When you hear ozone therapy, you may wonder how a gas in the Earth’s atmosphere can possibly serve as a therapeutic agent. There’s plenty of skepticism surrounding this type of alternative medicine, but research suggests that by supplying potent oxygen, ozone benefits are the real thing.
That said, ozone is an unstable molecule, and there are certainly risks when using it therapeutically. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that it has no known useful medical application, though there are studies that suggest otherwise.
So what’s the deal with ozone therapy? Is it an under-researched, but potentially impressive agent, or should you steer clear of this type of therapy altogether?
What Is Ozone Therapy?
Ozone therapy involves of the use of ozone (O3), a potent form of oxygen, as a disinfectant agent that’s introduced into affected areas of the body. The color gas is used to improve oxygen intake and boost the immune system response.
Ozone is the strongest naturally occurring oxidant. It’s produced in nature by lightning and ultraviolet irradiation.
Medical ozone is made by passing medical-grade oxygen through the ozone discharge, resulting in a gas mixture of 1 percent to 5 percent ozone and 95 percent to 99 percent oxygen.
Ozone therapy isn’t approved by the FDA, so as of now it can’t be performed in the United States by health care practitioners. There are some researchers and doctors who support its use for certain medical conditions, although more human clinical trials are needed to navigate its safety and efficacy.
How It Works/Uses
Medical ozone is used to reduce the harmful effects of bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast and protozoa. It’s used to disinfect and treat diseases that are caused by these invaders.
It works by disrupting bacterial and fungal cell growth and virus-to-cell contact through oxidation.
Cells that are vulnerable to invasion by foreign pathogens, like viruses, are also susceptible to oxidation, which is exactly how ozone works to disrupt their growth, eliminate them and allow for the replacement of healthy cells.
The basic function of ozone is to protect humans from the dangerous effects of UV radiation. It occurs naturally on Earth, in concentrations that are perfectly compatible with life.
Although the gas has dangerous effects, researchers have explored its therapeutic potential.
How is ozone therapy administered? In medicine, controlled therapeutic doses are used in several ways, but it’s not ingested or inhaled.
While in a gaseous state, ozone uses include:
- Direct injection: Ozone gas is used intravenously to treat internal organs and oxygenate blood. Intramuscular injections are also common.
- Autohemotransfusion: This form of ozone therapy involves drawing blood from the body, mixing it with ozone gas and then reinfusing the oxygenated blood.
- Rectal insufflation: This method is done by introducing ozone gas through the rectum so it can enter the colon and bloodstream.
- Skin exposure: Ozone gas is used on the skin through a sealed bag or medical chamber, much like hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Potential Health Benefits
Research indicates that diseases and health issue that are sometimes treated with ozone therapy include:
- infected wounds
- diabetic foot
- viral diseases
- circulatory disorders
- peripheral vascular disease
- breathing disorders
- macular degeneration
1. Works as Antibacterial and Antifungal Agent
Studies display that ozone works as an antibacterial agent that’s used to treat oral infections and wounds. When bacteria are exposed to ozone, the phospholipids and lipoproteins that are inside the bacterial cell envelope are oxidized and reduced.
This works on fungal cell walls similarly, allowing ozone to inhibit fungal growth by interfering with its reproductive cycle.
2. Enhances Immune Responses
It also activates the immune system and is used as a disinfectant to treat disease.
3. Increases Antioxidant Production
Ozone therapy works to increase the endogenous production of antioxidants, which allows it to increase oxidation and support immune function. Research indicates that by increasing antioxidant production, ozone supports wound healing and fights infections.
4. Supports Wound Healing
Ozone therapy can enhance circulation, destroy microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, enhance oxygen delivery and modulate the immune system. For these reasons, it’s used as an alternative therapy for wound healing and diabetic foot.
Is It Safe?
Ozone therapy does attract plenty of skepticism as an alternative medicine because it has an unstable molecular structure.
Is ozone therapy bad for you? Researchers agree that the toxicity of ozone depends on the concentration and administration to the appropriate site.
In other words, if it’s not used properly, it can certainly be dangerous.
A major issue with ozone is the damage it can do when inhaled into the lungs. It increases airway resistance significantly, without changing the elasticity of the lung, leading to serious issues like:
- shortness of breath
- swelling of blood vessels
- poor circulation
- risk of stroke and heart problems
Direct contact with the eyes, ozone injections and rectum exposure also have the risk of side effects. If ozone is inhaled, it can cause irritation, burning, coughing, headaches and nausea.
In some states, ozone therapy is not approved for use by physicians and naturopathic practitioners. It’s not approved or regulated by the FDA because there aren’t enough long-term human studies to prove its safety and efficacy.
Risks and Side Effects
The risks and side effects of ozone therapy come from its unpredictable nature. The gas is unstable, and with the wrong dose or administration, it can cause toxicity.
Exposure to high levels of ozone gas can damage red blood cells and lung function. There are also potential dangers to using ozone injections, and more human trials are needed to understand its safety.
Ozone therapy is not a common treatment modality, but it is used in some cases. To reduce the risk of side effects, be sure that your health care provider is well-trained.
Talk to your doctor about the potential health risks before treatment.
- Ozone therapy is the use of gaseous ozone to aid wound healing, oxygenation and serious infections. The evidence on this form of alternative medicine is lacking, but some researchers praise its therapeutic potential.
- The use of medical ozone is not approved by the FDA because it’s considered a toxic gas with no known useful medical application.
- There are many forms of ozone, including ozonated water, autohemotherapy, IV ozone therapy, and ozone chambers. These practices come with potential dangers, including toxicity, loss of lung capacity and heart issues.