Tywon Hubbard
Tywon has been involved in the hydrogen industry for the last 5 years on many different levels. These levels include sales, corporate, ownership, third-party, product development, and education. He has been mentored by the industry's top researchers, educators, and engineers. He enjoys writing about hydrogen in an in-depth and technical manner and will give as much information as needed to help the reader understand the topic.

What is Kangen Water?

There has been much confusion and misinformation about Kangen Water over the years. So much that 17 years after the company Enagic founded its first US-based location [1] thousands of people are still asking this question online. 

Here at H2HUBB, we are all about bringing order to the chaos of the hydrogen industry and answering the industry’s/consumers’ pressing questions objectively to provide clarity for everyone. In this article series, I’m going to answer the commonly asked question: “What is Kangen Water?” Or better yet, What is Kangen Water, really? And what is it not? This and several of its top misconceptions, and the therapeutic agent it contains. This article is not meant to bash Kangen Water but to help everyone have a better understanding of ionized water. Through addressing these questions, I believe the industry and the everyday consumer will be better equipped to make informed decisions about Kangen Water and have a higher degree of discernment regarding the subject.

Firstly, “Kangen Water®” is the trademark name of the electrolyzed water produced by the company Eangic’s water ionizers. In Japanese, the word “Kangen” means “Reduction” or “Return To Origin”[2]. In essence, the company wants to convey that their water ionizer units produce water that is healthier than other forms of water and returns water to its original intent. Now, that’s great and all, but it doesn’t tell us what Kangen Water actually is. Kangen Water, specifically, is the catholyte (water from the negative terminal or electrode) of water that has undergone the process of water electrolysis. Remember, Enagic manufacturers alkaline water ionizers and water ionizers produce electrolyzed water.[3] 

If you want to learn more about water electrolysis visit our method page for a more in-depth breakdown and how it relates to hydrogen-rich water.           

All water ionizers produce a form of hydrogen-rich water that is called ERW (electrolyzed reduced water) or EAW/ARW (electrolyzed alkaline water/ Alkaline reduced water). This water will have an alkaline pH and varying levels of dissolved hydrogen gas ranging from 0.01~1.0+ mg/L (ppm).[4][5]

Thus Kangen Water is filtered hydrogen-rich water with an alkaline pH. But what is hydrogen water or hydrogen-rich water? In short, hydrogen water is water that contains or is infused with dissolved hydrogen gas also known as molecular hydrogen. Molecular hydrogen is being studied and has been recognized as legitimate medical gas, with therapeutic potential in over 170 human disease models.[6][7][8] For more on hydrogen water read my article “What is Hydrogen Water”.

Nevertheless, one primary misconception popularized on the internet or through distributors of water ionizers companies is that standard or conventional water ionizers are the optimal way to receive the therapeutic benefits of hydrogen water.  

Standard or conventional water ionizers, such as Enagic and newer generation water ionizers (such as Alkavia, Tyent, etc) were not optimally nor originally designed for producing therapeutic hydrogen-rich water but were designed to make alkaline water. 

“Importantly, alkaline water ionizers were developed decades before the therapeutic importance of molecular hydrogen was known. Thus, these units were optimized for alkaline pH not high dissolved hydrogen concentration.”[10] 

This fact leads to a greater understanding as to why water ionizers (standards or new gen) have design limitations for producing and dissolving H2 into the water. For these reasons, which I will list below, we at H2HUBB find it challenging to recommend alkaline water ionizers for consuming one’s daily hydrogen infused water intake. Mind you, in the past, I have worked as a lead technician for a predominant water ionizer company and have owned multiple water ionizer devices (analyzed on a very in-depth level). Furthermore, I own an Enagic SD501 and have been able to test many Enagic units (K8, SD501, Junior II) over the years. Several of these design limitations include being extremely dependent on source water conductivity (minerals) for H2 production, no incorporation of H2 dissolver technology, electrode design (smooth vs mesh), surface plate morphology or texture of electrodes, too high of current density causing H2 bubbles to coalesce, promotes precipitation of calcium, relies on water turbulence to dissolved the H2, unpalatable water due to high pH,  etc, etc. This results in the newer generation and standard water ionizers (Enagic/Kangen Water) being notorious for being inconsistent or unreliable in terms of dissolved hydrogen levels (due to the list above). This is also confirmed by a leading scientist and expert in the field of biomedical molecular hydrogen.

