Ozone, also known as O3 or trioxygen, is a highly reactive gas consisting of three oxygen molecules. Ozone is produced by bombarding diatomic oxygen (O2) with energy in the form of electricity or ultraviolet light. This results in a percentage of the oxygen molecules splitting in two, creating free oxygen atoms that subsequently bind with the diatomic oxygen to form ozone.
Ozone has long been used as an effective and stable antibacterial agent for water treatment facilities and other operations. 1 Ozone can also assist in the process of removing dangerous metals from a water source by increasing the rate of oxidation.
What Does Ozone Do to Humans?
If ozone is a super-effective water purifier, and the human body is more than half water, you may naturally be wondering: what can ozone do for me? As it turns out, quite a lot. It’s worth noting that, in 2019, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared ozone a “toxic” substance with no medical applications. We know this is not strictly accurate, however, because ozone is already in use by dentists and hospitals as an anti-infection agent.
Some of the possible benefits of ozone therapy that have been identified to date include:
Antibacterial properties 2
Anti-fungal properties 3
Anti-viral properties 4
Treatment and prevention of infections
White blood cell stimulation
Immune system boosting effects
Improved mood regulation
Improved symptoms related to breathing disorders such as COPD (note: never inhale pure ozone gas, as it can be irritating and harmful to your respiratory system)
Stimulating the healing of wounds, burns, etc.
Mitigating or counteracting cell mutations (potentially preventing the formation of certain cancer cells)
Disinfectant for medical supplies
Joint and bone issues
Ozone therapy for recovery from injury, illness, or addiction
How Does Ozone Treatment Actually Work?
Many people wonder how exactly a gas that is mostly found in trace elements in our upper atmosphere can be harnessed for use as a medicinal supplement. Thankfully, ozone’s relatively low natural abundance doesn’t pose an issue for those interested in therapeutic use. As mentioned above, O3 can be reliably produced in a lab setting through the use of electricity or ultraviolet light. Ozone produced for therapeutic purposes should always come from medical-grade sources of oxygen.
Patients interested in trying ozone therapy for themselves are often pleased to find that there are a wide range of ways to put ozone therapy to use for you.
Ozonated water can be ingested as a supplement but must be used immediately after preparation as it will rapidly lose its ozonated properties.
Usually olive-oil based, this special oil can be applied directly to the body or further processed into a lotion or salve.
Direct Application of Gas
Ozone gas may also be applied directly to an affected (or infected) area with the help of a special apparatus that covers the area in question and contains the gas.
Intramuscular Ozone Injection
Ozone therapy is available as an intramuscular injection in a preparation containing both ozone and oxygen. Injections of ozone are often used by dentists due to their powerful anti-microbial properties.
Intravenous Ozone Injection
IV ozone injections have been the subject of some promising research in treating persistent internal infections such as HIV. To perform an IV ozone injection, a small amount of blood is drawn to be mixed with ozone. The patient then receives an injection of their own ozonated blood.
The patient’s blood is drawn and ozonated before being returned to the bloodstream with this type of therapy.
This therapy is exactly what it sounds like! A traditional sauna with the addition of ozone gas being pumped in so that your heat-stimulated pores can better absorb it.
Rectal Insufflation (Ozone Enema)
This is not properly an enema or suppository because the procedure is performed with gaseous ozone rather than warm liquid or solid medicinal supplements. Still, the mucus membranes of the large intestine offer an ideal route of absorption for many substances, including ozone.
Ozone and the Human Body
Ozone’s apparent ability to boost and support immune system function is the focus of much research and debate among medical and research communities. The quest to identify and isolate the method by which ozone helps create healthy blood cells is well underway, and successful research could represent a significant breakthrough in the viability and accessibility of ozone treatment.
2018: A Breakthrough Year in Ozone Research
In 2018, researchers were able to observe that when ozone is mixed with bodily fluids, the reactions that occur result in the formation of additional proteins and blood cells, subsequently leading to better oxygen availability throughout the body.5 While significant, this may only represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the full potential of medicinal ozone.
Another 2018 study put ozone’s anti-viral properties to the test in an experimental HIV trial. 6 After two years of treatment and data-gathering, the ozone therapy had significantly reduced the amount of measurable HIV in patients. Lower viral loads are implicated in better long-term outcomes for HIV patients, meaning ozone could potentially emerge as a lifesaving drug, despite the FDA claiming it has no medicinal uses.
The third in our trio of 2018 studies showed that ozone therapy could also be used for a completely different application: the treatment of osteoarthritis. 7 The study showed that when an ozone regimen was used to combat knee osteoarthritis, it improved patients’ range of motion and slowed the progression of the disease’s effects.
