Our modern lifestyles have created a disconnect between us and the numerous electrons on the surface of the earth. Yet, scientific research shows that reconnecting with these electrons can come with health benefits. Find out how the practice of earthing may elevate your health.
History of earthing
Earthing—also known as grounding—refers to making direct skin contact with the surface of the earth, or connecting to the earth through the use of grounding tools.
Our ancestors were naturally in touch with the earth: they slept on the ground and often walked in leather shoes. Since then, a handful of movements have attempted to bring us back to earth.
One early movement in late 19th-century Germany claimed many health benefits from walking outdoors barefoot. In the 1920s, a Dr. White heard that some needed to be grounded—by using bare copper wires attached to grounded-to-earth water, gas, radiator pipes, or copper rods—in order to sleep properly, and started advocating for this technique as well. Mainstream medical professionals did not adopt the concept.
In more recent decades, experiments began with more sophisticated earthing methods such as conductive bed pads, EKG (electrocardiogram), and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)-style electrode patches and plates connected to the earth outside.
Another earthing advocate
Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra, integrative cardiologist and co-author of Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? (Basic Health Publications, second edition 2014) has also studied earthing.
Before he discovered the practice, he was accustomed to hearing his patients say that vacations to sunny spots such as Florida made them feel energized and more connected. He used to think that it was the vacation and the warm weather that made them feel better. Now, he also attributes it—and a plethora of other health benefits—to earthing.
Although more robust research is needed, earthing is purported to have benefits that include better sleep, reduced pain and stress levels, and reduced inflammation.
In 1999, a layperson with an interest in grounding performed his own study involving volunteers recruited at a beauty salon. His “findings” showed that those sleeping grounded (“on carbon fibre mattress pads connected to a dedicated earth ground just outside their bedroom window”) saw improvements in areas including quality of sleep, feeling rested upon waking, and back and joint pain.
Reduced pain and stress levels
Proponents of earthing report that going barefoot for 30 or 40 minutes daily may help reduce pain and stress.
Grounding may help reduce—or prevent—the redness, heat, swelling, and pain caused by inflammation after injury.
In 2017, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine performed a small study, published in the journal Neonatology, that indicated “electrical grounding” may moderate preterm infants’ electromagnetic exposure in the neonatal intensive care unit and improve their health outcomes.
How earthing works
According to the theory of earthing, the earth’s surface is full of electrons gathered from solar radiation and lightning strikes. When skin connects with the earth, the theory is that we take on those electrons, which then neutralize free radicals, reducing acute and chronic inflammation in the body.
“Basically, when you take in these electrons, it’s like swallowing handfuls of antioxidants, or vitamins and minerals,” explains Sinatra.
It doesn’t take much to start earthing: Try walking barefoot outside, sinking your toes into wet grass or sand, or running your fingers through a rocky waterbed. Swimming in the ocean will also ground you, as saltwater is highly conductive.
Cold Canadian winter months needn’t interrupt your earthing practice. According to Sinatra, concrete is a conductive surface when it’s in contact with the ground. You could try sitting in your basement with your feet on a warm concrete floor and dampen the floor beneath your feet for increased conductivity.
Plus, there are other opportunities to practise earthing in the great outdoors—even when it’s wintry outside.
“You can pass trees and hold on to their branches for a little while, or their leaves. You can even hug trees if you want. You’ll get the grounded energy,” says Sinatra.
More to love
With research on earthing still in its infancy, it’s worth knowing that adding an earthing practice to your routine might benefit you in more ways than one.
“One of the most overlooked aspects of earthing is the fact that it gives you a second to just be,” says Jamie Bacharach, a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner for Maple Holistics.
“Earthing gives you a minute of mindfulness that you might not otherwise get, and this in itself can provide you with an array of health benefits.”
Still not convinced? Here are 4 reasons to fall in love with earthing!
Carimé Lane is a London, Ontario-based freelance writer and law school student.
This article was originally published in the March 2020 issue of alive Canada, under the name “Earthing Uncovered.”