“Some alkaline water ionizers do not contain sufficient levels of dissolved hydrogen gas or at least their concentration is below a detection limit of 0.01 ppm. Some alkaline water ionizers can produce adequate hydrogen gas levels, but due to their production of alkaline water, the electrodes tend to scale up quickly, which prevents the hydrogen gas from dissolving into the water.” [9] 

With all that being said, Enagic’s units (K8, SD501, etc) with the right source water conditions can produce hydrogen-rich water with therapeutic levels of molecular hydrogen (0.5~1.0+ mg/L (ppm)) but as stated previously the technology has limitations and inconsistencies regarding dissolved molecular hydrogen. In our experience, on average these units have tested at 0.2~0.6 mg/L (ppm) of dissolved H2 and many units had undetectable (<0.1 mg/L) dissolved hydrogen concentrations. Our experience correlates well with scientist’s opinions on the subject. 

“Typically, at normal flow and with normal source water, the concentration of H2 from an alkaline water ionizer is around 0.1 ppm to 0.7 ppm.19-22  By running the water very slowly, these machines may increase the molecular hydrogen concentration, but the resulting pH is very high, making the water unpalatable.22”[11]

Based on our experience, testing, analysis, engineering evaluation, and research data on molecular hydrogen, Kangen Water (Enagic’s units) are not optimally designed for producing therapeutic hydrogen-rich water and is not the top choice for administering comparable levels of molecular hydrogen used in human pre-clinical and clinical studies (1~15 mg/day).

In all actuality, the majority of the people around the world that consume hydrogen water do so via water ionizers, as they have and still dominate the market place. In fact, Enagic and other water ionizer companies have helped a significant amount of people over the years, however, it comes with the fact that they allowed their representatives to perpetuate false information/false claims or preconceived notions about ionized water and/or Enagic Kangen Water.

For instance, it is stated by many proponents of Kangen Water that ionized water and/or Kangen Water is therapeutic due to many properties of the water (many of which have no valid scientific support or are completely false). The reason Kangen Water or ionized water has any potential to provide health benefits has nothing to do with its pH, alkalinity, water cluster size, absorption rate, ORP readings, etc. It’s because all water ionizers produce molecular hydrogen (medical gas) via water electrolysis.[12][13][14][15]

“H2 is the therapeutic agent in electrolyzed-alkaline water and attenuates HFD-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in mice.”[16]

“In fact, it is so well recognized that molecular hydrogen (H2) is the key component of ERW, that some studies will remove the molecular hydrogen from the ERW and use it for the control group.27, 40-42”[17]

“Another study 41 confirmed that it is the hydrogen gas (H2) and not the pH or minerals, or other properties of the alkaline reduced water that is responsible for the therapeutic benefits.”[18]

“Lastly, one recent review article43 specifically states that studies/researchers have “explicitly proved that molecular hydrogen, but not alkaline in the electrolyzed alkaline water, exerts therapeutic effects”. This information is important to the ionized water industry and consumer because it increases the importance of having water with a decent hydrogen gas concentration. Not all machines are created equal, and perhaps differences in H2 concentrations (not ORP or pH) is responsible for differences in the observed therapeutic effects.32”[19]

Enagic and many other water ionizer companies are just now starting to accept H2 in some circles as the reason why the water is beneficial.

Another predominant claim about Kangen water is that it’s produced by a certified medical device, thus it’s a higher quality than other H2 water systems. The medical device claim is true, however, it doesn’t truly reflect or hold as much merit as one might think. In fact, many (virtually all) water ionizer companies from Japan and Korea must obtain the medical device approval status set forth by the JMHLW (Japanese Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare) or the Korean FDA. The approval status requires the company’s electrolysis apparatus (water ionizer) to provide 8.5 pH alkaline water and contain a form or compound of calcium (calcium sulfite, calcium lactate, etc). Other than that the device must pass safety regulations and procedures based on the JIS-T 2004 performance test method. This is why Enagic’s filters contain 20 grams (or 20,000 mg, an extremely large amount of calcium) of calcium sulfite to try to last the life of the filter (and to reduce the generation of chlorine at the anode). Overall, this medical approval status (certification) is similar to what the US FDA does for dental floss, which is considered a class 1 medical product. I would encourage you to read the sourced scientific article about the topic [20]. It will help you understand the history of why water ionizers received the medical device status and what it actually means in its proper context and not what marketing material (or marketing hype) conveys it to be.

