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hydrogen | Hydrogen Tablet Origins - Series

Drink HRW Beginnings: Invention of the Open Cup Hydrogen Tablets

Contributor Bio

Alex Tarnava is the CEO of Drink HRW, and the primary inventor of the open-cup hydrogen tablets. Alex runs the clinical outreach program for our company, working with over a dozen universities coordinating research. Alex has also published research of his own. You can find it on his ResearchGate. Additionally, he has been interviewed for many prominent publications, such as Entrepreneur and Forbes, and on many popular Podcasts. You can find all of his interviews and articles on his media page.

Drink HRW Beginnings: Invention of the Open Cup Hydrogen Tablets


Prelude to My Own Enlightenment

Many expect there was a monumental event, a single cathartic experience that changed my path and opened my eyes. What else could explain an individual abandoning a successful business to pursue something barely embryonic, something that had no market analysis and no framework to predict even the ability for success. The truth is, the story isn’t that simple. Molecular hydrogen popped onto my radar several times over a few years, and it was only due to personal requirement that I finally decided to pursue it.

I first became aware of molecular hydrogen as a potential therapeutic agent sometime in late 2012, during a period I refer to as my own personal “intellectual enlightenment.” I have been an avid reader ever since childhood, and throughout my teen years had many intellectual passions, including a deep appreciation for philosophy, psychology, macro-systems, predictions, and the study of trends, economically, socially for enjoyment and prejudices, political and otherwise, that become pervasive then subside.

During my 20s due to a career in commission sales, more specifically in training and motivating dozens of others I employed to close sales, my reading and information gathering was almost exclusively centered around influence, motivation, persuasion, and conflict resolution. As any of my former superiors in this industry would likely attest to, my performance would explode and then wane based on my own momentary personal motivation. In many ways I was a master of my craft but lacked the desire to pursue it. As I branched out and started a second profitable and successful business predicated on this skillset, my own internal philosophical struggle intensified. I was persuading others to do my bidding, utilizing NLP (Neuro-Linguistic programming) and numerous other methods, and I questioned the ethics in this.

I left the only industry I had ever known in the summer of 2011, bogged down by personal anguish. I began working with my father’s business utilizing my skillset to improve certain functions. Fitness had always been a passion and during this time, I began exploring the possibilities of my body in terms of strength and agility. As Socrates purportedly stated:

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

While I will state that I have absolutely no regrets in understanding my bodies innate abilities and potential, the loss of these abilities due to irreparable injuries was absolutely devastating, so much so that I still have not come to terms. During this period, the “high” in liberating myself from the shackles of conformity and career without purpose inspired me to pursue a more hedonistic life. This was short-lived, lasting through the fall of 2011 and into early winter, during which I began transitioning away from a life of thrills and into a life of solitude and self-reflection.

In early 2012, I began contemplating my purpose. I could not come to terms with this and so decided that the only logical course was to further understand myself. I reignited my passion for learning and dove head first into many “popular” science books, primarily on neuroscience, as well as fine literature, philosophy, and the works of current thought leaders.

Sometime in 2012, I read Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape” (as well as most of his other works) and read a passing mention of Aubrey De Grey and some of his beliefs. This piqued my interest and I promptly purchased De Grey’s “Ending Aging” reading it within the month (likely week). During this period, I was reading between 6 to 8 hours a day, so seeking a new topic to delve into was not an indication of an overwhelming passion in that field, more “par for the course.” “Ending Aging” interested me quite substantially and I spent considerable time scouring for references, new literature, and anything that could shine light on advancements in any of the fields De Grey indicated were road blocks in solving the riddle of our own biological deterioration. The part relevant to hydrogen water was De Grey’s section on antioxidants, the failures of antioxidant therapy, and what would be needed to make an effective antioxidant (being selective, the ability to penetrate the mitochondria, etc.). While our knowledge on redox has grown substantially in the last 6 years, and 9-10 since De Grey likely wrote this, at the time Molecular Hydrogen fit the bill. I found several articles, including the seminal article in Nature Medicine (, describing it as a selective antioxidant and noted it. At this time, there seemed to be nothing commercially available (at least in North America, noting the benefits as molecular hydrogen) and I was relatively young and healthy so had no need to pursue it personally.

