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by Ross, R.Ph. Pelton, Lee Overholser

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Hydrogen Peroxide

AT HOSPITAL SANTA MONICA we have pioneered in the administration of hydrogen peroxide to treat cancer and other conditions. Our doctors have administered over 40,000 infusions of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) intravenously and have treated thousands of patients with oral doses. Other clinics offering alternative cancer treatment are now using hydrogen peroxide routinely, and some physicians in the U.S. are experimenting with it.


As far back as the early nineteenth century, hydrogen peroxide was widely used in medicine. Many bacterial diseases, including syphilis, responded to H2O2 when no other treatment was effective. In the early twentieth century H2O2 was used to treat several common diseases, such as typhoid fever, cholera, ulcers, asthma, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. (11)

Hydrogen peroxide's ability to kill bacteria in the human body has been well documented (1, 13, 17), and a 1922 medical textbook describes the use of hydrogen peroxide orally, by intravenous injection, and for topical use. (14) However, as the pharmaceutical industry began to develop powerful new (and high-priced) drugs, hydrogen peroxide was increasingly ignored and finally discarded as a treatment.

Early Supporters

Several fascinating personalities have been involved in the struggle to gain recognition in the U.S. of hydrogen peroxide as a therapeutic agent again. Dr. Edward Rosenow (1875-1966), a physician and research scientist associated with the Mayo Clinic for over forty years, discovered that hydrogen peroxide was the safe, effective antimicrobial, antiviral agent he had spent years looking for. Unfortunately, he died without seeing his discovery become widely accepted.

However, his friend Father Wilhelm, a Catholic priest and chemistry teacher, made a commitment to publicize the wonderful benefits of hydrogen peroxide. In the 1970s he presented Rosenow's research to several large pharmaceutical companies, only to get the same response every time: Rosenow's work on hydrogen peroxide was very interesting and potentially important, but hydrogen peroxide was an inexpensive substance that could not be patented and had no commercial value.

Walter Grotz was the next player in the hydrogen peroxide story. After a 1965 auto accident, Grotz developed arthritis that was so bad he could hardly walk. In the winter of 1982, after retiring as postmaster in Delano, Minnesota, his wife convinced him that a warm Caribbean cruise might lessen his arthritic pain. As fate would have it, the chaplain on their cruise ship was Father Wilhelm. When Father Wilhelm learned that Wally (as he is affectionately called) had arthritis, the good Father began preaching his "peroxide sermon."

Wally began taking small amounts of hydrogen peroxide orally, and within a few months his arthritis pain was totally gone. Walter became as committed as Father Wilhelm, and the two of them have now dedicated their lives to spreading the word about the potential health benefits of hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen Peroxide in Nature

When ozone mixes with moisture in the air, it forms hydrogen peroxide, which comes down in rain and snow. It occurs naturally in fresh fruits and vegetables, some coming from rain and some manufactured during photosynthesis. (6) Hydrogen peroxide is also found in mother's milk, with an especially high concentration in colostrum (the first milk secreted, right after birth).

One researcher states, "The generation of H2O2 in cellular processes seems to be purposeful, and H2O2 cannot be dismissed as a mere undesirable by-product.... The capacity for generation of H202 is now found to be widespread in a variety of organisms and in the organelles of the cells." (12)

The Chemistry of Hydrogen Peroxide

 Hydrogen peroxide is a very simple compound, with the chemical I formula H2O2 Essentially it is a molecule of water with an extra atom of oxygen attached, occurring throughout nature and produced by almost every cell in the human body.

Most people are familiar with the common drugstore variety of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide, used for everything from sterilizing a cut to cleaning kitchen countertops. Hydrogen peroxide's sterilizing power comes from its extra oxygen atom. Hydrogen peroxide has a similar oxidizing, or cleansing, power in the body. However, the drugstore variety of H2O2 should never be used internally, because of the chemicals it contains as stabilizers.

Free Radicals

In the 1950s Dr. Denham Harman developed the free-radical theory of aging. Free radicals are molecules that have a chemically active oxygen atom attached to them. Free radicals can damage cells, causing aging and cancer. (15)

At first it seemed that extra oxygen was always damaging, and that the antioxidants were the good guys, responsible for anti-aging protection. Now it appears that not all free-radical reactions are bad. For instance, oxygen helps cleansing enzymes remove toxins, and it is used by the immune system to attack invading bacteria. (4) Also, hydrogen peroxide stimulates natural killer (NK) cells, which attack cancer cells as these attempt to spread throughout the body. (8)

Oxygen and Cancer

Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize for his discovery that cancer cells have different metabolic properties than normal cells. (16) Healthy cells are aerobic; they use oxygen in most of their chemical reactions. Cancer cells have reverted to a more primitive metabolic process, called fermentation which is anaerobic, or without oxygen. This means that cancer cells thrive in a low-oxygen environment.

The main energy source for both normal and cancer cells is glucose. However, a cancer cell's anaerobic processing of glucose yields only one fifteenth the energy per glucose molecule, compared with normal cellular metabolism. This is why cancer cells have such a huge appetite for sugar (glucose).

Mechanism of Action

One possible way in which intravenous hydrogen peroxide can treat cancer is by releasing pure oxygen in the body. By saturating the cells and tissues with oxygen, hydrogen peroxide promotes healthy, oxygen-based metabolism.

