This Evidence Based article was written by Heather Hanks, MS, CAM
Earthing sounds like something only hippies do or people who don’t have jobs and have the time to spend all day outdoors. But earthing doesn’t require you to camp outside for two weeks before you feel its benefits (although camping doesn’t sound like a bad idea).
Earthing is all about slowing down and reconnecting with nature (and yourself)!
Do you remember the last time you spent some quality time outdoors? And we’re not talking about the walk from your house to your car. We’re talking about plopping down on the grass under a tree and spending some time with the Earth. Chances are it’s been awhile. It probably made you feel calm, collected and nothing at all like what your current daily schedule provides. But does earthing work or is it just a bunch of baloney? Here is what the research says.
What Is Earthing?
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to earthing, but the idea behind it is pretty straightforward. Earthing is the practice of putting your body directly in contact with the Earth. In other words, your skin needs to be physically touching the water, sand, soil, or another surface that is naturally produced by the Earth. Not too tricky, right? Think about the last time you walked barefoot on the beach with the sand in your toes. That’s a perfect example of earthing.
So is earthing really a thing? From a scientific approach, the answer is a definite yes. This is because people spend some much time indoors these days, they forget what it feels like to connect from nature. Additionally, research shows that the Earn has a mild negative charge, but people have a positive charge. This occurs over time when we spend too much time indoors on electrical devices and build up too much stress on our bodies. But when we return to the Earth and connect with it, the negative charge of the Earth turns our positive charges neutral, which means that we feel less stress and return to a better state of health.
The theory behind earthing is that people don’t have as much contact with the Earth anymore, and researchers this is one of the many reasons why we have so many health problems today. Earthing advocates argue that we wear rubber shoes and spend too much time inside, which disconnects us to the Earth. Most people even spent years without directly touching the Earth at all even when they go outside.
Think about it. Even when we’re outdoors, we sit in chairs and not on the ground. We wear shoes and rarely even touch the Earth beneath us. This is much different than when you were a kid. Chances are you probably spent a lot of time in contact with the Earth, and you felt great because of it. Over time, your connection with the Earth changes. Advocates of earthing claim that this causes a positive charge to build up in our body, which leads to health problems.
How Does Earthing Work?
Advocates of earthing claim that the Earth has a natural energy and that by walking barefoot on the grass, dirt or rock, we can connect to the Earth’s energy to reduce chronic pain and other conditions that many people experience. The theory is the when your skin comes in contact with the Earth, it allows free electrons to be taken up by the body. These electrons are considered to have an antioxidant role in the body, which means that they neutralize free radicals that lead to inflammation and disease. Free radicals are unstable molecules that roam the body in search of an electron. The bind to healthy cells and tissues and cause inflammation and DNA damage. Antioxidants work by donating an electron so that these unstable molecules become stable again and stop hurting the body. Because the Earth gives off natural electrons, it is said to help neutralize free radicals and prevent inflammation from occurring in the body.
According to earthing experts, the Earth conducts free electrons. Therefore, all living things on the planet (including humans) who come in contact with the Earth can benefit from these electrons. Because the body is made up of mostly minerals and water, the human body is an excellent conductor for picking up the particles from the Earth through direct contact. In other words, the Earth supposedly omits energy that is healing to the body when we inherit it. Earthing is said to promote vitality, better sleep, and overall wellbeing. It is also said to balance the body’s natural rhythms (such as sleep and metabolism), reduce inflammation, and eliminate pain. Some advocates go as far as saying that the Earth is the best natural medicine around.
History of Earthing
The idea of being more connected to the Earth is one that humans naturally dealt with years ago. Our ancestors lived outside in caves or wherever they could find as a suitable place for shelter. They also used the Earth and whatever it provided to help them survive. Houses were made of wood from trees or shelters that they built with their hands. Tools were constructed of bones from animals that were killed and sharpened on rocks. Back in the day, the Earth provided everything a human needed.
Although the Earth has changed in many ways, it is much the same, too. The difference now is that humans have evolved. We no longer need to gather sticks for a fire to cook our food. We have ample amounts of food and plenty of opportunities to live in a home that provides us with more than enough to cover our basic needs. Humans no longer need to go outdoors. If we are hungry, we can order food from our phones or computers, and it’s brought right to our door. We can work from home or homeschool our children. We can even order our groceries online and have them delivered to our house. If we wanted, humans could significantly limit the amount of time they ever have to go outside.