For the next two years, I continued to maintain my habit of reading to expand my mind and my understanding of everything around me (that I could), while maintaining my fitness to the highest standard I was capable of. I was increasingly more and more discontent with my path at my father’s business and had ventured back into using my previous skillsets in a venture with a former colleague. This period marked one of heavy disdain for much of what was being communicated around me. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens in “Letters to a Young Contrarian,” “find 10 things you hate about this world, write them down, and wake up every morning to read them. That way you can ensure you’re still mad about them.” My list didn’t stop at 10. I had pseudonyms online, was deriding many influencers, and groups for ideas and platforms existing outside logic and reason. I spoke to friends and family with contempt about their deep seeded thoughts and beliefs, not realizing or caring that this was not effective communication and I was doing more harm than good.

During the height of this period, fall of 2013, a friend and former employee decided it fit to post something not only wrong, but demonstrably dangerous and harmful. He had recently joined a “cult” or rather a multi-level organization that sold an expensive (and poorly designed) water ionizer for an enormous price tag, selling magic rather than substance. He claimed his health had turned around and his “grandmother had been cured of cancer,” which I believe was my personal tipping point. I had already done my due diligence debunking alkaline water as my sister had previously pushed it on my family, so I came guns blazing in. A couple other acquaintances jumped in and a full-blown war erupted on his Facebook yielding hundreds of comments on the original post in a day. Two mutual friends of ours that sided with me were blocked, although myself and the friend who posted this settled some issues privately and remained friends. The thread was deleted, but not before one of the superiors of the friend who posted the original threads nudged him to “mention the hydrogen.” While my friend didn’t go into the hydrogen created in the water on the thread (he didn’t really know anything about it), since I had already heard about molecular hydrogen, I privately asked him about this function. I got sparse information, but hydrogen water was once again back on my radar.

About a year passed and hydrogen water returned onto my radar. During the late summer, early fall of 2014, I became very sick. At first the symptoms presented themselves as almost a central nervous system shutdown. My strength was unaffected, but I had absolutely no reactive abilities, could not jump, sprint, or explode into any movements. In fact, I could not even jump an inch off the ground. On top of this, I was experiencing acute narcoleptic like symptoms, falling asleep anytime I sat unoccupied for any amount of time even for 30 seconds. I was sleeping over 18 hours a day, not working, and couldn’t focus on reading. I was going in for blood tests every week, even twice a week near the end, and my CRP (C reactive protein) peaked at 34 mg/L, or over 11x what the upper end of healthy is considered. I was anemic and low on iron despite a strict diet exceeding 6,000 calories a day high in dark green vegetables and meat protein.

As quickly as whatever befalling me had appeared, it disappeared, with my CRP falling below 2 mg/L from 34 mg/L in a week. As the inflammation subsided, I was met with a new reality. My left shoulder, left hip, and left “in step” were all seized, and they were all in agonizing pain. I will note that I have had significant injuries to all three areas, however, the sudden onset of these symptoms was devastating.

I had to quit my sports. I couldn’t work out or sleep. The doctor at the walk-in clinic I was frequenting put me on 1,000 mg naproxen per day, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. I knew this wasn’t a long-term solution and started scouring “pubmed” (a research database available to the public), looking for anything that could positively impact my inflammatory levels. Surprisingly, hydrogen water popped up several times. I say surprisingly as I had previously believed it was simply a selective free radical scavenger, didn’t understand H2’s function in the body (no one really did), and didn’t understand the delicate relationship between redox and inflammation.