Here is a shortlist of some of the issues people normally face with alkaline water ionizers in relation to ingesting therapeutic levels of molecular hydrogen. Many companies especially new generation water ionizer companies have worked hard to limit these potential challenges, therefore, newer generation water ionizers are generally better performers than standards water ionizers, but it’s nearly impossible to address them all due to uncontrollable variables.

Water ionizers are highly dependent on source water conductivity (minerals in your source water; Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, Na+, etc) for producing H2 and alkaline water. 

This means if a persons’ source water is below 70~80 TDS (total dissolved solids), they will have an exceptionally tough time producing H2 in a general sense. This does not include the topic of dissolving the H2 that is being produced by the water ionizer at that TDS. One option to try to offset this is to increase the current (electrical power) to the electrodes or plates, however, this may speeds up the degradation of the electrodes and can leech platinum into the water. Another, equally important point to keep in mind is that not all TDS is created equal. A person’s mineral composition of their water can be vastly different from another even though they might have the same TDS level or reading (e.g. 100 TDS). For example, one person could have 100 TDS that is primarily sodium (Na+) which will be very conductive, however, another person could have well water that is primarily rich in boron and may have a tougher time producing hydrogen even at the same TDS concentration (e.g. 100 TDS).  Alkaline water ionizers have a tough time dissolving H2 into the water, due to a number of reasons listed above in the article. Dissolved hydrogen gas (nano-bubbles) is the form of H2 that is therapeutic to the human body. So you can produce H2 (which are the visible bubbles in the water) without actually dissolving it. Dissolved H2 is not visible to the naked eye, and any H2 that is not dissolved will dissipate immediately. These types of devices (water ionizers) are not universal because everyone’s source water is different (city, well, states, high TDS, low TDS, etc). [21][22]

Water Ionizers raise the pH of the water which increases scaling (calcium precipitation) and needs constant maintenance due to this effect.

This effect may even affect newer ionizers designs such as, Tyent, Alkaviva, etc. Even though they have incorporated anti-scale technology for the water cell of their units, it does not prevent scaling in the tubing or waterspout/nozzle. Hard water (High in minerals/ high TDS) speeds up this effect, and can completely clog up a unit. This effect requires regular cleaning sessions (with citric acid), sometimes weekly (e.g. Enagic’s SD501 with hard water), which can take hours just to maintain the unit’s performance. In standard or conventional alkaline water ionizers, this effect can cause the ionizer to stop dissolving H2 altogether because even a microscopic layer of scaling on the electrodes can inhibit hydrogen gas from dissolving into the water properly.[23]

Drinking high pH water above 10 pH can have negative effects. 

Most water ionizers’ highest setting normally produces the highest H2 readings but in most instances, the pH of the water is about 10 pH.

Water over 10 pH can: [24][25]

  • May cause the water to have a bad taste
  • May Induce GERD/Acid reflux due to the stomach feed-back mechanism 
  • May cause gastrointestinal distress
  • May cause hyperkalemia (high blood potassium levels) in susceptible individuals, especially those with impaired kidney function.

Water ionizers tend to have a higher electrical current and current density at the electrodes/plate on the highest alkaline/H2 setting increasing the rate leaching of platinum nanoparticles into the water.[26] 

Early research (clinical trials) by Japanese scientists confirms ERW/ionized water should be consumed below a 10 pH but hard to dissolved enough H2

“The catholyte obtained from tap water electrolysis is called “alkali-ion-water” in Japan. Alkali-ion-water is potable and there is hydrogen in it. Tashiro et al. [26] I reported on the basis of clinical test results that alkali- ion-water at pH above 10 could cause an increase of potassium ion in blood in rare cases. The pH of alkali- ion-water” must be controlled below 9.8 since then. It becomes important to produce “alkali-ion-water” with a high concentration of dissolved hydrogen maintaining a pH value below 9.8. With conventional electrolysis, it is difficult to prepare alkali-ion-water”, containing dis- solved hydrogen at almost saturated concentrations [1.57 mg/L @ SATP], without a rise of the pH over 10.[27]

