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Hydrogen Through History

Last Updated on: July 26, 2021

Reviewed By: Jessica Herzog, MD, FAAP, ABioM

echo water machines on a counter top in a kitchen

The role of hydrogen has continuously evolved throughout history. But where did it all begin? And what does the research say?

As of November 2020, there are officially 961 primary research reports, and 249 secondary and tertiary research reports on the health impacts of hydrogen. But how did we get here? And what do they say?

LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING

The history of hydrogen undoubtedly begins with the formation of our universe. After that, hydrogen quickly rose to become the most abundant element in the universe (1). Hydrogen’s status as the most abundant chemical element is most certainly due to it also being the lightest and the simplest element. Hydrogen bonds exceptionally easily to other elements. Hydrogen is found in almost every living thing and is therefore essential for life (2). This also means that unbonded hydrogen is an exceptionally rare find on Earth (3).

Abundance, size, and bondability are hydrogen’s most advantageous characteristics. Because of these advantages, hydrogen is able to diffuse through membranes and enter organelles like the cells’ mitochondria and nucleus. This is part of what makes hydrogen such an effective antioxidant; other antioxidants are not as effective as hydrogen because they lack the ability to target organelles.

The role of hydrogen is constantly changing: from its early beginnings as a combustible gas in the chemistry field to its use in balloons in the aeronautical field and to its potential applications in the medical field. See the figure below for the timeline of hydrogen discovery (4):

the history of hydrogen diagram

THE BEGINNING OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

The very first scientific article on the benefits of hydrogen water was published in 1888 (5). Dr. Nicholas Senn was an American surgeon and a founder of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. His study, which marked the very first study published on the benefits of hydrogen, focused on hydrogen’s potential for wound healing.

Since that very first study, medical and therapeutic studies on hydrogen were sparse until the pivotal point between 1994 and 1998 when research study numbers began to grow steadily. Then, after a pivotal study published in 2007 by Nature Medicine, the study numbers boomed dramatically.

1994: How hydrogen water helps with the psychophysiological reactions of deep water divers (6)

1995: Effect of hydrogen water on reproduction (7)

1997: How hydrogen helps treat inflammation and abdominal abscesses (8)

1997: How hydrogen helps support heart function (9)

1997: How hydrogen helps treat skin defects and ulcers (10)

1998: How hydrogen water can help with gene expression by protecting your body against harmful oxidative stress (11)

1998 to 2020: We see a steady increase in hydrogen water studies

2007: Nature Medicine’s study on how hydrogen acts as a therapeutic antioxidant that selectively reduces cytotoxic oxygen radicals (12)

Post-2007: Study numbers boom after the 2007 publication in Nature Medicine

PRIMARY REPORTS BY COUNTRY

The graph below shows the percentage of primary reports published per country. China is undoubtedly dominating the hydrogen study industry by publishing 49% of all research articles. Japan is following close behind China. Interestingly, the U.S. only accounts for 5% of all the total studies, which puts into perspective just how much research is out there and how much more we could learn from other countries.

Percentage of Primary reports published per country - hydrogen studes

*Note: The countries in the “other” category, represented by dark blue, include Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

WHAT DID THE REPORTS SAY?

95% of all hydrogen water studies concluded definite positive results. 4% retained a neutral stance in the conclusions, and only 1% reported that the hydrogen was not able to do what they expected it to do.

hydrogen study reports ranked by positive, neutral, or negative in a pie chart

WHO WERE THE STUDY SUBJECTS?

Across all the research studies, rats were the most common study subject. Rats are typically the preferred species for scientific research because they are exceptionally similar to humans genetically, anatomically, and physiologically. Mice came in second, being the preferred test subject for 21% of all scientific studies. Cell culture made up 15% and humans also made up 15% of the study subjects used.

With this vast range of study subjects being used, it is no surprise that 1% of the studies reported a disproved hypothesis, and it is a wonder that 95% of all studies reported definitive positive results.

model organism breakdown pie chart

*Note: The other 1% of study subjects, represented by the color brown, consisted of a chicken, dog, fruit fly, gerbil, hamster, horse, turkey, zebrafish, and nematode (C. elegans).

WHICH PARTS OF THE BODY DID THE STUDIES FOCUS ON?

