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The purpose of the book
History of vitamin c in the British Navy
The motivation behind the book
Recollections from others
by Robert D. McCracken, Ph.D.
Vitamin C and vitamin C-rich foods have had a long and tortured history finding acceptance for use in the prevention and treatment of human health problems.
Over the last 450 years, each discovery of a new use for vitamin C (or vitamin C-rich foods) has typically been followed by an excruciatingly long period before it is adopted by mainstream medicine. The introductory narrative that follows briefly reviews a few of the high points of this history. A description of my own experiences with the use of injectable vitamin C for the treatment of flu and pneumonia follows the review.
Scurvy and the British Navy
Scurvy is a nutritional disorder caused by a deficiency in vitamin C in the diet. The first symptoms of scurvy are lassitude and melancholy. Teeth become loose and fall out. Other symptoms include extreme weakness; spongy gums; a tendency to develop hemorrhages under the skin, from mucous membranes, and under the periosteum (mucous membranes surrounding the surface of the bones); breakdown of collagen production in the body; anemia; and mental depression. Old wounds open up. Serious cases of scurvy can lead to death (Blakiston’s Pocket Medical Dictionary, 1979; Brown, 2003).
Scurvy was the scourge of the maritime nations.1 The first record of scurvy in the Age of Sail was in the late fifteenth century, when long sea voyages in which landfalls were not made for extended periods of time, were first undertaken by Europeans. When Vasco de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, for example, 100 of his crew of 168 died of scurvy. This is the first recorded outbreak of scurvy on a naval voyage. In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan left Spain with three ships and 250 sailors. Three years later, after circumnavigating the globe, one ship and 18 men arrived home; scurvy was the biggest killer. Magellan never made it back, but was killed in the Philippines (Brown, 2003, p. 223).
On his second voyage to Newfoundland in 1596, the French explorer Jacques Cartier, ice bound, quartered his men during the winter near an Indian Village not far from present-day Quebec City. Both the Indians and Cartier’s crew came down with scurvy, and 25 of Cartier’s men died. That spring, Cartier noticed that one of his countrymen who had been sick with scurvy about 10 days before now appeared well. Cartier inquired about the secret of his recovery. He found it to be a brew made from the “juice and sap” of a tree now thought to be the white cedar. Cartier fed this concoction to his crew, who then experienced a speedy recovery. Cartier wrote in his diary: “It wrought so well, that if all of the physicians of Montpelier and Louaine had been there, with all the drugs of Alexandria, they would not have done as much in one year as that tree did in six days, for it did so prevail, that as many as used it, by the grace of God recovered their health (Bailey, 1971, p. 15). Cartier’s discovery in Quebec was not an isolated incident among captains of the seafaring nations of Europe. In 1577, Sir Francis Drake reported that scurvy was cured by “plenty of lemons” (Brown, 2003, p. 74).
In 1593, a report by the English Admiral Sir Richard Hawkins stated that in 20 years at sea, 10,000 seamen under his command had died of scurvy. Hawkins frantically searched for something that would prevent the needless deaths of so many men. Somehow, he hit upon oranges and lemons as a cure. Scurvy thereafter was not a problem under Hawkins’s command. Following Sir Richard’s death in 1622, however, this cure, though of obvious benefit to the British Navy, was inexplicably abandoned. Scurvy reemerged in the squadrons where it had formerly been eliminated.
At the start of the seventeenth century, the dietary method for preventing scurvy was known among at least some merchant shippers. In 1601, Sir James Lancaster led four merchant ships to the Spice Islands (now known as the Moluccas, located in eastern Indonesia). The crew of his flagship, the Red Dragon, was given bottled lemon juice each day and scurvy presented no problem; in contrast, the crews of the other three ships in the flotilla got no lemon juice, and succumbed to scurvy (Brown, 2003, pp. 71–72). The Dutch East India Company even maintained citrus plantations along the route east from Europe, such as at Mauritania and the Cape of Good Hope. But, as with the British Navy following Admiral Hawkins’s death, knowledge on preventing and curing scurvy somehow became lost to the maritime nations in the first decades of the seventeenth century. By the 1630s, the East India Company, on voyages to and from the east, despite what Hawkins and others had earlier proved, was pursuing what can only be called quack remedies for scurvy.
