Who would ever have thought that something so simple could have such profound mental and physical benefits. Who would ever have thought, given the popular adoption of phrases like “return to your roots,” “disconnect to connect” and “social media detox,” that you might have to convince others to occasionally step out of their high heeled stilettos or synthetic-soled Nikes and come down to earth.
Yet those who have are quite correctly cultish about it.
Earthers are a healthy and inviting tribe of their own.
Welcome to Earth(ing)
According to its founder and pioneer, Clinton Ober, earthing reduces pain, anxiety, inflammation and irritability, and restores energy, metabolism and hormonal balance. These physical benefits and more were subsequently supported by 20 peer-reviewed studies that confirmed a wide variety of significant physical benefits.
What is Earthing?
Earthing simply means making direct barefoot contact with the Earth. Why? Simplistically speaking, just as electronics are grounded to protect their internal circuitry from power surges and surpluses that might otherwise fry them, earthing provides an outlet of the same kind but for people.
Consider all of the many apparatus around you that subject you to various invisible electrical frequencies, from your smartphone and smartwatches, to your WiFi, to UV-emitting fluorescent light bulbs, computers, cameras, Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Nest, smart meters, smart thermostats and smart cars to list a handful. The health effects of these and many more are washed over, yet we bathe in their emissions almost 24 hours a day.
More importantly, however, earthing lets you absorb copious amounts of electrons directly from their greatest source. These electrons have dramatic healing properties.
What are the benefits of earthing?
According to peer-reviewed literature, scientific studies and books on Earthing, it produces the following benefits:
- Rapid reduction of physical inflammation
- Infuses the body with antioxidants
- Reduces or eliminates chronic pain and fatigue
- Improves blood flow to supply the tissues and cells, and to aid in oxygen absorption and nutrition
- Reduces physical stress
- Increases energy and vitality
- Improves sleep and reduces or eliminates insomnia
- Speeds the body’s healing from injuries, surgery or trauma
- Reduces pain, anxiety, inflammation and irritability
- Restores energy, metabolism and hormonal balance
The subject can get far more technical—including the fact the Schumann resonance of the Earth, at 7.83 hertz, parallels the brain’s average alpha frequency and thus direct connection is vital—though it isn’t necessary to dive in so deeply to reap the benefits of something so simple.
To better understand electron absorption, we’ll look at the age and health war that wages within us all: free electrons versus free radicals.
Free Electrons vs. Free Radicals
Where earthing makes it biggest dent is in your body’s battle between free radicals vs. free electrons:
- Free radicals are positively charged molecules that have an uneven number of electrons and are therefore unstable. To resolve this instability, they steal electrons from other “healthy” molecules, causing a chain reaction within the body: a growing army of unstable molecules looting electrons from other molecules. They serve a purpose in responding to accidents and trauma, but carried on too long, they then play a role in chronic inflammation. Free radicals are also produced naturally in the breakdown of food and the metabolic process, when smoking, and from exposure to radiation.
- Free electrons are electrons (negatively charged) not bound to an atom that transfer electric current by moving freely from one place to another. “It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact, that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The surface of the planet is electrically conductive (except in limited ultradry areas such as deserts), and its negative potential is maintained (i.e., its electron supply replenished) by the global atmospheric electrical circuit.” – Study: “Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons”
- Antioxidants are substances that can reduce and prevent free radicals from harming cells. Antioxidants have the unique ability to donate an electron to free radicals, without themselves becoming unstable. Antioxidant-rich foods (artichokes, cranberries, goji berries, beets, spinach, peaches, strawberries) and vitamins (Vitamins C and E) play the same stabilizing role. Cardiologist and integrated medicine specialist, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, relates grounding to an antioxidant infusion: “It’s like taking handfuls of antioxidants, but you’re getting it through the feet,” he says.
Peer reviewed scientific literature has linked the presence of free radicals to:
- The very process of aging
- Multiple clinical disorders including: atherosclerosis, pulmonary toxicity, macular degeneration, cataractogenesis, and cancer.
- Diseases of the central nervous system
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autoimmune and inflammatory disorders
- Cataracts and age related vision decline
- Skin wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity
- Degenerative diseases
In the study, “Chronic Inflammation and Oxidative Stress as a Major Cause of Age-Related Diseases and Cancer,” authors Nemat Khansari from the Department of Immunology at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Yadollah Shakiba and Mahdi Mahmoudi note that “many studies suggest that chronic inflammation could have serious role in wide variety of age-related diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Inflammatory process induces oxidative stress and reduces cellular antioxidant capacity. Overproduced free radicals react with cell membrane fatty acids and proteins impairing their function permanently. In addition, free radicals can lead to mutation and DNA damage that can be a predisposing factor for cancer and age-related disorders.”
Put simply, free radicals damage healthy cells and lead to chronic inflammation.
