We asked doctors for the truth behind the IV drip boom. From drop-in bars in shopping centres to bespoke IV infusions, there are IVs promising to treat everything from hangovers to colds and flu
It's hard to believe an intravenous cannula could be 2022's wellness accessory. But with a fan club including Adele, Chrissy Teigen, the Kardashians, Harry Styles and Jane Fonda, IV drips are fast becoming one of the most sought-after services. Devotees are praising their abilities to reboot energy levels, bust hangovers and boost immune systems – and we're not just talking private clinic treatments in Hollywood and Harley Street.
Images: Instagram @chrissyteigen & @harrystyles
Whether it's a walk-in 'drip bar' in Westfield shopping centre or a pop-up at Glastonbury festival, IV vitamin therapy services are being dished out everywhere. One of the market leaders in express outlets, Reviv, has 70 sites around the world. Another – Get A Drip – has seven in the UK and more scheduled to open later this year.
There's even the option to receive an IV drop at home – remote booking app Ruuby saw a 300 per cent surge in bookings for the service post-lockdown. For advocates, it seems it's becoming as much a part of their monthly beauty and wellness routine as a mani or a wax.
It's easy to see the appeal; IV infusions bypass your digestive system, delivering a cocktail of vitamins and minerals straight into the bloodstream, compared to oral supplements of which only around 20 per cent is thought to be absorbed. Energy-boosting vitamin B12 drips are one of the most popular along with mixtures spiked with vitamin C, the IV drip glutathione (the body’s 'master antioxidant') and even anti-ageing NAD+ (the latest buzzword in biohacking that deals with cell repair).
But are any perceived effects merely a result of our bodies getting a big old glug of hydration via the saline solution these drips are delivered in? And is mainlining vitamins in the middle of a shopping centre actually safe? We examine the science behind IV vitamin therapy and ask leading doctors to weigh in.
What are IV vitamin drips and what are the benefits?
The IV drip apparatus used for wellness purposes is much the same as that used in hospital settings. A small catheter is inserted into a vein in your forearm via a needle and hooked up to a bag of solution infused with targeted vitamins and minerals at the other end.
The premise is that they can top up anything your body's lacking, if you’re deficient or have been ill – in a similar way to oral supplements but more quickly and directly with treatments taking around 45 minutes. The results from some cocktails, such as those designed to increase energy, are said to be expected immediately after the treatment and last several days.
Image: Get A Drip
Dr Sohère Roked , a GP and integrative medicine and hormone doctor who offers IV drips from the Omniya clinic in London's Knightsbridge, says her patients experience noticeable improvements in their energy levels and immune system after the treatment.
"I don’t believe IV drips are a substitute for oral supplements , and they're not my first line of treatment, but I do feel they have a place. They can be useful with some of my patients in specific circumstances. This could be a proven vitamin deficiency found following testing; after a period of ill health, such as viruses or Covid; or for a boost post-travel when suffering jet lag or fatigue.
"I use them on a case-by-case basis and discuss the evidence base with my patients first. There have been no clinical trials so far showing the benefits of vitamin drips however there is good evidence to support iron infusions and B12 shots, in instances where someone has a proven deficiency," Dr Sohère explains.
And as for whether an IV drip can cure a hangover? While many (like The Hangover Club's 'drip lounges' in New York and Las Vegas) promise to help you recover faster, they're not the quick fix you might dream of.
"We have found our drips to be increasingly popular with party lovers but rehydrating with IV fluids won't necessarily cure a hangover. It can help lessen the effects that dehydration has on the body but that is only one element of the unwell feeling you get after excessive alcohol consumption," says Rebecca Baird, head nurse at Lanserhof at The Arts Club in London's Mayfair which offers an IV service including custom-mixed drips, from £400.
Where can you get an IV vitamin drip?
You can book in for IV therapy at some of the most esteemed aesthetic and wellness clinics including Dr Maryam Zamani in Chelsea, from £400, and Dr MediSpa in Knightsbridge, Marylebone and Essex, from £250. Here, the clinics' chief medical officer Dr Munir Somji recommends combining a drip with a Biomat treatment that involves lying on an infrared pad to support digestion, immunity and stress recovery.