Dr. Charles Farr discovered that intravenous hydrogen peroxide stimulates oxidative enzymes in the body, which help to clear out toxins. (5) He found that intravenous H2O2 infusions almost doubled the metabolic rate. These changes may account in part for the observed benefits from H2O2 infusions.

It is important to note that H2O2 apparently does not produce free-radical lipid peroxidation, but instead stimulates important detoxifying oxidative enzyme systems. This is the direct opposite of what might be expected.

Many people, including myself, initially reacted negatively to the idea of taking hydrogen peroxide internally. How could something that produces free radicals possibly have a therapeutic benefit? However, the damage from free radicals comes from chronic exposure to free-radical oxygen, which is part of more complex molecules. The processes of oxygenation and stimulation of the oxidative enzymes may account for the positive effects of hydrogen peroxide that have been observed.

Clinical Studies

In the 1950s Dr. Reginald Holman tested H2O2 on rats implanted with Walker 256 adenocarcinoma tumors. Their drinking water was replaced by a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide. The optimal concentration was reported to be 0.45 percent, and complete disappearance of the tumors was reported to exist from fifteen to sixty days. (9)

In 1982 Winifred Wirth reported on the effective use of oral H2O2 in the treatment of laboratory mice infected with Ehrlich carcinoma. Effectiveness was judged by the decrease in mortality and the delayed onset of palpable tumor incidence. (18)

Hydrogen Peroxide and Radiation

It has been shown that there is a direct relationship between the oxygen content in tumor cells during radiation therapy and the effectiveness of the treatment. (10) Higher levels of oxygen produce better results. Hyperbaric oxygen chambers have been used to achieve better tumor oxygenation during radiation therapy. (2, 3) However, biological and physiological problems associated with the administration of oxygen at increased pressures plus the expense of the hyperbaric chambers themselves make this method of oxygenation somewhat impractical.

With the above difficulties in mind, a group of physicians decided to try using intra-arterial hydrogen peroxide as a source of oxygen along with radiation therapy in the treatment of 190 g individuals with advanced cancer. (1) The main criterion for the selection of cases for this study was that their tumors were either so very advanced or metastatic that they were considered poor candidates for any form of conventional therapy. Fewer than 10 percent of the subjects were expected to survive more than one year.

The individuals in this study showed the following overall survival for the five years of the study: 
year one = 77 percent;
year two = 62 percent;
year three = 46 percent;
year four = 36 percent; and 
year five =28 percent.

Patients with cancers of the head and neck, cervix, and bladder seemed to respond much better than would be expected under standard therapeutic treatment. The authors of this study point out that their preliminary results suggest that the use of intra-arterial hydrogen peroxide can improve the effectiveness of standard radiation therapy for some types of malignancies.

Research and Information

The International Bio-Oxidative Medicine Foundation is an organization of physicians and scientists who are carrying out research on the effects of oxygen therapy or studying its clinical application. The foundation sponsors the annual International Conference on Bio-Oxidative Medicine and also produces the IBOM Newsletter. The studies presented at the IBOM conferences have done much to increase the credibility of such oxidative therapies as those using H2O2 and ozone O3. Information about the IBOM Foundation can be found in the appendix.

In September 1984 Walter Grotz began publishing the ECHO Newsletter; this newsletter, written for the lay reader, presents information on hydrogen peroxide's many applications.


The following comments by Dr. Charles Farr are an appropriate summary for this section.

From the 2,500 or more references on hydrogen peroxide we have collected and reviewed, we have come to appreciate this physiological product as an extremely important molecule in metabolism. Hydrogen peroxide is produced by all cells of the body for many different physiological reasons. The granulocytes produce H2O2 as a first line of defense against bacteria, yeast, virus, parasites, and most fungi. It is involved in any metabolic pathway which utilizes the many different types of oxidase enzymes. Hydrogen peroxide is involved in protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, immunity, vitamin and mineral metabolism or any other system you might wish to explore.

Our studies demonstrate a positive metabolic effect to intravenous infusion of H2O2.  Its ability to oxidize almost any physiological substance, in addition to producing increased tissue and cellular oxygen tensions, has proven it to have therapeutic value. (5)

Hydrogen peroxide is one of those substances that cries out for needed changes in FDA policy. Because it is a cheap, un-patentable chemical, no company is willing to invest the time and money needed to gain FDA approval. H2O2 therapy is not illegal in the U.S., but it remains unapproved by the AMA and the FDA.

There is a growing number of physicians who are administering hydrogen peroxide infusions in the United States. However, there are also many cases where doctors have been confronted by medical boards and have been forced to spend considerable time and money defending themselves. Some have had their licenses revoked.

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most widely researched and documented of all the alternative cancer therapies, with over five thousand studies published on its therapeutic effects. Yet it is still not approved by the FDA for use in treating cancer, arthritis, or other diseases.

Side Effects and Toxicity of H2O2

Hydrogen peroxide infusions are the foundation of all therapies offered at Hospital Santa Monica. In the past six years, the medical staff at HSM has administered over 30,000 H2O2 infusions,. without a single seriously negative reaction.

A review of the literature shows that to date over fifty papers have been published reporting the use of intra-arterial and intravenous infusions of hydrogen peroxide, representing hundreds of infusions, safely administered without serious side effects.

Occasionally a stinging or burning sensation occurs at the infusion site. Sometimes patients with smaller

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