Hydrogen peroxide is a clear; colorless liquid that easily mixes with
water. It is a compound made up of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen
atoms and is known chemically as H2O2. Hydrogen peroxide is created
in the atmosphere when ultraviolet light strikes oxygen in the presence
of moisture. Ozone (O3) is free oxygen (O) plus an extra atom of oxygen.
When it comes into contact with water, this extra atom of oxygen splits
off very easily. Water (H2O) combines with the extra atom of oxygen
and becomes hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).
We can call hydrogen peroxide a close relative of ozone. Aside from
being known as a powerful oxygenator and oxidizer, a special quality
of hydrogen peroxide is its ability to readily decompose into water and
oxygen. Like ozone, hydrogen peroxide reacts easily with other substances
and is able to kill bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and some types
of tumor cells.
Hydrogen peroxide occurs naturally within the Earth's biosphere; traces
of it are found in rain and snow. It has also been found in many of the
healing springs of the world, including Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in
France, and the Shrine of St. Anne in Quebec. Hydrogen peroxide is an
important component of plant life, and small amounts are found in many
vegetables and fruits, including fresh cabbage, tomatoes, asparagus,
green peppers, watercress, oranges, apples, and watermelons.
Hydrogen peroxide is also found in the animal kingdom and is involved
in many of our body's natural processes. As an oxygenator, it is able
to deliver small quantities of oxygen to the blood and other vital systems
throughout the body. Hydrogen peroxide does not oxygenate the body merely
by producing modest amounts of oxygen, however; it has an extraordinary
capacity to stimulate oxidative enzymes, which have the ability to change
the chemical component of other substances (like viruses and bacteria)
without being changed themselves. Rather than providing more oxygen to
the cells, the presence of hydrogen peroxide enhances natural cellular
oxidative processes, which increases the body's ability to use what oxygen
Hydrogen peroxide must be present for our immune system to function
properly. The cells in the body that fight infection (the class of white
blood cells known as granulocytes) produce hydrogen peroxide as a first
line of defense against harmful parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Hydrogen peroxide is also needed for the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates,
fats, vitamins, and minerals. It is a by-product of cell metabolism (that
is actively broken down by peroxidase), a hormonal regulator, and a necessary
part of the body's production of estrogen, progesterone, and thyroxin.
If that weren't enough, hydrogen peroxide is involved in the regulation
of blood sugar and the production of energy in body cells
Hydrogen peroxide was discovered in 1818 by the French chemist Louis-Jacques
Thenard, who named it eau oxygenee, or "oxygenated water." It
has been used commercially since the mid-1800s as a nonpolluting bleaching
agent, oxidizing agent, and disinfectant.
Although it is found in nature, small quantities of hydrogen peroxide
can be made in the laboratory by reacting barium peroxide with cold diluted
sulfuric acid. Larger amounts are produced by electrolyzing chilled concentrated
sulfuric acid. This process causes a series of chemical reactions to
occur and to create a substance called peroxy-disulfuric acid. When the
solution is warmed to room temperature, it becomes hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is found in a variety of different grades:
3 percent grade hydrogen peroxide is the type we find in pharmacies
and grocery stores. Made primarily of 50 percent "super D peroxide" and
diluted, it contains a variety of stabilizers like phenol, acetanilide,
and sodium stancite. It is used mostly to disinfect wounds and treat
skin rashes, and as an effective, inexpensive (although unpleasant tasting
to some) mouthwash. This grade of hydrogen peroxide is also used around
the house to freshen the bathroom and to wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
While safe for those applications, 3 percent grade H2O2 should not be
6 percent grade hydrogen peroxide contains an activator that makes it
an effective bleaching agent. It is used primarily by hairdressers, surfers,
and teenagers for coloring their hair.
Like other grades of hydrogen peroxide, 30 percent reagent grade looks
like harmless water. However, it is a highly concentrated chemical compound
that is very corrosive. Strict precautions must be taken by those who
plan to use it. When it makes contact with skin, burns can result. Breathing
the vapor or ingesting it full strength can be hazardous and even fatal.
Yet when used properly, reagent-grade hydrogen peroxide is safe. Because
it is relatively free of heavy metals and other trace elements, it is
used primarily in medical research. It is also highly recommended for
use (in diluted form) in bio-oxidative therapy. Reagent-grade hydrogen
peroxide can be found in chemical supply stores.
35 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide has traditionally been used by
the food industry as a nontoxic disinfectant. Added to water, it is sprayed
on cheese, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and whey products to keep them free
of unwanted bacteria. It is used to disinfect metal and foil-lined food
containers. Food grade hydrogen peroxide is also used in the dairy industry
as a disinfectant and bactericide. While considered less desirable than
reagent grade for use in bio-oxidative therapy, food-grade hydrogen peroxide
is easily obtainable in any large natural-food store.
90 percent hydrogen peroxide is used by the military and in space exploration
as a propulsion source for rocket fuel. A highly unstable compound that
can explode unless handled very carefully, it is not recommended for
use in bio-oxidative therapy.
