Fact Checked

What is Emergen-C®?

Deborah Walker
Deborah Walker

Emergen-C® is vitamin C-based fizzy drink mix that is designed to give people an energy boost, improve immunity, and overall health. To use this product, simply add the powder to 4 to 6 ounces (118-177 ml) of water or juice, stir, and drink. The less liquid used to mix the drink, the stronger the flavor. Each of the 20 varieties of this drink is slightly different, but all derive fromthe same original formula. The Alacer Corporation, based in Foothill Ranch, California, produces this drink mix and sells it through health food stores, online retailers, and some supermarkets.

The original formula is the basic building block of the Emergen-C® formulas. Vitamin C, the main ingredient in Emergen-C®, is involved in the body's ability to make collagen. Depending upon the formula, the amount of vitamin C in one serving ranges between 0.02-0.04 ounces (500-1000 milligrams). This is 834-1600% of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended daily allowance for this vitamin.

Emergen-C® can come in tangerine flavor.
Emergen-C® can come in tangerine flavor.

The original Emergen-C® formula also contains B vitamins, which help with metabolism and energy. The amount of B vitamins ranges between 400-500% of the USDA's recommended daily allowance, depending on which formula one uses. The minerals magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, chromium, sodium, and potassium round out the core ingredients in the original formula. Quercetin and alpha lipoic acids are flavonoids and are included in the original formula. They are in some, but not in all, of the other formulas.

Emergen-C® is a powdered drink mix.
Emergen-C® is a powdered drink mix.

The six Emergen-C® specialty formulas include Vitamin D and Calcium, Joint Health, Heart Health, MSM, Immune Defense, and an electrolyte formula. These come in mixed berry, tangerine, black cherry, and lemon flavors. The vitamins, minerals, or herbs included in these formulas are thought to promote bone, immune, and heart strength.

In addition, the company makes a multi-vitamin fizzy drink mix formula for children that comes in strawberry banana and orange pineapple flavors. The adult multivitamin formula is available in cherry pomegranate and apricot mango flavors. Both vitamin formulations meet the recommended daily allowance for most vitamins, but contain only a small percentage of each mineral's recommended daily allowance.

Although vitamin C may help boost the immune system, large doses may cause headaches and nausea.
Although vitamin C may help boost the immune system, large doses may cause headaches and nausea.

Emergen-C® megadoses of vitamin C may cause side effects, including stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, kidney stones, or inflammation of the stomach. There have been no reported interactions between this product and other over-the-counter or prescription medications, however. Despite this, those taking medication may want to check with their healthcare provider before using Emergen-C® just to be safe.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone know what type of material the packets are made from and what type of coating is used inside the packets? I need to know if you can recycle the packets. Can't find any information on this from the site or anywhere else.


I took Emergen-C for the first time yesterday and it caused blood in my urine. I went to the doctor and had no bladder or urinary tract infection. I will never take it again.


I suffered tremendous neck and back pain, and my knees and feet started to hurt terribly after taking Emergen-C Joint Health (with 1.5 grams fructose, 500 mg Glucosamine HCI and 400 mg Chondroitin Sulfate). I had no idea it was the Emergen-C causing me to become worse and worse over time, until my entire body was inflamed, until I ran out and switched to Emergen-C Lite with MSM.

Within a few days the pain subsided and my neck, back, knee and ankles began to feel even better than before.

Be careful to monitor your symptoms and don't think that because others haven't complained about similar symptoms, that this stuff might not bother you. It is possible that the sugar combination in the Glucosamine plus the fructose in the Emergen-C caused the inflammation, since too much sugar will cause inflammation. The "Lite" version has .5 grams less fructose.


Did anyone get diarrhea from using more than one or two packages a day?


I hate to be negative, but I tried Emergen-C and I just couldn't stand the taste. My friends swear by this stuff, but I just can't choke it down. I tried the acai berry mix, and it tasted horrible. Also, no matter how much I stirred, it seemed like the powder never fully mixed into the water.

