My wife has been telling me for years that Vitamin C is a stimulant. I finally decided to google it but haven't found anything convincing.

Last night, our 2-year-old daughter woke up from coughing around 12:30. She was having trouble getting back to sleep, but was still acting drowsy. We gave her a very small quantity of orange juice (not even a full adult-sized mouthful), and within about 15-20 minutes she was wide awake. It took another two hours to get her completely back to sleep.

Does anybody have any information confirming (or not) whether vitamin C has stimulant effects?


While vitamin C is not a neurological stimulant (like caffeine is), some people want to believe it is because it makes you feel so much better when you get enough of it. I actually saw a post on a discussion forum once where a women claimed vitamin C was a stimulant because she felt more awake when she stopped drinking coffee and replaced it with orange juice. However, caffeine results in a "crash." Anyone that stops their intake of caffeine long enough to get past withdrawl effects, starts to feel better, so she is (along with many others) mistaken about the actual cause of her energy uptick. Believe it or not, Caffeine (and other stimulents) make you feel more tired when you are not on a caffeine high. Oragne juice will not leave anyone with this after-effect because it is involved in the formation of "real" energy.

Here is what Citric Acid (which is also contained in Orange Juice) really does with regard to energy levels:

According to an article posted by Livestrong one study found Citric Acid reduced the production of a specific salivary component that is considered a stress marker - in other words it guards against the effects of stress (or at least the one). Anything that reduces stress helps you feel more energized. As an anti-oxident, It has being found to have impacts on many of these "stress" markers based on what I remember from biochem in college.

It is a major component in producing chemicals needed in metabolic activities (The Citric Acid Cycle, for example) that help increase energy production at the cellular level (stimulants do not increase energy production, they are a "fake" in that they make the nervous system more active they are not actually involved in creating honest energy in your body. Science Daily gives a brief definition and some examples of actual stimulants).

Here is why people sometimes might believe Vitamin C increases energy levels:

Since Vitamin C helps in regeneration of other important anti-oxidents in the body, it is probably even more important in this role than other well-known anti-oxidents such as Vitamin E. This also can give a person a sense of having more energy.

Additionally, vitamin C helps guard against immune system deficiencies and acts as an anti-oxident. Again, this helps reduce energy drains when you don't have enough vitamin C - if she had a cough she may have more need for immune system production than usual and a little extra vitamin C in the morning might not be a bad idea.

So, while neither Vitamin C, nor Citric acid are stimulants, it does impact energy levels. When combining Vitamin C with the sugars and other carbohydrates present in a cup of juice (as explained by Beofett), it is likely to cause a certain amount of wakefulness in the drinker. Next time she wakes up in the middle of the night, I'd stick with a glass of water (it is better for her teeth that way too).


For those wondering about my statements on Caffeine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine#Physical_effects http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/caffeines-effects-health


Vitamin C isn't why your daughter was wide awake. If anything, it was the carbohydrates in the orange juice.

Vitamin C isn't a stimulant. It's a nutrient. Think of it as a building block used by many of the functions of the human body.

Carbohydrates aren't really a stimulant, either. Rather, they can be thought of as "fuel". Carbohydrates are converted by the body to raise the blood glucose levels, and glucose is the primary source of energy for the human body's cells.

Raising blood glucose levels can provide short term increases in activity levels.

So don't feed your daughter juice or other sugary treats right before, or during, bed time or nap time, and she'll sleep better.


While looking into stimulants, I found out oranges do contain Synephrine, an alkaloid, occurring naturally in some plants and animals. According to wikipedia's page on synephrine:

p-synephrine (or formerly Sympatol and oxedrine [BAN]) and m-synephrine are known for their longer acting adrenergic effects compared to norepinephrine. Its molecular structure is based on a phenethylamine skeleton, and is related to those of many other drugs, and to the major neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine.

In other words a stimulant.

In a survey of over 50 citrus fruit juices, either commercially-prepared or hand-squeezed from fresh fruit, obtained on the US market, Avula and co-workers found synephrine levels ranging from ~ 4 – 60 mg/L;

A 350ml glass (about a full glass) would correspond to an average dose of dietary synephrine supplement, according to this muscleandstrength.com article:

A typical dose of 4-20 mg of synephrine daily can be found suggested by products providing the standardized citrus aurantium extract of 200-600mg per pill. These contain about 3-6% of synephrine.

Therefore enough to keep the child awake and relatively energetic.

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