Ozone Therapy: Definition, Uses, FDA Status

Ozone Therapy: Definition, Uses, FDA Status


Ozone is an odorless, colorless, and highly reactive gas made of three oxygen atoms (O3). Some researchers and clinicians propose that ozone therapy can treat certain medical conditions, such as immune system disorders, diabetes, arthritis, and wounds or infections.

However, the effectiveness of ozone therapy is still being researched, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently believes that ozone therapy doesn’t have enough proven effects for medical purposes. More research is required to better understand the applications of ozone therapy, its efficacy, the best way to administer it, and any potential risks.

Here’s what researchers know so far.

Ozone gas exists in the upper atmosphere, shielding the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, at the ground level, ozone is considered a harmful air pollutant that can cause respiratory symptoms like cough, chest pain, and throat irritation when inhaled. Ozone therapy, however, doesn’t depend on ozone from the atmosphere. Instead, it uses medical-grade ozone produced by ozone generator devices.

Researchers currently have several theories on the purpose of ozone therapy and how it can help your body.

May Improve Oxygen Levels

The theory behind ozone therapy is to increase the amount of oxygen in your body to promote healing and boost immune system responses. One study found that when administered into the body, ozone reacts with components in your bodily fluids, which can help form more red blood cells and increase the level of oxygen in your body. 

Can Increase Antioxidants

Ozone therapy may also act as an antioxidant inducer. Studies show that ozone activates nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2), which is a protein that regulates the transcription or activity of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules that help protect your cells against inflammation and damage by fighting off unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. An imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body leads to oxidative stress—a situation where the free radicals start causing damage to your DNA, tissues, and body proteins.

Could Act as a Disinfectant

Ozone therapy may work as a disinfectant for medical supplies and to prevent wound infections. Research suggests ozone may be active against different microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, yeast, and fungi.

There are several routes of administration for ozone therapy, including:

  • Blood mixing (autohemotransfusion): Takes a small sample of your blood and dissolves ozone into it before transfusing it back into your veins
  • Skin administration: Applies an ozone solution to the skin to heal wounds or prevent infection
  • Intramuscular method: Injects ozone into the muscles
  • Body cavity: Blows ozone through body cavities like the rectum, nose, mouth, and vagina
  • Oral route: Requires you to ingest small amounts of ozone dissolved in water

Ozone can irritate the airways, making it unsafe to inhale. It’s also best to avoid direct contact with the eyes.

Some studies suggest that ozone therapy may be beneficial for several health conditions. While more research is still needed, experts believe that ozone therapy may help treat autoimmune disorders, diabetes, inflammatory conditions, and more.

Inflammatory Conditions

Research suggests that ozone therapy may also initiate the production of antioxidant enzymes, which counteract oxidative stress and inflammation. Therefore, ozone therapy may have potential benefits for treating certain inflammatory conditions, like arthritis (a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints).

One study published in the Journal of Ozone Therapy also suggests that ozone therapy may help reduce viral loads in people with HIV (another inflammatory infection) and improve their symptoms by stimulating antioxidant production and controlling the excess production of free radicals.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects your insulin production and causes ongoing inflammation in the body. Studies have also linked diabetes to inflammation in the pancreatic beta cells that secrete insulin, the hormone that regulates your blood sugar. 

One study reported that people with foot ulcers caused by diabetes who used ozone therapy experienced accelerated and complete wound healing, a lower risk of infection, and a decline in amputations.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Studies have also suggested that ozone therapy may improve symptoms of musculoskeletal conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, tendon tears, spinal conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome, and bursitis. Ozone therapy may promote antioxidant levels and increase oxygen in the tissue, which can help repair muscles, joints, and ligaments more effectively. 

Muscle Oxygenation and Tissue Regeneration

Since ozone therapy may increase the availability and delivery of oxygen, it may also help regenerate your body’s tissues and form new blood vessels. Both of these processes can help your wounds heal and prevent the risk of serious complications from injuries and infections.

Dental Concerns

Ozone therapy may also be applied to dental care. Studies show that ozone therapy may help eliminate pathogens (bacteria or viruses) that cause oral conditions, promote wound healing in the mouth, gums, or teeth, and treat cavities.

Even though some studies report the potential benefits of ozone therapy, other reputable sources have shared concerns and warnings about its use.

The FDA warned that ozone is a toxic gas with no useful application in preventive or supplementary medicine.  A report by Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer also explains that some of the studies that proposed ozone therapy were safe did not adopt standard systematic review methods, making the reliability of their conclusions unclear. 

Some research also warns that ozone therapy should not be administered intravenously or inhaled because it may cause adverse side effects like:

  • Lung irritation
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain or tightness

Currently, there is not enough information available about which routes of administration are safe. There are also no guidelines on how much ozone dosage you need to experience positive health outcomes.

If you’re interested in ozone therapy, it’s essential to talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of this therapy to learn if this treatment is safe for you.

You can try several other treatments as an alternative to ozone therapy—all of which can help improve oxygen supply, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system. Consider the following:

  • Non-invasive oxygen supply: Provides breathing support by delivering oxygen to the lungs using nasal or face masks, which can be effective for treating respiratory illnesses
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: Involves breathing in pure oxygen while under increased pressure, which can increase oxygen levels and speed up healing for anemia, skin infections, carbon monoxide poisoning, and more  
  • Vitamin and mineral supplementation: Uses micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc to strengthen your immune system 
  • Dietary intervention: Recommends eating nutritious and natural foods like ginseng, yogurt, beta-glucagon, and whey protein to boost your immune system and fight inflammation

Ozone therapy has been touted for several benefits, such as improving symptoms of diabetes, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. However, research is mixed on how safe, effective, and appropriate ozone therapy is for various conditions.

More research is needed to determine whether ozone therapy is truly effective and whether its benefits outweigh the risks. Before you consider ozone therapy, it’s essential to receive your healthcare provider’s advice and approval.

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