At the other end of the spectrum is the 'drop-in' Get A Drip, situated in the slightly less swanky surrounds of Box Park Shoreditch, London Westfield and Canary Wharf shopping centres (although it does offer mobile services within the M25, too).
Image: Get A Drip
Founded by Richard Chambers in 2017, the idea stemmed from his experience coming in and out of hospital, suffering from a compromised immune system due to Type 1 diabetes. Having credited IV drips as a major factor in his recovery, he wanted to create a way of making them accessible to everyone.
While the company encourages its customers to book ahead of time, walk-in appointments are available. For both, customers have to complete a questionnaire, asking about their medical history and current medication, along with blood pressure, pulse, temperature and oxygen saturation tests.
If pre-booking, there's the option to have a DNA test first, done via cheek swab and costing either £399 or £649 depending on the vitamins you want to be tested for. This includes a report of your results via email after four weeks, a 30-minute consultation with one of the company's GMC-registered doctors to discuss the results, and a drip recommendation which can include a drip from the existing menu or a custom-made mixture.
Rav Chaggar, resident pharmacist for Get A Drip, says that, when it comes to finding out exactly how your body responds and metabolises certain nutrients, DNA testing is "more effective" than blood testing (although the company does offer that service, too).
The cheapest drip on Get A Drip's menu? A 45-minute basic hydration treatment, £75, that delivers sodium chloride, bicarbonate, calcium and potassium. Considering they're the same ingredients you'd find in a sachet of rehydration salts, it sounds like a pretty expensive alternative to a glass of electrolyte water...
But, Rav tells us, the drips are designed to supplement and enhance a healthy diet and usual hydration – not replace them. He says the hydration infusions can be used as 'rehydration support' (alongside drinking water) for people who are feeling particularly dehydrated or nauseous: for example, after a bout of illness, or strenuous exercise. They can also have additional vitamin and mineral ‘bolt-ons,' from £30 each, with the most popular including vitamin B12, zinc , and vitamin C.
Who can administer an IV vitamin infusion?
Up until February 2022, the IV therapy industry was unregulated however providers must now be registered with the Care Quality Commission . This requires them to meet certain standards relating to safety, ethics and patient care. If you're receiving an IV drip in a clinic, you'll be seen by one of the doctors or head nurses. Get A Drip also only uses registered doctors, nurses, pharmacists and nutritionists and says its team has more than 100 years combined medical experience in the NHS. Its IV nutrients are sourced from pharmacies with GMP (Good Manufacturing Processes) certificates, prepared aseptically in a ‘clean room laboratory’ and rigorously tested "to ensure their absolute quality and safety."
Despite the recent legislation, some doctors remain unconvinced including Dr Sam Brown, GP and co-founder The Bronte Clinic, a women's wellness clinic in Chelsea.
"Unless you have an illness that affects absorption of vitamins, you can usually get everything you need from a healthy well-balanced diet and sensible supplements as needed.
"In my medical practice, we can correct vitamin deficiencies in lots of different ways such as with diet, oral tablets and, in the case of vitamin B12, injections," Dr Brown comments.
Which are the best IV drips to choose?
Most IV drip services offer a menu of different options but these are some of the most in-demand:
The energy-booster: vitamin B12 drip
Simon Cowell is a fan of this particular drip and was even rumoured to have had one in his X Factor dressing room. Health and beauty expert Nadine Baggott is another B12 fan, receiving her treatment via injections. After finding it difficult to grow the hair at the front of her head, she had a blood test at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic which showed she was deficient in vitamin B12 and folate. Since B12 is found in many animal products, vegetarians and vegans are often deficient. While Nadine doesn't eat red meat, she does have plenty of fish, eggs and chicken in her diet so was surprised at her results.
Following her test, she saw Dr Wassim Taktouk for a course of six B12 shots over a fortnight which she documented on her YouTube channel. Along with a dramatic reduction in her tiredness and low mood, she also noticed her regrowth coming through stronger with less hair loss and breakage.
The all-rounder: Myers' Cocktail drip
This famous concoction is one of the original IV drips, having been created by physician John Myers in the 1950s. Variations are still hugely popular – usually comprising a bright yellow mixture that's often dubbed a 'banana bag' by those in-the-know.
