“You have gorgeous veins,” said the woman giving me intravenous infusions of a detoxifying antioxidant which, she said, “whitens the skin from the inside out.”
My tawny complexion should look “brighter” in the next few days, she assured me, and the various B vitamins coursing through my bloodstream would give me loads of energy.
These days, health and wellness addicts are getting their nutrient fix through IV drips, bypassing the sluggish digestive system and flooding their cells with vitamins—or so they’re told.
Pop-up IV therapy spas are now widespread in New York and L.A., with companies like Reviv and NutriDrip offering bespoke menus of vitamin transfusions that promise to boost everything from immunity to mood and libido.
Celebrities rave about the benefits of being tube-fed these detoxing and revitalizing concoctions. Rihanna, Madonna, Rita Ora, Lily Allen, and Simon Cowell are all fans.
In the spirit of Cara Delevingne and Miley Cyrus, who have Instagrammed pictures of themselves being intravenously nourished, I went to NutriDrip’s latest pop-up spa in New York’s East Village and rolled up my sleeve.
A smartly dressed man introduced himself as Alain Palinsky, “designer” of the Alchemist’s Kitchen, a new space which he describes as a “plant-based café and herbal pharmacy.” They’ve partnered with NutriDrip for the pop-up with the intention of offering their services permanently, along with a speakeasy space and other spa-like services downstairs (an infrared sauna and a cell-regenerating therapy that allegedly stems from Nikola Tesla’s research in electromagnetic fields).
Palinsky co-founded Juice Press in 2008 but left two years later, just as the juice bar was becoming a wildly successful corporate enterprise (it now has 46 locations in New York alone, along with a handful in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut).
He officially opened the Alchemist’s Kitchen, formerly home to the infamous Mars Bar, in June, transforming the space into a haven for wellness-obsessed, well-moneyed city dwellers.
There’s a tonic bar with Scandinavian-style stools, a plant wall, and a modern apothecary stocked with pricey tinctures, potions, lotions, tarot cards, recipe books, and other accoutrements for a bougie New Age lifestyle.
NutriDrip’s telescoping IV poles are stationed at the apothecary counter.
“I brought my feng shui guy here and we prayed on every wall and all that crazy stuff,” said Palinsky, a salubrious salesman with an endearing lisp. He is 34 but looks 10 years older, despite his strict adherence to a “karma diet” (no meat or animal products except raw sheep’s cheese on special occasions).
“You stop eating the animals once you start talking to them,” he chortled, showing me videos of his sister’s puppy while a NutriDrip nurse pumped my IV bag with fluorescent liquid transfusions: Glutathione (the so-called mother of all antioxidants), magnesium, theanine, vitamin C, B complex, and B12.
I had opted for “The Detoxifying Journey,” a $249 package specially designed for the pop-up.
“Reset and recharge your system with this powerful detox drip and help your body purge harmful toxins and free radicals caused by stress, chemicals, and urban pollutants,” the menu promised.
While the IV drip worked its magic, an herbalist served me a “golden glow shot” (turmeric root, lemon juice, and ginger juice) and a “spirit elixir” (blue lotus, skullcap, and lemon balm tea).
The herbalist referred to them as “state-changing elixirs” that would help me “detoxify on a cellular level, activating circulation so that whatever you’re getting through the nutrient trip will enter to the cells.” Or something.
Simon Cowell has said that you can “feel all the vitamins going through you,” and summed up IV therapy as “indescribable but very calming.” Yet more than 30 minutes into my session, I felt nothing beyond a faint metallic taste in the back of my throat, as if I had indigestion from eating too many chewables.
Apolo Ohno, the Olympic champion speed skater, has been getting vitamin IV drips “frequently since 2004,” he wrote in an email to The Daily Beast.
“When feeling run down or in need of additional recovery, the blend of B-vitamins, powerful antioxidant c, alpha-lipoic acid, and glutathione was a savior for inflammation and fatigue.”
Medical experts don’t buy it.
“I would put this under the heading of ‘scam,’” said Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney specialist and medical professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Some of these anti-hangover therapies will give you a couple of liters of fluid to rehydrate you, but there’s no rationale for giving IV vitamins,” he added. “This is an old remedy that people have been using for years.
“People have been getting vitamin B shots for decades and it’s just a placebo. They can’t point to specific studies that support any of this. You can hang it up as something that is unlikely to have any benefit because there’s no scientific proof.”
What’s more, a big dose of vitamins—like the 25,000 mg in NutriDrip’s “Super Level” detox blend—can damage the kidneys, according to Goldfarb.
Dr. Wahida Karmally, director of nutrition for the Irving Center for Clinical Research and associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center, is equally skeptical.
“There’s a place for IV nutrition for people who are very sick—who cannot eat or have some kind of bowel or digestive dysfunction—but what’s preferred is anything that goes through the gut,” Wahida told me.
“There is a synergy of nutrients in food which helps absorption and metabolism. Vitamins are co-enzymes in the metabolic process, so I don’t see the value in intravenous drips. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any, but they have to show it through research. Until then we don’t have any data to support it.
“I don’t even think people understand what they’re detoxing. What are you trying to get rid of? How are these vitamins going to replace the toxins in your body?”
As for me, I left feeling more tired than when I arrived, which a NutriDrip specialist explained was a normal side-effect for toxic people who get the detox drip. “This isn’t making you sleepy,” she said. “It’s telling you that you need sleep.”
Alas, I tell myself the same thing every day.
The Drip Alchemy pop-up is open to the public starting Sept. 9 at the Alchemist's Kitchen. Sign up for treatments at Nutridrip.com/DripBar.