With the cure forgotten, the death toll among Europe’s men at sea mounted. So predictable was the heavy toll scurvy would take on long voyages that, at the start of a journey, captains regularly took on 50, or even 100 percent, more crew members than were required to ensure that replacements for sailors dead and disabled from scurvy would be readily available.
In 1741, Commodore George Anson led a squadron of five warships and a sloop around the world by way of Cape Horn. Only one ship returned. Of the 2,000 men who set out on the voyage, only about 200 made it home. Most had been killed by scurvy. Historians, Stephen R. Brown says, call this the worst medical disaster at sea (2003, pp. 2, 51). The same fate befell a Spanish squadron of similar size that chased Anson to the far Pacific Ocean. Following the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France (1756–1763), the casualty list for British sailors was calculated. In his book on scurvy, Brown states (2003, p. 26) that of 184,899 seamen mustered into the war, 133,708 died of disease, primarily scurvy, and 1,512 were killed in action. Keep in mind that only decades earlier, methods for preventing and curing scurvy were well known.
In 1734, an English brig sailed from London to Greenland. On the voyage, as usually happened, scurvy broke out. At that time, some believed scurvy was an infectious disease. One of the seamen who came down with scurvy was so sick everyone on board thought he would surely die. His legs were terribly swollen and he could not stand. About that time, the ship was passing a “desert island,” possibly one of the Shetlands. The captain, intent on halting the spread of the disease, put the sailor ashore. Stranded alone on the island, the seaman, although very sick, maintained his will to live. He began to crawl about, searching for anything to eat. In desperation, he chewed on fresh shoots of grass that were sprouting in tufts here and there. Much to his surprise, he began to regain his strength. Soon he could stand and even walk. Convinced that a miracle had happened, he began to forage for snails and shellfish. Somehow, he was picked up by a passing ship on a return voyage to London. In London, news of the sailor’s recovery spread and he enjoyed a short celebrity. When he met his former shipmates on their return from Greenland, they responded to him as though he had returned from the dead (Bailey, 1971, p. 17).
At that time, Dr. James Lind was a young surgeon of the British fleet. He was a bright young man but not high-born or particularly well connected socially. He was very familiar with scurvy and had personally seen the horror it could wreak upon a ship’s crew. Lind happened to be in port and heard of the case of the sailor who had been put ashore to die and who “ate grass like a beast of the field” and recovered. Lind was a curious man and had himself wondered whether there was a dietary connection to scurvy. Perhaps the grass that the seaman had eaten had something to do with his recovery. Lind was, in essence, exploring the same “lost” dietary cure for scurvy that Admiral Hawkins had discovered nearly 140 years earlier. Lind began collecting data. He undertook what we would now call a survey. He asked members of the crews of other ships about their diet both at sea and on shore and took careful notes. As his questioning continued, he began to see a pattern. He noted that ships that sailed the southern seas had a lower rate of losses from scurvy, and in his quest for a reason, he discovered that ships that plied the southern seas took on cargoes of fresh citrus fruits. The sailors ate the citrus fruit to provide a little taste and freshness for their monotonous and vitamin-deficient diet of salt fish, smoked meats, bread, and hardtack, with a little oil and butter.
Dr. Lind amassed what was, for his time, an enormous amount of information on scurvy. Then, while serving on the British frigate Salisbury in 1747, he conducted an experiment. It was one of the first controlled experiments in the field of nutrition and dramatically injected high-quality empirical data into an ongoing and not very fruitful debate on the cause and prevention of scurvy. Lind dramatically confirmed in his experiment what he had learned through his questioning of ships’ crews. In a book he later published on his scurvy research, Dr. Lind described his method.
On the 20th of May, 1747, I took 12 patients in the scurvy. . . . Their cases were as similar as I could have them. . . . They lay together in one place, . . . and had one diet common to all. . . . Two of these were ordered each a quart of cider a day. Two others took 25 drops of elixir vitriol three times a day. . . .Two others took two spoonfuls of vinegar three times a day, upon an empty stomach. Two of the worst patients . . . were put under a course of seawater. . . . Two others had each two oranges and one lemon given them every day. . . . The two remaining patients took a bigness of a nutmeg three times a day. . . . The consequence was that the most sudden and visible good effects were perceived from the use of oranges and lemons, one of those who had taken them being at the end of six days fit for duty. (James Lind, 1771, pp. 149–150; reprinted 1980)
In 1753, Lind published a book on his scurvy research titled A Treatise of the Survey, Containing an Inquiry Into the Nature, Causes, and Cure, of that Disease Together with a Critical and Chronological View of What Has Been Published. In it, he recommended that a bit of lemon or lime juice be added to the diet of the seamen of all British naval vessels. Strange as it may seem, however, Lind’s book and his recommendations were totally ignored by the British admiralty. Fellow physicians attacked his theory.
