Background

Scurvy, the disease we now associate with ascorbic acid deficiency, was described by the ancient Egyptians as early as 3000 B.C.1 The ancient Greeks and Romans later referred to a ''plague" that was almost certainly scurvy.2 Lack of understanding of the importance of vitamin C and its sources continued to have an effect on the general population of these cultures as well as on the military. In 1536, Jacques Cartier, while in Newfoundland, had numerous crew members suffering with the disease. The wisdom of local Native Americans allowed successful treatment with an extract of the arborvitae tree. In that same century, Sir Richard Hawkins recommended the use of oranges and lemons to prevent the disease in British sailors.2

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