Things we never knew about hydrogen peroxide


There is a lot I didn’t know about hydrogen peroxide. I knew the California surfer crowd used it to bleach their hair. And a lot of folks keep it in their medicine chests to treat minor cuts and scrapes and sores in the mouths.

I also know quite a few folks poo-poo its usefulness, saying its benefits aren’t proven. Chemistry, however, tells a different story.

Its chemical formula is H202, which means it has one more oxygen molecule than water. The ozone layer in our atmosphere, on the other hand has three molecules of oxygen. When it rains, ozone gives off its third molecule and forms hydrogen peroxide in the rainwater.

And it’s the oxygen that hydrogen peroxide releases from the rain that makes plants grow. Farmers have long added hydrogen peroxide to irrigation water to promote healthy crops.

You can do the same for your houseplants by adding an ounce of peroxide to each quart of water used for watering.

Oxygen not only promotes growth, it promotes healing. The bubbling you see when you pour peroxide on a cut is oxygen being released and attacking bacteria. Vitamin C helps fight infection by producing hydrogen peroxide.

Back in the 1920s, hydrogen peroxide was successfully used by doctors to treat pneumonia during the epidemic following World War I.

In the 1940s, a man named Richard Willhelm successfully used oral and intravenous peroxide treatments for numerous ailments, Emphysema, for example, where small air sacs in the lungs stop working. The oxygen produced by the peroxide provided measurable relief. He also showed that cancer cells cannot survive when exposed to hydrogen peroxide.

With the development of antibiotics, interest in peroxide faded into obscurity. But, if you are like me, you can check out and put that little brown bottle back to work.

Ward Degler lives in Zionsville with his wife and dog. He is author of “The Dark Ages of My Youth … and Times More Recent.” You can contact him at