Vitamin C is not a newly discovered vitamin, but was one of the first ever identified. If you are one of those people that just hate taking vitamins, and you were for some reason willing to take only one, vitamin C would be your best choice. Vitamin C would be the clear winner because it helps enormously with any infection and in invaluable in tissue healing and rebuilding collagen. If I was going on a long trip and didn't want to pack a lot of weight, my first choice would be to insure three to six grams of vitamin C for daily use when I was healthy (I'd take the optimum dose--ten grams a day--if weight were no limitation). I'd also carry enough extra C to really beef up my intake when dealing with an unexpected acute illness or accident.

When traveling to far away places, exposed to a whole new batch of organisms, frequently having difficulty finding healthy foods, going through time zones, losing nights of sleep, it is easy to become enervated enough to catch a local cold or flu. If I have brought lots of extra vitamin C with me I know that my immune system will be able to conquer just about anything--as long as I also stop eating and can take an enema. I also like to have vitamin C as a part of my first aid kit because if I experience a laceration, a sprain, broken bone, or a burn, I can increase my internal intake as well as apply it liberally directly on the damaged skin surface. Vitamin C can be put directly in the eye in a dilute solution with distilled water for infections and injuries, in the ear for ear infections, and in the nose for sinus infections. If you are using the acid form of C (ascorbic acid) and it smarts too much, make a more dilute solution, or switch to the alkaline form of C (calcium ascorbate) which can be used as a much more concentrated solution without a stinging sensation. Applied directly on the skin C in solution makes a very effective substitute for sun screen. It doesn't filter out ultraviolet, it beefs up the skin to better deal with the insult.

I believe vitamin C can deal with a raging infection such as pneumonia as well or better than antibiotics. But to do that, C is going to have to be administered at the maximum dose the body can process. This is easily discoverable by a 'bowel tolerance test' which basically means you keep taking two or three grams of C each hour, (preferably in the powdered, most rapidly assimilable form) until you get a runny stool (the trots). The loose stool happens when there is so much C entering the small intestine that it is not all absorbed, but is instead, passed through to the large intestine. At that point cut back just enough that the stool is only a little loose, not runny. At this dose, your blood stream will be as saturated by vitamin C as you can achieve by oral ingestion.

It can make an important difference which type of vitamin C is taken because many people are unable to tolerate the acid form of C beyond 8 or 10 grams a day, but they can achieve a therapeutic dose without discomfort with the alkaline (buffered) vitamin C products such as calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, or magnesium-potassium ascorbates.

Vitamin C also speeds up the healing of internal tissues and damaged connective tissue. Damaged internal tissues might include stomach ulcers (use the alkaline form of vitamin C only), bladder and kidney infections (acid form usually best), arthritic disorders with damage to joints and connective tissue (alkaline form usually best). Sports injuries heal up a lot faster with a therapeutic dose of vitamin C. As medicine, vitamin C should be taken at the rate of one or two grams every two hours (depending on the severity of the condition), spaced out to avoid unnecessary losses in the urine which happens if it were taken ten grams at a time. If you regularly use the acid form of vitamin C powder, which is the cheapest, be sure to use a straw and dissolve it in water or juice so that the acid does not dissolve the enamel on your teeth over time.

And this is as good a point as any to mention that just like broccoli is not broccoli, a vitamin is not necessarily a vitamin. Vitamins are made by chemical and pharmaceutical companies. To make this confusion even more interesting, the business names that appear on vitamin bottles are not the real manufacturers. Bronson's Pharmaceuticals is a distributor and marketer, not a manufacturer. The same is true of every vitamin company I know of. These companies buy bulk product by the barrel or sack; then encapsulate, blend and roll pills, bottle and label, advertise and make profit. The point of all this is that some actual vitamin manufacturers produce very high quality products and others shortcut. Vitamin distributors must make ethical (or unethical) choices about their suppliers.

It is beyond the scope of this book to be a manual for going into the vitamin business. However, there are big differences in how effective vitamins with the same chemical name are and the differences hinge on who actually brewed them up.

For example, there are at least two quality levels of vitamin C on the market right now. The pharmaceutical grade is made by Roche or BASF. Another form, it could be called "the bargain barrel brew," is made in China. Top quality vitamin C is quite a bit more costly; as I write this, the price differential is about 40 percent between the cheap stuff and the best. This can make a big difference in bottle price and profit. Most of the discount retail vitamin companies use the Chinese product.

There's more than a price difference. The vitamin C from China contains measurable levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, iron and other toxic metals. The FDA allows this slightly contaminated product to be sold in the US because the Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin C is a mere 60 milligrams per day. Taken at that level, the toxic metals would, as the FDA sees it, do no harm. However, many users of vitamin C take 100 -200 times the RDA. The cheap form of C would expose them to potentially toxic levels of heavy metal poisons. The highly refined top-quality product removes impurities to a virtually undetectable level.

I buy my C from Bronson who ethically gives me the quality stuff. I know for a fact that the vitamin C sold by Prolongevity is also top quality. I've had clients who bought cheaper C than Bronson's and discovered it was not quite like Bronson's in appearance or taste. More importantly, it did not seem to have the same therapeutic effect.

The distributors I've mentioned so far, Bronson, NOW, Cooper, Prolongevity and Vitamin Research Products are all knowledgeable about differences between actual manufacturers and are ethical, buying and reselling only high quality products. Other distributors I believe to be reputable include Twin Labs, Schiff and Plus. I know there are many other distributors with high ethic levels but I can not evaluate all their product lines. And as I've mentioned earlier, businesses come and go rather quickly, but I hope my book will be read for decades. I do know that I would be very reluctant to buy my vitamins at a discount department store or supermarket; when experimenting with new suppliers I have at times been severely disappointed.