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Ozone therapy and oxygen therapy are entirely different things and should never be conflated. While most oxygen therapy involves inhaling directly from an oxygen source, this is not an appropriate route of administration for ozone therapy. Directly breathing in ozone gas can be harmful to your lungs — or irritating at the very least — and should never be attempted.
Although ozone is made up of oxygen molecules, ozone and oxygen are two distinct gases and their therapeutic applications are likewise different. There may be some overlap due to the fact that improved oxygenation by any means can result in improved mood, energy, and overall sense of wellness, but that is where the similarities end.
Your First Ozone Treatment: What to Expect
Ozone therapy can look very different from patient to patient. We already looked at how many different possible routes of administration there are above, from easy-to-apply topical oils to medical procedures similar to blood transfusions. An oil massage is obviously a much quicker and simpler treatment than having your blood drawn, ozonated, and replaced in a licensed medical facility, and there is a whole spectrum of other ozone treatment options between those two extremes.
You will want to speak to a trusted health care provider to come up with a personal plan for ozone therapy that will meet your goals and lead to your desired outcomes, whether you’re using it for wound treatment, general self-care, or as part of an addiction recovery regimen.
Common questions like “how often should I do ozone therapy?” and “how long does ozone treatment take?” unfortunately cannot be answered in a sentence or two. The answers will represent a deeply personal choice made in partnership with a trusted care provider and will therefore look different in every situation.
If you and your doctor decide on intramuscular injection-based ozone treatment, for example, you might expect the process to be comparable to getting vaccinated.
Can Ozone Therapy Be Harmful?
Because ozone therapy and some of its emergent uses are still a matter of continued research and testing, we also may not know all of ozone’s potential side effects. While it is a gas that occurs naturally in our own atmosphere, it needs to be handled and administered with great care and respect just like any other medicinal supplement.
Here’s what we do know about the possible downsides to ozone therapy:
People with existing respiratory conditions should be particularly cautious around ozone. Breathing the gas directly can cause irritation to the lungs or even damage to the lung tissue itself. Ozone therapy is not the same as oxygen therapy and should never involve deliberately and directly inhaling ozone gas.
It’s worth noting here that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come out against products containing ozone due to its categorization as an air pollutant. Extreme ozone irritation has been known to lead to a pneumonia-like fluid buildup in the lungs.
Ozone — O3 — contains an odd number of atoms, making it unstable. While ozone is not technically flammable, due to the fact that it is, itself, made of oxygen, high concentrations of ozone can be explosive in their own right. Patients and medical professionals using ozone for therapeutic purposes should do so with all possible caution and due diligence.
Dangers of IV Use
Any drug taken intravenously has its own inherent risks, such as the formation of tiny air bubbles that can lead to fatal disruption of the cardiovascular system. Use all necessary precautions when taking intravenous ozone or any other injection-based treatment.
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3. Silva, J., Pereira, M. N., & Scussel, V. M. (2018). Ozone gas antifungal effect on extruded dog food contaminated with Aspergillus flavus. Ozone: Science & Engineering, 40(6), 487-493. https://doi.org/10.1080/01919512.2018.1481361
4. Hudson, J. B., Sharma, M., & Vimalanathan, S. (2009). Development of a practical method for using ozone gas as a virus decontaminating agent. Ozone: science & engineering, 31(3), 216-223. https://doi.org/10.1080/01919510902747969
5. Seyam, O., Smith, N. L., Reid, I., Gandhi, J., Jiang, W., & Khan, S. A. (2018). Clinical utility of ozone therapy for musculoskeletal disorders. Medical gas research, 8(3), 103–110. https://doi.org/10.4103/2045-9912.241075
6. Cespedes-Suarez J, Martin-Serrano Y, Carballosa-Peña MR, Dager-Carballosa DR. The immune response behavior in HIV-AIDS patients treated with Ozone therapy for two years. J Ozone Ther.2019:2(3). Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://ojs.uv.es/index.php/JO3T/article/view/11458/pdf
7. Manoto, S. L., Maepa, M. J., & Motaung, S. K. (2018). Medical ozone therapy as a potential treatment modality for regeneration of damaged articular cartilage in osteoarthritis. Saudi journal of biological sciences, 25(4), 672-679. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sjbs.2016.02.002
This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.
Dr. Samuel Lee
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Lyle Murphy is the founder of the Alternative to Meds Center, a licensed residential program that helps people overcome dependence on psychiatric medication and addiction issues using holistic and psychotherapeutic methods.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.
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