Why? Part of the answer has to do with the fact that Dr. Lind’s findings on scurvy appeared in an environment of knowledge that can only be described as a mish-mash of half-baked, concocted theories on the causes of scurvy and its prevention and treatment. Not one of these theories, it is safe to say, was based on even the most minimal data collected in the real world. Most of what was known and understood about scurvy at the time seems to have been mere armchair conjecture. For the most part, medical theory had not yet shaken itself loose from its Greek roots, notably the theories of Hippocrates, who had contended that the nature of the human body consisted of blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, and that in their proportions was found an explanation for disease and health. Physicians theorized endlessly—without benefit of experimentation or systematic observation—on bodily humors and their role in disease, including scurvy.
Moreover, the intellectual climate at that time was infected with the unwritten prescription that the worth of a medical observation or treatment was deeply dependent on the social connections and status of the observer. A high-born physician with prestigious connections was much more likely to gain the ear of decision-makers than a researcher of more modest origins such as Dr. Lind. Pet theories of high-status physicians and other authorities were, regardless of their validity, often the standard against which new information and alternative explanations were measured. Thus, Lind’s ideas, coming as they did into such an environment, unfortunately had little real chance of acceptance. The sociology and reigning medical epistemology were against him. Four years after the publication of his book, Lind noted bitterly, "There are certain persons who just will not let themselves be convinced that a terrible disease can be cured easily, yes, that it can even be prevented. I’m afraid they would have more confidence in some mixture that bore such a highfaluting title as “Antiscorbetic Golden Elixir.” (Bailey, 1971, p. 20)
In 1758, Lind became chief physician to the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar. He wrote two other books, An Essay on the Most Effective Means of Preserving the Health of Seamen in the Royal Navy (1757) and Essay on Diseases Incidental to Europeans in Hot Climates, with the Method of Preventing Their Fatal Consequences (1768), which were well received. His book on scurvy went through three editions, the third in 1772.
But Lind’s work did not go totally unnoticed by important people. Captain James Cook, on his first (1768–1771) and second (1772–1775) voyages to the South Seas—he was killed on his third voyage in the Hawaiian Islands in 1779—took heed of Lind’s work, and on his first two voyages, his men suffered not a single case of scurvy on either voyage, “nearly seven consecutive years,” as Brown says (2003, p. 151) “exploring the far side of the globe.” But huge losses due to scurvy continued on other British ships. Amazingly enough, data from Captain Cook’s own logs kept on his voyages were later twisted when analyzed so as to support the essentially worthless theories and treatments for scurvy held by high-status authorities.
In 1780, a well-born graduate of Glasgow’s medical school, Gilbert Blane, became personal physician to Admiral Sir George Rodney. Blane sailed with the admiral to the West Indies. Though Dr. Blane had had no previous experience at sea, he was a bright individual dedicated to improving living conditions on board navy ships. In transit to the West Indies, he read all three of Dr. Lind’s books. Dr. Blane quickly became a convert to what might be called the “public health approach” to the well-being of sailors. He emphasized the practical value of maintaining healthy shipboard personnel. “Every 50 oranges or lemons,” he said, “might be considered as a hand to the fleet, inasmuch as the health, and perhaps the life, of a man would be thereby saved.” He is quoted as saying, “I am convinced that more men would be saved by . . . purveyance of fruits and vegetables than could be raised by double the expense and trouble employed on the imprest [impressed] service” (Brown, 2003, p. 174).
