Ozone Therapy for Lyme: A Dangerous Scam

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The FDA is quite clear about ozone:

Ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful medical application in specific, adjunctive, or preventive therapy.

In fact, ozone is the primary ingredient of the air pollution known as smog. It’s a highly reactive gas that can do harm to the human body.

When breathed in, ozone can cause damage that has been called “a sunburn inside your lungs.”

In 2019, emergency medicine doctors in Kentucky reported on a 50-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack after receiving intravenous ozone therapy to treat so-called “chronic Lyme disease.”

Ozone therapy can kill

One worry about ozone therapy is the possibility of air embolism caused by a gas bubble entering a place it shouldn’t go, for example a vein or an artery.

Air embolism from ozone therapy has been implicated in reported cases of death, heart attack, and temporary blindness.

In 2015, two men were charged with murdering a woman who died after receiving “Octozone” treatment. The coroner ruled the death a homicide by air embolism.

One of many sham treatments marketed for “Chronic Lyme”

Those who have received fake diagnoses like chronic Lyme or “toxic mold illness” often pursue harmful treatments in desperate attempts to feel better. In a 2015 scientific review, ozone therapy was among 30 “unorthodox” Lyme therapies without evidence for efficacy.

The CDC warns:

Antibiotics are the only known effective treatment for Lyme disease, but a quick search on the internet will introduce you to other untested remedies that claim to cure Lyme disease or chronic Lyme disease. These products—available online or from some health care providers—may be dangerous, deadly, or simply a waste of money.

According to former naturopath Britt Hermes:

Ozone therapy is at the same level of quackery as fake cancer vaccines made from urine and illegal cancer drugs imported from overseas.

What is ozone therapy?

Ozone therapy can mean different things. Some quacks become convinced ozone gas is magic. They will tell people to breathe it in or even administer it vaginally or rectally. Some will dissolve tiny amounts in oil or water and drink it.

The most dangerous type of ozone therapy involves removing blood from a patient, exposing it to ozone, and then re-injecting it. This is called autohemotherapy and involves risks but no known benefit, especially for Lyme disease. Sometimes they also expose the blood to ultraviolet light.

Quick info

Risks of intravenous ozone
Risks of inhaled ozone
(full article)
  • premature death
  • lung damage
  • heart issues
  • chest pain
  • coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation.
  • worsened respiratory diseases such as asthma
  • increased risk of respiratory infections
Risks of vaginal ozone
(full article)
  • toxic effect of ozone on vaginal lactobacilli
  • gas embolism
  • irritation of the vaginal mucosa
  • damage to the vaginal mucous
  • introduction of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Number of diseases helped by ozone therapy: 0
Deaths from ozone therapy: At least 2

Ten Pass Ozone

The purveyors of dangerous ozone treatments have become very creative in marketing different variations. “Ten pass ozone” is an even more dangerous procedure where someone’s blood is exposed to the toxic ozone gas not just once but ten times. That’s why it’s called 10-pass ozone.

Ozone therapy is advertised by quacks on the Internet

Man getting ozone therapy
Do not do this. (photo copyright James Mutter CC BY-SA 4.0)

Videos: A chemist debunks Ozone therapy

Myles Power is a chemist in the UK who explains scientific concepts in plain English. In a series of videos and blog posts, Power explains why ozone therapy is bad news.

Video playlist

Written analysis: Ozone Post 1Ozone Post 2 | Ozone Post 3

Resources

American Lung Association: Ozone

EPA: Ozone Generators that are Sold as Air Cleaners

European Environment Agency: Health effects of exposure to ozone

California Air Resources Board: Hazardous Ozone-Generating “Air Purifiers”

Dr. Jen Gunter: Vaginal ozone therapy is dangerous. Just don’t do it.

Former naturopath Britt Hermes: Ozone therapy in naturopathic medicine

Former naturopath Britt Hermes: Naturopathic Medicine Week And The Problem Of Endemic Quackery, Like Ozone Therapy

Dr. Steven Novella: Ozone Sauna

What’s the Harm: People harmed with Ozone Therapy

RationalWiki: Ozone Therapy

Lantos PM, et al. Unorthodox alternative therapies marketed to treat Lyme disease. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;60(12):1776-82.

The Independent: Health fears over doctors’ use of ozone

The Independent: Women are pumping toxic ‘ozone’ gas into their vaginas as a cure-all

The Journal: Two charged with murder after death of woman injected with oxygen in ‘naturopathic’ treatment

Marchetti D, La monaca G. An unexpected death during oxygen-ozone therapy. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2000;21(2):144-7.

Üreyen ÇM, Baş CY, Arslan Ş. Myocardial Infarction after Ozone Therapy: Is Ozone Therapy Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Cardiology. 2015;132(2):101-104.

Bingham A, Platt M. A Non-ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction Associated with Alternative Medicine Ozone Infusion. J Emerg Med. 2019. [excerpts]

He R, et al. A Case of Paradoxical Embolism Causing Anterior Spinal Cord Syndrome and Acute Myocardial Infarction Following the Intradiscal Oxygen-Ozone Therapy. Front Neurol. 2019;10:137.

MIMS Today: Malaysia cracks down on growing ozone therapy trend in local beauty industry

Vaiano AS, et al. Transient cortical blindness after intradiscal oxygen-ozone therapy. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2016;64(12):944-946.

Arizona Daily Star: Man found guilty in ozone ‘cure’ enterprise

Cancer Network: Oxygen Therapies

Dr. Saul Green: Oxygenation Therapy: Unproven Treatments for Cancer and AIDS

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