Autohemotherapy, or self-blood therapy, is a technique that involves the withdrawal of blood from the body and the reinjection of the same blood back into a vein or through the skin or muscle. The aim of the therapy is to enhance the immune system's ability to fight disease. The blood may be mixed with ozone (an unstable form of oxygen that some practitioners believe to have healing properties), an herbal (e.g., echinacea, to stimulate immune function), or a homeopathic remedy (e.g., a small amount alcohol or water) before being reinjected into a vein or through the skin or muscle.
Autohemotherapy was first described by the French physician Paul Ravaut in 1913. Practitioners of autohemotherapy believe that the reintroduction of one's own blood boosts immunity and vitality. Autohemotherapy is a common practice in Europe and South America and is performed to treat pain, ischemia (a lack of oxygen to the tissues), inflammation, and infections. Examples of illnesses and symptoms treated with autohemotherapy include arterial circulatory disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bronchitis, allergies, acne, eczema, leg ulcers, and fungal infections. Autohemotherapy has also been used in combination with conventional cancer treatment, as well as to aid in smoking cessation and to speed up recovery after a long illness.
However, there is a lack of good-quality evidence to support the use of autohemotherapy for any medical condition.
Good-quality data on the safety of autohemotherapy are lacking, but there may be risks associated with this therapy.
There is a lack of good-quality published evidence in support of the effectiveness of autohemotherapy in the treatment of any condition.
Practitioners of autohemotherapy believe that the reintroduction of the blood strengthens a person's immunity and resets the immune system. The theory suggests that as the ozone dissolves in body fluids, it immediately reacts with biomolecules that stimulate the immune system by generating messengers responsible for biological and therapeutic actions.
Ozone is sometimes mixed with the blood in the treatment of joint pain such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Practitioners of autohemotherapy believe that the purported healing effects of ozone are beneficial in these conditions.
When treating viral diseases, it is believed that ozone-treated blood may have a direct effect on virus replication within the body. Echinacea, an herbal remedy, is sometimes added to the blood to stimulate immune function in the treatment of viral diseases.
Other theories are based on the belief that many diseases are caused by a lack of oxygen and that oxygenation may restore health by removing unwanted cells (e.g., cancer cells).
There have been few clinical trials conducted to investigate the effects of autohemotherapy. Most of those described in the medical literature to date have been poorly designed and reported, making interpretation of the results difficult.
Limited evidence suggests that major autohemotherapy with ozone may be beneficial in patients with sensorineural hearing loss, which is a type of hearing loss resulting from a dysfunction in the inner ear.
There have been several small studies conducted to investigate the effects of ozonated autohemotherapy in individuals with narrowing of the arteries (peripheral arterial disease or intermittent claudication), leg ulcers, a history of heart attack, HIV infection, and asthma. While some of the studies show beneficial effects, the research is not well designed. Larger, well-designed trials are needed before a firm conclusion may be reached regarding any of the conditions studied.
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Depending on the quantity of blood involved, the technique is described as either minor or major autohemotherapy.
Minor autohemotherapy involves the removal of a small amount of blood, such as 3-10 milliliters, from an individual's vein using a hypodermic needle, which is a hollow needle usually used with a syringe. The blood may then be mixed with ozone, oxygen, or a natural remedy, such as an herbal or a homeopathic remedy. The mixture is then injected back into the individual into a muscle or into the skin. A typical course of therapy may involve 8-12 injections over a period of 4-6 weeks.
In major autohemotherapy, a larger quantity of blood, such as 50-250 milliliters, is removed and reintroduced via a vein over a time period of up to 30 minutes, using a standard drip infusion rate, or a steady rate. This treatment may be repeated several times per week for a number of weeks.
Ozone is sometimes mixed with the blood, as some practitioners believe that it has healing effects such as improving oxygen metabolism, modulating biological stress, regulating the immune system, and serving as a broad-spectrum germicide.
The use of herbal and homeopathic remedies in autohemotherapy is less common. An example of an herbal mixture that is used is echinacea, which is sometimes incorporated into the blood mixture to stimulate immune function. An example of a homeopathic remedy that is used is taking a small amount of the patient's blood and diluting it in an alcohol or water solution before returning it to the patient.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.