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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, November 1, 2020

C is for Cattle
How high-dose ascorbate therapy works on the farm

by Theo Farmer

(OMNS Nov 1, 2020) The vast majority of animals make their own vitamin C. This very important fact is not widely known. But once you understand the purpose of ascorbate in mammals, your life and can change significantly. Our life on our livestock farm in Oregon changed with our understanding of vitamin C and how it can be used with animals.

The purpose of this article is to provide pointers and procedures you can use to administer high dose nutrients to address acute and chronic health issues in animals (we raise cows, chickens, and hogs and use vitamin C with all of them, and it also works with pets).

Any orthomolecular practitioner is going to tell you that vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is the most important nutrient in the toolbox. Here are some dramatic cases.

Case 1: Circling Disease in a Steer

When a steer suddenly goes blind and starts walking in circles, its nervous system is shutting down and it is about to die. This is called "circling disease" and one cause is known to be listeriosis, an infection of listeria bacteria that inflames the covering of the cow brain, similar to meningitis in humans.

A couple winters after we started our farm on 160 acres in the center of Oregon, one of our steers presented with these symptoms. It was suddenly blind and walking in circles. The internet was helpful in diagnosing the problem, with circling as the primary symptom, and it also informed me that the steer was going to die without massive high-powered antibiotics. [1] And even then, it was highly likely to die after an expensive visit from the vet to get those drugs.

Our cow conditions at the time were, sadly, perfect for one of the herd to come down with listeriosis. As John Steinbeck wrote in his book Travels with Charley, "It was Sunday and it was raining and it was Oregon." [2] The cows were in our meager winter shelter, a hoop house on deep bedded, mucky straw, being fed on the ground. Picking up a pocket of food rich in listeria bacteria was likely for any of them and, although most would not be affected, any individual cow's system could be overwhelmed.

A vet visit is not generally an option on a Sunday on our remote farm, and we don't use pharmaceutical products on any animals, so such a visit would be a waste. Instead, equipped with my understanding of vitamin C as a powerful anti-inflammatory, I decided to put the steer in the barn so I could give it high doses of vitamin C, working toward one gram per pound of weight per day, an oral dose that Dr. Robert Cathcart showed will treat very serious conditions in humans. [3]

Why would oral vitamin C help an animal that makes its own vitamin C? Well, Irwin Stone and Cathcart both published and referenced highly-successful veterinary applications of IV vitamin C. [4] Reading their work helped me understand that certain infections, like distemper in dogs can increase the oxidative stress in the dog's body faster than the dog can produce vitamin C. Cathcart also was clear that vitamin C transport in the body may not be adequate to diseased areas of the body, so the local area can become depleted of ascorbate. He proposed that "localized scurvy" conditions could be present, when the infection was using ascorbate (vitamin C) faster than it could be transported. My understanding was that, under stress, a cow's ascorbate production ability can be overwhelmed by a particular disease state. In this case, maybe that was causing inflammation to the brain.

My wife and I have always observed that if a cow looks or acts sick at all, it is very close to dying. Once the ascorbate production has been overwhelmed, the cow's health will most likely spiral downward and the cow will die if something isn't done quickly.

I wasn't equipped to give IV C to this steer and at the time had limited experience giving oral vitamin C to cows. The blind steer was bumping into the walls of the stall in the old barn as it circled. I was standing in the center of the stall as it walked around me. Its neurological system was clearly in autonomic mode. Otherwise, it would never have let me handle it.

I had mixed an alfalfa pellet mash containing 500 grams (that's just over a pound) of vitamin C crystals (a pure powder) for this 1000lb animal as a starting point. Every few times around the circle, I would grab its halter, put a handful of the mash into its mouth, and stimulate its jaw to chew by massaging the sides of its jaw. Fortunately, autonomic cows will still chew and swallow. After it swallowed, I would release it and it would continue circling.

