Molecular hydrogen continues to be the subject of intense interest in the health world. To suggest, just a few years ago, that the smallest, most prevalent molecule in existence could be a possible solution to many of our health challenges might have seemed outlandish – but in fact, the medical evidence has been mounting in Asia for decades.
Molecular hydrogen – or H2 – is a medical gas which has a profound beneficial effect on several markers of health such as oxidative stress, lipid metabolism, inflammation, signalling pathways and apoptosis.
Although it has been used in clinical settings for many decades, particularly in Japan, only relatively recently have commercially-available products given us the opportunity to test its therapeutic potential for ourselves. In this blog, we intend to discuss ways and means of making molecular hydrogen and briefly summarise some of the literature on this topic.
How Does Molecular Hydrogen Work?
One of the main difficulties when it comes to speaking about molecular hydrogen is attempting to marshall the complex science into anything approaching intelligible language.
That’s because educating oneself about molecular hydrogen leads inevitably to the research papers (of which there are around 1,000), and if you’ve spent any time studying peer-reviewed journals, you’ll know just how difficult it is to a) make sense of them and b) convey and elucidate their contents in such a way that the layman can understand.
As evidence, let’s take just a few conclusions from studies conducted in the last decade: “Molecular hydrogen suppresses FcepsilonRI-mediated signal transduction and prevents degranulation of mast cells”; “Hydrogen gas improves survival rate and organ damage in zymosan-induced generalized inflammation model”; “Hydrogen-rich saline protects immunocytes from radiation-induced apoptosis.”
By far the most well-documented benefits of molecular hydrogen concern its anti-ageing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Not only is H2 an antioxidant but it is a selective antioxidant, singling out the most damaging free radical – hydroxyl (OH) – and turning it into harmless H20.
In other words, molecular hydrogen reacts with strong oxidants while leaving other beneficial oxidants reactive.
A study published last year suggested molecular hydrogen could have a dramatic anti-fatigue effect, with Korean researchers suggesting hydrogen-rich water could be considered a safe remedy for chronic fatigue control.
This strengthened the results of an earlier study on elite athletes, which found that drinking hydrogen water before exercise reduced blood lactate levels and improved exercise-induced decline of muscle function.
What’s more, a study from 2018 found that four weeks of drinking hydrogen water resulted in improvements in mood, anxiety markers and autonomic nerve function, “suggesting that administration may offer an effective method to reinforce Quality of Life and maintain good health.”
Due to its wide-ranging actions, and the fact that it is not toxic even at high levels, it is perhaps unsurprising that molecular hydrogen therapy has been documented for conditions as diverse as myocardial injury, Parkin’s disease (in conjunction with regular medication), vascular ageing of the aorta, mood disorders, type 2 diabetes and even arthritis.
How to Make Molecular Hydrogen
There are many methods of producing molecular hydrogen, as evidenced by the multiple administration methods used in scientific studies. These include oral intake of hydrogen-rich water, intravenous drip infusion of hydrogen-rich saline, hydrogen baths (generally for topical conditions, i.e. skin disorders) and inhalation with 2-3% hydrogen gas.
The former is by far the most well-known, at least in non-clinical settings. Hydrogen-rich water is essentially water into which molecular hydrogen has been dissolved or released. The H2-generating agent can differ between bioceramic minerals or special H2 formulations (generally tablets) which emit the gas into the water.
Hydrogen water generations have appeared on the market in recent years, although these technologies – which utilise special membranes – are incredibly costly. A better alternative might be to purchase ready-to-drink hydrogen water, use a hydrogen water jug, or try special hydrogen-stimulating tablets which you add to water.
Molecular hydrogen tablets generally consist of a special form of elemental magnesium combined with natural organic acid which, after interacting with water, releases the bonds of H2O, creating millions of H2 nanobubbles with the added benefit of magnesium ions.
One of the main advantages of using molecular hydrogen tablets is that they provide a higher concentration of H2 – measured in parts-per-million rather than parts-per-billion.
HydroTab, a blend of magnesium and malic acid, has been shown to achieve a hydrogen concentration of 10 parts-per-million, the highest concentration in the industry. To offer a comparison, the aforementioned study which resulted in improvements to mood, anxiety and autonomic nervous function, used hydrogen-rich water with a ppm of 0.8-1.2, twice per day.
HydroTabs come in tubs of 30 or 60 tablets, and the video above shows the tablets undergoing a test to determine molecular hydrogen content.
How to Measure Molecular Hydrogen
Measuring molecular hydrogen can be a costly process, particularly if you are using the typical method of detection: electrochemical gas sensors. However, one alternative is to use a hydrogen test kit in the form of a methylene blue-platinum colloid reagent.
The latter method has been exhaustively outlined in this 2012 paper. In essence, you add the blue reagent drops to hydrogen-rich water and wait for the water to clear.
What you should remember about H2 water is that it should be drunk within two hours of opening, and in fact, the sooner the better: with the passage of time, the molecular hydrogen concentration decreases incrementally.
Oh, and since we’re all about interesting facts, here’s an interesting one you mightn’t have known about: molecular hydrogen is one of three components of the interior of our solar system’s largest planets, namely Saturn and Jupiter!
The bio-benefits of molecular hydrogen warrant further investigation, but there is already enough information in the public domain for one to make an educated guess as to the effects they might conceivably have.
Hydrogen-infused water is GRAS Certified by the FDA, assuring its safety, and the number of positive testimonials and research papers continues to grow. We will, of course, continue to keep you informed about developments in this area.
If you’re interested in learning more about molecular hydrogen, SelfHacked have put together an interesting guide which includes many links to the relevant scientific literature. The work of the non-profit Molecular Hydrogen Institute is also invaluable, and there are many great resources on their website.
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H2 water should be drunk within two hours of opening: with the passage of time, the molecular hydrogen concentration decreases incrementally.