I contacted the friend that was selling the water ionizers, still in the early fall of 2014, not interested in his sales pitch and just wanting to know the run down on H2 creation. He didn’t oblige, or pay me this respect in cutting the crap, and I actually got into a yelling match on the phone with his sponsor for trying to sell me a load of proverbial shit on the magical benefits of alkaline water. I just wanted the hydrogen water. I actually almost didn’t buy the machine because I was so incensed at the sales pitch but managed to find Tyler W. LeBaron and the Molecular Hydrogen Institute to ask some very pointed questions and express concerns over the way companies were representing the science in this embryonic field.

Tyler was (admittedly) very taken aback by the questions I was asking but pleased to respond. He expressed extreme frustrations with the messaging from many of the commercial organizations involved in the industry, answered some relatively advanced questions I had, and pointed me to research I hadn’t yet seen. I thanked him, and for myself this was an extremely rare case of a scientist selling something based purely on data and careful representations.

I contacted my friend and told him bluntly to listen to me. I said something to the effect of “Send me an invoice, I am buying the unit, but if you try to pitch me on any of the bullshit magical benefits I’m out, I’ll buy a different unit from a stranger.” My friend followed my instructions, sort of. I paid on my credit card to his office, and he delivered the unit November 2014. I told him to just show me the functions and not to pitch me. It was sold, and his routine only aggravated me. He almost made it through, but at the end slipped and made a comment about how the ionized water would kill all viruses. I quipped “even HIV” and he said “yes.” I couldn’t believe it, but at that point I was “in” and wasn’t turning back. I had a unit and was more disgusted with the organization that sold it to me than when I got into a huge Facebook comment war a year earlier. As an aside, a good half dozen of my former staff were now selling these units. They tried to have me join their little private group, and when I declined and expressed no interest, I actually ended a decade long friendship with a former staff completely irate that I wasn’t opening my mind to what the company was offering.

I started drinking my “hydrogen water” from this ionizer and didn’t notice any benefits. That said, I was now on the 1,000 mg of naproxen a day and was now taking cortisol and then a hyaluronic acid injection in my shoulder to get back into training. My shoulder was relatively loose, and I wasn’t expecting a miracle from the H2. I’m not sure what I was exactly expecting. Relatively quickly, I developed ulcers from the naproxen by March 2015, just 6 months after starting. I had to abruptly quit the NSAIDs, and my shoulder almost immediately froze.

I tried upping my hydrogen water concentration to 5+ L a day, only drinking water from the ionizer. I was reading online that by “slowing the flow,” more H2 would be retained, so I would trickle it into a cup and chug, spending an inordinate amount of time doing so. This had seemingly no effect, and after a couple of weeks, I started wondering “is there even H2 in this water?” I purchased H2 Blue from and tested my machine in early April. The machine had no detectable H2. I immediately took it in for a deep cleaning, despite it being only a few months old and received it a week later. It still had no H2. I now know it was from a lack of total dissolved solids TDS in the water supply.

Regardless, I became motivated rather than disheartened. I didn’t know hydrogen water wasn’t working for me because I wasn’t drinking hydrogen water. I immediately started buying full studies online to view the research protocols in human studies. Several used magnesium. I found a “magnesium stick” online and ordered it, getting very low readings of H2, much less than what I now had read was needed or utilized in the studies. This was all happening very quickly due to my obsessive nature, in a matter of days or a couple of weeks, with delays only due to shipping.

Throughout April and May of 2015, I was scouring the internet to find powdered magnesium, to create my own powder solution to add to the water and bypass the challenges of the sticks. My time was extremely ample, as my income was relatively very high for almost no work (other than travel weeks) from a business I was involved with at the time. Buying studies, supplies, test equipment and spending 10+ hours a day doing this was not a concern. I was reading that there were sources for magnesium, but I couldn’t find them. I started contacting Chinese manufacturers, and finally found a US-based source. However, I learnt that end use on this material was enforced and it couldn’t be sent to a personal residence. The Chinese sources were at the time trying to tell me they couldn’t export “magnesium” in a “wink wink” manner, and I wasn’t catching the hint, or did not want to engage in anything illegal. Either way, I did not view it as an option.

