Vitamin C for Less Stress?

While vitamin C is often considered a strong immune-boosting nutrient, it may help us deal with stress better, too.

That’s because vitamin C is a required nutrient for the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are most associated with cortisol – a hormone mostly thought of as part of our “fight or flight” response during times of stress.

During those occasions when the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated, it releases vitamin C into the bloodstream as a defensive measure. A lot of this nutrient is used in this process, which means that if we’re chronically stressed, we’re probably going to be short on vitamin C as well.

This clinical study found that high dose (1,000 mg) sustained release vitamin C helped lower blood pressure levels, cortisol levels, and the perceived stress levels in individuals put through stressful tests like public speaking and solving mental arithmetic. Because the extra vitamin C was available to the body, the cortisol response and the reactivity of blood pressure could return to normal faster.


Brody S, Preut R, Schommer K, Schürmeyer TH. A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002 Jan;159(3):319-24.

Rationale: Physiological responses to stress are considered disruptive to health. High-dose ascorbic acid has reduced indices of stress in laboratory animals.

Methods: We conducted a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled 14-day trial of sustained-release ascorbic acid (60 healthy young adults; 3 x1000 mg/day Cetebe) and placebo (60 healthy young adults) for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective response to acute psychological stress (Trier Social Stress Test, TSST, consisting of public speaking and mental arithmetic). Six subjects from each group were excluded.

Results: Compared to the placebo group, the ascorbic acid group had less systolic blood pressure (an increase of 23 versus 31 mmHg), diastolic blood pressure, and subjective stress responses to the TSST; and also had faster salivary cortisol recovery (but not smaller overall cortisol response). Cortisol response to 1 microg ACTH, and reported side-effects during the trial did not differ between groups. Plasma ascorbic acid level at the end of the trial but not pre-trial was associated with reduced stress reactivity of systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and subjective stress, and with greater salivary cortisol recovery.

Conclusions: Treatment with high-dose sustained-release ascorbic acid palliates blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective response to acute psychological stress. These effects are not attributable to modification of adrenal responsiveness.