The Importance of Vitamin C in A Survival Situation

Rose Hips Vitamin C

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) usually called ascorbate is an essential vitamin needed by every one of us. A vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, which if not treated leads to death. In the early stages of scurvy patients experience lethargy, spots on the skin and spongy gums. As the disease progresses patients experience open wounds on the skin, loss of teeth and jaundice. Once in the advanced stages hemorrhaging occurs internally due to weakened blood vessels leading to death.

Scurvy was common among sailors’ centuries ago because of long sea voyages where there was a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables. The reason there was a shortage is because sailors simply did not know how to preserve perishable foods for the long voyages. Eventually doctors of the time figured out that a lack of citrus lead to scurvy. However, a direct connection between Vitamin C deficiency and scurvy was not made until 1932.

Others Important Benefits of Vitamin C

Your body needs Vitamin C for growing and repairing tissues and to make collagen, which is a protein needed to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Vitamin C also helps the body heal wounds and helps repair and maintain bones and teeth.

Humans cannot synthesize Vitamin C because we lack an enzyme present in many other animals. We must obtain this important nutrient through our diet. Vitamin C is found in many plants with particularly high concentrations in the cruciferous family, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, cauliflower, and turnips. Vitamin C is in all colors of bell peppers, in citrus such as oranges, lemons, limes and in hot peppers. Cooking foods reduces the amount of the vitamin available.

The body does not store Vitamin C and most medical experts agree that the body only processes what it needs and the rest is flushed out through the kidneys. In other words you cannot consume large amounts and expect to have the Vitamin “stored up” in your body. You must obtain this important nutrient continually through your diet (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013).

The following recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is for informational purposes only. Check with your health care professional before consuming any supplements or medications.


  • 0 – 6 months: 40* milligrams/day (mg/day)
  • 7 – 12 months: 50* mg/day

*Adequate Intake (AI)


  • 1 – 3 years: 15 mg/day
  • 4 – 8 years: 25 mg/day
  • 9 – 13 years: 45 mg/day


  • Girls 14 – 18 years: 65 mg/day
  • Pregnant teens: 80 mg/day
  • Breastfeeding teens: 115 mg/day
  • Boys 14 – 18 years: 75 mg/day


  • Men age 19 and older: 90 mg/day
  • Women age 19 year and older: 75 mg/day
  • Pregnant women: 85 mg/day

Daily Allowance Information courtesy of MedLinePlus

Getting Vitamin C in A Survival Situation

Ideally you will have a stockpile of vitamin C tablets in your survival kit. It is recommended that you routinely check the expiration dates. Vitamin C does not become toxic, but some studies show it may lose its potency over time. Ascorbic acid in pill or powdered form can be added to stale drinking water that is otherwise safe to drink to refresh and to add flavor. This is also a good way to ensure you are getting the vitamin.

In most cases, a well balanced diet would provide you with enough of the nutrient unless there is some underlying medical condition. When purchasing survival foods check the labels for the nutritional values, so you know what additional supplements you will need once you are only eating your survival food stockpile.

Sources of Vitamin C in A Survival Situation

Essentially, any wild edible plant, berry, or nut will provide you with some vitamin C, but make sure you know what you are consuming, and if there is any doubt do not eat. Below are some of the more common plants, nuts and fruits that are easily identifiable that will provide you with vitamin C.

  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Rose Hips, which can be eaten as a Berry or made into Jams or teas
  • White Pine Needles Steeped and Drank as a Tea

A note on Pine Needles: Not all conifers or “evergreens” are pines.

Certain  conifer or evergreen needles can be toxic to humans and animals so avoid the Ponderosa Pine, Yew Tree, and Lodge pole Pine, Common Juniper, Monterey Cypress, and Norfolk Pine also known as Australian pine.

It is incumbent upon you to do your own research and have the correct reference materials available. Pictures and descriptions are not enough. You should conduct your own research and know without a doubt which plants, nuts, and berries are edible.

  • Dandelions
  • Day Lilies
  • Cattails
  • Hickory Nuts
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pecans
  • Black Walnuts
  • Gooseberries
  • Elderberries
  • Mulberries

The above is not a comprehensive list, but it does include the most common plants, nuts and berries that practically anyone can positively identify. There are, of course, other sources found in the wild, and through careful research and hands on experience you can find many more edibles that may even be growing in your own backyard.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2013). Retrieved 2015, from