I once again turned to Tyler W. LeBaron, the only person I thought would know. He was hesitant to give me any information on magnesium. Now I know he didn’t know where to get it regardless, but he did tell me that a couple of “tablets” had just launched using magnesium. He wouldn’t tell me a brand, but a Google search turned up the first brand of sealed container hydrogen water tablets. I immediately ordered them early June 2015. I can’t relay how excited I was to receive these first tablets. I was so motivated to find something like this for my own health, I was contacting Chinese companies and looking into getting End Use licenses from the US State Department. If these tablets were a solution, I was fine paying any reasonable price for them so long as they worked.

I prepared my first bottle, waiting the 20 minutes as suggested, cracked the cap, drank, and promptly spat it all over my kitchen. The water was unpalatably disgusting. Possibly the worst thing I had ever tasted. This was the awful batch I previously mentioned JH had received.

What was even worse, upon testing the water, I only measured a pathetic 0.3 ppm! All of that excitement, all of that build up for absolutely nothing. I was furious and distraught all at once. I calmed down and tried to think about “why” the tablets weren’t dissolving H2 in the water. There was a TON of residue at the bottom. Perhaps some acid to catalyze the reaction would work. So, I tried that by adding copious amounts of lemon juice. Voila, it worked, sort of. The H2 shot up and I was getting well over 1 ppm! Also, the taste of adding 2 tbsp of lemon juice was shockingly much better.

I continued to explore ways to maximize the H2 and started “doubling down” by adding two tablets, significant amounts of lemon juice, and adding it to steel thermoses clamped shut. The last part is important as I had a lid explode off, damaging items in my fridge. It sounded like a gun shot and seriously freaked me out, while thankfully turning my attention to safety. I was really rigging these up, I was needing to remove the lids with a monkey wrench, but it was working. I was getting to 3.5-4 ppm of H2 in 500 mL and drinking this 4x a day. I was flying through these tablets, but my shoulder was astonishingly feeling better and my hip loosened. My in-step was also looser and I could squat again. I stopped the tablets for a week in disbelief, wanting to account for placebo effects, and everything seized back up. I started back up and within three days I was feeling great again.

Between the cost of the tablets after conversion to Canadian dollars, the heavy import duties, taxes and fees as the shipper was not providing a NAFTA cert of origin, and the absolutely horrid taste, and terrible design, I decided that now that I knew hydrogen water was viable, I still needed my own “DIY” solution. I simply couldn’t justify spending this exorbitant amount on an awful product.

On top of this, as I delved into the marketing of the companies that were currently pushing hydrogen water, including hydrogen tablets, I was disgusted. None were scientifically or intellectually honest. All appealed to magical thinking, tying hydrogen water to other nonsensical lines of thought. I could not in good faith support any of these companies financially. After being “robbed” by the ionizer company, I wasn’t keen on going down this path again.

I went back to searching for magnesium in late June of 2015, and found three sources that shipped to me, simultaneously. A US source, a Chinese source, and a company in Hungary sending Russian magnesium powder. The US source aggravated me as they sent powder mixed with chunks of solid magnesium I had to strain out, likely to comply with HAZMAT shipping. I did get confirmation that their source was the same I had originally spoken to and would not deliver to a residence. The Chinese and Hungarian products arrived declared as “aluminum powder” and “paint colouring.” I was concerned about both and had them tested, learning that the Chinese source had significant heavy metals. The Russian source was borderline and low enough for me to experiment with (although too contaminated for a commercial product).

At this point, I was starting to communicate with Dr. Holland. As we mentioned in our talk (, he was originally extremely skeptical.

Through perseverance, I convinced him to assist me and we began our journey in R&D…

Next week, part III, developing our first prototypes and overcoming manufacturing issues.


  • Alex Tarnava

    Hello, the next part is now available here:

    The final part of this will be available next week. Glad you are enjoying the read!

  • Trish Kelley

    I found this article very fascinating but was quite upset I wasn’t able to finish it.. where do I find the rest of this story?

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