Chances are it happened to you as a child -- you fell off your bike and got scraped up. If you used hydrogen peroxide for those cuts and scrapes, you might remember the tingling, bubbling and fizzing. But what was it really doing?
The tingling, bubbling and fizzing means the hydrogen peroxide is cleaning the wound -- hydrogen peroxide has great antibacterial qualities. These qualities give hydrogen peroxide many uses for improving the body's health. Hydrogen peroxide fights against parasites, viruses, bacteria and yeast. Health care providers have taken this knowledge about hydrogen peroxide's properties and applied it to places inside the body, such as the immune system. Practitioners claim that hydrogen peroxide therapy can positively affect conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, human papilloma virus, degenerative spinal disc disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and leukemia [source: Kennedy].
Positive health affects aside, however, hydrogen peroxide can potentially be a very dangerous substance. One of the major issues is that hydrogen peroxide can come in either a highly concentrated form or a very diluted form. The concentrated form can cause burns, vomiting and death if ingested [source: American Cancer Society]. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings to companies marketing hydrogen peroxide as an alternative health treatment, citing the dangers associated with the treatment and its lack of effectiveness [source: FDA]. Anyone considering hydrogen peroxide therapy should speak with a reputable doctor.
On the next few pages, we'll look at some of the conditions most often associated with hydrogen peroxide therapy and whether the treatment can be useful for them. We'll start with human papilloma virus (HPV).
Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy for HPV
The human papilloma virus, also known as HPV, is a sexually transmitted infection that can affect both men and women. The virus can cause warts to appear on the hands, feet or genitals, which can be mildly bothersome if and when they emerge. Generally, most HPV infections do not pose any health dangers, but HPV can potentially cause cancer in some high-risk patients. Planned Parenthood states that, currently, there is no known treatment to target and cure HPV [source: Planned Parenthood]. Despite this knowledge, some people claim that hydrogen peroxide might be a good cure for HPV.
There are some claims that hydrogen peroxide therapy can help viral problems like herpes and HIV. People may make the connection that hydrogen peroxide might also affect HPV, since it is also a sexually transmitted infection [source: NHI].
Sites supporting these claims propose applying hydrogen peroxide after shaving off or pulling out warts caused by an HPV infection. However, such practices are not only painful but also not recommended because there's no proof that hydrogen peroxide can treat HPV, although some studies are underway [source: Singh and Singh]. Shaving and removing warts can also lead to scarring and infections. Instead, it's best to visit a qualified doctor in order to determine proper treatment for HPV warts [source: Dorads].
Click to the next page to learn about how hydrogen peroxide therapy could be an alternative treatment for cancer patients.
Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy for Cancer
Some lay people believe hydrogen peroxide to be a good treatment for some variations of cancer. Separately, many alternative medicine practitioners have concluded that hydrogen peroxide therapy might be a good alternative to other cancer treatments [source: Farr and Josephs]. However, as with the use of hydrogen peroxide to treat HPV, there's no clear evidence that hydrogen peroxide can treat cancer. For this reason, you should consult your physician before considering hydrogen peroxide therapy.
Hydrogen peroxide therapy has many names, including oxidative therapy, bio-oxidative therapy, oxydology and oxymedicine [source: University of California]. These names have oxy as a base word because hydrogen peroxide has the ability to infuse the body with oxygen, thus making the body an oxygen-rich zone. Some advocates of hydrogen peroxide therapy believe that cancer cells blossom in areas that lack proper oxygen; therefore, the use of hydrogen peroxide is obvious. The theory behind hydrogen peroxide therapy is that the hydrogen peroxide can go into areas where oxygen is low and cancer cells are high. If the oxygen there can be increased, perhaps it could stop the cancer cells from thriving. According to proponents, hydrogen peroxide may bring healthy cells the energy they need in order to become stronger and ward off the cancer [source: American Cancer Society].
