By Dr. William Risley Sr.

Mae West has been quoted for years and probably wishes we would forget her remark that "Too much of a good thing is wonderful." Most of us are aware that certain vitamins and minerals when used in excess or inappropriately can cause problems. We know in fact, that any vitamin or mineral has a toxic level that should be considered. But can Vitamin C be overused? Is there a contraindication to massive dosages of Vitamin C. Occasionally, in my clinical practice, one of my patients would tell me that "Vitamin C makes me feel badly." What heresy! Denigrating vitamin C is akin to finding fault with baseball and apple pie. I would often subtly categorize this patient as one to fall into the questionably sane column.

To be sure, vitamin C has a track record of literal miracles. Klenner's work embraces in excess of 10 grams IV push as an emergency room routine for immediate detoxification in virtually every patient admission. Ten grams of vitamin C per day and dietary correction, in Klenner's words, will control the typical diabetic in 60% of known cases, and markedly enhance glucose tolerance in the remaining 40%. Klenner boldly states that diabetics should be considered victims of sub-clinical scurvy and that is likely why they heal wounds so poorly. From the prodigious work of Paul Eck, we know that vitamin C increases the metabolic or oxidation rate of the body through adrenal gland impetus. This increased "oxidation rate" is manifested on a tissue mineral analysis (hair) as increased levels of sodium and potassium. An increase in metabolic or oxidative efficiency is a major impetus in enhanced glucose tolerance, not to mention overcoming the stress of acute infection.

Cathcart suggests titrating the need for vitamin C in patients by determining their bowel tolerance to increasing amounts. He states that if a patient takes 10 grams of C in one day and does not get diarrhea, "something is wrong, and you better find out what it is." In other words, a pathology existing that may be asymptomatic will quickly use the massive dose of C, preventing loss through the intestines. In recognition of the patient's biochemical individuality, he suggests with a cold, the patient may need to increase the dosage to 50 grams per day; with the flu, 150 grams; and he suggests AIDS patients take as much as 200 Grams per day in an IV drip. Most of the medical approaches entail an ascorbic acid recommendation of course, versus a whole vitamin C complex. That fact alone may play a major role in the possible negatives that I will address.

Long ago, one of my patients wrestled with the heroin addiction of her son and provided money for his habit so that he would not have to steal for the next fix. His habit threatened to destroy her financial stability not to mention her sanity. She brought in two studies that I have lost, that suggested 700 Grams of vitamin C per day to prevent withdrawal symptoms from heroin. Her son was "afraid to take that much vitamin C," but of course was not afraid to take the frequent dose of heroin. It has been stated that removal of all vitamin C from the body is the equivalent of removal of the adrenal glands. Massive dosages of this seeming "miracle worker" likely has significant positive effects on the heroin user's adrenal glands, and certainly on the immune-compromised sufferer of viral or bacterial infection.

From personal experience I have been able to take 50 grams orally, sometimes 3 times per day, and have a dramatic recovery from influenza and colds symptoms. Coincident with the relief of viral symptoms, the ongoing back pain of herniated discs also is relieved with those dosages of vitamin C. Studies that suggest 200 mg usage per day has no effects on cold symptoms are laughable at best. The vitamin does in fact enhance recovery from a multitude of bacterial and viral infections, but 200 mg per day is next to worthless.

But is there a downside to the use of this vitamin? My experience suggests that there may be significant risks to routine use of the substance.

Being a staunch advocate of using the vitamin, and wanting to prevent or forestall being subject to the flu, I purchased a commercially available vitamin C product with bioflavonoids, coming as close as possible to a totally natural product. Specifically, the product was TWINLABŠ "C-PLUS CITRUS BIOFLAVONOID CAPS, (1000 MG CAPSULES) It also was described as "HIGHEST IN PURITY" The "Highest in Purity" statement was comforting. I took 10 grams per day, in two 5 gram dosages.

For several weeks, I enjoyed a significant period of well being, easily attributed to the increase of vitamin C. I did in fact feel generally better without side effects. But I then began to develop a well-delineated set of symptoms directly paralleling those common with copper toxicity. I began awakening at 4:00 AM ready to virtually jump out of bed and begin my day. I felt energized with no fatigue, just on an average of 5-6 hours of sleep. I often relate in my seminars, that children get up in the morning and say "good morning, God," while most of us awaken and say " Good God, it's morning." I was remarkably refreshed after just a relative few hours of sleep.

I then began to be aware of the symptom of "pencil rolling" drumming of my fingers. Not a major complaint, but certainly more than I had prior to the regimen of vitamin C. Next in line was some occasional right shoulder and sub-sternal distress paralleling symptoms of gall bladder upset. Having passed some gallstones in my health history, I can easily recognize those symptoms.

Subsequently appearing symptoms then got my attention even further. I began to experience a gradually building level of mental depression along with a drop off of sexual desire and some erectile dysfunction. I then promptly experienced an audible tear in the right gastrocnemius muscle and went into an immediate shock reaction. I was unable to support weight on the injured leg for some days, and one month later still suffer residual disability.