Because of this, we are becoming less connected to the Earth. Even when we do go outside, it’s to walk to our cars or drive to the office. We don’t just sit and connect with the Earth anymore. We simply don’t have time for it. Earthing advocates argue that our connection to the Earth and nature is imperative to our health. Not only does the Earth provide us with fresh air, food, and water, but it’s also our home. It provides a surface to live on.
Earthing advocates claim that when we make contact with the Earth, it allows us to intake vitamin G (as in vitamin G for Ground). Vitamin G is said to be the difference in whether or not we feel energized, youthful, and rested. It’s also said to play a role in how healthy we look or how well our immune system functions. Back in the day, humans sat, slept and walked on the ground, often without shoes or anything covering our feet. We cultivated the land with our bare hands and enjoyed a life free of many of the diseases that we experience today. Today, we cook our food in microwaves and cover everything in plastic. We are exposed to so many chemicals and toxins that even when we do come in contact with the Earth, there’s not much that can be done to reverse our ill health.
Earthing is not just about reconnecting with the Earth. It’s about changing your lifestyle so that it’s not so poisonous to your health. Yes, Earthing encourages you to get outside more and allow your skin to touch the ground, but it also asks you to eliminate the things that are preventing you from being connected to nature again in an attempt to reverse the damaging ways of today’s lifestyle. Sure, people live much longer today than they did years ago, but think about the quality of life most people have. Earthing asks you to take some time and reflect on your health, and that’s something that most people today could use more of.
Health Benefits of Earthing
The following is a list of proposed health benefits of Earthing:
● Decreased inflammation (Earthing is said to defuse the cause of inflammation by eliminating free radicals)
● Reduced symptoms of inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis, irritable bowel disease and more
● Eliminate or reduce chronic pain in the body
● Promote a deeper sleep
● Help you fall asleep and stay asleep
● Increase vitality and energy levels
● Reduce fatigue
● Fight stress and promote calmness in the body and mind
● Provide a soothing effect to the nervous system
● Balance hormones
● Sync the body’s natural biological rhythms, such as sleep and metabolism
● Improve blood flow by thinning the blood, which helps reduce blood pressure
● Relieves headaches and muscle tension
● Soothes menstrual pains and burdens, including a heavy flow
● Prevents bed sores and speeds up their healing time
● Reduces and prevents jet lag
● Provides protection against environmental electromagnetic fields that disrupt health
● Speeds up athletic training recovery
● Reduces snoring
● Supports adrenal health
What Does The Science Say?
It’s hard to believe that you can experience all of the above-listed benefits just by coming in contact with the Earth, right? That’s what critics of Earthing say. They claim that although these benefits seem too good to be true, there is no scientific evidence to back them up. That’s what we’re here to find out.
Well, there are a few small studies that have been done that look at the effects of earthing. One study determined that earthing was an essential element in the equation of health along with getting proper amounts of clean air and water, sunshine, nutritious food and physical activity.
The study went on to say that emerging evidence shows that coming in contact with the Eather, whether it’s in the form of being barefoot outside or indoors while connected to a conductive system in some way, is a simple, natural and profoundly effective way to prevent or treat chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, pain, poor sleep, inflammation, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood and many other conditions including cardiovascular disease. Those are all some pretty impressive benefits from coming in contact with the Earth!
Another study found that earthing reduces pain, alters the number of neutrophils and lymphocytes that are circulating in the blood (which are linked to infections and disease), and reduces specific chemical factors that lead to inflammation. The study went on to say that earthing is a natural, pure and strategic way to fight chronic inflammation because the Earth appears to serve as an antioxidant to boost our antioxidant defense system.
This suggests that you can use earthing to help enhance your immune system and heal from wounds or infections faster. It’s also possible that earthing that help reduce the symptoms of autoimmunity. Reducing the amount of inflammation in your body also reduces stress, pain, and other toxins that leave you to feel tired, fatigued and downright old.
