Hydrogen peroxide is a clear, odorless, and colorless liquid consisting of hydrogen and oxygen. It’s available in dilutions ranging from 3–90%, some of which are sometimes used as an alternative health remedy.
Advocates suggest that drinking a few drops of hydrogen peroxide diluted in water may help treat a range of illnesses, including diabetes and even some forms of cancer.
However, medical professionals warn against the dangers of this practice.
This article takes a look at the latest evidence to determine whether the benefits of drinking hydrogen peroxide outweigh its potential risks.
Hydrogen peroxide can typically be found in four categories of dilution, each of them used for specific purposes (1):
- 3% hydrogen peroxide. Also referred to as household hydrogen peroxide, this type is typically used to clean or disinfect minor wounds. It’s the one you’re most likely to find in your local supermarket or drugstore.
- 6–10% hydrogen peroxide. This concentration is most commonly used to bleach hair.
- 35% hydrogen peroxide. Commonly referred to as food grade hydrogen peroxide, this variety is typically found in health food stores and promoted as a cure to various ailments and diseases.
- 90% hydrogen peroxide. Also known as industrial hydrogen peroxide, it’s typically used to bleach paper and textiles, make foam rubber or rocket fuel, or as a substitute for chlorine in water and sewage treatment.
Some people believe that drinking a few drops of food grade hydrogen peroxide that has been diluted in water can help improve your health by bringing extra oxygen into your body.
They believe that this extra oxygen can help treat various ailments, such as sore throat, arthritis, diabetes, AIDS, lupus, and even some forms of cancer.
However, there’s little evidence to support these claims. In fact, hydrogen peroxide production by cancerous cells in the body is known to increase inflammation and accelerate the progression of disease (
Moreover, doctors warn that drinking hydrogen peroxide can cause a range of unpleasant side effects, some of which can be deadly in some cases (1,
Hydrogen peroxide comes in various concentrations, ranging from 3–90%. Despite claims that dilutions made using food grade or 35% hydrogen peroxide can help cure various ailments, there’s little scientific evidence of this.
Despite the purported benefits of drinking hydrogen peroxide, research and medical experts agree that drinking this compound can have serious side effects.
When drunk, hydrogen peroxide reacts with a natural enzyme in your body, producing very high amounts of oxygen.
When the amount of oxygen produced is too high to physically burp out, it can cross over from your gut into your blood vessels, leading to potential complications, such as heart attacks or stroke (
The severity of complications depends on the volume and concentration of the hydrogen peroxide that was ingested.
For instance, accidentally swallowing a small amount of household 3% hydrogen peroxide usually causes minor symptoms, such as bloating, mild stomach pain, and in some cases, vomiting.
However, ingesting larger amounts or higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can cause ulcers, a perforated gut, and mouth, throat, and stomach burns. In severe cases, it may result in breathing problems, fainting, and even death (
Food grade hydrogen peroxide is over 10 times more concentrated than the household variety. Moreover, instructions on how to dilute it vary from one seller to another, and its safety hasn’t been evaluated.
Therefore, using food grade hydrogen peroxide to make your own dilutions increases the risk you’ll consume a higher concentration, and as a result, experience its more severe side effects.
Drinking hydrogen peroxide can have many side effects, including gut irritation or perforation, breathing problems, and even death. The severity of these effects depends on the quantity and concentration of the hydrogen peroxide consumed.
According to the National Poison Control center, adults and children who accidentally ingested small amounts of household 3% hydrogen peroxide should call their helpline for immediate assistance (5).
On the other hand, children and adults who swallowed large amounts of hydrogen peroxide — or any amount with a higher concentration than those of household dilutions — should seek immediate medical assistance from the closest emergency room.
If you have ingested small amounts of 3% hydrogen peroxide, call your local poison control helpline for assistance. If you have swallowed larger amounts or higher concentrations, seek immediate medical assistance from an emergency room.
Hydrogen peroxide is touted as an alternative health remedy for a range of health conditions.
However, there’s no scientific evidence that drinking it yields any benefits. Plus, doing so is linked to dangerous side effects, including breathing problems, severe gut damage, and in some cases, death.
For these reasons, drinking any concentration or amount of hydrogen peroxide is not recommended.