Healing Hydrogen: A profusion of health benefits may arise from sipping water infused with H2

By Neil Dolby
Feb 15, 2024

While the benefits of drinking plenty of water are widely known, especially in terms of keeping the body hydrated, the health advantages of drinking water that has been enriched with hydrogen are only just being recognised. There is mounting scientific evidence to suggest the gas brings all sorts of gains that tap or bottled water cannot provide alone.

Hydrogen is the lightest element in the periodic table and when bonded together forms molecular hydrogen (H2). Being the lightest and smallest of molecules, it can escape out of practically anything. It is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas molecule, imperceptible by human senses. It binds to other elements like oxygen (creating water), nitrogen and carbon to form compounds.

An interesting point is that about 10 percent of the weight of living organisms is hydrogen within water, proteins and fats. On a broader level, much of the vitality of our planet is derived from hydrogen since the energy emanating from the sun is a result of hydrogen being converted into helium.

Therapeutic effects

Studies have indicated that water (H2O, two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom) containing dissolved hydrogen gas at a concentration of 0.5 to 1.6 mg/L (ppm) can provide therapeutic effects to the human body that plain water cannot deliver – apparently because the body cannot effectively absorb the hydrogen molecules attached to the oxygen molecules within water.

Hydrogen-rich water made by infusing hydrogen gas into pure water is considered suitable as a health and preventative drink for people of all ages. It is believed that it is virtually impossible to overdose on molecular hydrogen and it has no toxic effects on living cells at high levels.

H2 water everywhere

H2 is often packed into cans or pouches, or can be made at home via special hydrogen water machines. H2 water machines and generator bottles are quite common in health clinics in Hong Kong and are a simple and effective way of ingesting molecular hydrogen.

Portable hydrogen bottles are designed to infuse additional hydrogen molecules into drinking water and enrich it instantly, while counter-top hydration machines can produce therapeutic concentrations in greater quantities. H2 tablets can generate high levels of hydrogen in any water-based drink. It is also possible to take hydrogen baths and spray it onto your face.

Antioxidant boost

Molecular hydrogen has been generating such interest as it is thought to be a powerful antioxidant. Most pertinently, it is believed to have the ability to limit free-radical damage in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules produced in the body and can be exacerbated by environmental factors. They can contribute to oxidative stress – a situation known to cause many health issues. Put simply, this is where free radicals attack healthy cells and cause irreversible damage.

One of the best ways to combat oxidative stress is by upping your antioxidant defence system. The body naturally delivers antioxidant agent chemicals that destroy a multitude of free radicals. There are numerous ways to increase levels, such as a diet rich in antioxidant foods like fruit and veg, and by enjoying a healthy lifestyle – plus harnessing the benefits of hydrogen molecules.

Small is beneficial

According to some medical professionals, H2 has the properties to make it the best antioxidant of them all. The fact that the molecules are extremely small is important because for antioxidants to work effectively they must be able to penetrate cell areas being attacked by free radicals, and these are often difficult to reach. As H2 is in a gaseous state, it percolates through the body via rapid diffusion and is not blocked by mechanisms that ordinarily prevent other antioxidants from moving freely. And since H2 is not only small but exceedingly light, its ability to travel through cell layers is enhanced.

Another great benefit of H2 as an antioxidant is that it is thought to produce zero byproducts, meaning it has zero toxicity and will even convert free radicals to water. Molecular hydrogen also has the ability to select and act upon free radicals that cause the most cell damage – an important attribute given that not all free radicals are thought to be harmful.

Novel therapies

Numerous studies point to the healing qualities of hydrogen-rich water. One eight-week study involving patients receiving radiation therapy for liver cancer showed decreased levels of oxidative stress for those participants who drank 51 to 68 ounces of water infused with hydrogen per day. Another research project conducted by the University of Western Ontario found consumption of hydrogen-rich water improved levels of oxidative-stress markers associated with metabolic syndrome – whose risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and insulin resistance – and boosted the body’s antioxidant activity. Researchers noted that hydrogen water represents a potentially novel therapeutic and preventive strategy for the treatment of metabolic syndrome.

While molecular hydrogen is considered by some health professionals to be one of the best ways of fighting free radicals and limiting oxidative stress, other studies have reported less conclusive results. Further research is needed to assess the potential benefits with a higher level of scientific backing.

Some scientists believe that molecular hydrogen can help in the battle against diseases of the immune system, such as lupus (SLE) and other types of immune-compromising infections. A Japanese study postulated that H2-rich water can combat rheumatoid joint pain by lessening oxidative pressure, and other findings have suggested molecular hydrogen dampens the allergic response when the immune system goes into overdrive. Furthermore, a study on rodents with Alzheimer’s disease indicated H2 can enhance cognitive functions and increase memory.

Beauty bonus

Though research is ongoing, there is evidence that molecular hydrogen can also work wonders as a beauty remedy. A Japanese study, among others, has shown that washing the face with hydrogen- infused water over a three-month period enhances skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles, promoting a youthful appearance. Other research has involved patients being administered hydrogen water directly into their veins via a saline drip, resulting in improvements in skin health.

There is also evidence that hydrogen-rich water quickens athletes’ ability to recuperate from injury and boost their athletic performance.