What seemed like a fad when the Kardashians and other Hollywood celebrities were indulging in it, has turned out to be a billion-dollar business. The Indian intravenous solution market was valued at Rs. 170 crore in 2022 and is expected to increase by 5.8% in the next five years from 2023-2028, according to a report by global market research advisor, International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group (IMARC). Faster response time and higher efficacy have made the IV drip the go-to treatment for not only meeting nutritional needs, but also as a beauty treatment and a hangover cure, no less.
So, what is the IV drip treatment?
Simply put, IV vitamin therapy delivers nutrients through a needle inserted into your vein. It ensures that your body receives all the nutrients that might not be replenished naturally or through diet.
“IV treatments hinge around vitamins like vitamin B complex, vitamin C and glutathione for skin lightening. It can also be used for immunity enhancement with (IV) cocktails that have minerals like magnesium and zinc apart from vitamins,” explains Dr. Aparna Santhanam, consulting dermatologist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mahim, Mumbai. Receiving nutrients and vitamins through an IV means that they are delivered straight to the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system, and hence, the treatment is sometimes considered a better route of administration over oral medication. “People who want instant results often opt for IV therapies as getting an IV drip makes sure that you are receiving much-needed nutrients quicker and more efficiently,” says Dr. Santhanam.
Take your pick from hydration IVs to glow drips
There are several kinds of drips available in the market today, the most popular ones being hydration IVs, which rapidly deliver fluids and electrolytes to relieve one of dehydration symptoms. Then there are nutrient IV drips that rapidly deliver essential antioxidants and vitamins into the bloodstream, especially for those who are recovering from an illness. As for glow and anti-ageing, there are glutathione drips that are said to lighten skin and are hugely popular amongst celebrities.
Potenza Wellness, an advanced wellness clinic in Delhi NCR, has recently tied up with Elixir Wellness to include IV therapy in their repertoire of services due to their clients’ repeated requests. “IV infusion is gaining traction as a profound wellness treatment, following on from its overwhelming success in the West”, shares Dr. Jaya Pathak, chief dermatologist and medical director at Potenza Wellness in Delhi NCR. Potenza in the last couple of years has seen a 95% return rate of their clients for regular IV therapies.
So, do these therapies work?
According to Dr. Pathak, post an IV infusion, people feel more active with an increase in energy levels, sleep better, and find a difference in the hydration of the skin. 32-year-old influencer Surbhi Agarwal (@mum_in_vogue) from Gurugram swears by IV therapy.
“I was impressed by its exceptional effectiveness in addressing my hydration needs. The direct infusion of fluids through the IV drip not only revitalized my sense of strength but also contributed to an overall feeling of well-being,” she says. The ‘impact of personalized healthcare interventions that have a tangible impact on our individual health and vitality’ is what influences Agarwal to resort to IV therapy. Dr. Santhanam says, “One feels a sense of instant wellness right after the treatment. With regard to skincare IVs, some of the glow and brightening effects tend to last for at least 2 to 3 months.”
Having said that, it is important to note that IV therapy is not a permanent solution, and drips need to be taken at regular intervals as prescribed by medical professionals to maintain the same level of well-being.
Who can and cannot try IV therapy?
“People who have vitamin deficiencies and lowered immunity are immediate candidates. In the aesthetic space, those needing instant glow and brightening are good candidates, they can opt for this therapy along with existing treatments like lasers and peels,” says Dr. Santhanam. As is the case with most modern treatments, it is not for everyone: children below 18 years of age and pregnant women are not advised nutritional IV therapies. While it may be getting popular, not everyone is in favour of the IV drip treatment either.
Lifestyle specialist, Dr. Akshat Chadha who has his clinic in Navi Mumbai doesn’t consider nutritional IV as the need of the hour. “No one should be suggested IV therapy unless there's a medically diagnosed reason—like an illness that severely interferes with nutrient absorption—and the final dosage must be decided depending on the diagnosis and the patient's body composition,” he stresses. He further emphasizes that the prescription of IV drips must be made by medical professionals only and the infusion must be administered by qualified technicians only under the supervision of doctors.
Are IVs painful?
The short answer is ‘ No’ but some precautions are to be taken. “Though the treatment is very comfortable, we advise the treatment should not be taken on an empty stomach, and the client needs to eat before the IV session,” says
Dr. Pathak. Dr. Santhanam agrees. “It hurts only as much as any IV injection, but it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions after the IV session and understand that you must take it only under the supervision of a registered medical professional,” she warns.
What then are the risks associated with IV treatment?
According to Dr. Chadha, the simple fact that it is an invasive procedure increases the chances of infection and—albeit rarely—might also at times, lead to blood clots, air embolisms, irritation, and inflammation of the veins. “Sometimes getting ‘too much’ of a specific nutrient can also increase the chances of side effects. Patients with conditions of the heart, kidney, or blood pressure can be at risk of fluid overload. Even generally, excess levels of vitamins and minerals can be harder on the organs and are better avoided,” Chadha explains. A better alternative according to him is incorporating lifestyle changes which include nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, stress and addiction management, and oral medications which trump the IV therapy in the long run as long-term benefits of these IVs are questionable. “Though there is a school of thought that believes IV drips may not always be necessary, under supervision, there are no major contraindications to taking these infusions,” signs off Dr. Santhanam.
Aditi Sarawagi is an independent writer who writes on wellness, travel and food.