Methylene Blue, also known as Methylthioninium chloride, is a type of salt that has many uses including medicinal ones. People regularly use medical salt in the form of a saline spray in their nose when they have allergies, gargle with warm salt water when they have a sore throat, or go to salt caves to breathe in the salt particles to treat lung conditions such as asthma, allergies and bronchitis. Methylene Blue was first used as a fabric dye, then in chemistry labs as a dye stain on microscope slides to highlight organisms, bacteria, and other living microbes. From the bench it made its way to the bedside, after it was discovered to be a powerful inhibitor of nitric oxide and its principal receptor, guanylate cyclase. Nitric oxide is a free radical that acts as a signaling molecular, regulating blood flow as well as tissue oxygenation. It acts on “vascular tone and blood flow by activating soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) in the vascular smooth muscle, and it controls mitochondrial O2 consumption” (Che, Pittman, & Popel, 2008). Currently, Methylene blue is clinically used to treat “methemoglobinemia [a rare blood disorder], malaria, carbon monoxide poisoning, and cyanide poisoning” (Talley Watt et. al, 2014). However, it holds great promise for other conditions, due to the fact that it reduces free radicals, cellular damage, and cell death. One of the conditions that it has been effective in aiding is Post-Concussive Syndrome.
Post-Concussion or Post-Concussive Syndrome is the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can last days to months. Traumatic brain injuries are caused “by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth” (CDC, 2022), and are a major cause of death and disability in the US. Post-concussive symptoms can be physical, such as headaches, ringing in the ears, and dizziness, or mental, with anxiety, depression, or problems with memory, problem-solving, and concentration. These manifestations are the result of both primary damage to the brain, as well as secondary damage that includes “impaired cerebral blood flow (CBF) and oxygen delivery, cerebrovascular autoregulation, and metabolic function” (Talley Watt et. al, 2014). In clinical studies, Methylene Blue was shown to reduce lesions and vasogenic edema in the brain after TBI, and improved sensorimotor functions. While the mechanism of action is not definitive, the neuroprotective effect of Methylene Blue is thought to be because it helps sustain energy production of ATP and/ or supports mitochondrial integrity. In addition to enhancing cell energy, it is a known antioxidant which reduces free radicals and lowers oxidative stress. Traumatic brain injuries produce an enormous amount of stress on the brain, and it can be hard for brain cells to receive nutrients. Methylene Blue takes a lot of that stress away while giving the cells the energy they need to survive and recover.
Many medications are directly administered via intravenous therapy, as it is the most effective way to deliver treatments directly into the bloodstream. Ultraviolet blood irradiation (UBI) is a closed-loop system whereby blood is drawn from the patient and injected into a saline IV bag with medication, and an ultraviolet light is shined on IV catheter as the blood re-enters the patient’s bloodstream. UV light therapy is commonly used in medicine to disinfect and sterilize items, as it functions as an antimicrobial agent. In the 1940s and 1950s, UBI was a very common medical procedure and was used to treat “septicemia, pneumonia, tuberculosis, arthritis, asthma and even poliomyelitis” (Hamblin, 2017). While the popularity of this therapy waned when new pharmaceuticals came to market and were profitable alternatives, UBI is now being explored as a way to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria, and as an immune-modulating therapy. While the mechanism of action is not entirely known, studies have shown that the oxidative nature of UBI helps to reduce free radicals and repair cellular damage, similar to effects of Methylene Blue. By combining Methylene Blue and IV therapy with UBI, pathogens are eliminated, oxidative damage and free radicals are reduced, and the neuroprotective effects of white blood cells are enhanced. This helps to create an optimal healing environment for the brain and the body to regain strength, function, and health.
CDC. (2022, November 14). Mild TBI and concussion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 12, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/concussion/index.html
Chen, K., Pittman, R. N., & Popel, A. S. (2008). Nitric oxide in the vasculature: where does it come from and where does it go? A quantitative perspective. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 10(7), 1185–1198. https://doi.org/10.1089/ars.2007.1959
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Hamblin M. R. (2017). Ultraviolet Irradiation of Blood: “The Cure That Time Forgot”?. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 996, 295–309. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56017-5_25
Mayo Clinic. (2023, January 18). Persistent post-concussive symptoms (post-concussion syndrome). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 12, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-concussion-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353352#:~:text=Persistent%20post%2Dconcussive%20symptoms%20%E2%80%94%20also,can%20last%20weeks%20to%20months.
Nadtoka, Oksana & Virych, P. & Kutsevol, Nataliya. (2020). Hydrogels Loaded with Methylene Blue: Sorption-Desorption and Antimicrobial Photoactivation Study. International Journal of Polymer Science. 2020. 1-6. 10.1155/2020/9875290. .
Talley Watts, L., Long, J. A., Chemello, J., Van Koughnet, S., Fernandez, A., Huang, S., Shen, Q., & Duong, T. Q. (2014). Methylene blue is neuroprotective against mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of neurotrauma, 31(11), 1063–1071. https://doi.org/10.1089/neu.2013.3193
About the author: Mary Genevieve Carty, MS, MHEd holds Masters degrees in Complementary and Integrative Health as well as Higher Education and is currently a doctoral student in Health Science at George Washington University’s College of Medicine and Health Science. She is passionate about holistic health and wellness, and has additional training in teaching, Reiki, and Tapping/ Emotional Freedom Technique. Her research interests include resiliency, psychoneuroimmunology, neuroplastic pain, placebo/ nocebo effect, and bioenergy therapies. The views she expresses are her own, and do not reflect any affiliation.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Stephen Matta, DO, MBA CAQSM and Mary Anne Matta, MS, MA, LAC
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