With Admiral Rodney’s support and patronage, Blane was able to get some of his ideas implemented in Britain’s West Indies fleet. Healthy sailors, it was beginning to be recognized, made a better fighting force. By 1783, the death toll on ships under Blane’s supervision had fallen from one in seven to one in twenty. Thanks to Blane’s efforts, the superior health of the West Indies fleet’s shipboard personnel was a factor in Britain’s victory against the French in the Battle of the Saints near St. Lucia in 1782. Blane became known as the father of naval medicine
In 1782, a ship’s doctor, Charles Curtiss, published a small volume in Edinburgh that was supposed to contain the nutritional thoughts of a “Mr. Young of the Navy.” No one now knows exactly who Mr. Young was, but he was identified as a navy man. In the pamphlet, “Mr. Young’s” point is as follows:
It proceeds upon the well known fact that nothing more is necessary for the cure of this disease (scurvy) in any situation where there is tolerably pure air, than not dead and dried, but a fresh vegetable diet, of greens or roots in sufficient quantity. (Bailey, 1971, pp. 20–21)
Although Lind’s writings on scurvy, published 29 years earlier, had been ridiculed, rejected, and ignored, the theories of Mr. Young received a hearing. Yet, the British admiralty, despite Admiral Rodney’s success, remained unconvinced. In 1794, when Dr. Lind was an old man, he petitioned the admiralty to allow him to conduct another experiment. In this experiment, Lind’s proposal was to supply adequate amounts of lemon juice to a British squadron on a 23-week voyage. Lind’s experiment was tried and the results were spectacularly successful. He died that year, at the age of 78, content that his research had finally received a fair hearing. In 1795, 48 years after Lind’s first experiment, lemon juice, then called lime juice, was prescribed as a part of the diet of all British sailors. Scurvy ceased to be an occupational disease among seamen. To this day, British sailors are called “Limeys.” Interestingly, however, although “lime” juice was added to the diet of British sailors in 1795, it was not until 1884, according to Herbert Bailey, that the order was made official by the British admiralty. Eighty-nine years elapsed between Lind’s second experiment in preventing scurvy and an official order by the British admiralty that fresh fruit juice be included in all sailors’ diets (1971, pp. 21–22).
Astonishingly, approximately 125 years elapsed between the death of Sir Richard Hawkins and the concomitant cessation of British sailors being fed oranges and lemons and Dr. Lind’s first experiment in 1747 showing how scurvy could be cured. In all, 262 years elapsed between Admiral Hawkins’s death and the official order by the British admiralty that lemon juice be included in the diets of all British sailors—262 years, and no one knows how many tens of thousands of needless deaths.
Wider implementation of Lind and Blane’s regimen, including a daily ration of lemon juice to mariners, was fundamental, as Brown says, in Lord Nelson’s victory over Napoleon’s fleet at Trafalgar in 1805 and the Royal Navy’s emergence as the mightiest naval force on earth (Brown, 2003: 208). Even though it is now well recognized that small quantities of vitamin C in the diet are necessary to prevent scurvy, the use of large quantities of vitamin C in an individual’s diet to both prevent and treat other diseases ranging from the common cold to cardiovascular problems and cancer remains controversial.
A Personal Account
The following is a personal account of how I became aware of the medical uses of injectable vitamin C, and my own experiences with it.
Dr. Granville F. Knight and Injectable Vitamin C
In 1970, I was a young assistant professor teaching and doing research at the School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Trained as an anthropologist, I had a strong interest in what came to be known as medical anthropology, and I had a joint appointment with the Department of Anthropology at UCLA. In the summer and fall of 1970, I received local and national publicity for my research on the evolution of human dietary needs. As a result of this publicity, I received a number of telephone calls, letters, and a few packages containing books and pamphlets from people, mostly in the Los Angeles area, who, for one reason or another, were interested in my research. Some of what these people had to say interested me considerably.
The most interesting letter I got was from a physician, Dr. Granville Knight, with an office in nearby Santa Monica, California. My research at that time dealt with variations in diet from one human culture to another. Dr. Knight congratulated me on the work I was doing and suggested that an organization of which he was president had recently reprinted a book that might interest me. The book was titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, first published in 1945 and reprinted in 1970. It was written by a Cleveland, Ohio, dentist, then deceased, named Weston A. Price. A brochure Dr. Knight had included with his letter described Dr. Price’s book and his work. Dr. Price was interested in what might be called cross cultural dental health—the presence and absence of dental caries, gum disease, malocclusion, and tooth crowding in people from different cultures from different parts of the world. Dr. Price had traveled widely and had examined the dental health of people of all ages from different races and walks of life. He found that, regardless of its contents, when people ate the traditional diet of their ancestors they tended to have few dental caries, little gum disease, and very little tooth crowding. When, however, they switched to a modern Western diet of highly refined, processed, and canned foods, their dental health inevitably deteriorated, with dramatic increases in frequencies of cavities, gum disease, and tooth crowding.
