Walking through a natural food store, you may run across products containing ozone, such as ozone water, ozonated infused oils or gels marketed as a skin salve, and more. You may have even heard about at-home ozone machines, but do they work, how do they work, and what are the benefits of ozone therapy?
What is Ozone?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ozone (O3) gas was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century and it is a highly reactive molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. The gas is colorless, it has a pungent odor, and it is explosive in liquid or solid form. It has a half-life of about 1 hour at room temperature and returns quickly to oxygen. It is both a natural and a man-made product that occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Ozone is good or bad depending on where it is in the atmosphere. The stratospheric (upper atmosphere) ozone layer is located about 6 through 30 miles above the Earth’s surface. It is formed naturally and absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. It is beneficial in reducing human exposure to harmful UV radiation that causes skin cancer and cataracts.
The tropospheric (lower atmosphere) ground-level ozone is what we breathe and it contributes to smog or haze especially in the summertime. The majority of it is formed by photochemical reactions of man-made volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Chemical plants, gasoline pumps, and oil-based paints are sources of VOC. NOx is the result of high temperature combustion such as power plants, industrial furnaces, and motor vehicles. This kind of ozone formation is not limited to big cities, because it can move downwind from where it is created to affect the ambient air quality in rural areas at various times of the day. When inhaled, it reacts chemically with many biological molecules in the respiratory tract, affecting our health.
According to the EPA, controlled human exposure studies have demonstrated that short-term (up to 8 hours) ozone exposure causes individuals to be unable to inhale to total lung capacity. They can also have adverse respiratory symptoms, such as cough, throat irritation, discomfort taking a deep breath, and shortness of breath.
The EPA says that short-term ozone exposure also causes cellular injury and airway inflammation, which can be problematic for patients with asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases. The EPA says that after a period of days to weeks, this inflammation subsides, and cell damage is repaired.
What is Ozone Therapy?
Although O3 has hazardous effects, it has been heavily studied for more than a century and researchers believe it has many therapeutic benefits. The beginning of precise medical O3 generators has recently allowed ozone’s effects and possible toxicity to be evaluated by clinical trials. In medical use, ozone produced from medical grade oxygen is administered in precise therapeutic doses, and never inhaled.
A clinical review of ozone done by the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, states that ozone therapy is proven, effective, and safe with minimal and preventable side effects. It says advocates of ozone therapy believe it helps with dental cavities, decreases blood cholesterol, neutralizes the oxidant effect of free radicals, modifies oxygenation in resting muscle, and is used to enhance treatment of hypoxic and ischemic syndromes, which are both diseases caused due to the insufficiency of oxygen supply in the body. Ozonized water, whose use is particularly known in dental medicine, is optimally applied as a spray or compress.
Since the 1800s, medical O3 has been well documented in disinfecting and treating as many as 114 diseases. Ozone has been used to treat drinking water. In 1896, the first O3 generator in the US was patented by Nikola Tesla who later formed the “Tesla Ozone Company”. In 1914, during the first world war during shortages when few other medical supplies were available, doctors familiar with O3’s antibacterial properties applied it topically to infected wounds and discovered O3 not only remedied infection, but also had hemodynamic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The Benefits of Ozone Therapy
Ozone therapy inactivates bacteria by disrupting the integrity of the bacterial cell envelop, comprised of the cell wall and membrane. It inhibits cell growth at certain stages in fungi and damages viruses.
Ozone therapy increases red blood cells, which leads to an increase in the amount of oxygen released to the tissues stimulating oxygen metabolism. Ozone activates the Krebs cycle, which is an energy making process that occurs in the mitochondria, that stimulates the production of energy-rich ATP. It also activates the immune system via pro-oxidant signaling molecules.
Methods of Ozone Therapy
Ozone therapy can be administered in different ways. One form of treatment is applying ozone directly to the tissue to help heal a wound.
Dentists use ozone insufflation to blow in and fight off oral bacteria. Safe ozone therapy is a non-invasive method that dentists may use to remove harmful bacteria from the mouth. Insufflation can be administered in other parts of the body as well, such as dare I say it, the vagina.
Ozone therapy can treat a diseased area with an ozone/ ozygen gas mixture by bagging a plastic chamber around the area of concern to administer alternating high and low pressure. It can also be done on small body areas using a suction cup in low pressure conditions.
Ozonated oil is a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil that is infused with ozone and applied to the body. Cosmetic procedures may administer a vacuum suction-vibratory massage with ozonized oil to the area, such as to treat cellulite.
Ozone can be infused in water for consumption, and used in other parts of the body. An ozone bath is a method by which a plastic chamber with bubble massage is used to increase the treatment effectiveness of healing a wound, whether it be on the foot or the arm.
It can be applied intravenously (IV) and intramuscularly. By using an injection, certain auto-immune and muscle disorders can be treated, such as arthritis. The IV method can also progress deeper into the body, and it is believed to provide several benefits, such as strong bactericidal, fungicidal and virostatic properties especially when microflora is resistant to available antibiotics. It transports and releases of oxygen through the tissues and stimulates blood circulation. It has an anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating effects.
Ozone Can Treat COVID-19 Patients
A review done by Medical Gas Research studied ozone and its effect on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The review discussed safe, albeit controversial, methods to use ozone therapy. High concentrations of pure ozone can be dangerous to the lungs if inhaled directly for long periods. It said there are various methods for giving intravenous ozonated-saline injections containing penetration into the external ear canal, vagina, rectum, and bladder, as well as direct injection of ozone gas into muscles, joint spaces, and discs to relieve back pain.
Ozone prevents virus replication and kills the virus, increases oxygenation to the blood and tissues, stimulates immune function through Nrf2, inhibits inflammatory pathogens (interleukins, cytokines, and TNFs), prevents the formation of small thrombosis, increases the expression of heme oxygenase-1 in endothelial cells, stimulates 2–3 diphosphoglycerates, so more oxygen [is delivered] to the tissues.
In general, many studies have shown the positive effect of ozone therapy as a complementary therapy in the recovery of patients with viral diseases including SARS-CoV-2. The results indicate that systemic ozone therapy is not toxic and has no side effects in patients with severe COVID-19. Oxygen–ozone therapy seems to be effective in COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory failure. Ozone therapy is more effective for severe patient’s conditions, and oxygen is an oxidizer that acts stronger the higher the temperature, so it can be more effective than existing treatments in critically ill patients with fever.
Ozone therapy typically uses a form of oxygen with the ozone gas to treat a variety of medical health conditions. This type of treatment does not involve the inhalation of pure ozone gas. The primary forms of treatment include topical disinfectant or IV methods.
Certain forms of ozone therapy can be beneficial depending on the health condition. For example, Lyme disease, is usually treated with IV therapy while certain skin conditions may require a topical application either by ozone oil, ozone baths and ozone insufflation. Talking to a trained professional can help you decide if ozone therapy is right for you.