Standard Water ionizers have trouble dissolving H2 

This can make it difficult to hit the daily milligram mark of H2, which is 1-3 mg a day (even harder to hit 1~15 mg/day in clinical research). Further, alkaline water ionizers (Enagic’s, etc) do not have built-in dissolver technology for H2 (which has low water solubility), this can lead to a ton of wasted H2 and lower H2 readings (<0.5 mg/L (ppm)) especially, depending on one’s source water conditions. This may require individuals to drink a large volume of water to hit the 1-3 mg of H2 a day. In certain circumstances, water ionizers units may require a person to drink over a gallon of water (> 4Liters) a day to get enough H2 in their system to induce any effect. These units’ water flow rate has to be tweaked to find the sweet spot for maximum dissolved hydrogen concentration, which can be a hassle as it has to be done every time you get a drink of water. 

These are potential challenges many individuals would be willing to endure and many are experiencing unknowingly but as a molecular hydrogen educator, we cannot ignore these facts. Our goal is to be a  hydrogen company that primarily focuses on helping bring order to the chaos of the therapeutic hydrogen industry, educating the masses, and providing proper guidance to consumers investing in the marketplace. We want to best serve everyone, via education and ensuring we point people in the best direction for hydrogen therapy (H2 water, H2 inhalation, etc, etc). 

Due to the biomedical research on molecular hydrogen manufacturers around the world are engineering hydrogen water systems that specialize in minimizing the design limitation of alkaline water ionizers and optimizing the production and dissolved molecular hydrogen content of the water. These systems are called HIMs (Hydrogen Infusion Machines).[28]

You can learn more about them on our methods page.   

These units are geared towards producing therapeutic levels of dissolved hydrogen gas (0.5~10+ mg/L(ppm)) independent from source water conditions. However, what does the research suggest therapeutic concentrations are and how much H2 we need/day. 

Research is demonstrating that it’s very important that we ingest enough hydrogen gas to receive therapeutic effects. The research is suggesting 1~3 milligrams of H2 per day appears to be therapeutic to humans and some researchers are suggesting 1.8 to 7.2 mg of H2 per day might be needed to see clinical effects [29] [30]. This is key because researchers are still trying to figure out proper dosing for different disease models and for general health. In fact, they have figured out that many diseases are dose-dependent, meaning the H2 blood concentration, and/or cell and tissue concentration have to be high enough to induce a therapeutic effect, and the more H2 gas the greater the therapeutic effect. This is why you see many human clinical studies with hydrogen water at a dissolved hydrogen concentration of 1.3-10 ppm and having the participants in the study taking 1-15 mg of H2 per day.

For example, if a person drinks 1 liter (33.8 oz) H2 water with a DHC (dissolved hydrogen concentration) of 1 mg/L (ppm), you will have ingested 1 mg of molecular hydrogen. 

Formula: [31]

1 mg/L (ppm) H2 x 1 liter (33.8 oz) = 1 mg of H2 Ingest.

2 mg/L (ppm) H2 x 1 liter (33.8 oz) = 2 mg of H2 Ingest.

3 mg/L (ppm) H2 x 1 liter (33.8 oz) = 3 mg of H2 Ingest.

Preclinical and Clinical Human Studies administered H2 mg/day

Consumption of water containing over 3.5 mg of dissolved hydrogen could improve vascular endothelial function [32]

“The subjects were randomly divided into two groups: the high-H2 group, who drank high-H2 water containing 7 ppm H2 (3.5 mg H2 in 500 mL water); and the placebo group.”

Consumption of water containing a high concentration of molecular hydrogen reduces oxidative stress and disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: an open-label pilot study [33]

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drank 530 ml of water containing 4 to 5 ppm (2.65 mg/day) molecular hydrogen (high H2 water) every day for 4 weeks. After a 4-week wash-out period, the patients drank the high H2 water for another 4 weeks.”

Effectiveness of Hydrogen Rich Water on Antioxidant Status of Subjects with Potential Metabolic Syndrome—An Open Label Pilot Study [34]

“The objective of this study was to examine the effectiveness of hydrogen rich water (1.5–2 L/day) in an open label, 8-week study on 20 subjects with potential metabolic syndrome.”

“Hydrogen rich water was produced, by placing a metallic magnesium stick into drinking water (hydrogen concentration; 0.55–0.65 mM x 2L/day)≈(2.62 mg/day), by the following chemical reaction; Mg + 2H2O → Mg (OH)2 + H2.”

A randomized double-blind multi-center trial of hydrogen water for Parkinson’s disease: protocol and baseline characteristics [35]

“On a daily basis, the participants will drink 1,000 mL of saturated H2-water containing 5 mM of dissolved H2 (using Hydrogen 7.0, supplied by Ecomo International Co., Ltd. [Fukuoka, Japan]; patent No: PCT/JP2011/063601) for 72 weeks. “

Note: 

5 mM (DH) x 2.02 (H2 molar mass) = 10  mg/L (ppm)

10 ppm x 1000 ml (1 liter, or 33.8 oz) = 10 mg of H2 per day! 

Acute Supplementation with Molecular Hydrogen Benefits Submaximal Exercise Indices. Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Pilot Study [36]

“Subjects received either HRW or placebo, which was consumed the day before and the day of the testing. HRW was delivered using the hydrogen-producing tablets, DrinkHRW (5 mg of H2). All data was analyzed with SPSS using pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni adjustment.” 

With this information in mind, we all should be striving to ingest the suggested milligrams/day dose of H2, and purchasing systems designed to produce hydrogen-rich water ensuring convenience when striving for that target. 

In conclusion, I hope this article answered the questions: What is Kangen Water? I hope you have learned more about the popular misconceptions online, as well as the importance of its therapeutic agent, molecular hydrogen. The truth of the matter is there are pros and cons to every hydrogen or hydrogen water technology. Enagic’s alkaline water ionizers (Kangen Water) have laid a foundation as the initial technology to bring hydrogen water to thousands and that should not be understated or underappreciated. Nonetheless, as the biomedical research of molecular hydrogen grows and elucidates objective truths by which we should make informed decisions we should become aware of the best ways to move forward. We now know molecular hydrogen is the key to all ionized water. Specifically engineering hydrogen water systems to optimally produce and dissolve molecular hydrogen is imperative to potentially receiving the therapeutic benefits. Therefore, our professional opinion, if you are an individual that has purchased an Enagic Kangen Water System (K8, SD501, Junior II, etc) and you are not looking to purchase another hydrogen water device we would advise you to read our next article, “How To Get the Most Out Of Your Kangen Water System.” However, if you’re in the market or looking to purchase a hydrogen water system or a device that produces functional water (ionized water/hydrogen-rich water), I would consider reviewing our H2 product recommendation and reviews. Many of these water ionizers can cost $3~5K USD, which may or may not provide therapeutic levels of dissolved H2 consistently. We test/analyze a wide array of hydrogen products and recommend the ones that meet our objective performance standards. Our recommended H2 water systems can be 30~50% less in cost than many alkaline water ionizers on the market but produce 3~6 times more dissolved hydrogen. Lastly,  all our H2 product recommendations correlate with the research on molecular hydrogen. Thus you can be confident you are ingesting similar levels of H2 that are being used in human pre-clinical and clinical studies.  You can view our recommendations HERE

Important Points: 

  1. Kangen Water is a form of hydrogen-rich water with an alkaline pH and varying dissolved molecular hydrogen levels. 
  2. This type of water can be referred to as Hydrogen Water,  Electrolyzed Reduced Water, Electrolyzed Alkaline water, Alkaline Reduced Water.  
  3. Molecular Hydrogen is the sole therapeutic agent in Kangen Water or Ionized Water. 
  4. Water Ionizers (including Enagic’s) have limitations in producing hydrogen water with consistent therapeutic levels.
  5. These limitations make it challenging to recommend alkaline water ionizers to the public.
  6. 1~3 mg/day of H2 appears to be therapeutic for humans. 

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