Hydrogen peroxide is a liquid made up of two atoms of hydrogen and two oxygen atoms (H2O2). As a molecule, it is similar in structure to water (H2O), but less stable. It readily breaks down into water and oxygen when placed in contact with something it can react with. For example, if you pour hydrogen peroxide on a wound, you will see it fizz similar to bubbles that appear when soda pop is poured into a glass. Those bubbles on the wound are nascent or active oxygen interacting with bacteria and damaged cells.
Hydrogen peroxide is not only found at the drug store…it is also produced in the human body by cells of the immune system, for example. These cells (eg. neutrophils) make H2O2 to combat infection during the inflammatory process. Hydrogen peroxide kills dead, diseased or dying cells by disrupting/destroying their cell membranes. This is a non-specific process depending on how well the cells are protected by antioxidants in the blood stream. The biochemistry of hydrogen peroxide is complex and widely researched. It is an essential molecule for our survival. However, our bodies are pretty smart; they use this reactive molecule under controlled conditions to prevent damaging normal structures. As a liquid, hydrogen peroxide is used in conventional western medicine and alternative medicine to treat patients. In conventional medicine, it is mixed with sterile water and used topically (on the skin) to wash infected or dirty wounds. It is also an ingredient of dental whitening kits and strips. Several links below will connect the reader to Harper’s Biochemistry Textbook on-line version. There are a few chapters that will help better understand this simple, yet complex molecule.