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Peroxide for Herpes

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There is no clinical support for using hydrogen peroxide for herpes sores or treatment.

Many internet articles and forums are devoted to home remedies and alternative treatments for the oral herpes simplex and genital herpes simplex viruses. One popular suggestion for an over-the-counter remedy for herpes is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

Some people suggest pouring or swabbing hydrogen peroxide on herpes outbreaks, wherever they may occur on the body. Other authentic-sounding websites suggest drinking diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide to kill the herpes virus internally.

What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is simply water to which an extra oxygen atom has been added. While the chemical formula for water is H2O, the chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide is H2O2(H-O-O-H).

It is the extra atom of oxygen that makes hydrogen peroxide a potential healing agent. That extra oxygen atom “charges” water, also known as oxidation. This oxidizing process turns water into a slightly acid form of chemical bleach, with a pH of 6.2.

Hydrogen peroxide has long been used as a medium in which to sterilize medical equipment and supplies. Even the aerospace industry uses hydrogen peroxide to clean satellites.

Hydrogen peroxide is readily available in drug stores in 3% or 6% solutions. Commercial grades of hydrogen peroxide exist, but are much more hazardous.

In an acid solution, hydrogen peroxide is stronger than chlorine. Diluted in water, it can neutralize the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, and bond with heavy metals. In alkaline solutions, hydrogen peroxide is used in hair bleach and teeth whitening products.

Hydrogen peroxide in our own bodies fight genital herpes

Our own bodies produce hydrogen peroxide. Lactobacilli, a healthy strain of bacteria that fights unhealthy microbes in the vagina, gives off hydrogen peroxide as a means to protect the vaginal environment from infections.

Scientists in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that an imbalance of healthy lactobacilli was associated with herpes simplex virus- 2 in women.

In a completely unrelated clinical study published in the May 2011 issue of PLOS Pathogens, scientists discovered that hydrogen peroxide worked as an antioxidant against Kaposi’s sarcoma- associated herpes simplex virus.

By limiting the replication of this particular strain of herpes, hydrogen peroxide scavengers were able to prolong the life of mouse models with lymphoma (cancer in the lymphatic system).

Does hydrogen peroxide help heal herpes?

Because of the extra oxygen molecule, hydrogen peroxide chemically reacts with free radicals and scavenger cells as a disinfectant.

When a person pours or dabs hydrogen peroxide on a skin wound, it bubbles wildly, stings, and turns the skin slightly white. The bubbles are the oxygen molecules reacting with anaerobic (harmful) bacteria and viruses.

During an outbreak of either the oral or genital herpes simplex virus, applying hydrogen peroxide to the affected areas will definitely disinfect the rash and blisters for a brief amount of time.

However, there is no clinical support for any anecdotal evidence that a topical application of hydrogen peroxide heals herpes, reduces the healing time during outbreaks, or extends the time between outbreaks of herpes simplex- 1 or -2 viruses.

In addition, there is no science to support the hypothesis that drinking hydrogen peroxide is safe, much less that doing so may kill the herpes virus from the inside out. There is no “miracle cure” for herpes.


H2O2.com, “What is the pH of H2O2 solutions?”

Hill, C. N. (2001). A Vertical Empire: The History of the UK Rocket and Space Programme, 1950-1971. Imperial College Press.

Pubmed.com, “A delicate balance: risk factors for acquisition of bacterial vaginosis include sexual activity, absence of hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli, black race, and positive herpes simplex virus type 2 serology,” by T. L. Cherpes, et al. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. January 2008; 35(1): 78- 83.

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