Quick & Easy Alternative ——— Immune-Boosting Hot Brew

Before the winter ends, I thought you might like to read about a cost-savings tip hopefully useful year-long.  I came upon it by chance.  The difference in price between a home-made vs. packaged product is substantial; but either way, the health advantage is worth consideration.

I sought a quick hot drink one evening, but didn’t want caffeine or sugar.  I stock plenty of herbal and decaf teas in the house, but frankly I was just a bit bored of them.  Flu was in the air, or at least on the air-waves; the confluence of these two scenarios inspired my ‘creation.’  I dropped 2 chewable vitamin C tablets (500 mg each) into a hot cup of water.  Viola.  In less than 30 seconds I had a tasty and healthy hot beverage.  Out of curiosity, I wanted to compare my quick concoction with the cost of commercial ones.

You are most likely aware of several powdered-drink varieties marketed heavily during this time of year, and which in the PAST made claims about flu and cold.  (*See important note at the end.)  In my cabinet alone I have both “Airborne’s Blast of Vitamin C” and “Emergen-C”- a tangerine variety.  They had been purchased for traveling and camping trips.  [Other such brands include: Eboost, Wellness Fizz and Ola Loa Energy.]  I wondered what the cost difference might be.  Here, I will compare  (a bit unfairly) the price of making a quick beverage solely emphasizing hot water and vitamin C. [“Unfair,” because most of these products contain much more than vitamin C.]

Back to the two in my cupboard.  Both of these well-known powdered mixtures have extra vitamins and minerals and other proactive ‘boosters’ (like amino acids).  To some, this may be a big plus over my simple drink. I concede that. However, I manage to consume those supplements from other products I use.  Contrary to good additions, all three pick-me-up possibilities include a few substances we would not choose.

My vitamin C tablets, which are “Kirkland” brand from Costco, are not as pure and simple as you might think (or hope).  They include two types of sugar (sorbitol and sucralose–as in Splenda).  Additionally, and perhaps more surprising, they also contain artificial flavors and coloring (as well as natural ones).  Those synthetic additives are a drawback.  Incidentally, you can find chewable vitamin C without artificial coloring.

The Airborne version uses honey and stevia leaf for flavor, which the package cover touts, but sugar is still the #1 flavoring when you read the back label.
Both Airborne and Emergen-C have maltodextrin (sometimes called tapioca maltodextrin), an unfortunately common additive for bulking and stabilizing. Maltodextrin, while technically a carbohydrate, acts more like a sugar in the body and actually has a higher glycemic index than table sugar.  But it is cheap, an effective stabilizer and manufacturers don’t have to list it as a sugar.   Regrettably, it is ubiquitous.

Emergen-C also has a sugar (in the form of fructose) as its #1 ingredient aside from the supplements, as well as glycine, another sugar, sometimes used as an alcohol substitute for tinctures or extracts. As is more common, here it’s a moisture protector.
Silica, which sounds like sand, and indeed is a type of sand, is used in many goods to absorb water vapors and is considered harmless. Further, it is a nutrient needed for healthy bones, teeth, skin and more.   As such, I would not be concerned about its use as an additive, especially since it occurs naturally in many foods: bananas, raisins, bread and even water.

Clearly the products are not exactly comparable or equal in quality.

All that said, what CAN be compared equitably is the amount of Vitamin C and the cost of that vitamin enhancement.  Each packet of Airborne and Emergen-C contains 1000 mg of the vitamin, the same value found in two Kirkland tablets.

And the price?

It depends on whether you buy on sale, or where you shop for it, as well as what size you purchase. (Bigger = Cheaper.)  Below is an average of sample prices I found after looking for the merchandise online at places like CVS, Walgreens, Target, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart and others.  [One of the better sites for prices was Swanson Health Products.]  Interestingly, although I paid $14.99 for my last bottle of Kirkland chewable C’s, I saw it online in two places for $19.99.  So where and when you purchase IS a big deal.  That is, IF you are of the mind that all savings add up – even pennies.

Airborne Blast of C 10 packets for ~ $8.29 82.9 ₵   / 1000 mg of Vit C
Emergen-C 30 packets for ~ $9.45 31.5 ₵   / 1000 mg of Vit C
Kirkland chewable C (used in my home-made brew) 500 tablets for ~$19.99
(although my last bottle was $14.99).
Other Vit C tablets with fewer additives may be costlier than Kirkland.
Less than
4 ₵  / 1000 mg of Vit C

So consider your own priorities as you compare.  Determine if your interest is in a multiple-supplement quality powder or equal vitamin C quantity with lower cost.  With either decision you institute an interesting hot drink alternative until the spring comes.

Over-hyped?             

Both Airborne (staring in 2006) and Emergen-C ( 2013) have faced (and lost) lawsuits regarding “Truth in Advertising.”  In both situations the legal actions were based on the claim that these products could prevent or treat colds or flu.  If you notice, they are now advertised as ‘immunity boosters’ or ‘immune promoters.’  There is no immediate data to show that they have any more effect on colds or flu than certain foods, herbs, activities or supplements that may boost your immune system.  They can’t hurt, as long as you don’t expect miracles.  This post is simply referencing their vitamin C activity …
And is a quick tip for those seeking alternative hot potions when you get bored with the ‘same ol’ thing.’

Picture credit:  pixabay.com:  coffee 1331907.640

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4 thoughts on “Quick & Easy Alternative ——— Immune-Boosting Hot Brew

  1. Hi Dr. B,

    Last week I saw Costco’s Kirkland Chewable Vitamin C (500mg, 500 count) on sale for $9.49! What a deal! I’m not a big fan of synthetic additives, but this is a pretty darn good price. Thanks for this fantastic idea!

    Malinda

    • I agree with each of your points. Also, in passing, it shows that shopping online does not always get you the best deals. Thanks Malinda.

  2. Find your agingwithpizzazz interesting , enjoyable, and educational. It’s always number one on my reading list . I share a lot of the information in my practice , makes my patients think I’m smarter than I am . Thank you for the good work you do . JSW. D.C.

    • How very nice to hear….and as always thank you for sharing my site with others. Appreciate your encouragement. drb

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