Bronze-level article

Oxygen therapy

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
An oxygen bar showing added oils
Against allopathy
Alternative medicine
Clinically unproven

Oxygen therapy, or hyperoxygenation therapy, is a quack medical treatment claimed by its proponents to treat several diseases, including AIDS, cancer, and Lyme disease. The term is a catch-all for several different treatments, which include: ingesting or injecting hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), ozone (O3) therapy of various kinds, drinking so-called "oxygenated water" (H2O+O2) products, and the inhalation of pure oxygen (O2). In the case of ozone therapy, the theory hypothesis nonsensical idea seems to be that, because O2 is generally necessary for human life, O3 must be some kind of SUPER OXYGEN that is even better for you! Much like hydrogen peroxide is more refreshing than water (H2O).

Oxygen therapy is completely ineffective and definitely dangerous!

For cancer[edit]

Oxygen therapy is based on the false notion that cancer cells and viruses cannot survive in a high-oxygen environment. This may stem from the fact that many tumors are hypoxic (because their rapid growth rate means that blood vessels can't catch up to supply them with sufficient oxygen), but it certainly doesn't mean that an increase in oxygen will kill them — quite the opposite, in fact — and that a low-oxygen environment encourages infectious diseases.

Not only is this idea unsound, but double-blind studies of ozone use in AIDS treatment have shown that it is ineffective at best.[1] Worse, it was shown to cause greater damage in mice lacking T cells than to regular mice,[2] indicating that those with AIDS (and hence lacking T cells) are at a greater risk for lung injury from ozone. Laboratory studies have also found that high oxygen levels encourage, rather than hinder, the growth of new cancer cells. Anaerobic bacteria may not like oxygen, but everything that has mitochondria has them for the specific purpose of using the energy in oxygen. Thus it stands to reason that oxygen therapy cannot work as a specific cure for cancerous or diseased cells. This isn't to be confused with studies that show aerobic exercise can improve the health and well-being of patients, and diminishing the effect of symptoms.[3]


Autohemotherapy is drawing blood from the patient and bubbling ozone through it, then reinjecting it into the patient. This is potentially dangerous or deadly,[4] and is ineffective at curing, easing, or ameliorating anything.

Hydrogen peroxide[edit]

Some quacks recommend ingestion or injection of hydrogen peroxide, which can be potentially dangerous or deadly. Hydrogen peroxide is maybe useful when used externally to disinfect wounds.[5] Taking it internally or through injection or enemas can lead to any number of dangerous effects, such as gas bubbles forming in the liver, destruction of red blood cells, and kidney failure.[6] It has led to at least one death.[7] A sufficiently strong solution of hydrogen peroxide can bleach skin semi-permanently (i.e. until the bleached skin sloughs off), which was a fact well known to rocket scientists in the United States during the Cold War; see, H2O2 is quite unstable, and a rather fierce oxidizer, so it's been used quite a bit in rocket propellant research. Among other things, it's been used to fuel jetpacks by blasting a spray of the stuff through a grid of palladium or platinum, both of which have strong catalyzing effects that cause the molecule to break down in catastrophic fashion. In other words, we routinely use rocket fuel as a disinfectant, and it works by exactly the same process by which it powers jet packs; needless to say, why anyone considers that something like that could be good for you when taken internally is a mystery for the ages.

Oxygenated water[edit]

Some other forms of oxygen therapy are not potentially dangerous, but merely worthless wastes of time and money. Drinking so-called "oxygenated water" is a useless quack patent medicine, although there are some claims that it may taste a bit better. Dissolving additional oxygen into water is only of benefit to fish, which extract it through gills, or in river water as part of dealing with the demands of pollution or sedimentation. The maximum dissolved oxygen content for water — even at cool drinking temperature, as gases dissolve better at low temperature — is around 10 mg/L,[8] which isn't actually much higher than the natural dissolved concentration (about 6-7 mg/L).[9] Even at saturation, this works out as about 10 milliliters of oxygen, something you find in about 50 milliliters of normal air — and about a hundredth of the amount exchanged in a single breath. Even if the difference was non-negligible, the human gut — or of any animal, for that matter — cannot absorb oxygen, so it gives no benefit directly and its effect on the water itself is not chemically significant inside the human body. A similar sort of claim was made by Gillian McKeith regarding eating chlorophyll-containing leaves to boost oxygen levels — again, patent nonsense, as the gut doesn't absorb oxygen and is certainly not a place where you want high concentrations of it. Oxygenated water is sometimes found in health food stores and is claimed to boost sports performance, despite both scientific theory and studies stating otherwise. As it is no more than water, really, it has been described as "snake oil without the oil (and, for that matter, without the snake)".[10]

Ozone therapy[edit]

Ozone therapy is a kind of oxygen therapy that focuses on ozone (O3) for medicine. Most ozone therapy involves ozonatorsWikipedia (ozone generators).[11] Many use the method of coronal discharge (you may see users "zap" themselves with the machine) and some are marketed as air purifiers.

The problem? Ozone is toxic. It'll kill you. That means that any product purporting to produce ozone is either lying or hurting you directly by using it. According to the USFDA, any sufficient amount of ozone that could effectively kill germs would not be safe for human use.[12] For this reason, the FDA has banned ozone therapy. Some countries have legalized it, unfortunately, such as Brazil.[13]

Inhaling extra oxygen[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Inhalation of oxygen has legitimate medical uses — e.g. the "oxygen tent" — but is useless in treating diseases such as cancer and AIDS. High concentrations of oxygen can damage the body, notably causing blindness.

Besides, we thought antioxidants were a good thing — in which case, adding oxygen would seem to be counterproductive.

Inhalation of ozone at high concentrations can lead to respiratory irritation and coma.


Duckhead.gif Quackwatch says: [6]
Oxygenation therapists proposed that disease is caused by absence of oxygen and loss of cellular ability to use oxygen for “good energy” metabolism, detoxification, and immune system function. Oxygen therapies are proposed in order to restore the body’s ability to produce “good” energy, to “detoxify” metabolic poisons, and to kill invading organisms. However, over the five decades that have passed since this concept was proposed, scientists have shown that:
  1. Anerobic energy metabolism (fermentation) is not the cause of cancer.
  2. Koch’s glyoxylide does not exist.
  3. Ingestion, infusion, or injection of hydrogen peroxide cannot re-oxygenate the tissues of the body.
  4. Ozone-treated blood infused during autohemotherapy does not kill AIDS virus in vivo.

External links[edit]