The term “orthomolecular medicine” was coined by Dr. Linus Pauling to mean "the right molecules in the right amounts".
I found an interesting interview with Dr. Pauling in which he explained the difference in thinking between orthomolecular and conventional medicine. Because most drugs are toxic, medical researchers looked for the lowest dose that would have the effect they desired. This method works well for drugs but when applied to nutrients the results fell short of their potential.
Vitamin C was first discovered as the cure for preventing scurvy. So research focused on finding the lowest dose that would accomplish this and came up with 60mg per day, which became set as the RDA (recommended daily allowance). Similarly 2mg of thiamin (B1) was found sufficient to prevent beriberi. But, Pauling explains, vitamin C “is a substance which has no known toxicity, which can be taken in 1000 times the RDA, the amount that stops people developing scurvy, without causing harm to a person.”
He then asks “Is there a possibility that very large doses of vitamin C and the B vitamins and vitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin E, would have much additional value in improving the health of the people? Twenty five years ago, when I became interested in vitamins, it was just that question that interested me. I looked in the medical and nutritional literature to find out how much vitamin C a person should take in order to be in the best health, perhaps to control diseases other than scurvy. I couldn't find anything and the result, of course, is for 25 years I have devoted much of my life and time and energy trying to find the answer to the question - how much of these very powerful and important substances should we take to be in the best of health?”
What Pauling found was that in moderate amounts vitamin C could fight off the cold virus. In larger amounts (up to 10g daily) it significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Similar results were found by him and other orthomolecular researchers for other nutrients.
When asked how he would be remembered, Dr. Pauling said “…physicians will remember me as having been at least in part, responsible for the revolution in medicine in which there is a great improvement in human health and in control of disease through the use of vitamin C and other vitamins.”
You can read the entire interview here www.internetwks.com/pauling/lastpinv.html. This is possibly the last interview he did before his death in 1994 at age 93.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.