Why inflammation is so important
In April 2006, the Harvard Health Letter published an article titled: “Inflammation: A unifying theory of disease.” It began, “Research is showing that chronic inflammation may be the common factor in many diseases.” The Harvard Health Letter went on to say, “They [scientists] are beginning to work out how inflammation lays the groundwork for the following:” Coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Evidence suggests that grounding significantly reduces inflammation.
“In situations where we are insulating ourselves from this… [the earth, as in wearing insulating shoes] we’re going to get the absolute opposite so instead of having low levels of inflammation and a thin blood, we’ll have thick blood that’s more likely to clot and our levels of inflammation tend to increase.” – Dr. Joseph Mercola
“If somebody walks barefoot on grass, or on the earth, or on the beach, at a very fundamental level basically the free radicals that are built up in your body as a result of stress and inflammation, they are neutralized, but what is really happening at a fundamental level is you are restoring your biological rhythms and bringing them in alignment or you might say synchrony with the earth which is connected to the entire cosmos.” – Deepak Chopra M.D., Innerspace
“In simple terms, what earthing does is literally it squenches [squelches] the fires of inflammation, and if inflammation is the source of all root illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, I mean the list goes on and on, if you can impact inflammation and you know squelch it, kill it, stop it, we’re gonna be healthier beings.” — Stephan Sinatra, MD
“If inflammation is the cause of all these health disorders, then I know that not enough grounding is the cause of inflammation, because if the body is grounded, you can’t have inflammation.” – Clint Ober, Grounding Pioneer
Electrons also play a role in one of the most effective treatments for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a rare cancer that begins in white blood cells. In TSEBT, the skin surface is bathed in electrons.
What surfaces can I ground on?
As with electricity, surfaces or materials fall into one of three categories. Grounding is most productively done on conductors, impractical on semiconductors and impossible on insulators.
- Conductors are materials through which electrical charges flow freely. The following conductors make good grounding platforms: earth, grass (especially when moist), concrete, beaches, water, leather. Moisture on any of these will improve its potential for grounding.
- Semiconductors are materials through which electricity can only partly flow. Semiconductors fall between conductors and insulators. In earthing, we don’t use semiconductors nor do we find them as surfaces—they include such materials as germanium, silicon and selenium, and we’re not likely to find surfaces of them outside of electrical devices.
- Insulators are materials through which electrical charges can not flow freely. Insulators include rubber and plastic (shoe soles for example), porcelain, glass, wool, silk, pavement such as asphalt and wood. Insulators are not effective in grounding.
How long should I ground for?
Grounding begins to work immediately, as soon as it is started. The greatest benefits from it come from doing it for long periods of time. Most of us have, for years, been disconnected from the earth. We wear shoes whose soles are a nonconductive rubber, we sleep on raised beds, walk on floors of wood and synthetic carpet. And we do and have done this for 24 a day and during every waking and sleeping moment. There is no evidence to date that suggests grounding can be overdosed. It is, however, recommended that grounding is started somewhat gradiently, particularly if you have a pre existing medical condition.
How fast does grounding start producing results?
James Oschman, PhD and earthing advocate, says, “We tried to figure out how much charge the body takes in when you touch the earth. What happens is the body saturates with electrons practically instantaneously. It’s so fast that you can’t measure it.” Again, the more time spent grounded, the better the results.
The higher you live the more often you should return to earth
In the book, Earthing, authors Clinton Ober, Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra and Martin Zucker write: “The surface of the Earth is the most negatively charged entity in the immediate human environment. But as we lift off the surface of the planet and gain altitude, the electrical potential (meaning, the level of electrical energy or the potency of the electrical charge) increases 100 to 200 volts with every meter (about 3 feet), depending on location. This is a well-established scientific fact.”
Notwithstanding that limited evidence also suggests that modern highrise buildings may act as Faraday cages that shield occupants from this electrical charge, the above statement and more suggests that the higher you live above the surface of the Earth, the more frequently you may want to practice grounding. Let’s look briefly at related studies.
In April 2011 a study was published titled “Effects of Altitude in High-Rise Building on the Autonomic Nervous Modulation in Healthy Subjects”. In conclusion, the study’s authors wrote, “higher altitude in an air-conditioned high-rise building may lead to increased overall HRV [heart rate variability]/vagal modulation.” Neither of these are healthy conditions.
