Earthing Delights

Kicking off your shoes and strolling in the grass—the age-old pastime has become one of the most popular health trends.
Photo by Morgan Maassen

By Hilary Sterne

What if someone told you the secret to wellness lay right under your feet? That’s the claim made by proponents of “earthing,” who posit that the electromagnetic charge of our planet provides a wealth of health benefits that can be harnessed simply by connecting yourself physically to the ground. “Basically, Earth is like a battery, creating a negative charge based on electrons,” says Martin Zucker, co-author of the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever! “We believe that when this electric charge comes into our bodies because of physical contact with the surface of the Earth, it neutralizes free radicals.” Those unstable molecules can cause cell damage and inflammation and lead to a host of health woes.

Additionally, a small research study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicates earthing lowers blood viscosity, which is a factor in heart disease, and a study in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal found that it combats stress by having a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system, which controls a range of bodily functions, including heartbeat, breathing and digestion.

To understand the concept, we need to look at one big difference between ourselves and our ancestors, who sat and slept on the ground and walked barefoot, rather than in shoes with insulating rubber or plastic soles, as many of us do now. Clint Ober, Zucker’s co-author and the leader of the Earthing movement, recognized nearly 30 years ago that there might be a link between our disconnection from the Earth and the rise in modern-day health issues. Ober was a pioneer in the cable industry who experienced lifelong health issues as well as chronic back pain for much of his life. He became intrigued by the idea of grounding the human body much like the copper conductor in a TV cable, and in 1998, he created a device that he used to attach himself to a ground port (the third hole of an electrical outlet that connects to the ground) while he slept. Remarkably, his back pain dissipated and his sleep improved.

Ober has continued to research and publicize the phenomenon, and there are studies published in scientific journals ranging from The Journal of Inflammatory Research to The Journal of Environmental and Public Health that indicate earthing may not only alleviate stress, reduce pain and help prevent heart disease, but decrease the effects of aging, increase the speed of wound healing and improve everything from the condition of your skin to your sleep. A recent study published in Neonatology suggests premature babies in the NICU have also benefited from earthing. Says Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., a cardiologist who has studied earthing for years, “The science has defied my imagination. As a heart specialist, I have seen how simply walking barefoot on the beach or the grass can thin your blood and prevent cardiovascular disease.“

Sinatra recommends earthing for 40 minutes a day. If being barefoot is impractical, you can walk in shoes with thin leather soles—which is how he practices earthing. Sitting on grass or a warm, concrete basement floor are two other ways that may help you find that the solution to health woes has been right underneath you the whole time.