Though there were advocates of hydrogen peroxide therapy for treating cancer in the late 1800s, current evidence in the scientific world doesn't back up ideas that hydrogen peroxide therapy is effective in treating cancer. There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not the link between cancer and low oxygen levels in the cells even exists. Some doctors believe that the oxygen supply to these areas is sufficient, but the cells don't have the power to utilize the oxygen [source: Farr and Josephs]. This conflicting medical advice is something to keep in mind when searching for an alternative cancer therapy.
Read the next page in order to understand the specific method of taking in hydrogen peroxide intravenously.
Intravenous Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy
There are several ways to receive hydrogen peroxide therapy. Some people suggest drinking a diluted form of it, while others might recommend inserting it rectally, vaginally, or through the nose or the ears [source: American Cancer Society]. Though these are all possibilities, the most common method of receiving hydrogen peroxide is through intravenous injection.
Intravenous hydrogen peroxide therapy was first brought en masse to the medical field at the First International Conference of Bio-oxidative Medicine in 1989 [source: Farr and Josephs]. Since then, many people stand behind the supposed power of hydrogen peroxide IV infusions. Treatments typically last an hour and a half. They can vary in frequency, as some people might request only one treatment and others might want an infusion five days a week [source: Kennedy].
Regardless of treatment frequency, intravenous hydrogen peroxide injections can have several dangers and serious side effects, the most severe being death. In South Carolina, a doctor of alternative medicine administered hydrogen peroxide to a patient who then died within five days of that injection [source: Liptak]. Other side effects of IV therapy are vein inflammation, red streaks up and down the arm, shortness of breath, chills, nausea and general aches [source: Farr and Josephs]. Despite these known side effects, some people claim that there are very few dangers when administered IV therapy by a professional [source: IV Therapy].
So while treating that childhood bicycle scrape may have not been a bad idea, you should consult your physician before you begin any sort of hydrogen peroxide therapy.
To learn more about hydrogen peroxide, visit the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Cancer Society. "Oxygen Therapy." 10/24/08. (Accessed 3/19/09) http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_5_3x_Oxygen_Therapy.asp
- The Center for Integrative Health and Healing. "IV Therapy." (Accessed 3/19/09) http://www.cihh.net/iv-therapy-cancer-albany-ny.html
- Dorads, Karl. "All you Need to Know About Hydrogen Peroxide and hpv." Genital Warts. 9/10/08. (Accessed 3/19/09) http://www.genitalwartssite.com/2008/09/all-you-need-to-know-about-hydrogen-peroxide-and-hpv/
- Farr, Charles and Gordon Josephs. "Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy." The Arthritis Trust of America. 1992. (Accessed 3/19/09) http://arthritistrust.org/Articles/Hydrogen%20Peroxide%20Therapy.pdf
- Hitti, Miranda. "Why Hair Goes Gray." WebMD Health News. (Accessed 4/1/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20090225/why-hair-goes-gray
- Kennedy, Ron. "Intravenous Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy." Gracer Medical Group. 5/05. (Accessed 3/19/09) http://www.gracermedicalgroup.com/resources/page_01.php
- Liptak, Adam. "Death Puts Spotlight on a Doctor and Regulators." New York Times. 10/6/04. (Accessed 3/19/09) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/06/national/06doctor.html
- New Health Insight. "Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy." (Accessed 3/19/09) http://www.newhealthinsight.com/index.php/Intravenous-Therapy/Hydrogen-Peroxide-Therapy.html
- Planned Parenthood. "HPV." 2/21/08. (Accessed 3/20/09) http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv-4272.htm
- Singh, M. and N. Singh. "Induction of apoptosis by hydrogen peroxide in HPV 16 positive human cervical cancer cells." Mol Cell Biochem. 2007. (Accessed 3/20/09) http://www.springerlink.com/content/tr447552256mmq18/
- University of California. "Hydrogen Peroxide." (Accessed 3/19/09) http://cancer.ucsd.edu/outreach/publiceducation/CAMs/hydrogenperoxide.asp