Today cases of scurvy are very rare in most Western societies, but it was once a common disease. People traveling for long periods are sea were particularly affected. Originally the disease causes fatigue and after a few months sufferers develop bone pain and short breath. Other symptoms may include easy bruising, slow wound healing, rough skin, gum disease and loose teeth. Eventually the disease causes fever and convulsions and death is quite common. The symptoms of the disease were described by the Egyptians sometime around 1550 BC. However, the cause for the disease was not known until much later.
What causes scurvy?
Herbal remedies for scurvy have been known for a long time. In the 13th century citrus fruits were used to cure the disease. However, James Lind, a Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy, first proved the connection between citrus fruits and scurvy during experiments he detailed in a 1753 book, “A Treatise of the Scurvy”. His research was not adopted until later in the 18th century and many sailors died unnecessarily during this time.
The exact reason that citrus fruits could be used to treat scurvy was unknown until 1932 when Vitamin C was discovered. The lack of vitamin C was shown to be the cause of scurvy. Fortunately, prevention of scurvy is as easy of eating foods high in vitamin C. This not only includes citrus fruits, but many other fruits and vegetables as well. There is some debate about the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for Vitamin C, but most experts agree that it is somewhere between 45-95 mg/day.