Oxygen/ozone therapy is a term that describes a number of different practices in which oxygen, ozone, or hydrogen peroxide are administered via gas or water to kill disease microorganisms, improve cellular function, and promote the healing of damaged tissues.
The rationale behind bio-oxidative therapies, as they are sometimes known, is the notion that as long as the body’s needs for antioxidants are met, the use of certain oxidative substances will stimulate the movement of oxygen atoms from the bloodstream to the cells.
With higher levels of oxygen in the tissues, bacteria and viruses are killed along with defective tissue cells. The healthy cells survive and multiply more rapidly. The result is a stronger immune system.
Ozone itself is a form of oxygen, O3, produced when ultraviolet light or an electric spark passes through air or oxygen. It is a toxic gas that creates free radicals, the opposite of what antioxidant vitamins do. Oxidation, however, is good when it occurs in harmful foreign organisms that have invaded the body. Ozone inactivates many disease bacteria and viruses.
The various forms of oxygen and ozone therapy have been in use since the late nineteenth century. The earliest recorded use of oxygen to treat a patient was by Dr. J. A. Fontaine in 1879. In the 1950s, hyperbaric oxygen treatment was used by cancer researchers. The term hyperbaric means that the oxygen is given under pressure higher than normal air pressure.
Recently, oxygen therapy has also been touted as a quick purification treatment for mass-market consumers. Oxygen bars can be found in airports and large cities, and provide pure oxygen in 20 minute sessions for approximately $16.
While proponents claim that breathing oxygen will purify the body, most medical doctors do not agree. What is more, oxygen can be harmful to people with severe lung diseases, and these people should never self-treat with oxygen.
Ozone has been used since 1856 to disinfect operating rooms in European hospitals, and since 1860 to purify the water supplies of several large German cities.
Ozone was not, however, used to treat patients until 1915, when a German doctor named Albert Wolff began to use it to treat skin diseases. During World War I, the German Army used ozone to treat wounds and anaerobic infections.
In the 1950s, several German physicians used ozone to treat cancer alongside mainstream therapeutic methods. It is estimated that as of the late 1990s, about 8,000 practitioners in Germany were using ozone in their practices. This figure includes medical doctors as well as naturopaths and homeopaths.
Hydrogen peroxide is familiar to most people as an over-the-counter preparation that is easily available at supermarkets as well as pharmacies, and is used as an antiseptic for cleansing minor cuts and scrapes.
It was first used as an intravenous infusion in 1920 by a British physician in India, T. H. Oliver, to treat a group of 25 Indian patients who were critically ill with pneumonia. Oliver’s patients had a mortality rate of 48%, compared to the standard mortality rate of 80% for the disease.
In the 1920s, an American physician named William Koch experimented with hydrogen peroxide as a treatment for cancer. He left the United States after a legal battle with the FDA.
In the early 1960s, researchers at Baylor University studied the effects of hydrogen peroxide in removing plaque from the arteries as well as its usefulness in treating cancer, but their findings were largely ignored.
Oxygen and ozone therapies are thought to benefit patients in the following ways:
- Stimulating white blood cell production.
- Killing viruses (ozone and hydrogen peroxide).
- Improving the delivery of oxygen from the blood stream to the tissues of the body.
- Speeding up the breakdown of petrochemicals.
- Increasing the production of interferon and tumor necrosis factor, thus helping the body to fight infections and cancers.
- Increasing the efficiency of antioxidant enzymes.
- Increasing the flexibility and efficiency of the membranes of red blood cells.
- Speeding up the citric acid cycle, which in turn stimulates the body’s basic metabolism.
Oxygen, ozone, and hydrogen peroxide are used therapeutically in a variety of different ways. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) involves putting the patient in a pressurized chamber in which he or she breathes pure oxygen for a period of 90 minutes to two hours.
HBO may also be administered by using a tight-fitting mask, similar to the masks used for anesthesia. A nasal catheter may be used for small children.
Ozone therapy may be administered in a variety of ways:
- Intramuscular injection: A mixture of oxygen and ozone is injected into the muscles of the buttocks.
- Rectal insufflation: A mixture of oxygen and ozone is introduced into the rectum and absorbed through the intestines.
- Autohemotherapy: Between 10–15 mL of the patient’s blood is removed, treated with a mixture of oxygen and ozone and reinjected into the patient.
- Intra-articular injection: Ozone-treated water is injected into the patient’s joints to treat arthritis, rheumatism and other joint diseases.
- Ozonated water: Ozone is bubbled through water that is used to cleanse wounds, burns, and skin infections, or to treat the mouth after dental surgery.
- Ozonated oil: Ozone is bubbled through olive or safflower oil, forming a cream that is used to treat fungal infections, insect bites, acne, and skin problems.
- Ozone bagging: Ozone and oxygen are pumped into an airtight bag that surrounds the area to be treated, allowing the body tissues to absorb the mixture.
Hydrogen peroxide may be administered intravenously in a 0.03% solution. It is infused slowly into the patient’s vein over a period of one to three hours.
Treatments are given about once a week for chronic illness but may be given daily for such acute illnesses as pneumonia or influenza. A course of intravenous hydrogen peroxide therapy may range from one to 20 treatments, depending on the patient’s condition and the type of illness being treated.
Injections of 0.03% hydrogen peroxide have also been used to treat rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. The solution is injected directly into the inflamed joint.
Hydrogen peroxide is also used externally to treat stiff joints, psoriasis, and fungal infections. The patient soaks for a minimum of 20 minutes in a tub of warm water to which 1 pint of 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide (a preparation used by the food industry as a disinfectant) has been added.
Oxygen is usually delivered to the patient as a gas; ozone as a gas mixed with oxygen or bubbled through oil or water; and hydrogen peroxide as an 0.03% solution for intravenous injection or a 35% solution for external hydrotherapy.
Patients interested in oxygen/ozone therapies must consult with a physician before receiving treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment should not be given to patients with untreated pneumothorax, a condition in which air or gas is present in the cavity surrounding the lungs.
Patients with a history of pneumothorax, chest surgery, emphysema, middle ear surgery, uncontrolled high fevers, upper respitory infections, seizures, or disorders of the red blood cells are not suitable candidates for oxygen/ozone therapy.
In addition, patients should be aware that oxygen is highly flammable. If treatments are administered incorrectly or by an unskilled person, there is a risk of fire.
Typical side effects of oxygen or ozone therapy can include elevated blood pressure and ear pressure similar to that experienced while flying. Side effects may also include headache, numbness in the fingers, temporary changes in the lens of the eye, and seizures.
Research and general acceptance
Oxygen/ozone therapies are far more widely accepted in Europe than in the United States. The most intensive research in these therapies is presently being conducted in the former Soviet Union and in Cuba. In the United States, the work of the Baylor researchers was not followed up.
In 2000, the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (presently the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM) indicated interest in conducting clinical trials of oxygen/ozone therapies; as of 2003, however, these studies have not been carried out.
Recent European research in ozone therapy includes studies in the oxygenation of resting muscles, the treatment of vascular disorders, and the relief of pain from herniated lumbar disks. No corresponding studies are being done in the United States as of late 2003.