Ozone therapy is a controversial alternative medicine practice that uses ozone gas to fight disease.

Ozone is a form of oxygen. In alternative medicine, practitioners of ozone therapy use gas or liquid forms of ozone to treat medical conditions and as a topical disinfectant.

People have practiced ozone therapy in medical contexts for many years. However, its use is now controversial amid safety concerns.

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against using ozone therapy. This is because there is not enough evidence to conclude that it is effective or safe for medical use.

This article provides an overview of ozone therapy, including its uses, proposed benefits, and possible risks and side effects.

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Some health organizations, including the FDA, have concerns about the safety of ozone therapy.
Image credit: James Mutter, 2015.

Ozone therapy refers to medical practices that use ozone gas.

Ozone gas is a form of oxygen. This colorless gas is made up of three oxygen atoms. In the upper atmosphere, a layer of ozone gas protects the earth from the sun’s UV radiation. On ground level, however, ozone is “a harmful air pollutant.”

Ozone gas is harmful when a person inhales it, leading to lung and throat irritation, coughing, and worsened asthma symptoms. High exposure can lead to lung damage and can be fatal.

However, some researchers believe that ozone can have therapeutic effects in medical contexts. For example, one 2011 review reports that ozone therapy has had the following uses:

Researchers are currently exploring the effects of ozone therapy on the human body to identify any potential therapeutic benefits.

So far, however, there has been little research into the true effectiveness and safety of ozone therapy. For this reason, official organizations do not currently approve its use.

According to one 2005 report, there is not enough evidence to recommend ozone therapy for HIV or other infectious diseases, heart disease, cancers, skin conditions, or a range of other conditions.

Although ozone has shown success against the virus that causes HIV outside the body, no research to date has shown its safety or effectiveness in live humans.

Some research suggests that ozone therapy can fight disease, including cancer, by modulating the immune system response and reversing oxygen deficits in the body.

However, Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer (CAM Cancer) state that there have been no randomized controlled trials in people with cancer and very few human trials of ozone therapy for any condition.

The FDA do not authorize the use of ozone “[i]n any medical condition for which there is no proof of safety and effectiveness.”

This means that researchers need to run many more trials before determining the true effects of ozone therapy on the human body and whether or not it has any therapeutic benefits.

Although some research reports that the beneficial effects of ozone therapy are consistent and safe, other sources say that there is not enough evidence to know its true effectiveness or safety.

In 2019, the FDA published a statement against using ozone as a medical therapy. They say that ozone is a toxic gas, and that it has no known useful application in supportive or preventive medicine.

Regarding its use as a disinfectant, the FDA state that “[i]n order for ozone to be effective as a germicide, it must be present in a concentration far greater than that which can be safely tolerated by man and animals.”

Ozone therapy has had adverse effects in the past, some of which were severe.

As CAM Cancer state, “Cases have been reported where direct infusion of ozone intravenously has resulted in pulmonary embolism and death.”

According to the 2005 report, “There are some case reports of the use of ozone resulting in air embolism, bloodborne infections, and bilateral visual field loss after receiving ozone therapy.”

Ozone gas itself is harmful to humans. Exposure to ozone is associated with “a significant increase in the risk of death from respiratory diseases,” and it has well-known toxic effects on people’s lungs when present with nitrogen dioxide in smog.

Even small amounts of ozone can irritate the lungs and throat, resulting in coughing, shortness of breath, and damage to lung tissue.

Ozone is naturally a gas. To use it as a medicine, people apply it to the skin, use ozonated water, blow the gas into the body, or use an ozone sauna, wherein a body part is bagged and exposed to ozone gas.

Because ozone irritates the airways, it is important that people make sure they never inhale the gas.

For some procedures, a practitioner will mix a person’s blood with ozone and reinject it. This is a process known as autohemotherapy. Scientific studies have not proven the safety of this procedure.

Side effects associated with ozone therapy can vary depending on the type of treatment a person undergoes.

People should never inhale ozone. If it enters the mouth, nose, or eyes, it can burn and cause coughing, nausea, vomiting, or headaches. More severe exposure can lead to respiratory complications.

People who undergo ozone therapy sometimes experience the Herxheimer reaction. This can make the individual have flu-like symptoms and cause them to feel worse in the short-term.

Some ozone therapy procedures involve blowing gas into the body. If someone receives ozone therapy via the rectum, they may experience discomfort, cramping, and a feeling of needing to pass gas. These side effects are temporary.

Ozone therapy is an alternative medicine practice that uses ozone gas. It is controversial due to concerns around its effectiveness and safety.

Researchers are currently exploring the effects of ozone therapy on the human body to identify any potential therapeutic benefits.

Ozone gas is toxic to humans, and there has been little research into the safety of ozone therapy. For this reason, official organizations do not currently support its use.

Anyone who has questions about ozone therapy and which treatment is right for them should speak to their doctor.