Ozone is best known as the UV-protection layer in the earth’s upper atmosphere. However, ozone has many other uses on the ground, particularly in industrial chemical processes and sterilization. But ozone therapy is perhaps the most exciting ozone application yet.
Actually, ozone is not new to the medical world. Reports of ozone being used to disinfect and treat diseases go as far back as the mid-1800s. Ozone therapy techniques have massively improved over the years, making for more effective and versatile treatments.
Here is an overview of ozone therapy, detailing how it works as an alternative treatment for various ailments and health conditions.
What Is Ozone?
Ozone is a gas made up of 3-atom oxygen molecules O3. It’s one of the three gaseous allotropes of oxygen. The other two are dioxygen O2 (found in breathable air) and tetraoxygen O4. It has a characteristic pale blue tinge only visible in high concentrations and an odor generally described as both sweet and pungent.
The gas partially dissolves in water; it’s 13 times more soluble than regular oxygen. It’s also a powerful oxidizer, especially in its aqueous form, since it readily dissociates into highly reactive oxygen species. In the air, ozone has a half-life of about 12 hours and between 20-30 minutes in solution. These are the unique chemical behaviors that give ozone its therapeutic properties.
The Science Behind Ozone Therapy
Once in the body, ozone dissolves in plasma and tissue fluids and breaks down to form reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as hydroxyl radicals, peroxides, and singlet oxygen. Then, a series of organic reactions occur between the ROS and free radicals (products of cellular metabolism), raising oxygen concentration and triggering antioxidation in the surrounding tissue. One study showed that ozone therapy could balance these reactions to stimulate an adaptive antioxidant response in healthy tissues and cells.
Besides relieving oxidative stress, here are four more therapeutic functions linked to ozone treatment:
1. Killing Infectious Pathogens
Ozone started off as a water purification solution before making its way to medicine. It’s still used today to sterilize swimming pools, water reservoirs, and even drinking water. Ozone is an antimicrobial agent far more effective at killing and deactivating bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses than chlorine. Some researchers have even proposed ozone therapy as an alternative treatment for SARS-CoV-2 due to its high antimicrobial potency.
2. Boosting Immunity
Ozone therapy is closely linked to immune vitality and performance. Research shows that ozone therapy boosts immunity through several physiological mechanisms. One of the best-known mechanisms involves increasing cytokine production. Cytokines are small proteins essential for controlling the functions and growth of immune cells. They essentially modulate inflammation by stimulating, proliferating, and activating immune response agents.
3. Rejuvenating Cells
Tissues and cells get a massive boost of oxygen from ozone infusion. Mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse, use this influx of oxygen to generate energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In turn, this new energy supercharges metabolism and detoxification at the cellular scale. This action raises energy levels and stimulates the cells to grow, heal, and repair themselves naturally.
4. Relieving Pain and Stress
The effects of antioxidation, anti-inflammation, and cell revitalization combine to relieve pain in aching muscles, joints, and tissues. Physical health plays a significant role in mental and emotional well-being, too. As the body relaxes, energizes, and heals, so does the mind.
Several publications show well-documented evidence of ozone’s effectiveness in treating various pathogenic and inflammatory diseases. However, the FDA does not approve the use of ozone as a form of medical treatment. Admittedly, O3 therapy lacks satisfactory scientific backing due to limited clinical research in the field. But still, it’s fully recognized as a medical treatment in many parts of the world, specifically most of Asia and Europe.
How Is Ozone Administered?
Rather ironically, inhaling ozone can be harmful to the respiratory system. If inhaled in small doses, ozone can cause chest pain, throat irritation, coughing, and shortness of breath. It may also exacerbate respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchitis, and asthma. Elevated or repeated exposure to ozone can lead to irreversible lung damage. However, ozone tolerance and effects vary from person to person.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers ozone an air pollutant. According to the EPA, the standard ozone exposure is 0.07 ppm averaged over 8 hours.
Needless to say, medical ozone is never administered into the body through the respiratory tract. Instead, ozone therapists commonly use the following methods to infuse ozone into the bloodstream, lymphatic system, and other tissues:
Intravenous (IV) Infusion
In this treatment, 50-100 ml of blood is drawn from the patient, mixed with ozonated saline, and returned to the patient using a dropper. This is also known as “Autohemotherapy,” and it’s the most effective and versatile ozone treatment.
This method involves “blowing” ozone gas into the rectum. The ozone is kept in a bag and directed about 3 inches into the rectum through a special tube. Most of the ozone gets absorbed by the colon’s walls, while some amount lingers in the gut to kill off harmful pathogens and parasites. Rectal insufflation is a simpler, quicker, and less invasive procedure than ozone IV. Patients can even do it themselves at home. It’s also ideal for promoting gut health.
Ozone saunas administer ozone gas through the skin. The entire body (apart from the head) is enclosed in a special air-tight pod in which a mixture of ozone and hot steam is continually pumped. The hot steam causes pores on the skin to open, through which the ozone percolates into the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and fat tissues. This treatment is ideal for detoxifying, relieving stress and pain, accelerating wound healing, and rejuvenating the skin. It also elevates energy levels and helps with weight loss.
Ozonated Water and Oils
Taking water or oils enriched with medical ozone has more or less the same effect as rectal insufflation. However, some oils are meant for external application on the skin. According to a 2020 study, ozonated rubbing oils help check harmful microbes on the skin’s surface, disinfect and close wounds, and restore damaged skin tissue.
In this procedure, an ozone solution is injected intravenously into the patient’s aching joints. Intra-articular injections are commonly used to relieve pain and discomfort in arthritis patients, particularly those with knee osteoarthritis. This treatment is also used on patients recovering from joint injuries and surgeries.
Is Ozone Therapy the Way to Go?
Ozone therapy is not just another New Age medicine fad. It is firmly anchored on scientific foundations and administered by highly trained medical practitioners. On top of that, ozone is a proven alternative and supplemental treatment for numerous health conditions, including arthritis, immune deficiency, viral diseases, muscular degeneration, and cancer. Additionally, it’s known to promote wellness and youthfulness.
For those struggling with chronic aches, fatigue, stress, or medicated ailments, an ozone infusion might just be the reinvigoration and relief they’ve been looking for. They should talk to a doctor to find out if ozone therapy is right for them.