Another study found that earthing reduces blood viscosity, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Preliminary studies have been done to show that earthing helps lower cortisol levels and inflammation, which means that it can help reduce stress. The study found that when you’re earthing, it helps normalize your cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone that is also needed to help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, and control inflammation. As mentioned above, inflammation is linked to a host of diseases, so reducing your levels is an excellent way to make you feel better. Inflammation also affects your physical appearance, so you can use grounding to help you look and feel better. The study found that people who slept on the ground slept better, woke up feeling refreshed, and had a more normalized rhythm, thanks to reduced cortisol levels.
Although these studies appear to be small, there is a decent amount of evidence to show that you can use earthing to reduce inflammation and stress. It makes sense. Have you ever noticed that you feel better and more relaxed after spending a day at the beach? In addition to being exposed to the Earth’s natural antioxidant abilities, being outdoors means that you get to feel the wind in your hair and sunshine on your face. Those can’t be bad things, right?
If you need more scientific proof, check out the Groundology website (grounding is another term for earthing). It has 27 studies dated from 2000 until 2018 that are published on its page to prove the health benefits of earthing. Among them are studies that show that earthing does the follow:
● Reduces inflammation
● Neutralizes bioelectrical stress from EMFs
● Provides therapy for acute and chronic inflammatory conditions
● Improves facial blood flow
● Reconnects the human body to the Earth’s electrons
● Improves emotional distress, heart rate variability, and autonomic tone
● Prevents delayed onset muscle soreness
● Supports human physiological processes
● Boosts the immune system and wound healing process
● Soothes autoimmune symptoms
● Reduces muscle damage
● Improves vaginal tone in preterm infants
There is another website called The Earthing Institute that has 25 different earthing studies published on its page. Some of these studies are the same as the Groundology website, but The Earthing Institute also has commentaries from experts on the subject as well as statements and instructional papers. There is no doubt that there is research to prove the benefits of earthing, and this might come as a shock to many. One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that earthing is not something that generates a lot of income, so you won’t find a ton of studies on the subject simply because there is no money to be made here.
On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies have enough money to pay for large-scale studies that prove their drugs are effective. These are the same companies who don’t want you to know about the health benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, so keep this in mind when weighing in on earthing and other alternative treatments. We know that more studies are needed to prove its effectiveness, but this is a pretty good start!
Misconceptions About Earthing
There are a lot of misconceptions about earthing that stem from people simply being uneducated on the topic. But we’re here to clear up a few things. First, earthing is totally free. It’s not a gimmicky way to get you to buy certain vitamins or supplements. There is not doctors office that you need to visit to practice earthing. You just need to get outdoors and connect with the Earth. Of course, there are products you can buy if you want to practice earthing indoors (such as an earthing mat), but for the most part, earthing is totally free and encourages you to get your butt outdoors.
If you want to take your earthing on the road, you can visit local parks and spend a few hours under a tree reading a book. This is especially beneficial if you live in a busy city area. But you should never let someone charge you to practice earthing, unless of course, it’s to enter a state park. In that case, you’ll usually have to pay a daily or yearly fee. Remember that there are no magic pills or supplements you need to take to enhance your earthing experience. Everything you need is right there on the ground in your own backyard.
Next, earthing is entirely safe. If you have a medical condition that you’re concerned about, then it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before spending a lot of time outdoors. But there aren’t many doctors out there who will tell you that getting outdoors is dangerous, especially if you plan on sitting under a tree or walking around barefoot on the grass to relax. In fact, most doctors should be in support of this natural means of relaxation as most of us could stand to loosen up a bit and find healthy outlets for stress that doesn’t involve eating or drinking our feelings. So again, run it by your doctor if you’re worried about earthing, but earthing appears to be perfectly safe. Always remember to stay on flat terrain and don’t get crazy with your earthing techniques. You don’t need to swim out a mile into the ocean or climb the highest mountain to experience earthing. Walking barefoot on the grass or even sitting on the ground with your palms down so that your hands are touching the dirt (not cement) is just fine.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that earthing is not meant to treat or cure any diseases. Even though research shows that earthing can reduce inflammation and may help you deal with the symptoms of some inflammatory diseases, we don’t recommend that you stop taking your medication and start earthing for hours every day. The bottom line is that there is no replacement for the medicine your doctor gives you if you have a chronic condition. Think of earthing as a supplement you can take to boost the health of your lifestyle. Along with eating a healthy diet and exercising, you can use earthing to reduce stress and feel better in general. But never go off your medication without talking to a doctor first.
How To Practice Earthing
One of the best things about earthing is that it’s simple to do. You don’t have to put much thought into it, except for maybe where you want to do it. Head to a nearby park or even your backyard, take your shoes off, and walk around on the grass with your bare feet for ten minutes a day or so. You can also grab a book and find a nice shady tree, sit down under it, and enjoy the relaxation of the outdoors for a while. The idea behind earthing is that your skin has to come in contact with the Earth, so make sure at least some part of your skin touches. You can lay down in the grass or even take off your shoes so that your feet are exposed.
Here are some other fun ways you can practice earthing if you’re tired of hitting the same spot all the time:
● Spend a day at the beach or lake, put your toes in the sand and spend some time in the water
● Hug a tree or at least lean up against it for awhile if you don’t want to look too much like a hippie
● Do some gardening with your bare hands
● Play in the dirt with your kids (it’s actually good for your immune system!)
● Dance in the rain or splash in puddles after the rain
● Go camping and sleep on the ground
● Take your nap outdoors on the ground (you might want to do this one in the privacy of your own backyard)
● Stop using plastic/rubber soled shoes and switch to something more natural
● Use an indoor earthing mat
● Listen to music or an electronic book while laying on the ground
What Are Earthing Mats?
Indoor earthing products are available if you can’t or don’t have the time to get outside. An earthing mat is a mat that you can put under your arms or feet while doing something technically related indoors, such as sitting at a computer or scrolling through your phone. It’s designed to reduce your exposure to EMFs, which has been said to affect your mood and are even linked to cancer. This is an excellent way to experience some of the benefits of earthing if you must be stuck at a desk all day long.
You can also use a half size earthing sheet on your bed to lay on at night or during nap time. Earthing sheets are also available. You can buy one that’s big enough to cover your entire bed. It plugs into a grounding wire port of a standard outlet or a grounding rod and allows the Earth’s electrons to flow up through the ground wire and into the mat or sheet. You can use it even if you’re on a higher up surface, such as a bed or chair. Most mats come with an outlet tester that you can plug in and make sure it’s working correctly. People who use indoor earthing mats claim that it helps them sleep better. And since the research we mentioned previously seems to back this up, we believe them!
How Long Do I Need To Spend Earthing?
As with anything, the amount of time that you need to spend earthing depends on your unique and individual needs. This amount might even change for you at different periods in your life. For example, a stressful week at work might have you seeking the comfort of the outdoors more so than on non-stressful weeks. Earthing is kind of like an exercise or diet program. There isn’t a universal method that will work for everyone. Some people might be able to feel the effects of earthing after ten minutes while others need to spend all night sleeping on an earthing mat before they feel anything.
If you’re getting outdoors, we recommend starting at around ten minutes and then working your way up to as much as 90 minutes at a time. You can also base this off of how much time you have. Sneak out of your office during your lunch break and head for the nearest shady tree.
Eat lunch on the ground to reduce stress and clear your head before heading back to work. Or sit on the ground instead of in the bleachers or a chair when watching your kids soccer practice. Earthing is always harder in the winter when the weather is too cold to spend long periods of time outdoors. For this reason, you might want to invest in an earthing mat that can be used inside where it’s warm.
Keep in mind that the longer you practice earthing, the better your results will be. Don’t expect your chronic back pain to be completely healed after spending ten minutes sitting on the ground one day. Like anything, earthing takes consistency. It’s part of a lifestyle change that we encourage you to take. Spend more time outdoors, eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer refined carbs, and move more. We guarantee you’ll feel better, no matter what your condition is.
How To Tell If Earthing Is Working For You
While there is no test you can take to determine if earthing is right for you, we recommend staying in tune with your body and your symptoms. If nothing else in your life has changed, and you notice that you feel less pain or you have more energy, then it’s probably safe to say that earthing is working for you. It might be a good idea to keep a journal of your progress.
Write down how much time you spend earthing a day and how you feel during the 24 hours afterward. If you notice that you don’t feel well after missing a few days of earthing, then it’s a good indication that you need to get out there again and do it some more.
On the other hand, if you’re earthing every day and don’t feel any difference, then you might want to change up your routine. Keep in mind that even though earthing has antioxidant effects in the body, it won’t work if the rest of your lifestyle is damaging to your health. For example, if you eat a diet in refined carbohydrates, don’t exercise, and have a highly stressful job, then earthing might not be enough to save you. You’ll probably need a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Start by eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer refined carbs. This will start the process of bringing down your inflammation levels. Then, try walking at least 30 minutes a day. You can do this outdoors and spend ten minutes a day on the ground stretching. If the office has you going crazy, invest in an earthing mat to keep under your feet at your desk. You can even improve your sleep by sleeping on an earthing mat. If you make all of these changes, we bet you’ll feel better in a week or two.
Some people even use a sleep app to track their sleeping patterns when they use an earthing mat. This is a good way to tell if your sleep has improved. You can also check in with yourself throughout the day. If you always get tired after lunch, see how you feel after using an earthing mat for a week or two. If you have more energy, then it’s probably working. If your doctor is willing to test your plasma electrons, then you could always have bloodwork done to determine if you’re accumulating any of the electrons that the earth is passing onto you. If it’s not possible to check for electrons, you could always ask to have your inflammatory markers checked, such as C-reactive protein. This might be a good way to tell if the inflammation in your body is going down.
Finally, pay attention to things in your body that might not seem like a big deal to others but have always affected you. If your menstrual cycle has always been heavy, pay attention to your flow after you start earthing. Or if your rheumatoid arthritis always flares up after a certain activity, such as typing or gardening, then see how it feels after a few weeks of earthing. Do you notice that your mood is better than it has been in the past or that your skin looks healthier for no apparent reason? Sometimes we don’t see the positive effects of earthing because we aren’t looking for them. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the small things.
As we mentioned above, earthing is a pretty safe thing to practice. There are no known side effects, and most people start to really enjoy the time they spend outside. The only thing you should be aware of is ground current, which occurs when there are electrical wires that run underground. In this case, laying on a ground with lots of ground current could be problematic, especially if you do it every day. Ground current is typical in big cities but not so much in rural areas, so take your earthing to a nearby park or rural area to be safe. You’ll find that earthing in these areas is much more relaxing anyway.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that 25 to 30 studies are not a lot of evidence to show that earthing is entirely effective, but we aren’t saying it’s not either! Although these are small studies, they show promising results when it comes to using the Earth as a natural antioxidant. We encourage you to try earthing as part of a diet and lifestyle overhaul. You won’t see the results you want if you practice earthing but live a completely inflammatory lifestyle. What this means is that you can’t eat Taco Bell every day on the ground and expect to see your chronic autoimmune condition disappear. Like everything in life, there is a balance to consider.
One of the best parts about earthing is that it’s entirely free (except if you purchase an indoor earthing mat), so don’t be tricked into taking supplements or classes that show you how to do it. All you need is your bare feet and some grass. Earthing is almost entirely safe, but you’ll want to do it away from large cities who might have underground electrical currents that could cause you more harm than good when you spend a lot of time laying on them, especially with your skin exposed.
The most significant benefit of earthing appears to be reduced stress and inflammation, which is a pretty big deal considering most illnesses stem from inflammation anyway. If nothing else, earthing is an excellent way to decompress from a long week at work or home. It’s a healthy outlet for stress instead of drinking alcohol or overeating. We don’t recommend that you stop taking your medications in hopes that earthing will reduce your inflammation enough to treat a disease. We also encourage you to be safe when you try earthing. This means don’t go to rural places alone and try to sit quietly on the Earth without telling someone where you’re at or when you’ll be home.
Also remember that while there is not a lot of evidence stacked in favor of earthing, you will always feel better when you get yourself outside to enjoy the sun and fresh air. Try heading to the beach and spending some time with your feet in the sand. Or play in the rain with your kids after a storm. And if you’re having a hard time fitting earthing into your day, try sleeping on an earthing mat at night to improve your sleep. That’s one area of your health everyone can benefit from!