Here is what I propose may have occurred. From the work in the laboratory wherein I am a consultant, we have found a significant number of patients with what we term copper toxicity, or a situation where the patient displays an excess of biologically unavailable copper in their hair assay. There are certain symptom profiles that are common and remarkably consistent with all of these patients. The degree of expression of these symptoms remains dependent upon their own biochemical individuality.

They include:

Insomnia - Bio-unavailable copper stimulates the biogenic amines. The patient often states that their mind is "running" constantly. Emotional disturbances - irritability, mood swings, depression and even suicidal tendencies. Sexual hormone disruption - male or female, especially estrogen difficulties in the female. Gall bladder disease - 85% of copper is eliminated through the gall bladder and an excess may inflame the organ. Collagen tissue impairment - steers that are copper deficient develop "sway back" postures. Scoliosis and aneurysms have been related to copper deficiencies.

For a patient plagued with the symptoms of a toxic (bio-unavailable) copper overload, removal of that burden gives them new reasons for living. Depression, mood swings and emotional volatility constantly interfere with this patient's enjoyment of life. Inadequate levels of usable (bio-available) copper can result in heart disease, serious other pathologies and death. Too much copper, and the patient often wishes they were dead. The correct amount of usable copper is the ultimate best scenario.

Some time ago in the Original Internist, I described the negative effects of using the copper bracelet for treatment of arthritis. The symptoms of inappropriate use of the bracelet are identical to the symptoms of copper toxicity. Vitamin C chelates out copper-whether toxic or usable. I would presume that the high levels of vitamin C ingestion caused a massive loss of copper from the tissues into the blood stream for elimination and resulted in symptom expression as described. When patients discharge large amounts of copper as a result of successful supplement therapy, ceruloplasmin levels rise in the blood stream. Ceruloplasmin carries copper as an amino acid-copper chelate. It has been described as transporting a volatile substance through the bloodstream in the same manner as carrying money to the bank in an armored car. It is dangerous not to be transported in a protective vehicle. Adequate protein intake and adrenal gland function are two required elements for this procedure.

Zinc is used to buffer copper in the system, and since zinc deficiency is rampant in this country, my reserves were depleted as a result. The normal zinc to copper ratio was disturbed, impairing sexual hormone production and release, and thus manifesting reduction of sexual function. Zinc is calmative and copper is excitatory when bio-unavailable. Nervous tics, tremors, Parkinson's syndrome and other neurological difficulties are major syndromes likely connected with copper toxicity.

All of my symptoms disappeared 48 hours after discontinuance of the mega- doses of vitamin C.

Copper toxicity or deficiency is classically related to collagen afflictions, calcium imbalance, strains, sprains and as aforementioned, scoliosis in steers. Could my sudden and severe tear in the gastrocnemius muscle be a result of the temporary over-dose of copper? As an aside, we virtually always find copper toxicity when the patient demonstrates mercury poisoning. I am reminded of the dentist who came to me complaining of unremitting shin splints with jogging. His mercury exposure likely contributed to the copper toxic situation, and bone/collagen problems, resulting in shin splints.

Vitamin C can and does do miraculous things for patients afflicted with toxic levels of copper. So why should it be a problem? The problem arises when the intake of vitamin C continues past the stage of effective detoxification of the patient. A high level of copper has been implicated in schizophrenia, and massive doses of C can cure many of these patients. Continued usage of the vitamin after the system has been detoxified, results in continued discharge of copper that is usable and critically needed for normal health. The cure in this scenario becomes the poison and all of the symptoms of toxicity will commonly manifest as a result of the artificially created deficiency.

A classic patient in the annals of our laboratory work, involved a patient with prostatic disease. He took zinc as recommended for six months, and recovered completely. Not wanting the return of the disease symptoms, he vowed to continue the intake of zinc. Six months later, the condition returned. Excessive and prolonged use of zinc supplementation depleted his copper levels, once again disturbing the critical zinc:copper ratio necessary for normal sexual hormone production. The environment necessary for prostate disease was created, and that is of course the condition which returned.

The work of Paul Eck does provide a monitoring assessment to prevent this occurrence, utilizing hair mineral assays. It is breakthrough work. It is also material for future discussion.

(Dr. Risley Sr. can be reached on the internet for comments or nutritional consultations, at:


The Eck Institute of Bio-energetics and Nutrition. Paul C. Eck., Published articles on copper. Phoenix , AZ.

Observations on the Dose and Administration of Ascorbic Acid When Employed Beyond the Range of A Vitamin in Human Pathology. Frederick Klenner, M.D., Journal of Applied Nutrition. Vol. 23, Numbers 3, 4, Winter, 1971

Vitamin C in The Treatment of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Robert F. Cathcart, M.D., Medical Hypotheses, 14 (4):423-433, August 1984