PRIMARY TOPICS

Out of all the primary research studies, 20% concluded positive effects throughout the whole body, while 16% of all studies focused only on the effects that hydrogen has on the brain. The graph below shows which area of the body the research studies focused on.

pie chart comparing which parts of the body the hydrogen studies focused on

*Note: The final 8% titled “other” consisted of research studies done on the ankle, bladder, bone marrow, breast, foot, gallbladder, immune system, joint, limb, muscle, nose, ovaries, penis, spine, spleen, stomach, tendon, thymus, and uterus.

SECONDARY TOPICS

The graph below shows the secondary topics that the studies focused on. Interestingly, these studies focused on an incredibly large range of different secondary topics: with 12% focusing on the effects hydrogen has on surgery and transplantation, 7% looking at the effect hydrogen has on cancer, 5% researching its effect on sepsis, and 4% focusing on neuroprotection. Other important topics to highlight include hydrogen’s effect on diabetes, heart disorders, aging, and wound healing.

secondary topics being compared on a pie chart from the hydrogen studies

Acute kidney injury (AKI), acute liver injury (ALI), addiction, adnexal torsion (AT), alcoholic hangover, allergic rhinitis (AR), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), anxiety/depression, arterial thrombosis, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), asthma, atherosclerosis, atrophy, autism, bladder outlet obstruction (BOO), blood composition, blood loss, cardiac degeneration, cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), cardiovascular disease (CVD), cavities/caries, cellular redox state, chronic kidney disease (CKD), chronic lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cirrhosis, contact dermatitis, corneal injury, cosmetic issues, dehydration, dementia, dentin integrity, denture care, dermatitis (atopic), diabetes (type I), diving, endometriosis (EMT), environmental pollution, erythema, fasting, fatty liver disease (alcoholic), fatty liver disease (nonalcoholic), food poisoning, food poisoning (mycotoxicity), fungal infection, gastric mucosal injury, gastroenteritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), haemodialysis, haemolytic anemia, hearing loss, heart failure (HF), heat stress (chronic), hemorrhagic shock, hepatitis B, hepatitis (autoimmune), hypertension, immune dysfunction, infertility, inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), intestinal injury, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obstructive jaundice (OJ), kidney failure, kidney stones, lipid metabolism, lipid peroxidation, liver disease, liver failure, liver function, liver injury, lung injury, metabolic acidosis, metabolic syndrome, milk production, mitochondrial function, motor deficit, multiple sclerosis (MS), myopathy, neuropathic pain, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), offspring development, osteoarthritis (OA), osteonecrosis, osteoporosis, painful bladder syndrome (PBS), pancreatitis, paraplegia, parasite infection, Parkinson’s disease, pathogenic bacterial load, periodontitis/plaque/gingivitis, peritoneal dialysis, permeability, polycystic kidney disease, preeclampsia (PE), premature ovarian failure (POF), pressure ulcer, preterm birth, protein digestion, psoriasis, pulmonary hypertension (PH), regeneration, rhinitis, rhinosinusitis, SARS/COVID, seizure, shingles, shock, sleep apnea syndrome (SAS), sleep deprivation, smoke exposure, spaceflight, spinal cord injury (SCI), steatohepatitis (non-alcoholic) (NASH), stress resilience, stress ulcer, subarachnoid hemorrhage, testicular injury, upper respiratory tract infection, uveal injury, vestibular hair cell damage, vision loss, vitiligo

TERTIARY TOPICS

Tertiary study topics include studies that look at hydrogen’s effect on oxidative stress, inflammation, immune health, performance enhancement, cognitive function, and your metabolism.

