Hydrogen Oxygen mixed gas inhalation is a potent form of Hydrogen therapy that has seen increasing research in treatment of several conditions. Breathing a mixture of Hydrogen-Oxygen along with Helium in used in deep sea diving. Hydrogen keeps the body intact at bone crushing depths and is no doubt a unique and powerful element of our existence. Let us learn more about hydrogen-oxygen mixture and the benefits/applications of hydrogen/oxygen therapy based on published clinical research trials and studies.
What is Hydrogen-Oxygen Mixture?
Also known as Oxy-hydrogen, HHO or H2-O2 mixture, this medical gas is much more potent than pure H2. Hydrogen and oxygen mixture is a non-reactive gaseous mix of hydrogen and oxygen in various proportions. The mixture is more explosive than pure hydrogen as HHO and has a higher combustion temperature releasing more energy.
Hydrogen and oxygen can be mixed together by simply combining the outputs of both the gases in a common tube or container. When water is electrolyzed, it produces oxygen and hydrogen at the voltage junctions of the electrolyzer. There are many methods for electrolysis of water. One of the latest, viable and efficient water electrolysis technology is known as Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Electrolysis. 1
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) water electrolysis produces high purity of hydrogen and also utilizes very little energy. 2 Solid polymer electrolytes (SPE) are utilized in PEM electrolysis of water to produce H2-O2. Nafion is a polymer utilized in the electrolysis membranes to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water molecules. The polymer is chemically resistant and durable. Platinum, iridium and other noble metals are used as catalysts and coat the polymer membranes.
A PEM SPE electrolyzer consists of a catalyst placed between two electrodes (cathode/anode) and two end plates. In this case, the catalyst is a Nafion with Iridium and Platinum used as anode and cathode, respectively. The gas diffusion layers at cathode and anode collect the gas for discharge and use.
While the basis remains the same, different electrolysis methods including polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyzer, alkaline electrolyzer, and solid oxide electrolyzer can be utilized for hydrogen production. These methods are mainly different based on the ion transport method or the type of adopted electrolyte.
The advantages of membrane-based electrolysis include no net carbon release into the atmosphere (only hydrogen, oxygen and water are generated during the operation), ease of replication and the ability to combine multiple layers into a stack.3
For therapeutic use of this hydrogen-oxygen mixed gas or oxyhydrogen, a ratio of 2:1 is utilized in most studies, that would translate into a mixture of about 66.6% hydrogen and 33.3% oxygen. This would also be the default ratio of hydrogen and oxygen produced when electrolyzing water. Hydrogen/oxygen therapy machines generally provide separate outputs for hydrogen and oxygen, so the machine can be used in various configurations (H2, H2-O2,O2).
Research on Breathing Hydrogen-Oxygen Mixture
New hydrogen therapy research is coming out all the time. Inhalation of pure hydrogen has shown to reduce epithelial apoptosis (tissue death) in ventilator-induced lung injury. 4 It’s easy to image why hydrogen would be needed in ICUs. Currently much research on hydrogen-oxygen mixed gas inhalation is for chronic inflammatory respiratory conditions including asthma5, pulmonary fibrosis6, and acute symptoms of viral infections.
In a multicenter RCT, inhalation of hydrogen and oxygen mixture was found to be superior to oxygen therapy in acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD). Hydrogen/oxygen mix gas inhalation resulted in reduced cough as per the Breathlessness, Cough, and Sputum Scale (BCSS) employed in the study.
In 90-day clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of H2-O2 inhalation therapy, a curative effect was noticed from the second week until the end of the trial in patients with severe COPD arising from viral infection. These findings are further supported by results from a multicenter open-label clinical trial where hydrogen/oxygen therapy was found to improve resting oxygen saturation levels, shortness of breath and reduce chest pain and to an extent where it can prevent progression of illness. The Oxygen in Oxy-hydrogen increases cell oxygenation and the hydrogen provides protective effects. These actions help recover recover poor blood saturation levels of O2 and reduce the inflammatory response, thus reducing the likelihood of Type 1 respiratory failure.