Some of our farm hands were observing my attempt to save this very sick steer. It was a one-man job, and I was handling it, so they took off for lunch. By the time they returned a couple hours later, they were stunned to see the steer's progress. The steer had recovered and was acting normal (wild again, seeing me, and not letting me touch it). It probably took about 250-300 grams (250,000-300,000 mg) of vitamin C in that mash. I kept the steer on high doses of vitamin C, feeding it hay and more mash, for a couple more days, and then let it out to pasture. It was not dead, but rather the oral vitamin C administration had taken it from a nervous system shutdown state (inflamed brain, blind, circling) back to normal within a few hours, and it was fine. I've found that once the vitamin C returns animals back to normal behavior, their internal production of ascorbate and immune system usually takes over to keep them well.

Conclusion: Ascorbate, in very high doses orally, works as a powerful anti-inflammatory for cows, just as it does in humans and other animals. [5] This is counter to the assumption in cattle science that the digestive systems of cud chewing animals destroy vitamin C that is ingested. Vitamin C administered orally to a cow can turn around serious conditions very rapidly.

We have many repeated cases using these methods with animals and humans on the farm. Cows are not great producers of vitamin C (unlike goats), and stress and chaos on the farm can put individual animals into crisis regardless of how much vitamin C they produce. The early years on our farm seemed like trial by fire. We had instances of bloat, toxic plants, acidosis shock, down cow after difficult calving. Not all were saved by high dose vitamin C, but many were.

Case 2: Downed cow preceding/following calving.

Our Jersey cow, Tinkerbelle, was accidentally bred earlier than she should have been by a few months. More than a week before her due date, she could no longer get herself up from a down position. Downed cows have a high chance of dying if they lay for more than 24-48 hours, so they must receive intensive attention to survive.

Tinkerbelle was a cow worth saving, with excellent dairy cow genetics. We administered high-dose vitamin C daily by mouth, approximately 100 grams (100,000mg) at a time, twice a day. We administered it as sodium ascorbate dissolved in water and squirted into the mouth/cheek using a 60cc syringe. She also had access to a high-dose vitamin C alfalfa mash along with alfalfa hay and grass hay. Each morning, an hour or so after her morning dose of vitamin C, she was lifted to her feet using either a cow lift or two strong farm hands. She was strong enough each day to walk freely and graze, isolated from the herd. By evening she would lie down and couldn't get up the next day. Sometimes we would find her down in the field, and would use a cow lift on the tractor to return her to her stall for the night.

We found her early one morning in her stall with her dead calf halfway out of her. We pulled the calf out the rest of the way. She was given high doses of vitamin C twice a day, and we lifted her each day. We did not milk her but worked with her for about a week until she could finally get up on her own. She recovered fully and was bred later that year and calved easily the following spring. She is now a strong, healthy cow providing milk to our farm share owners, so I consider the effort spent rehabilitating her with vitamin C therapy well worth it.

Case 3: Cow in shock from bloat

One winter night about midnight, we found Foxy, one of our favorite cows, in a pen with our seven other cows. She was laying on her side, bloated, down, and in shock. It was our first experience with bloat in cows and a cow in shock. We started by administering highly-concentrated ascorbic acid in water orally, using a 60cc syringe. Several people were helping, one was researching what to do for bloat and found that, because her lungs were at risk from the pressure, we had to deflate her to let the gasses out of her abdomen. We tried a method using a needle stuck in her side, but the gasses were not escaping quickly enough, so we used a knife and essentially stabbed her above the rumen to release the gasses. She deflated rapidly and her ability to breathe was restored. Within an hour of discovering her down, in shock, and near death, she was back up on her feet. We administered a bloat mixture of raw milk, oil, and natural detergent to stop the rumen from trapping the gasses, and that slowly took effect and her wound stopped releasing gas. We flushed the wound with a mixture of manuka honey (highly antimicrobial honey) and ascorbic acid and used superglue and zip ties to seal the wound, dressing it with manuka honey and ascorbic acid until it was healed up.

Acidosis is another condition that can cause a cow to go into shock. On our farm, we feed cows only grass and alfalfa. However, we feed pigs and chickens grain, and there have been instances where our cows have gotten into the grain. If a cow gets a large amount of grain when it is accustomed to a diet of only grass, the pH of the rumen can change quickly from basic/neutral to acid. This can create the condition called "acidosis" and the cow can go into shock and die. We had one instance of shock from acidosis. Administering high-dose vitamin C orally pulled the cow out of shock which allowed us to treat the acidosis with baking soda, also administered orally, to allow the cow to fully recover.