tertiary topics compared on a pie chart

acne, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute tubular necrosis, aflatoxicosis, airway injury, alcohol toxicity, alkali burn, alveolar bone loss, amyloid beta toxicity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, anesthetic efficacy, anesthetic toxicity (isoflurane, remifentanil, sevoflurane), antibiotic toxicity (gentamicin), asphyxial encephalopathy, atrial fibrillation (AF), auditory neuropathy (AN), autophagy, balloon injury, bile duct injury, biocompatibility, birth defects and postnatal development, bone loss, bone remodeling, bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), Candida yeast, carbon monoxide poisoning, cardiac hypertrophy, cardiomyopathy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), carotid artery disease, cataract, cerebral vasospasm (CV), chemotherapy toxicity (bleomycin, cisplatin, Doxorubicin, Gefitinib, mFOLFOX6, nitrilotriacetate), chronic allograft nephropathy (CAN), chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH), cigarette smoke exposure, coenzyme Q, cognitive dysfunction, constipation, contrast-induced acute kidney injury (CI-AKI), decompression sickness (DCS), deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA), depression, dermatitis, Dermatophagoides farinae infection, detoxification, diabetic retinopathy (DR), diagnosis, diarrhea, diffuse axonal injury (DAI), dioxin toxicity, DNA damage, dopaminergic neuronal loss, drowning (salt water), drug toxicity (acetaminophen, aspirin, isoproterenol, methamphetamine, morphine, remifentanil), duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), dysbiosis, dyspnea, early brain injury, edema, electrolytes, encapsulating peritoneal sclerosis (EPS), encephalopathy, endothelial injury, endotoxin shock, erectile dysfunction, erythrocyte impairment, excitotoxicity, extravascular lung water (ELW), fatty liver disease (nonalcoholic), fetal inflammatory response syndrome (FIRS), fibrogenesis, fibrosis, fluidity/viscosity, fluke infection, foot ulcer, gastric ulcer, gastritis, gastrointestinal inflammation, germinal matrix hemorrhage (GMH), ghrelin secretion, glaucoma, glomerulosclerosis, graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), gut microbiome, heart rhythm, hemorrhagic shock, high-pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS), hormones, hydrogen safety, hyposmia, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, immunosuppressant toxicity (cyclosporine A), interstitial cystitis (IC), interstitial lung disease (ILD), intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), intrauterine inflammation, keratin plugs, kidney disease, life expectancy, light damage, liver failure, lung microbiome, maternal hypoxia, maternal immune activation (MIA), melamine toxicity, memory loss, metal toxicity (arsenic, lead), microgravity, milk volume, mitochondrial function, mycotoxicosis, myocardial necrosis, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), necrotizing pancreatitis (NP), nigrostriatal degeneration, noise pollution, norovirus (NoV) infection, one-lung ventilation (OLV), onion toxicity, optic nerve crush (ONC), osteochondral allograft, ovarian reserve function, ovariectomy, oxalate/oxalic acid, pancreatitis, paraben toxicity, particulate matter exposure, pepsin activity, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), periodontitis/plaque/gingivitis, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), peripheral nerve autografting, peripheral neuropathy, diabetic (DPN), peritonitis, pesticide toxicity (chlorpyrifos, paraquat, trimethyltin), phagocytosis, placental stress, platelet aggregation, portal hypertension, postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), postoperative cognitive impairment, postoperative ileus (POI), postoperative liver failure, postsurgical peritoneal adhesions (PPA), pressure ulcer, primary graft dysfunction (PGD), psoriasis-associated arthritis, redox potential, retinal vein occlusion (RVO), retinitis pigmentosa (RP), rhabdomyolysis, root canal, septic cardiomyopathy, serum biomarkers, social deficit/depression, soreness, sperm motility, spermatogenesis, sprain, status epilepticus (SE), steroid toxicity, suture injury, telomere length, tendon adhesion, testicular injury, ulcer, ulcerative colitis (UC), ureteral obstruction, uterine inflammation, uterine ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury, UV damage, vascular dysfunction, vein graft, ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI), ventricular hypertrophy, wound healing, xenobiotic clearance, X-ray damage

SECONDARY/TERTIARY REPORT TOPICS:

The Secondary/Tertiary report topics include research studies done on hydrogen’s effect on brain health, oxidative stress and general health, heart health, and even eye health.

secondary/tertiary report topics

Blood disorders, critical care medicine, diabetes, digestive health, disinfection/sterilization, ear health, environmental health, haemodialysis, hydrogen safety, intestinal health, joint health, liver health, mental health, metabolic health, mitochondrial health, mouth health, musculoskeletal health, novel therapies, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive health (male and female), skin health, spaceflight, stroke, urological health

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HYDROGEN?

areas of the human body that can be postivitely effected by hydrogen

THE TAKEAWAY

Hydrogen has undoubtedly had an interesting history, from its discovery in 1520 to its naming by the father of chemistry himself, Lavosier, in 1781. This was followed by the development of the first balloon carrier, the first publication concerning the different forms of hydrogen in 1843, the first study to note its medical applications in 1888, the Hindenburg explosion of 1937, and finally by the revolutionary 2007 study published in Nature Medicine proving hydrogen’s important benefit to human health.

Across 132 years of scientific research and over 900 research studies, it is impressive to discover how beneficial hydrogen is to the human body. For those interested in the health benefits of hydrogen, look no further than Echo Water™ Machines.

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