What Is Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy?

Exploring the grey area of oxidative therapy for cancer

Hydrogen peroxide (H202) is a chemical compound commonly used for disinfecting surfaces, bleaching hair or whitening teeth, and cleaning small wounds.

Some people believe that hydrogen peroxide can cure or treat cancer. Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing liquid, meaning it produces oxygen. It's believed that hydrogen peroxide can introduce oxygen into cancer cells and kill them. This type of treatment is known as oxidative therapy.

In this article, we'll go into greater detail about how hydrogen peroxide therapy works and learn whether or not current evidence supports claims that it can treat or cure cancer.

Hydrogen peroxide solution in a beaker

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What Is Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy?

Hydrogen peroxide therapy is given intravenously (IV), which means it's administered directly into the bloodstream.

The two elements that make up the chemical are water and oxygen. When hydrogen peroxide is in the body, it breaks down into those two elements. Putting hydrogen peroxide into the body introduces more oxygen, which is believed to help with certain conditions.

It’s thought that the oxygen molecules from the dissolving hydrogen peroxide can kill cancer cells because too much oxygen can be toxic to these cells.

What Has Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy Been Used For?

Hydrogen peroxide was first discovered in 1818, however, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that it was used to treat scarlet fever, bacterial infections, and tonsillitis. Following the First World War, it was also used to treat influenza and pneumonia.

In the 1960s, doctors conducted more studies on the effects of the chemical and found that it could be used to help promote oxidation. That’s when oxidative therapy, a group of therapies that stimulate the immune system by using oxygen, ozone gas, or hydrogen peroxide, was pioneered. Oxidative therapy was used to help treat cancer, skin diseases, and polio.

Is There Any Evidence to Support Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy?

There is no evidence supporting the claims that some doctors have made about the use of hydrogen peroxide therapy as a treatment for cancer. So far, any research that does demonstrate the health benefits of the chemical is limited and centers around other health conditions and diseases.

Research and the Risks

No evidence supports that hydrogen therapy can treat cancer, and many studies have suggested that it is not safe. One study found that hydrogen peroxide may actually aid in the development of cancer by creating a good environment for the disease to flourish. That's because the production of hydrogen peroxide in the body can lead to accelerating aging, inflammation, and DNA damage, all of which can lead to the development and spread of cancer cells.

Another study found that people who had ingested hydrogen peroxide in high doses over the course of a 10-year period experienced adverse health effects, such as stroke, disability, and death.

Types of Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy

Hydrogen peroxide therapy is primarily administered intravenously (IV), which means it's administered directly into the bloodstream.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy Legal?  

The use of IV and oral hydrogen peroxide has not been clinically tested nor approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The substance is not illegal. However, there are regulations that limit the concentration of hydrogen peroxide that can be used for medicinal and industrial purposes. For example, hydrogen peroxide that can be purchased over the counter typically contains 3% to 9% of the substance.

Many of the IV and oral concentrations used at clinics and wellness centers are as high as 35%, which is a concentration typically only for external use or as an industrial cleaner or disinfectant. Ingesting hydrogen peroxide can erosion, ulcers, and perforation in your stomach.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts its own studies on medical products to convey the best and most accurate information to the public. This means that a product can be legal to buy, own, sell, or use and still not be approved by the FDA. In the case that a product is legal but not FDA-approved, it is used off-label. It can mean that the product is not designed to treat a certain condition, is not approved for the dosage or administration route, or is not approved for a certain age group.

Summary

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing liquid that creates oxygen in the body. Some people believe it can help treat or cure cancer because high levels of oxygen may be toxic to cancer cells and can kill them. However, hydrogen peroxide is not FDA-approved for treating cancer. Also, studies have shown that hydrogen peroxide may actually promote cancer cell growth and spread. The substance is dangerous to use internally, and should only be used topically.

A Word From Verywell

The thought of hydrogen peroxide therapy being a cure for cancer may sound alluring. However, no research has shown that the substance can help with cancer. Some studies have even found that using it to treat cancer could have the opposite effect.

Using hydrogen peroxide therapy can cause more harm than good. If you are still considering the use of hydrogen peroxide for cancer treatment, you should ask your doctor about the risks of hydrogen peroxide therapy and discuss safer treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does hydrogen peroxide therapy for cancer work?

According to claims, hydrogen peroxide therapy works by introducing oxygen into cancer cells to essentially drive their death by raising oxygen levels in your body. However, there is no evidence that supports that it can treat cancer. In fact, many studies have found that hydrogen peroxide can actually do the opposite and drive the growth of cancer.  

Is it safe to do a hydrogen peroxide IV?

IV hydrogen peroxide therapy has not been approved by the FDA. Clinical trials studying its use intravenously have also not been done. Reports and research surrounding its safety has found that serious adverse effects can occur. Since hydrogen peroxide is not approved, the substance should not be used intravenously for medical purposes. 

What are the other benefits of hydrogen peroxide therapy?

Although hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t be ingested or injected into the bloodstream, it does have some benefits. For example, it can be used to help whiten teeth or clean minor scrapes if used at a low concentration.

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8 Sources
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