The rapid recovery from shock using oral administration of a very high dose of vitamin C seems to indicate that the ascorbate may travel transdermally in the mouth and salivary system of the cow directly to the head and brain area rather than going to the brain through the digestive system. Any concern about the low pH of ascorbic acid into an already acid rumen can be ignored as recovering the cow from shock is the first priority and then neutralizing the acid rumen is easy with baking soda. When a cow is not in shock but has symptoms of acidosis, we administer baking soda only. Nowadays, we simply make livestock sodium bicarbonate continuously available to the cows so they can adjust their rumen pH if needed.

Case 4: Various illness in hogs

We raise Berkshire hogs on our farm. We have raised hundreds of them and have had very few issues. Hogs with access to the outdoors, mud, grass, and nature, rarely get any illness. One winter, we had hogs root up some toxic plants (bracken fern) and the toxin in the sprouting fern ended up being fatal for a couple of the sows. There was no recovering them with vitamin C, as it was a bone marrow toxin. Other than that one winter, we have had sows get things like mastitis (I think we had one or two minor cases in 8 years). We have also had sows that are close to having their piglets develop a limp or weakness in their limbs. Fortunately, we have found that providing hogs with 1/2 gallon of soured raw milk from our dairy mixed with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of ascorbic acid twice a day invariably restores them to full health, often later that same day. It is the only "medicine" that we ever give to a hog. It is also important to note that we feed only non-GMO, soy-free and corn-free hog food and barley that is lacto-fermented in raw sour milk, which also gives them an overall health advantage.

Repeatable success

We tell other farmers about these methods and sometimes they try them. If they do them correctly, they often repeat the results. On our farm, with each season gaining experience, we have had fewer and fewer issues, even as our herd has grown from a few cows to more than forty. The last issue we had was this past spring. One of our new calves (out of a dozen) developed large lumps in each cheek that looked like the fatal disease called calf diphtheria. But with twice daily administration of high-dose vitamin C and vitamin B3, niacinamide, the lumps shrank away and were gone within a week.

Very little of the mainstream advice about how to deal with animal illness applies on our orthomolecular farm. The standard information usually involves things like vaccines, antibiotics or other pharma-industry chemicals, stuff that, when we started farming, we committed to never use. Our farm is committed to using only minerals and nutrients, and we have found that high-dose vitamin C, given orally, can work wonders for animals with the proper understanding and with persistence in administering it at least twice a day until the animal is back to normal.

Part of our quest as a farm is to document orthomolecular methods with animals, so that they can be used by farmers around the world. The most advanced health science now depends upon understanding the microbial health of our bodies and the environment. [6] Orthomolecular therapies, unlike industrial pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals, can be used on farms without disrupting the microbiome of the soils, plants, animals, and farmers, so they are critical to the future of healthy farming and healthy food.

(Theo Farmer is the author of Buttercup, Me, and Vitamin C, the first orthomolecular picture book for children. He has blogs at his websites and At you may download a pdf of the book free of charge.)


1. The Cattle Site. listeriosis.

2. Steinbeck J (1980) Travels with Charley in Search of America. Penguin Books. ISBN-13: 978-0140053203

3. Cathcart RF (1981) Vitamin C, titrating to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Med Hypotheses, 7:1359-1376.

4. Belfield WO, Stone I. (1975) Megascorbic Prophylaxis and Megascorbic Therapy: A New Orthomolecular Modality in Veterinary Medicine. J Int Acad of Preventive Med, 2:10-26.

5. Chatterjee IB, Majumder AK, Nandi BK, Subramanian N. (1975) "Synthesis And Some Major Functions Of Vitamin C In Animals." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 258 Second Confer: 24-47.

6. Integrative HMP (iHMP) Research Network Consortium (2019) The Integrative Human Microbiome Project. Nature, 569:641-648.

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