Five years later, in July 2016, another study was published on the association between residence floor level and cardiovascular disease. “We studied associations between floor of bedroom and self-reported history of stroke, venous thromboembolism (VTE), and intermittent claudication (IC) among 12,525 inhabitants in Oslo, Norway,” The authors went on to state that “disease prevalence increased by floor level, for all three outcomes.” Perhaps even more pertinent, they also wrote “Another explanation, about the impact of atmospheric electricity, is also presented.” Their hypothesis on Atmospheric Electricity stated:
“The higher occurrence of CVD [cardiovascular disease] at higher floors may also fit a recent hypothesis about the impact of atmospheric electricity on the health of residents at higher floor levels. The idea is based on the fact that the electric potential of the air, in general, increases as a function of height above the ground. This property of air is known as the vertical potential gradient (VPG) of the global electric circuit (GEC). Studies have found that equalizing the electric potential between the surface and Earth and the human body (earthing) improves inflammatory markers and blood viscosity. Inflammation and blood viscosity are important factors in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and atherothrombosis and hypertension, respectively. Furthermore, a positive VPG implies that the air contains increasingly higher ratios of positive air ions compared to negative air ions, as a function of distance from ground level. Animal experiments have found effects of positive air ions on increased blood coagulation and blood viscosity. However, an impact of these vertically distributed constituents of atmospheric electricity on buildings seems unlikely since atmospheric physicists underline the notion that the GEC is easily blocked and that modern buildings specifically are believed to result in a “Faraday cage” effect. In addition, numerous natural and anthropogenic factors may alter the strength and even direction (sign) of the VPG. These theoretical shortcomings make the hypothesis debatable.”
The Best Earthing Products Available
More than a few earthers have seen double-takes and surprised eyes from passersby and onlookers. Skepticism is frequent where understanding is inadequate. It’s important to overcome this as the more time spent grounded, the more likely you are to benefit. While the easiest way to ground will, for most climates, always be simply stepping outside without your shoes, there are also multiple other means of increasing your time spent grounded or even supplementing bare foot walks with full-time grounded apparatus. Here are the best of them.
Grounded Bed Sheets
This 400 thread count grounded cotton sheet and pillowcase set contains 5% pure silver fiber, making them an excellent conductor for all-night grounding. People who sleep grounded report deeper, uninterrupted and more restorative sleep and a reduction in chronic pain over time.
Grounded Floor and Desk Mats
Grounded mats come in two styles, one being a less costly means of sleeping while grounded as it covers only a portion of the bed, the other being small mats that can be placed on or under your work or home desk for all-day grounding.
Grounded Body Patches and Arm Bands
Less costly and more versatile, grounded arm or leg bands let you experience grounding for less than $20. If, like most people, you use a smartphone for hours every day, these armbands are a must.
You can ground any pair of running shoes you already own by using a simple athletic grounding shoe strap. This simple device uses a non-invasive and electrically conductive strap that instantly grounds you for the duration of your walk, run or other outdoor activities.
Despite its simplicity and lack of significant profitability—or perhaps because of it—earthing isn’t without its few detractors. As science continues to unveil its positive effects, and as that science has yet to report any negative effects, there yet remain some caveats for earthers:
- People on certain drugs should consult a doctor before grounding intensively. The reason for this is that grounding might naturally reduce or correct the condition the drugs were prescribed to handle, thus dosages may need to be reduced or adjusted to compensate. Please consult your doctor if taking drugs, particularly including:
- Blood thinners or anticoagulants
- Glucose medication
- Thyroid medication
- If you are on multiple medications, it may also be advisable to check with your doctor.
- According to studies done, the most effective way to ground is by walking directly on the earth (beach, soil, grass, yard) as well as by putting a grounding rod directly into the earth, attaching a ground wire to it and connecting that wire to the earthing mat, sheet or pad being used within the home.
- If you use a grounding device that plugs into a wall outlet, be sure to check that the outlet is in fact grounded. To avoid the possibility of shock due to a faulty outlet, use only grounding implements with resistors or fuses built into them. That way, if the outlet were to become positively charged, the low level fuse will blow and sever the connection to the outlet before the grounding implement were to become positively charged. To be extra sure, a fuse of a very low voltage can be applied between the outlet and the device so that if any electricity exceeds ground, it is neutralized.
- Don’t ground outside during storms or lightning.
Scientific studies on earthing:
- Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons
- Electrical Grounding Improves Vagal Tone in Preterm Infants
- (NCBI Study) The Effects of Grounding (Earthing) on Inflammation, the Immune Response, Wound Healing and Prevent and Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases
- Schumann Resonance: “The Earth behaves like a gigantic electric circuit. Its electromagnetic field surrounds and protects all living things with a natural frequency pulsation of 7.83 hertz on average — the so-called ‘Schumann resonance,’ named after physicist Dr. Winfried Otto Schumann, who predicted it mathematically in 1952.”
- “Can Electrons Act as Antioxidants? A Review and Commentary” James L Oschman
- Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on the antioxidant defense system (Read)
- Effectiveness of Grounded Sleeping on Recovery After Intensive Eccentric Muscle Loading
- Sokal, Karol & Sokal, Paweł. (2012). Earthing the Human Organism Influences Bioelectrical Processes. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.). 18. 229-34. 10.1089/acm.2010.0683. (Read)