One of the major industrial uses of hydrogen peroxide is in the bleaching
of cotton textiles, while it is used to a lesser extent to bleach wool,
silk, and certain vegetable fibers. It is also used to bleach chemical
pulps, ground wood, and linoleum and to improve the color of certain
waxes and oils. Hydrogen peroxide is used to de-ink waste paper in the
recycling process. These industries like using hydrogen peroxide because
it is environmentally friendly. When hydrogen peroxide decomposes, it
yields only water and oxygen.
Hydrogen peroxide also is a powerful oxidizer, bactericide, and virucide.
When added to industrial and residential sewage and wastewaters, it
kills harmful pathogens, making those effluents safe for the environment.
Hydrogen peroxide removes toxic and foul-smelling pollutants from industrial
gas streams and can limit chlorine concentration in water supplies.
Chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and mining
Hydrogen peroxide is utilized by the chemical industry in the production
of a wide variety of organic and inorganic chemicals, as well as in
the manufacture of household bleaches. It is an ingredient in contact
lens cleaners, eye drops, aloe vera extracts, and mouthwashes. Hydrogen
peroxide is also an oxidizing agent in the mining industry.
High-grade (90 percent) hydrogen peroxide is used as a rocket fuel by
different branches of the armed forces and the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA).
As an inexpensive way for farmers to purify drinking water, one pint
of 35 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide is added to one thousand
gallons of drinking water for farm animals. In addition to serving
as a catalyst for promoting oxygenation of the blood and killing harmful
viruses and bacteria, hydrogen peroxide added to drinking water helps
eliminate worms and other parasites from the intestine. When given
to dairy cows, it can increase both the production of milk and its
Food-grade hydrogen peroxide is used to rinse milk cans and bulk tanks
to destroy bacteria and other pathogens. It is also diluted with water
and used as a spray to clean barn walls and floors. Hydrogen peroxide
mixtures are used to clean wounds and wash the udders of cows, which
results in a lower bacteria content in their milk.
Because oxygen is essential for plant life as well as animal life, hydrogen
peroxide is being used in various ways to increase the growth rate and
productivity of plants. Hydrogen peroxide is also used by some farmers
to make an effective non-polluting insecticide in the field as well as
a spray for home and garden plants.
Hydrogen peroxide in medicine
The first medical use of hydrogen peroxide was reported by I. N. Love,
M.D., a consulting physician at the City Hospital in St. Louis, in
the March 3, 1888, issue of the journal of the American Medical Association
under the title "Peroxide of Hydrogen as a Remedial Agent." The
article, based on a talk given to the St. Louis Medical Society the
previous month, related Dr. Love's success in treating patients with
a variety of diseases, including scarlet fever, diphtheria, nasal catarrh,
acute coryza (head catarrh), whooping cough, asthma, hay fever, and
tonsillitis. In these cases, treatment primarily involved administering
a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide into the nostrils with a syringe.
Dr. Love commented: "From its very nature this agent should be
a powerful antiseptic and a destroyer of microbes; anything which accomplishes
oxidation as rapidly, if it can be applied safely, must be an excellent
application to purulent surfaces for its cleansing effect." Dr.
Love also documented the use of hydrogen peroxide in treating uterine
cancer as a "cleanser, deodorizer and stimulator of healing.
Later that year at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Society of Georgia,
P. R. Cortelyou, M.D., reported his clinical experience with hydrogen
peroxide in treating disorders of the throat and nose. Dr. Cortelyou
diluted hydrogen peroxide and used the fluid as a fine spray for treating
people with chronic pharyngitis, rhinitis, cough, sore throat, tonsillitis,
and diphtheria. In some cases, Dr. Cortelyou used hydrogen peroxide in
combination with other medicines of the time, including "muriate
of cocaine," and a solution made with iodine, potash, and glycerine.
After treating a woman suffering from severe cough and high fever with
this combination for four weeks, the doctor reported: "The throat
was feeling so much better that the treatment was only given twice a
week, and patient has kept in good condition all winter.
The first known use of intravenous hydrogen peroxide was reported by
the British physician T. H. Oliver in 1920. In India the previous year
he had treated twenty-five patients who were critically ill with influenzal
pneumonia by injecting hydrogen peroxide directly into their veins. Compared
to a typical death rate of over 80 percent for this disease, Oliver's
patients had a mortality rate of only 48 percent. Although this method
of hydrogen peroxide delivery can cause gas embolism, a condition that
can obstruct blood vessels and lead to a stroke, apparently that did
not occur in any of the patients treated.
In the United States, studies with hydrogen peroxide were conducted
by the noted chemist and physician William Frederick Koch in the 1920s
with cancer patients. Dr. Koch used a substance he called glyoxylide,
which is believed to be the same oxygen found in hydrogen peroxide. Rather
than using intravenous administration like Oliver, he preferred giving
the substance intramuscularly.
While his treatments were successful, Dr. Koch was later sued by the
United States Food and Drug Administration. Although acquitted, he decided
to leave the United States and continue his research in Brazil. He died
there in 1967.
