to initiate all sorts of acclimatization procedures in step-by-step progression."

"50 to 200 grams [of vitamin C] per 24 hours can markedly reduce the tendency for secondary infections." Note that 60 grams is one thousand times the RDA.

A study was done dividing 60 new workers into three groups: the first received 250 milligrams of vitamin C per day; the second, 500 milligrams; and the third, a placebo. In terms of "heat adaptation (temperature, heart rate, perspiration) . . . the ascobate groups 'won' by 24 hours on the average. And a startling 35 percent of those 'winners' adapted in only three or four days. Some (on the placebo) unhappily even failed the ten day test!"

"Early research on rats and guinea pigs showed that high levels of vitamin C can counteract cold temperature states. A group of monkeys given 325 milligrams of ascorbic acid before being exposed to subfreezing temperatures fared far better than the [other] animals administered only 25 milligrams daily. Thus, human beings bound for snow might want to think not only of warm pants but also of popping about 4000 milligrams of vitamin C per day. That's the human equivalent (given 150 pounds of weight) of the amount provided the monkeys."

In the form of a salve vitamin C also helps with skin problems from the intense itching of pruritus (prickly heat) to relief of sunburn.

Already we have mentioned diverse conditions that can be helped by vitamin C and we have not even come to its beneficial effects on the major diseases, namely, cancer, heart disease, and the infections, including "flu" and the common cold. These effects have been researched and publicized2 by NOHA Honorary Member Linus Pauling, PhD. Why does vitamin C help us in so many ways? Two reasons are clearly explained by Doctors Pauling and Cheraskin:

First, vitamin C is an antioxidant that quenches the free radicals that are formed during normal bodily energy production (oxidation) and that can injure our tissues if not quenched.

According to new laboratory research at the University of California, Berkeley, vitamin C (ascorbate) is the best agent for protecting us from free-radical damage to blood lipids (fats). At levels typically found circulating in human blood plasma, the vitamin neutralized 100 percent of the free radicals produced in the study. No other plasma antioxidant, or free-radical 'quencher,' showed this capability.3

Second, vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen, which is a "fibrous protein [that] strengthens the skin, blood vessels, bones, teeth, and the intercellular cement that holds the cells in various organs and tissues together."4. . .[Collagen is] "stronger than steel wire of the same weight. . . [It] constitutes the connective tissue that holds our bodies together."5 No wonder that low levels of vitamin C result in blood vessel collapse and a whole gamut of diseases.

How much vitamin C do we need? For a general answer Dr. Cheraskin uses two measures. First, he refers to research done by his group at the University Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. For over a thousand dentists and their wives Dr. Cheraskin and his associates recorded the average daily vitamin C intake from food and supplements and correlated this with the score on a standard symptom questionnaire, in which zero indicates ideal health. As symptoms decreased, vitamin C intake increased until at zero symptoms the average intake was 410 milligrams per day. He comments, "Under the conditions of this experiment, approximately 410 milligrams of vitamin C may be designated as the acceptable daily allowance for healthy people who wish to maintain health. This is about seven times the RDA!".

We recall that our ancient ancestors lost the bodily ability to make vitamin C and yet they survived—to put it mildly! Consequently, for his second estimate Dr. Cheraskin refers to research on paleolithic nutrition in which the scientists estimate "from the mean ascorbic acid content of 27 vegetables consumed by hunter-gatherers that the average vitamin C intake would have been 392.3 milligrams per day in paleolithic diets." Parenthetically, the scientists say, "This calculation excludes the Australian green plum, which has the highest known vitamin C content (3,150 milligrams per 100 grams) and would tend to inflate the estimate."6 Dr. Cheraskin points out the closeness of these two estimates. He also comments on a large longevity study in which

People with intakes of about 300 to 400 milligrams of vitamin C daily, roughly half from food, were compared with those who got less than 50 milligrams daily. The findings were adjusted for age, sex, race, smoking, disease history, and other differences.

Conclusions are clear. Men consuming 300 to 400 milligrams per day showed an overall mortality reduction of 42 percent. Translated into life expectancy, this suggests an added longevity of six years.!

Dr. Cheraskin emphasizes the many other essential nutrients besides vitamin C. He particularly mentions that in nature vitamin C occurs with the bioflavinoids and that the beneficial effects of the two together are greater than the sum of the effects from each nutrient alone. We want to emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables where these and other nutrients are naturally combined. Paleontologists point out that "populations that subsist by collecting food invariably have a greater variety of plant foods than is typical for agricultural populations."7 We need to feel venturesome—as long as we know what we are doing and realize that many plants contain toxins. One delightful, healthful plant is the violet. "Violet leaves will give you in half a cup the equivalent in vitamin C of four oranges." The young leaves and buds are delicious and "taste like a cross between spinach and asparagus."8

Dr. Cheraskin and his group at the University of Alabama have studied and published on vitamin C for forty years. Many dentists are involved and they are acutely aware of the many deleterious effects of low vitamin C on gum and tooth health. They have developed quick tests for adequate levels.

Finally, appropriate levels of vitamin C intake vary tremendously depending on your state of health and environmental exposures. When ill you can take vitamin C up to "bowel tolerance," in other words, until you have diarrhea. Then, that is enough and you can take a little less. In treating AIDS patients Robert F. Cathcart, III, MD, has found that "50 to 200 grams per 24 hours can markedly reduce the tendency for secondary infections." Note that 60 grams is one thousand times the RDA.


1Vitamin C : Who Needs It? Arlington Press & Company, Birmingham, Alabama, 1993.

2Three of his many books are: Linus Pauling,Vitamin C. the Common Cold, and the Flu, W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1970, 1976; Ewan Cameron and Linus Pauling, Cancer and Vitamin C, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 1979; and Linus Pauling, How to Live Longer and Feel Better, W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1986.

3NOHA NEWS, Vol. XIV, No. 4, Fall 1989, p. 6.

4Pauling, 1986, op. cit., p. 25.

5Ibid., pp. 67,69.

6Eaton, S. Boyd and Melvin Konner, "Paleolithic Nutrition: A Consideration of Its Nature and Current Implications," The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 312, No. 5, January 31, 1985, p. 287. [Editor's note: this work is referred to extensively in "The Fish and Game Diet," NOHA NEWS, Vol. XI, No. 4, Fall 1986.]


8Foster, Catharine Osgood, The Organic Gardener, Vintage Books, New York, 1972, p. 209.

Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XIX, No. 1, Winter 1994, pages 1-2.