I think I will just take my vitamins in pill form from now on. It's quick, easy, and tasteless.


@starrynight - I take Emergen-C also. However, when I buy vitamins I also like to get a mineral supplement. As the article stated, Emergen-C has a pretty good amount of vitamins in it, but nowhere near what you need for minerals each day.

Between a mineral supplement and one packet of Emergen-C, I feel like I'm pretty much set as far as vitamins go. I definitely get sick way less than I used to before I started taking it.

If I can't find Emergen-C, then I usually take Airborne, which is a tablet that dissolves in water. It also has a lot of vitamin C in it.


@Oceana - I take Emergen-C, as do a lot of my friends and family. I don't know anyone who has ever gotten kidney stones. Somehow, I feel like that's only a problem you would have if you take way too much vitamin C.

As someone else said below, if you take too much vitamin C, your body flushes it out, which is what causes the intestinal upset. Your body doesn't retain the excess vitamin C, so I don't see how it could cause problems. If you're getting diarrhea after taking Emergen-C, than simply lower your dose. You could even take half a packet if it's bothering your stomach.


@shell4life – My friends and I all take Emergen-C, and none of us have ever gotten kidney stones. I think it that everyone's body responds differently, and kidney stones are probably a rare side effect.

The company has been around since the year I was born, 1978, so I believe that their products are safe to consume. If Emergen-C were dangerous, I'm sure that multiple lawsuits would have made them go bankrupt by now.

I know that I should be eating more fresh fruits and veggies, but I live a hectic life, and my nutrition suffers at times. I work so much that I only have time for fast food, so I really need the extra boost that Emergen-C can give my body. Otherwise, I'd probably stay sick.


@bagley79 – I agree with you. I believe that eating citrus fruits and bell pepper is enough to keep you healthy. After all, things that come straight from nature have mysterious health benefits that even scientists haven't been able to fully unlock yet, so you are probably doing yourself more good than you know by eating fresh fruits and vegetables instead of relying on a manufactured product.

I would never take something that could possibly give me kidney stones, anyway. I have watched too many of my friends suffer in immense pain with these, and no amount of immune system boost is worth the risk.

Has anyone here ever gotten kidney stones after taking Emergen-C? I would imagine you would have to take it for awhile for something like this to happen.


@kylee07drg - I also take the Emergen-C for joint health. The product they have that contains MSM is also beneficial. I have arthritis and have found that by adding MSM to my diet, it really helps with the pain and stiffness.

I don't mind the tangerine taste, but it would be nice to have a variety once in awhile. Since citrus fruits are known to have a lot of vitamin C, that might be why there are so many fruit flavors.

My sister who is trying to get extra calcium in her diet really likes the one that has vitamin D and calcium. That would probably be a good one for any woman over 40 to start using on a regular basis.


I use the blueberry-acai variety of Emergen-C. It is formulated to boost my immune system, and since I get sick quite often, I need all the help I can get.

I have read that acai berries contain way more antioxidants than other types of fruit. I've also heard that they go bad quickly after being picked, so that's why I never see any fresh ones being sold.

I have seen acai berry supplements in pill form, but I prefer the drink. There is something unique and quirky about the flavor that I can't quite put my finger on, and I actually crave it at times.

Since I've started using Emergen-C, I haven't had nearly as many colds or sinus infections. I really believe that it is working.


I tried Emergen-C one time, and although I didn't have any bad experiences with it, I thought it was much easier to take a specific vitamin C supplement.

I also wonder if a good multi-vitamin that has the proper amounts of vitamin C and minerals would be just as effective.

If you are struggling with a cold, I can understand why you might take some extra vitamin C. For me, I would just rather swallow a tablet than mess with mixing something with water or juice.

I notice this product is advertised and featured in the stores more during cold and flu season than any other time of the year. That makes sense because that is when most people need some extra immune support.