In the early 1960s, major studies in the medical uses of hydrogen peroxide
were conducted at the Baylor University Medical Center in Texas. In an
early study involving cancer, researchers found that cells containing
a high amount of oxygen responded more favorably to radiation therapy
than ordinary cells. Before that study, hyperbaric oxygen was often used
by physicians to oxygenate the cells; in a rather cumbersome and expensive
method using a specially built oxygen chamber, oxygen was delivered under
pressure greater than normal atmospheric pressure. However, the doctors
at Baylor found that small amounts of hydrogen peroxide injected into
a vein could achieve the same effect as hyperbaric oxygen at a much lower
cost and with fewer adverse side effects.
The Baylor researchers also discovered that hydrogen peroxide has an
energizing effect on the heart muscle that could be of great benefit
to patients suffering heart attacks. Myocardial ischemia, or lack of
oxygen to the heart muscle, was relieved with hydrogen peroxide. Writing
in the journal Circulation, Dr. H. C. Urschel Jr., reported that ventricular
fibrillation-a life-threatening condition involving extremely rapid,
incomplete contractions of the ventricle area of the heart-was completely
relieved through the intravenous administration of hydrogen peroxide.
The researchers at Baylor also studied the effect of intravenous hydrogen
peroxide on the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. They found not
only that hydrogen peroxide removed plaque buildup efficiently but also
that its effects were long term. While those findings offered hope to
individuals destined for expensive, dangerous, and often ineffective
heart bypass operations, the Baylor studies were largely ignored by the
How does it work?
Hydrogen peroxide is both an effective oxygenator and a powerful oxidizer.
Numerous physiological effects of hydrogen peroxide have been described
in medical and scientific literature for over sixty years.
On the lungs
Hydrogen peroxide helps stimulate the process of oxygenation in the lungs
by increasing blood flow, so that blood has more contact with air;
it also helps red blood cells and hemoglobin carry oxygen to the cells
of the lungs. This helps remove foreign material, including dead and
damaged tissue, from the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs where
oxygen is taken into the bloodstream.
A number of hormonal effects are regulated by the actions of hydrogen
peroxide, including the production of progesterone and thyroxine as
well as the inhibition of bioamines, dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin.
Hydrogen peroxide also stimulates (either directly or indirectly) certain
oxidative enzyme systems. Enzymes are complex proteins that are able
to bring about chemical changes in other substances; digestive enzymes,
for example, are able to break down foods into simpler compounds that
the body can use for nourishment.
On the Heart and Circulatory System
Hydrogen peroxide can dilate (expand) blood vessels in the heart, the
extremities, the brain, and the lungs. It is also able to decrease
heart rate, increase stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped by the
left ventricle of the heart at each beat), and decrease vascular resistance
(which makes it easier for blood to move through the blood vessels).
As a result, it can increase total cardiac output.
Sugar (glucose) utilization
Hydrogen peroxide is said to mimic the effects of insulin and has been
used successfully to stabilize cases of diabetes mellitus type II.
We know that granulocytes are a type of white blood cell that the body
uses to fight infections. When the body is infused with hydrogen peroxide,
the number of granulocytes in the body first goes down and then increases
beyond the original number.
Intravenous treatment with hydrogen peroxide has also been found to stimulate
the formation of monocytes, a type of white blood cell that scavenges,
hunts, and kills bacteria; stimulates T -helper cells (white blood cells
that orchestrate the immune response and signal other cells in the immune
system to perform their special functions); and helps increase the production
of gamma interferon, a protein found when cells are exposed to viruses
as well as other cytokines (cellular messengers) that promote healing.
Noninfected cells that are exposed to interferon become protected against
What diseases can hydrogen peroxide treat?
Low-grade (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide is well known to most of us.
When we apply it externally to an open wound, it bubbles, which is
the oxygen coming out of solution. However, few people know about the
wide range of therapeutic possibilities of 30 percent reagent-grade
or 35 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide when diluted and taken internally
as bio-oxidative therapy.
Like ozone, hydrogen peroxide can treat a broad spectrum of diseases
because it kills bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. It can also
destroy certain tumor cells. The following diseases have been clinically
treated with intravenous hydrogen peroxide with varying degrees of success:
acute and chronic viral infections
cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
cardio conversion (heart stoppage)
cardiovascular disease (heart disease)
cerebral vascular disease (stroke and memory loss)
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
chronic pain syndromes (from various causes)
chronic recurrent Epstein-Barr infection
chronic unresponsive bacterial infections
diabetes mellitus type II
herpes simplex (fever blister)
herpes zoster (shingles)
metastatic carcinoma (cancer)
peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation)
systemic chronic candidiasis (yeast infections)
temporal arteritis (inflammation of the temporal artery)
Researchers are currently working on developing treatment protocols for
many other diseases, including Legionnaires' disease, Erlich's carcinoma,
AIDS-related pneumonia caused by pneumocystis carinii, and infections
caused by Candida albicans, Salmonella typhi, Toxoplasma gondii, cytomegalovirus,