My interest aroused, I ordered the book. When it arrived and I had a chance to look it over, I was greatly impressed. The foreword to the book’s 1945 edition was written by Professor Ernest Hooten of Harvard University, who at the time was the dean of American physical anthropologists of his generation—a man of utmost credibility and prestige in the field of physical anthropology. In his foreword, Dr. Hooten wrote,
There is nothing new in the observation that savages, or peoples living under primitive conditions, have, in general, excellent teeth. . . . Nor is it news that most civilized populations possess wretched teeth which begin to decay almost before they have erupted completely, and that dental caries is likely to be accompanied by periodontal disease with further reaching complications. . . . Dr. Price has accomplished one of those epochal pieces of research which make every other investigator desirous of kicking himself because he never thought of doing the same thing. It is an exemplification of the fact that really gifted scientists are those who can appreciate the obvious. . . . I consider that Dr. Price has written what is often called “a profoundly significant book.” . . . I salute Dr. Price with the sincerest admiration (the kind that is tinged with envy) because he has found out something which I should like to have discovered myself. (Hooten, as quoted in Price, 1945, pp. xvii–xviii)
Dr. Knight wrote the foreword to the 1970 edition of Dr. Price’s book. Once I had a chance to closely look the book over, I sent Dr. Knight a note thanking him for getting in touch with me and informing me about Dr. Price’s book. I had no further contact with Dr. Knight for several months.
Meeting Dr. Knight
At that time, my brother also lived in Los Angeles and he and his wife had several children. The youngest, Melissa, was about two and a half years old. In spring 1971 she became quite ill with cold- and flu-like symptoms. Over a period of two or three days, she became gradually worse and got weaker and weaker to the point where she did not get out of bed during the day but just lay under the covers like a little limp rag doll. I visited my brother on a Saturday morning, and when I saw the child’s condition, I suggested that she should see a doctor. He agreed, but informed me that he did not have a regular physician, and noted that it would be expensive to take her to an emergency room. I wondered aloud if there was some way I could help him find a physician who would see her at short notice on a Saturday afternoon. As we tried to come up with the name of a physician, Dr. Granville F. Knight’s name came to my mind. I told my brother how I had learned of him. “From what I know about him,” I said, “he seemed like a good doctor with a strong humanitarian bent. Perhaps he would see Melissa and advise us on what we should do.” My brother agreed. We looked up Dr. Knight’s phone number and called him. As luck would have it, he was in his office and answered the phone. I introduced myself to him and he remembered me. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “Bring the child to my office right away.”
My brother lived in Culver City, about ten miles from Dr. Knight’s office in Santa Monica. We bundled Melissa up and we drove to Dr. Knight’s office on Wilshire Boulevard. We knocked on his office door; Dr. Knight had been watching for us. He was a vigorous and robust man about 65 years old, very friendly and congenial. After we introduced ourselves, he took Melissa into an examination room and gently laid her on the table. After a few minutes of close study he looked at me and my brother and said she was in the early stages of pneumonia, and he thought she should be hospitalized. The diagnosis, of course, alarmed us. My brother asked, “What hospital should she go to?” Dr. Knight made a couple of quick phone calls and for some reason seemed unable to find one that would take her that day. His difficulty in placing her in a hospital may have had something to do with the fact that he was an allergist, and he didn’t ordinarily hospitalize patients, but I’m not sure. At any rate, Dr. Knight paused thoughtfully, and then said, “I’ll tell you what. She’s still in the early stages of pneumonia. I’m going to write you a prescription and I’ll give her a shot of vitamin C. You can take her home, then bring her back tomorrow and we’ll see how she is doing then.”
I was surprised. I had never heard of injecting vitamin C. (I was, of course, familiar with taking vitamin C orally—I took it myself—but I had never heard of using it in injection form.) I said, “A vitamin C injection? What’s that for?”
He replied matter-of-factly, “Oh, yes. I frequently use vitamin C injections to treat viral diseases.”
Even more surprised, I queried, “What? I’ve never heard of that.”
He said, “Yes, I’ve been using it for twenty-five years. I’ve seen people get up out of their iron lungs from polio following a large injection or two of vitamin C.”
