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Vitamin C Function, Properties, and Facts: Scurvy To The Common Cold

Updated on January 20, 2017

Vitamin C History

Scurvy is the oldest vitamin deficiency described in history books as early as 1500 BC. Vitamin C was also one of the first scientific experiments performed and in 1747. James Lind (British physician) tested this out. It was noticed that men who went on long voyages became extremely ill; therefore it must be a result of their diet.

The men who were given oranges and lemons ended up recovering from the effects of scurvy. It was therefore concluded that citrus fruits contained something that prevented scurvy. The unfortunate part is that it would be almost 50 years later until the British fleet would bring Lime juice with them on their journeys. This is where they received the nickname “Limeys”.

Image CC of NLM.NIH.Gov
Image CC of NLM.NIH.Gov | Source

Present Time

Vitamin C Properties

• Water soluble

• Oxidizes in light, air, heat, and is impacted by iron and copper. So try not to cook these foods in an iron or copper pot.

• Don’t leave food that is cut open exposed to the air. This causes oxidization as in browning of an apple.

• Try to boil the water then place the vegetables in for cooking. Shorten the time spent cooking as much as possible and try not to overcook vegetables.

Vitamin C Deficiencies

· Poor wound healing
· Scurvy

Scurvy symptoms are:

• bleeding, swollen gums
• lesions around the teeth, teeth fall out
• wounds fail to heal
• dry, scaly skin
muscle cramps
• swollen joints “aching bones”
• Children: failure to grow, skeletal changes “frogs leg” position


Vitamin C Function

The main function of vitamin C is Collagen formation. However there is also a belief that it helps with prevention or curing of colds. This has yet to be proven in any controlled studies or released in any legitimate peer review science journals. Although there has been one notable research that stated otherwise but most is a result of placebo effect (Douglas RM, Hemilia H (2005) Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. PLoS Med 2(6): e168.)

So why the Vitamin C Controversy?

Well besides not going into the ever pharmaceutical debate which generates billions of dollars, and with out going into the ever increasing natural medicine which also generates billions of dollars by getting you to take vitamin c and other supplements. The main debate started in 1970 by Linus Pauling. He made came up with the idea that Vitamin C might prevent or cure common cold. His theory was first released in his book “Vitamin C and the Common Cold”. He would take 18g of vitamin c a day and when he felt a cold coming would take up to 46grams a day. The recommended daily dosage is 90mg the upper level is 2000mg or 2grams. That is a huge difference. See toxicity below. It could be a result of placebo effect which is a result of histamine ( ) People take over the counter anti-histamine drugs to prevent stuffed up, running noses much like the way you take an allergy medication. Well Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine at a much smaller level and therefore works much like a drug. This helps alleviate some of the issues with a cold but does NOT cure it.

Vit C Toxicity (

Toxic levels can occur in humans with 2grams or more a day. Some of the effects from high levels could be:

• Diarrhea
• Nausea, Abdominal cramps
• Kidney stones
• Fatigue
• Rebound scurvy

It has been documented that taking extreme levels of vitamin C can actually set off the same symptoms as scurvy. So you literally give yourself scurvy by taking to much vitamin c. This is done though by extreme or mega dosing.

Do your own research and know your limits. Hope you learned something from this article? Remember you should always talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or supplements given to you. Stay healthy!


Douglas RM, Hemilia H (2005) Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. PLoS Med 2(6): e168.


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    • profile image

      laraib 6 years ago

      nice article thanks alottttttttttttt

    • Sean Evans profile image

      Sean Evans 6 years ago from GTA

      Vitamin C reference

      This is without me having to sign in to Peer reviewed online journal accounts. They all are direct reputable sources. Unlike the use of wiki. Although Wiki is getting better, believing most of Wiki is almost the same as believing a magic man that sells potions on the back of a Caravan. LOL (So disappointed you came back with Wiki)


      1. - Medline Plus (A science, trust worthy site)

      2. (Harvard)

      3. – (RD says it right there in a Q & A and you should read her references)


      Journal References

      1. Curhan GC, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ. A prospective study of the intake of vitamins C and B6, and the risk of kidney stones in men. J Urol 1996;155:1847-51 –

      2. Levine M, Rumsey SC, Daruwala R, Park JB, Wang Y. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA 1999;281:1415-23.

      3. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel; Int J Toxicol 24 (Suppl 2): 51-111 (2005).] **PEER

      REVIEWED** Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, heartburn,

      headache, flushing, dry ear/nose/throat, nose bleeds, sleep disturbances,kidney stones, tooth enamel destruction, and increased dental caries /were

      associated/ with excessive use of chewable tablets as symptoms of hypervitaminosis/acute toxicity of ascorbic acid.

      Lastly as a researcher or health promotion advocate you have to stay neutral. So using words like "may" or "could be" is because of the chance it may or may not occur to an individual or group. Such as swallowing pure alcohol will cause blindness would be incorrect. However a warning such as “Swallowing pure alcohol may lead to blindness is more scientifically correct. This is because when population studies or cohort study is performed a good percent of them were affected that makes it worth noting. Therefore there is also chance that it does not occur. As a researcher or health promoter, we can give the best advice based on the most accurate and recent knowledge that is back from proven reputable sources and that is at this time at this time is "high dosage of Vitamin C may cause Kidney stones".

      P.S Thanks for giving me something to do at work this morning. :)

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      Misleading 'factoid' #2:

      "Toxic levels can occur in humans with 2grams or more a day. Some of the effects from high levels could be:


      Kidney stones"

      Ah yes, the old canard about high dose Vitamin C and kidney stones. In contrast, here's a snippet from the Wikipedia article:

      "There is a longstanding belief among the mainstream medical community that vitamin C causes kidney stones, which is based on little science.[142]"

      Yes, I realize that Wikipedia is not God. However Wikipedia authors tend to reflect conventional wisdom on controversial matters. You may want to chase down some of the references given in that article.

      Heads up: Physicians and other people in the medical community tend to be control freaks, who are not above making stuff up when it suites their purposes. You've been had. You should be more careful about the urban legends that you choose to propagate.

      Caveat: I noticed that you used vague qualifiers, like "can occur" and "could be." However given your choice of issue-framing, it would be just as valid to suggest that high levels of ascorbate can predispose an individual to abduction by UFO aliens! In either high dose Vitamin C scenario--kidney stones or alien abduction--the evidence is far from compelling.

    • Sean Evans profile image

      Sean Evans 6 years ago from GTA

      Actually it's all pretty correct, both the history and function / properties. However I will retract the point of which he won the nobel prize. Two of the above referred to it wrongly. The rest however stands true on claims and the validity on Vitamin C, it's impact and dosage limits.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      Linus Pauling did NOT win a Nobel for his work on Vitamin C. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and a Nobel Peace Prize for his research on the health effects of nuclear testing. This hub is inaccurate and poorly written.