My thinking is if you make sure you get enough vitamin C on a regular basis, you can keep your immune system strong and not catch a cold as easily.


I wish that Emergen-C made several flavors for every type of drink. Instead of having to choose tangerine just because it is the only flavor of the drink formulated for joint health, I would like the option to choose black cherry and get the same benefits.

I'm sure that any type of Emergen-C will be good for me, but it might not work for the specific area I need help with. Sometimes, I just crave black cherry, even though it is for heart health, and my heart is perfectly okay without it.

I think that this type of drink is one that is okay to become addicted to, since it surely can't do me any harm. It's better than drinking a sugary, nutritionless powdered drink.


I buy most of my vitamins online, but when I was at the store, the Emergen-C fizzy vitamin drink for kids caught my eye.

I have a hard time getting my kids to take their vitamins. It seems like every chewable tablet I have bought for them, they turn their noses up at it.

I thought the idea of a fizzy drink was a good idea and since they both love a strawberry banana taste, that is one I bought for them.

To my surprise and delight, both of my kids actually liked it. This is something I don't get down them every day, but they are a lot better at taking this than anything else I have tried.

Knowing they are getting some extra vitamins and minerals in their diet is a good feeling.


@rugbygirl - I have always read that our bodies do not store vitamin C, so unless you take mega doses of this at one time, I don't think there would be any long term effects.

That is one reason why the sustained release vitamin C supplements are so popular. They release the vitamin into your system over time, so your body gets the best absorption.

I think one of the reasons people claim they have more energy when taking the Emergen-C is because it contains vitamin B. The B vitamins are known to help improve energy.

When this is combined with the vitamin C, it is a good way to strengthen your immune system and have more energy at the same time.


@robbie21 - The thing to be aware of is that some vitamins and minerals are fat soluble and others are water soluble. Fat soluble means that your body stores what it can't use right way in your fat cells. Vitamin D is a good example of a fat soluble vitamin, and it makes sense that it would be - since the traditional source of vitamin D is the sun, which is not around as much in the winter, our bodies needed to be able to store it for the winter.

Vitamin C is water soluble. If you take so much that you get sick, that's just the body flushing it out, and I'm pretty sure it won't do permanent damage. We don't really know what the optimum amount of vitamin C in the diet is - we mostly know how much it takes not to get scurvy!

As far as I know, the only way to know you're getting too much of a particular vitamin or mineral is to keep track of your intake as best you can and remember to include both dietary sources and supplements. If you drink a lot of milk, for instance, remember that there is vitamin D in that and take it into account when deciding whether to take a supplement, and how much of a supplement to take.


Are there long-term effects of drinking too much vitamin C? The article mentions some short-term effects but I'm wondering if I should be worried about doing real damage to my health with vitamins.

Is there a way to know you're getting too much *before* you start getting sick?

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    • Emergen-C® can come in tangerine flavor.
      By: hanabiyori
      Emergen-C® can come in tangerine flavor.
    • Emergen-C® is a powdered drink mix.
      By: Orlando Bellini
      Emergen-C® is a powdered drink mix.
    • Although vitamin C may help boost the immune system, large doses may cause headaches and nausea.
      By: lithian
      Although vitamin C may help boost the immune system, large doses may cause headaches and nausea.
    • Some varieties of Emergen-C contain more vitamin C per serving than eating 10 pieces of common citrus fruits in one sitting.
      By: dream79
      Some varieties of Emergen-C contain more vitamin C per serving than eating 10 pieces of common citrus fruits in one sitting.
    • Emergen-C® may not be recommended for people who already take vitamin supplements.
      By: Nenov Brothers
      Emergen-C® may not be recommended for people who already take vitamin supplements.
    • Megadoses of Emergen-C can cause side effects such as kidney stones.
      By: pankajstock123
      Megadoses of Emergen-C can cause side effects such as kidney stones.
    • Megadoses of vitamin C may cause stomach upset.
      Megadoses of vitamin C may cause stomach upset.