More surprised than before, I could only say, “What?! How come I’ve never heard of that?”
Dr. Knight explained, “Most people don’t know about it. But I’ve seen it lots of times. Fred Klenner, down in Reidsville, North Carolina, has seen the same thing. He’s been doing it for many years.” Dr. Knight went on to describe how he had treated scores of people infected with the polio virus, and how the response to injected vitamin C was usually dramatic.
I was very intrigued. I asked, “Where can I find more information on this?”
He went to his desk and pulled out a reprint from an obscure medical journal. The article, which he had written, dealt with the treatment of polio with injectable vitamin C.
He then proceeded to give Melissa a shot in the buttock. As he did so, he explained, “I’m giving her a one-gram shot of vitamin C in the buttock. Ordinarily, I give five grams to begin treatment for a viral disease, usually intravenously. But with children I start with a gram of vitamin C and I give it intramuscularly.” As he treated Melissa, she lay limp, with no expression, no communication—she was a very sick little child. When Dr. Knight was finished giving the injection, he wrote a prescription for an antibiotic. He then said confidently, “You may notice a big change in her well-being in about three or four hours.”
My brother asked, “What kind of a change?”
Dr. Knight replied, “With injections of vitamin C there is often a dramatic improvement in about three to four hours. Watch her closely. If she should get worse, call me. Otherwise, I’ll see you here tomorrow [Sunday] at the same time.”
We drove Melissa straight home. The plan was to fill the prescription and start the medication later in the afternoon. Back home the child was put back to bed. But sure enough, just as Dr. Knight had predicted, there was a change in about three and a half hours. Much to everyone’s surprise and delight, Melissa sat up in bed and asked for something to eat, something she had not done in at least two days. We were all highly impressed. Dr. Knight had predicted an improvement and that is what happened. Equally important, Melissa held her gain, but she still remained a sick little girl.
The next day I accompanied my brother and Melissa on her second appointment. Dr. Knight was waiting for us in his office. It was immediately clear to him that she was improved. “I don’t think she needs to be hospitalized now. She’s much better,” he said after examining her. He asked us if she had been given the antibiotic. She had. “Continue with the antibiotic,” he said. “I’m going to give her another shot of vitamin C, then I’ll see her in two days.” He gave her another one gram in the buttock and, when he had finished, he noted once again, “In about three to four hours you may notice another big jump in improvement.”
We thanked him and returned home. Melissa was put back to bed, and as predicted, in about three hours, she got up out of her bed on her own initiative, went into the living room, turned on the television, and sat down in front of it to watch a program. She had done nothing of the kind in several days. One more visit to Dr. Knight’s office, and Melissa was fully recovered.
I read with enthusiasm the article on injectable vitamin C that Dr. Knight had given me on Melissa’s first visit. As soon as I did, I wanted to find out more about the use of this treatment. On the second visit to his office, Dr. Knight gave me additional references, which I was able to locate in the medical library at UCLA. Soon I had a small stack of articles on the use of injectable vitamin C, all dating from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Later, I asked Dr. Knight why injectable vitamin C was not widely used in medicine. He said there was no money in it and that physicians who came to their medical education in the 1930s were much more open to the use of vitamins and nutrition in the treatment of ailments than were physicians who were trained later. Younger physicians believed the use of vitamins in medical practice was old-fashioned and outdated; they were more impressed with the latest “wonder drug” or some supposed medical breakthrough. The old methods, rather than being integrated into the new, were too often abandoned. Where appropriate, I incorporated what I had learned from Dr. Knight on injectable vitamin C and from Dr. Price’s book into my classes at UCLA. Students always responded enthusiastically to the material.
Meeting Alan Sherman
When I was teaching at UCLA, people in the community frequently called the university with technical questions of one kind or another. Such calls were usually routed to an appropriate faculty member who might be able to answer the question. Such calls would sometimes end up in the School of Public Health. The secretary there would route questions to faculty members she thought might be able to help the caller. Occasionally, I would get such a call, and I remember one in particular. The caller introduced himself as Alan Sherman, a well-known stand-up comedian circa 1960 who frequently made appearances on TV, and who was especially well known for his hilarious routine, “Letters from Camp.” I recognized his voice and was very familiar with his work. I was not totally surprised to be speaking with a famous comedian—Los Angeles is a city with large numbers of people from the entertainment industry, and crossing paths with celebrities is not that unusual.