In a recent study, it was found that breathing hydrogen-oxygen mixture may improve breathing in acute severe tracheal stenosis and can be used for this purpose safely.7,8 The symptoms of tracheal stenosis include fatigue, wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath, including difficulty breathing, a high-pitched squeal coming from your lungs when inhaling, pneumonia or upper respiratory infections, asthma, chest congestion, apnea among others.
One recent study gives weight to why we like hydrogen inhalation machines that also add oxygen to the mix. In this new study, the scientists found benefits with hydrogen inhalation on hearing improvement in patients with deafness after radiotherapy/chemotherapy.9 The earlier animal studies on molecular hydrogen for tinnitus were also quite encouraging for tinnitus.10 Further clinical trials are currently underway to assess the benefits of hydrogen/oxygen inhalation for hearing loss.
Hydrogen is Extending Lives
H2 has shown anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ability in many clinical trials, and its application in the latest trials have been favorable. A Clinical Guidance issued by the Chinese National Health Commission, recommended the inhalation of oxygen mixed with hydrogen gas (33.3% O2 and 66.6% H2), bringing H2 to the forefront of contemporary therapeutic medical gas research.
The research on the health benefits of hydrogen/oxygen therapy is still nascent. There is a scope for studying the effects of H2-O2 on other systemic conditions and parts of the body. More research is also needed to understand the difference in effects of hydrogen/oxygen mixture and pure hydrogen gas inhalation.
Thousands of clinical studies from across the globe have demonstrated that molecular hydrogen is a unique antioxidant. Access our research review on hydrogen inhalation benefits to learn more about the latest research on hydrogen-infused water and H2 inhalation.
- 1.Escobar-Yonoff R, Maestre-Cambronel D, Charry S, Rincón-Montenegro A, Portnoy I. Performance assessment and economic perspectives of integrated PEM fuel cell and PEM electrolyzer for electric power generation. Heliyon. 2021;7(3):e06506. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06506
- 2.Wang T, Cao X, Jiao L. PEM water electrolysis for hydrogen production: fundamentals, advances, and prospects. Carb Neutrality. Published online June 2, 2022. doi:10.1007/s43979-022-00022-8
- 3.Ahmad K, Sabli N, Tuan A, et al. Membrane-Based Electrolysis for Hydrogen Production: A Review. Membranes (Basel). 2021;11(11). doi:10.3390/membranes11110810
- 4.Huang C, Kawamura T, Peng X, et al. Hydrogen inhalation reduced epithelial apoptosis in ventilator-induced lung injury via a mechanism involving nuclear factor-kappa B activation. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011;408(2):253-258. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.04.008
- 5.Wang ST, Bao C, He Y, et al. Hydrogen gas (XEN) inhalation ameliorates airway inflammation in asthma and COPD patients. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. Published online May 14, 2020:870-875. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcaa164
- 6.Gao L, Jiang D, Geng J, Dong R, Dai H. Hydrogen inhalation attenuated bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis by inhibiting transforming growth factor-β1 and relevant oxidative stress and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Exp Physiol. 2019;104(12):1942-1951. doi:10.1113/EP088028
- 7.Gao L, Jiang D, Geng J, Dong R, Dai H. Hydrogen inhalation attenuated bleomycin‐induced pulmonary fibrosis by inhibiting transforming growth factor‐β1 and relevant oxidative stress and epithelial‐to‐mesenchymal transition. Exp Physiol. Published online October 23, 2019:1942-1951. doi:10.1113/ep088028
- 8.Zhou Z, Zhong C, Su Z, et al. Breathing Hydrogen-Oxygen Mixture Decreases Inspiratory Effort in Patients with Tracheal Stenosis. Respiration. 2019;97(1):42-51. doi:10.1159/000492031
- 9.Kong X, Lu T, Lu YY, Yin Z, Xu K. Effect of Hydrogen Inhalation Therapy on Hearing Loss of Patients With Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma After Radiotherapy. Front Med. Published online March 31, 2022. doi:10.3389/fmed.2022.828370
- 10.Fransson AE, Videhult Pierre P, Risling M, Laurell GFE. Inhalation of Molecular Hydrogen, a Rescue Treatment for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Front Cell Neurosci. Published online June 1, 2021. doi:10.3389/fncel.2021.658662