Recreational IV vitamin drips are the latest wellness fad to come back to the mainstream.
Over the course of the last two months, several IV vitamin drip sessions have emerged as new offerings from upscale hospitality and spa locations. In late May, the Maui outpost of the Four Seasons launched a partnership with Next Health to offer vitamin shots and IV drips. Next came Equinox, offering vitamin IV infusions through NutriDrip starting in early June at its Hudson Yards hotel. Local outposts are also popping up across the U.S., including Houston and San Antonio, Texas. as well as Independence, Ohio. These treatments purport to help with issues like vitality, fitness or hangover recovery, as well as detoxification. But aside from their supposed benefits, people are turning to them as part of a larger trend toward high-performance wellness treatments that focus on optimization.
“It’s something that we see comes in waves, like a new fad diet. With that said, you can’t get over how commonly it’s done,” said Dr. Ken Fujioka, M.D. and president of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists. “If you’re a healthy person, there is zero reason for you to need to do an IV vitamin drip.”
Though Fujioka could not say for sure why vitamin IV drips are as popular as they are, he pointed out that he has seen many “unsubstantiated” claims that providers use to market their products. For example, Equinox uses phrases like IV vitamin drips will over time offer benefits like a “clean and detoxified liver” or “strengthened immune system.” Fujioka also pointed to a “cool factor” that people associate with receiving these treatments, as well as a placebo effect. Fujioka said the materials, such as IV drip bags, and the vitamins themselves are relatively inexpensive but recreational therapies will mark up the cost.
Equinox is heavily playing up the cool factor. Lounging by the poolside at its Equinox Hudson Yards rooftop, gym members can receive approximately 1-hour-long drip treatments that range in price from $120-$600. Equinox had previously begun to offer vitamin drips in February 2020 at its East 74th Street location, but had to briefly stop between 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. The service has reopened at Equinox Hudson Yards, for people to undertake while sitting poolside on the rooftop. Equinox Hudson Yards partnered with IV vitamin drip company NutriDrip to offer 14 base vitamin drip options with additional 16 boosters like B12 and vitamin C to add to the vitamin bases.
“It’s really about optimization and getting the most for your time. It’s doing the things that are going to impact your health and wellness or get you toward your fitness goals,” said James Gu, director of The Spa at Equinox Hudson Yards. “These drip therapies are meant more as a boost that will drive a specific outcome at the moment and not so much part of your normal nutrition regimen.”
Gu said Equinox does plan to expand the service to multiple locations, but declined to elaborate. He said Equinox members are attracted to concept of high-performance, which leads them to want to do IV vitamin drips. Additionally, the concept of customization has taken hold of the beauty, wellness and fitness industries, and clients are looking for tailored health experiences.
“With multivitamins, you are taking the same thing every day, and it’s not necessarily tailored to your specific needs at that time,” he said.
There are limits to the customization, of course. Equinox does not test people before treatments to determine if they have any vitamin deficiencies, for example. Equinox, NutriDrip and NutriDrip owner Clean Market also all point to the bioavailability of IV drips, compared to oral supplements, as a reason why IV drips are superior. Although the body may be able to absorb more from a drip than a capsule, there are also limitations. Certain vitamins, like vitamin C and biotin (B7), are not stored in the body, meaning they are excreted through urine once the body absorbs enough. Other vitamins, like vitamin K, are stored in organs like the liver but can build up to toxic levels if too much is taken.
Fujioka said the danger to healthy people is uncertain, with medical literature pointing to a range of less than 1% of people experiencing an adverse reaction — which could be a rash, feeling poorly or even death — all the way up to 10%. Because these treatments are supplements, they are not tracked or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Fujioka pointed out that people who do have chronic vitamin deficiencies can go to medical infusion centers as prescribed by their physician, rather than resort to recreational therapies.
“I would advise against it. When you’re putting something directly into the blood, all bets are off as to what can happen,” he said. “There’s no real benefit that we know people are getting. There’s only risk.”
Nutritionists and physicians argue that nearly all vitamins and minerals can be obtained through a well-balanced diet, but there is also evidence of a lack of well-balanced American diets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average healthy eating score for Americans in 2015 was 58 out of 100, indicating that the average diet of Americans does not align with dietary recommendations. Furthermore, the nutrients available in current food sources are lower than in previous decades. Equinox, NutriDrip and Clean Market all mention the lack of obtaining all nutrients through diet as a reason to use their offerings, in both interviews and marketing materials.
“Many of our customers are coming to us to address nutritional gaps through IV nutrient therapy to unlock energy and overall wellbeing,” said Lily Kunin, co-founder of wellness spa and store Clean Market. “The commonality [of customers] is that they are living a very fast-paced lifestyle. People are becoming more educated on their own health data and have more access to that health data than ever before. We’re seeing a lot more customers because it’s allowing them to select specific treatments that will support their individual health.”
Clean Market opened in 2018 and has multiple New York City locations, as well as an outpost in Las Vegas where it offers a unique $1,000 vitamin infusion IV treatment. In addition to 14 signature IV vitamin treatments for $100-$695, Clean Market offers cryotherapy and infrared sauna sessions. Clean Market also has memberships that cost $95 per month or $995 annually, and offer 20% off IV treatments, among other benefits.
Kunin said specifically that, more than ever, people are asking for NAD+ and glutathione IV treatments. Both NAD+, standing for the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, and glutathione are important to cellular health and longevity, and Kunin said people are using these treatments as a form of internal anti-aging. NAD+ IV supplementation was recently promoted by Kendall Jenner, who remarked in an episode of “The Kardashians” that the infusion experience comforts her and helps her simply because it makes her happy.
“When I talk about fast-paced, I also [include] the modern stressors that we have in everyday life that didn’t exist hundreds of years ago,” said Kunin. “These treatments have helped me personally stand up to the New York City lifestyle.”