As we talked on the phone, Sherman informed me that he was writing a routine on what life must have been like for humans back in the days of the “caveman.” Because I had had some training in physical anthropology, I was able to answer most of his questions to his satisfaction. As we talked, we began to stray onto other subjects of mutual interest. It became clear to both of us that we had common interests and enjoyed talking to each other. He said, “Would you like to come over to my apartment this afternoon? We can talk better face to face.” I said, “Sure.” I didn’t have any classes that afternoon, and my schedule was flexible. He gave me directions to his apartment house, a high-rise just off the corner of La Cienega and Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
When I arrived, he fixed me a drink. Our conversation picked up where we had left it earlier. The topic of conversation somehow strayed to the subject of nutrition, and from there to injectable vitamin C. Sherman appeared to be very interested in nutrition and in what I was saying about vitamin C, especially injectable vitamin C. He was familiar with its medical uses. He told me he had received injections of vitamin C from his personal physician in New York City. I described some of my readings on its medical uses, and told him of Melissa’s experience. We talked about what a wonderful thing it was that injectable vitamin C could be used to treat any number of health problems. including polio, measles, carbon monoxide poisoning, and bites from snakes and other vermin. I noted that I had often wondered if injectable vitamin C could be useful in the treatment of hepatitis. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “Let’s find out. I’ll call my doctor in New York.” He picked up the telephone and dialed a number and, in a few moments, he was chatting with his personal physician in New York City. I don’t recall the man’s name. Sherman said, “I’ve got a college professor here who’s interested in the use of injectable vitamin C in curing diseases. Let me put him on the line.”
He handed the phone to me and I introduced myself. I asked the doctor questions regarding his use of injectable vitamin C. He replied, “Yes, I use it in the treatment of any number of ailments, with great efficacy.”
I said, “I’ve wondered if it might not be possible to treat hepatitis with it.”
The doctor sounded like an older man who was confident almost to the point of arrogance. He replied, in a voice dripping with the self-assurance that comes only with long-term success, “Young man, I have been treating hepatitis with injectable vitamin C for many years, and it works.” I don’t recall everything he said, but I do remember him saying that injectable vitamin C can cure hepatitis in a few days.
Alan Sherman and I spent the remainder of the afternoon talking, and although I never saw him again, I remember the meeting with great pleasure.
My Own Use of Injectable Vitamin C
I left UCLA in 1971 and moved to Denver, Colorado, where I had grown up. In January 1972, a flu epidemic hit Denver. My wife, our daughter Bambi (who by then was three and a half years old, the same age as Melissa), and I were living in a third-floor apartment in the Capitol Hill area of the city. I had become interested once again in jogging and physical fitness, and several times a week I drove out of the usually smog-enveloped center of the city into the country to run. Like most joggers, I was very sensitive to the health state of my respiratory system.
During the flu epidemic that winter, the manager of our apartment house, whom I had known for many years, came down with the flu, wheezing, coughing, and sneezing. For some reason, he came up to our apartment and spent about 25 minutes with us, unthinkingly exposing all three of us to his illness. Several days later, my wife, Bambi, and I simultaneously came down with the unmistakable symptoms of the flu—headache, body ache, and sore throat. My wife and I could just feel ourselves slipping into a serious case of the flu, bronchials burning and a stuffed-up head and chest. I had contracted the Asian flu in 1957 and the Hong Kong flu in 1968, so I knew what to expect, and I was not looking forward to another bout with it. When I had caught the flu previously, it had taken three weeks or more before I returned to normal and could exercise with full power.
Recalling Dr. Knight’s research and Melissa’s remarkable recovery following her injections of vitamin C, I suggested to my wife that perhaps we should try to find a physician in Denver who would give us shots of vitamin C. She said it sounded like a good idea and began calling physicians listed in the phone book, asking them if they would give injections of vitamin C for the flu. She focused primarily on osteopaths. At that time, it seemed to me, osteopaths were more open to use of nutrition in the treatment of disease than were most allopathic (ordinary) physicians. The physicians she called had never heard of injecting vitamin C, and refused to do so. Ready to give up in frustration, she spoke to an elderly osteopathic physician in west Denver who had practiced medicine in the city for many years. I believe his name was Dr. Burns. She explained our need to him and asked him if he would give the three of us each a shot of vitamin C. He said he would, and we made an appointment to go to his office that afternoon. At his office, I spoke to him briefly about his knowledge of injectable vitamin C. His experience was not as extensive as Dr. Knight’s or as Alan Sherman’s physician had been, but he was familiar with its benefits. He gave me a five-gram injection into the vein in my arm, the same for my wife, and one gram for our daughter in the buttock. We thanked him and made an appointment to return the next day for a second injection.
