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Vitamin Drip Therapy Promises a Wellness Boost. But Does It Work?

In recent years, IV therapy has become a popular cure-all for everything from the flu to fatigue to hangovers.

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I’m sitting in a quiet, dimly lit, spa-like room, relaxing in a leather chair, listening to soothing chill-out music through my headphones. Next to me, a tall, silver IV pole dangles a bag filled with a golden-colored mix of vitamins and nutrients, which slowly drips into my arm via a thin tube.

I hate needles, so why am I doing this?

I’d driven into Ketchum, Idaho, the afternoon before for a short, much-needed vacation. I was tired and cranky—and not just from the journey. The past two years have been difficult to say the least. In addition to the pandemic, my father passed away, my mom began to deteriorate, and I moved to a new state. A few months  later, the company I work for was acquired by another, leaving me uncertain about my job. Sagging under the weight of stress and exhaustion, I booked a session of IV therapy at Elevated Hydration.

In recent years, IV therapy has become a popular cure-all for everything from the flu to fatigue to hangovers. A health-editor friend of mine had told me about NAD+ infusions—a new type of IV drip popping up in trendy wellness destinations such as Sun Valley, Idaho (Ketchum is just down the road). The therapy promises to boost energy, repair cells, and enhance cognition. Even better: There’s some legit science behind it. I figured it might be just what I needed to feel like a normal human again.

See also: 7 Signs Your Missing Some Key Vitamins

What Is NAD+?

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a coenzyme, or “helper” molecule that binds to other enzymes to help regulate cellular function at a molecular level. It’s found in all living cells, and it plays a vital role in energy metabolism and helping mitochondria—the powerhouses of our cells—convert food and oxygen into energy. Appropriate levels of NAD+ are critical to supporting the body’s response to stress, age-related memory loss, and weight maintenance. The molecule also enhances strength and endurance.

As we age, our natural levels of NAD+ taper off, which contributes to a number of chronic health conditions, including metabolic disease and cognitive decline. Research suggests that supplementing with NAD+ may help counter this downswing. NAD+ IV therapy gets the molecule into your bloodstream quickly, where it can be fully absorbed. (Digestion minimizes the absorption of oral supplements.)

Infused with Energy

After filling out a health-condition form and signing a waiver acknowledging the risks of IV therapy (soreness, bruising, nausea, flushing, and tightness in the head or chest), I watched Ryland Mauck-Duff, BSN, RN, and CEO of Elevated Hydration, prepare my infusion and search for a vein.

The IV drip Mauck-Duff prepared is formulated with a multivitamin base known as the Myers Cocktail, a mix of vitamins, nutrients, sodium chloride, and sterile water that promises to enhance my immune system, reduce fatigue, and boost my metabolism. The blend includes a vitamin B complex (B vitamins are critical for producing energy and keeping the nervous system healthy), vitamin C to protect against immune-system deficiencies, calcium to control blood pressure, magnesium for calcium absorption, plus zinc, copper, and chromium.

As the solution drips into my arm, I immediately feel a tightness in my chest—almost like an anxiety attack. This isn’t uncommon, Mauck-Duff says. If NAD+ is infused too quickly, it can cause chest tightness, mild head pressure, and muscle cramping—side effects thought to be related to blood vessel dilation. He slows the drip and the sensation disappears immediately.

My infusion took about 90 minutes. I didn’t feel any different initially, but later in the day I was more energized, focused, and productive. I took a yoga class that afternoon, then explored almost every block of downtown Ketchum, shopping for crystals at the Crystal Healing Room, fueling up with a fresh organic smoothie from 5B Fruit, and even hiking out to Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs for a soak in one of the naturally heated geothermal pools.

More importantly, I slept like a baby that night. For the next few days my energy levels were stronger than usual. When my dogs woke me at 5:19 a.m., I didn’t have to drag myself out of the bed, and I was unusually productive in the mornings.

Was it a placebo effect? The research is still light on the effectiveness of this treatment, but one small study found that people who received a 750 mg dose of NAD+ (the dose is commonly used in clinics that offer the infusions) had increased NAD+ levels in their blood up to six hours later.

Should You Try It?

Mauck-Duff tells me that his clients report definite benefits—increased energy, stamina, mental clarity, and sleep—from the suggested protocol of getting four NAD+ drips over the course of a couple of weeks, followed by maintenance drips every month or two.

People with major health conditions such as heart problems or cancer shouldn’t have any kind of infusion without their doctor’s blessing. But if you’re generally healthy and looking to try it, Mauck-Duff suggests visiting a health-focused clinic where IVs are administered by a registered nurse and overseen by a medical director (an MD or NP). Avoid the drip lounges geared toward helping hangovers. NAD+ clinics tend to be more advanced and have an established protocol.

The infusions aren’t cheap—they start at around $100 and can go up from there—and insurance doesn’t cover them. For that reason alone, regular NAD+ infusions aren’t in the cards for me, but I would definitely try it again the next time I’m navigating a lot of stress and in need of a major boost.

See also: What’s the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins?