A small but growing number of Canadians have found a new way to take their daily vitamins -- through an intravenous drip.

Most people who take vitamins to boost their health or stave off diseases usually swallow a combination of pills or tablets containing vitamins B, C or D. But proponents of IV vitamin therapy say getting their vitamin fix through an infusion directly into their bloodstream gives them a higher dose and better results.

Matthew George, a busy 30-year-old entrepreneur who frequently travels for his work, goes to a Toronto clinic for his vitamin "pick me up" -- a cocktail of vitamins and minerals delivered intravenously.

"I started to take them more often and then I kind of got hooked, I guess you could say it that way," he said.

The so-called "vitamin drips" have been touted as a way of delivering nutrients to help patients fight diseases, cope with stress or just simply stay healthy.

Fans of the therapy claim it can be used as a preventive measure against aging, or to improve performance at sports, or to create a greater sense of well being.

Tim Gallant said he started getting regular infusions to speed the healing of a stubborn burn.

"Two days in I started to feel a lot better. My energy levels were up and I started thinking about what was different and it was vitamin IV," Gallant said.

The vitamin IV is a trend that started in Asia, spread to California and is now increasingly being offered in Canada.

In Vancouver, Tanya Robertson is a convert. She's been going to a local clinic every month for more than three years for her vitamin drip.

"The next day in the morning I feel great, I feel a huge amount of energy."

IV delivers vitamins faster, experts say

Naturopathic practitioners like John Dempster say vitamins in pill form have to be digested, distributing the nutrients and active ingredients through the digestive system.

That means not all of them get absorbed by the body.

"(Vitamin infusions are) fast. It's direct delivery, it goes directly into the bloodstream and you bypass intestinal absorption."

In medical circles it's called parenteral nutrition -- some studies suggest direct doses of some nutrients can help fight some diseases and nutritional deficiencies.

But some doctors call this increasingly popular therapy "quackery."

Others, like Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto's Department of Nutritional Sciences, see no real benefits from the direct-to-the-bloodstream vitamins. But he also doesn't see the harm in it either.

"It's no substitution for a healthy lifestyle," he said. "But if it has some advantage because people sit there and they feel psychologically and spiritually better and then they go out and practice healthier practices, well then who knows? This could have been a useful placebo effect."

Dempster said each patient's "cocktail" is mixed according to blood tests that show what vitamins and nutrients their body is lacking.

"Infusions can include the usual Vitamin C, D, B6 and B12 … along with other nutrients like Coenzyme Q10, Glutamine and Glutathione."

The cost runs from $30 to $100 dollars per treatment and Dempster says he's seen plenty of anecdotal and clinical evidence that it works. "It's effective, it works well, it is safe and it helps people recover quick compared to regular vitamin therapy."

His clinic has treated patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other diseases where fatigue becomes pervasive.

Justin Lafreniere, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Vancouver, would like to see more mainstream medical research looking at the benefits of intravenous vitamin therapy.

"From a clinical point of view I do see an improvement in some patients, but not all," he said. "Definitely I would love to see more research on it."

With a report by CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro