In the field of electrical engineering, to ground something means to make a direct physical connection with the earth as a means to protect against dangerous voltage or static electricity. Grounding or earthing in the field of health also involves electricity, but it’s about the connection between us, as bioelectrical beings, and the Earth as an electrical entity, the Mother who gifts us with vibrant energy whenever we make direct connection with the ground. When we are in direct contact with the Earth, the body is grounded, and positive electrophysiological changes occur.
Board-certified cardiologist and certified bioenergetics psychotherapist Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, FACC, FACN, CNS, CBT, has called this energy from the planet vitamin G (G for Ground). Normally when we talk about vitamins, we think about food and supplement sources, yet natural vitamin D is sourced from sunlight, so we can think of vitamin G as being sourced from the earth.
Sinatra, who has researched and written about grounding, explains that the energy we take in from the earth through our feet and other body parts that make direct contact with the earth “can restore and stabilize the bioelectrical circuitry that governs your physiology and organs, harmonize your basic biological rhythms, boost self-healing mechanisms, reduce inflammation and pain, and improve your sleep and feeling of calmness.” What better natural medicine could we ask for?
We are disconnected with the planet
When was the last time you or your kids walked barefoot outside? Slept on the ground under the stars? Rolled around on the ground with your dog? Sat quietly with your bare feet firmly planted on the earth? Walked along the beach? Chances are you haven’t done any of the things-or enough of them-that directly connect you with the energy rising from the earth. In modern societies, going barefoot outside is nearly taboo; we are afraid to cut, pierce, bruise, or otherwise damage our feet with stones, glass, thorns, and any number of other hazards. (Fortunately, there are other ways to safely connect with the earth; see “Making safe grounding connections” below.)
Yet we are depriving our body of the earth’s electrical healing force. Sinatra has said that “we humans live on a global treatment table…but don’t know it.” This modern disconnect could be a cause of many of our health complaints, such as fatigue, stress and anxiety, poor sleep, and inflammation. Research and testimonials have suggested that when we reconnect with the earth, these and other common complaints can be reduced or even eliminated.
Benefits of grounding
Although the amount of scientific research into the health benefits of grounding is not plentiful, a growing interest in the phenomenon is encouraging more study. For example, a team of scientists from New Hampshire, California, and Oregon recently completed an evaluation of research on the health benefits of grounding. Their hypothesis is that when we directly connect with the earth, free electrons from the planet’s surface enter the body, where they have antioxidant effects, such as facilitating repair of tissue and reducing inflammation.
These investigators reported on several research studies, including one in which 12 individuals who were experiencing sleep problems and pain used a grounding system for eight weeks. The subjects experienced an improvement in pain, stress, and sleep, as well as significant changes in cortisol (a stress hormone) secretion. The authors concluded that grounding the body during sleep results in a drop in night-time cortisol levels and brings hormone secretion more into balance with the natural 24-hour circadian cycle.
Grounding also has been associated with reducing inflammation, a factor that is associated with chronic pain, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and other major health problems. The benefit seems to come from the transfer of electrons (negatively charged) into the body, where they neutralize free radicals (positively charged), which are involved in chronic inflammation.
Sinatra was involved in a cardiovascular study in which grounding was found to significantly improve the thickness of blood (viscosity), inflammation, and flow, all of which can be extremely beneficial for anyone at risk for or with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Grounding also has been shown to help balance the nervous system and heart function.
In a study that involved 27 adults, those who were grounded showed improvements in heart rate variability that exceeded what can be achieved with basic relaxation. Because improved heart rate variability has a positive impact on cardiovascular health, the authors noted that grounding techniques should be used as a basic strategy to support cardiovascular health.
Making safe grounding connections
Some of us may have access to safe areas where we can directly connect with the earth’s energy with bare feet. Perhaps it’s in the form of a grassy or dirt area in your yard that you keep clean for that purpose. Walking on the beach is a popular barefoot experience…just beware of those sharp shell shards! Untreated backyard concrete patios are another place where unshod feet can connect with the Earth’s electrons. If these areas are wet, the effect is even better because water is a great conductor of electrons.
Not everyone has such opportunities, however, or they want more convenient ways to make the connection while in their homes, office, or other indoor venues. What can be done?
Sinatra suggests going barefoot as part of your daily routine. Direct contact with grass, dirt, unpainted concrete, and sand (wet is preferred) allows you to take in the Earth’s electrons. Surfaces such as vinyl, painted concrete, rugs, plastic, asphalt, and wood are not conductors of this energy.
To augment this experience or if you don’t have convenient access to direct earth contact, then you might try an Earthing system indoors. These products come in the form of mats, body bands or bed sheets that are connected to a properly grounded electrical outlet inside or outside via a wire. Such systems use silver or carbon mesh to transfer the Earth’s energy. These products can be used in bed, at your desk (home or office), your front porch, or anywhere there is a proper electrical outlet.
Bottom line on grounding
Grounding “is the easiest and most profound lifestyle change anyone can make,” according to biophysicist James Oschman, PhD, author of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. If you can’t directly connect with the earth outside, then try an earthing system indoors, or do both. Grounding is a fun, healthy way to improve your well-being and stay connected with Mother Earth.
Chevalier G et al. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity-a major factor in cardiovascular disease. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2013; 19(2): 102-110
Chevalier G, Sinatra ST. Emotional stress, heart rate variability, grounding, and improved autonomic tone: clinical applications. Integrative Medicine 2011 Jun/Jul; 10(3)
Ghaly M, Teplitz D. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2004; 10(5): 767-76
The Heart MD Institute. What is earthing or grounding?
Mercola.com. The ultimate antioxidant: fight premature aging for free. 2012 Nov 4
Oschman JL et al. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Journal of Inflammatory Research 2015 Mar 24; 8:83-96