About Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP)

What exactly is ORP?

Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) is a measurement in milli-volts (mV) of the tendency or the strength that indicates whether a solution is oxidizing or reducing (= deoxidizing).

Any positive number indicates that the solution is oxidizing; the higher, the more oxidizing. The same theory applies on the negative side, just in the opposite direction; the lower, the more deoxidizing. And of course, any negative number indicates a reducing or deoxidizing tendency.

When chemists first used the term in the late 18th Century, the word "oxidation" meant, "to combine with oxygen." Back then, it was a pretty radical concept. Until about 200 years ago, folks were really confused about the nature of matter. It took some pretty brave chemists to prove, for example, that fire did not involve the release of some unknown, mysterious substance, but rather occurred when oxygen combined rapidly with the stuff being burned.

We can see examples of oxidation all the time in our daily lives. They occur at different speeds. When we see a piece of iron rusting, or a slice of apple turning brown, we are looking at examples of relatively slow oxidation. When we look at a fire, we are witnessing an example of rapid oxidation. We now know that oxidation involves an exchange of electrons between two atoms. The atom that loses an electron in the process is said to be "oxidized." The one that gains an electron is said to be "reduced." In picking up that extra electron, it loses the electrical energy that makes it "hungry" for more electrons.

We also know that matter can be changed, but not destroyed. You can alter its structure, and can increase or decrease the amount of energy it contains - but you can't eliminate the basis building blocks that make things what they are.

Chemicals like chlorine, bromine, and ozone are all oxidizers. It is their ability to oxidize - to "steal" electrons from other substances - that makes them good water sanitizers, because in altering the chemical makeup of unwanted plants and animals, they kill them. Then they "burn up" the remains, leaving a few harmless chemicals as the by-product.
Of course, in the process of oxidizing, all of these oxidizers are reduced - so they lose their ability to further oxidize things. They may combine with other substances in the water, or their electrical charge may simply be "used up." To make sure that the chemical process continues to the very end, you must have a high enough concentration of oxidizer in the water to do the whole job.
But how much is "enough?" That's where the term potential comes into play.

"Potential" is a word that refers to ability rather than action. We hear it all the time in sports. ("That rookie has a lot of potential - he hasn't done anything yet, but we know that he has the ability to produce.)

Potential energy is energy that is stored and ready to be put to work.. It's not actually working, but we know that the energy is there if and when we need it. Another word for potential might be pressure. Blow up a balloon, and there is air pressure inside. As long as we keep the end tightly closed, the pressure remains as potential energy. Release the end, and the air inside rushes out, changing from potential (possible) energy to kinetic (in motion) energy.

In electrical terms, potential energy is measured in volts. Actual energy (current flow) is measured in amps. When you put a voltmeter across the leads of a battery, the reading you get is the difference in electrical pressure - the potential - between the two poles. This pressure represents the excess electrons present at one pole of the battery (caused, incidentally, by a chemical reaction within the battery) ready to flow to the opposite pole.

When we use the term potential in describing ORP, we are actually talking about electrical potential or voltage. We are reading the very tiny voltage generated when a metal is placed in water in the presence of oxidizing and reducing agents. These voltages give us an indication of the ability of the oxidizers in the water to keep it free from contaminants.
What does oxidation or reduction mean to our health?

The consumption of oxidized foods and beverages tend to affect unfavorably the chemical characteristics of the body fluids. Many foods and beverages are highly oxidized and devoid of electrons.
Likewise, the addition to one’s diet of negative hydrogen ions, which are found to be especially high in organically grown vegetables, tends to affect the body fluids in a favorable manner.
Naturally, the ORP value varies quite widely between the foods and beverages. Considering you want to avoid oxidizing your body internally as much as possible, it is important to make a constant effort to eat and drink of which ORP value is on the negative side. However, unfortunately, the majority of what we eat and drink have positive ORP values, often quite high.
Many of you might be disappointed to know that some of the worst (the most oxidizing) examples include alcohol beverages, soda, meat, which ironically represent the most popular.
Also, some interesting comparison can be made on the freshness of the food at different stages of the product cycle.

For example, a freshly squeezed orange juice shows an ORP of usually around -200mV while most of the packaged orange juice show as high as +200mV.