I went to bed that night feeling sick with a worsening case of the flu. The next morning, it was completely gone. It was a very strange experience. I expected my bronchials and lungs to be congested and burning, my head to be stuffed up, and my body to be aching—but they weren’t! My bronchials just felt like they had been sick but no longer were. The next day the three of us returned for our second shots, with the same dosages as on the first visit. By the day after our second visit, the three of us were completely cured of what we thought to be serious cases of flu. We took no other treatment except oral vitamins. In three or four days, I was back jogging.
For a number of years after that, I knew a physician who would write me a prescription for injectable vitamin C and I always kept a small supply on hand. Whenever I felt like I was getting a scratchy throat or a cold, I would give myself a shot of a gram or two into the hip, never the vein. It seemed to me that it helped, although I have no real proof of this.
In 1979, I was teaching in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. That spring I taught a course in Nutritional Anthropology, the study of the diets and nutritional needs of the members of the many cultures of the world. As part of the class curriculum we studied the work of Drs. Knight and Klenner. I contacted Dr. Fred Klenner by phone several times and we talked about his vitamin C research. He informed me that he still used injectable vitamin C, and that he stood by everything he had written about. He answered questions I had. He would retract nothing. Although several students and I intended to visit him, we never did so.
Throughout the years, I have maintained an interest in injectable vitamin C, and periodically search the medical literature for references to it. Like Dr. Lind’s work, familiarity with the topic seems to have waned. I know there are physicians in the United States and other parts of the world who use injectable vitamin C for the treatment of viral and other disease as a regular part of their practice, but I have no idea what their numbers are. I do know that I have been unable to locate scarcely any references to it in the medical literature. I also know that on the occasions when I have asked a physician for an injection, I have always been treated as though I were either ignorant or out of my mind.
In about 1992, I began to get the urge to publish a short book that would include my own experiences and the reprints of Dr. Klenner’s and other reports. I attempted to track down all the articles that Dr. Knight had given or recommended to me, as well as those I had found in the library on my own. I attempted to call Dr. Knight in the Santa Monica, California, area, but could find no trace of him—no telephone number, no address, nothing. I subsequently found that he later moved to the San Diego, California, area, and is now deceased. His professional papers and files are archived at the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Lemon Grove, California. I have been unable to locate the first article that he gave me on the use of injectable vitamin C in the treatment of polio.
I also attempted to recontact Dr. Klenner. I telephoned information in Reidsville, North Carolina. I asked for the number of the hospital where Dr. Klenner had worked, and for his home telephone number. His name was still listed in the telephone directory, and I called his home. When I asked for him, a person who sounded like an elderly woman, perhaps in a bit of a confused state, told me that he had died. I explained to her that I was interested in his work on injectable vitamin C and would like to obtain copies of all his publications and research reports. She suggested I send a written request, which I did. I never received a reply.
I then called the hospital where Dr. Klenner had worked and told them that I was interested in his work and was trying to obtain copies of his writings on vitamin C. I was informed by the woman at the switchboard that she had never heard of Dr. Klenner and was unfamiliar with any research that he had ever done. I then asked to speak to the librarian in the hospital library. The librarian informed me that she had never heard of Dr. Klenner and that she was unfamiliar with any research on injectable vitamin C done by doctors at that hospital.
Later, I contacted Dr. Klenner’s widow, who was then residing in a nursing home. I asked her whether it would be possible to gain access to any of his records dealing with his research on the use of injections of vitamin C. She informed me that all of his files had been burned.
Thus, the people who guided me in my initial discovery of the benefits of injectable vitamin C are now all gone—Dr. Knight, Dr. Klenner, Alan Sherman, and Dr. Burns. But their work and what they and others knew about injectable vitamin C must not be allowed to slip beyond the edge of memory, as did the use of citrus fruit to prevent and cure scurvy when Admiral Hawkins died in 1622.
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