"I try to avoid giving blanket recommendations but the Myers' cocktail is a good general booster, which has vitamin C, Bs, magnesium and calcium, and has been reported to help with issues such as asthma, migraines, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia," comments Dr Sohère.
The longevity booster: NAD+ drip
NAD+, short for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is already causing a buzz in the supplement sphere so it's no surprise it's becoming a must-book for drip lovers, too, including Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber who were shown having the treatment in an episode of The Kardashians earlier this year. Found in all cells of our body, this natural chemical is linked to energy and alertness. NAD also helps our body to repair itself quicker but our levels decline with age.
Biohacker Davinia Taylor is another fan of drips containing NAD+, receiving hers from GP Dr Enayat of London health clinic Hum2n . Typically taking three hours to infuse – and costing £1295 for three treatments – they're said to give a sustained high and clarity of mind.
The 'master antioxidant' drip
One of the most popular forms of IV therapy is a glutathione drip, because it's the body's 'master antioxidant and the molecule is generally tricky to absorb in supplement form. "Its ability to protect the body against free radical damage is what sets it apart," explains nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shaughnessy . It aids the removal of toxins and heavy metals via the liver to support its detoxification process, boosts immunity, and is also a valuable mood-booster thanks to its role in serotonin and dopamine production. It's naturally found in our cells, but as we get older, levels decrease.
What's more, it is harder than most supplements to absorb via the conventional route."The molecule is easily broken down in the digestive tract so most of it will be destroyed in the gut when taken orally, unless it's in the form of liposomal glutathione. This is protected by small fatty bubbles which help transport it into cells and bypass the digestive juices," says Emma Beswick, nutritional therapist and founder of Lifecode Gx DNA tests. Try Altrient Liposomal Glutathione , £89.99 for 30 sachets.
Plastic surgeon Dr Yannis Alexandrides offers a glutathione booster at his 111 Harley St clinic, that can be included with any other IV drip vitamins, promising to brighten, clarify and nourish skin and hair.
Some practices market glutathione drips for skin lightening and to tackle pigmentation although there is limited evidence to support this.
Is IV therapy safe?
Most companies offering IV drips say side effects are rare however there have been reports of related incidents. In 2018, Kendall Jenner was said to have been hospitalised after a 'bad reaction' to one and in 2020, a 63-year-old woman died after receiving an intravenous vitamin drip at home although police were treating her death as 'unexplained.'
Dr Brown warns of some possible risks. "Any time a line is inserted into a vein, infection at the site, inflammation of the vein and an air embolus can all occur and can be serious. It's also possible to have too much of certain vitamins so this needs careful monitoring by a healthcare professional. If the infusion is not managed safely, there is also the potential for fluid overload and electrolyte imbalance.
"I would advise anyone to consult their doctor first but certainly people with heart or kidney disease should avoid unnecessary infusion and if you are on any tablets, it would not be advisable," she tells us.
Dr Sohère also advises researching the brand of infusion being used in your treatment – in the Omniya clinic, she uses IntraVita.
The bottom line
It might be dividing some of the most esteemed doctors but one thing's for sure, IV drip therapy is here to stay – and not just in Celebsville. Demand is high – as is supply – with the number of providers set to keep on sky-rocketing. And as bizarre as the 'shop 'til you drop... then drip' concept sounds, high street 'drip bars' are offering a service not dissimilar to that of Harley Street's slickest clinics. Both boast doctors at the helm, top-notch testing and the option for custom-mixed infusions. Since drips are best suited as a luxe 'add-on' rather than a 'silver bullet' solution, though, it's worth bearing in mind you'll receive a more comprehensive treatment plan when taking the clinic route.
As for whether infusions are truly worth the cash: they can be beneficial in some instances – a quick fix for jet lag ahead of an important meeting if you've landed on a red-eye; if you're someone who can never remember to pop a supplement; or if you have a specific deficiency such as vitamin B12. But (brace yourself) it's the boring advice that reigns supreme, really. Following a healthy diet and looking after your gut health should ensure your body's receiving – and absorbing – what it truly needs. No cannula required.
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