The feeling of sun-warmed grass beneath your feet. The tickle of soft sand between your toes. The all-encompassing embrace of cool ocean water on a sweltering August day.
At some point in our lives, all of us have experienced the enjoyment of direct physical contact with the Earth. Today science is demonstrating what indigenous cultures, naturalists, children, and animals have long known: That the Earth is more than heart and home. It is also health and healing.
In fact, if you’re looking to feel healthier, stronger, and more energetic, then the answer may well lie in the ground beneath your feet.
What is Earthing/Grounding?
If you’ve never heard of Earthing, also known as Grounding, then you’re not alone. The fact is that Earthing has for far too long remained a relatively little known practice, even in the fields of integrative medicine.
Fortunately, though, that reality is rapidly changing, thanks in large part to the significant and quickly increasing evidence supporting the myriad health benefits of Earthing.
Simply put, Earthing refers to the practice of sustained and regular physical contact with the natural elements of the Earth, such as soil, grass, sand, rock, or water. It’s predicated on the idea that the free electrons circulating in these natural substances serve to stimulate and regulate the body’s own bioelectrical systems through physical contact.
The bioelectrical effects of grounding are thought to improve physiological functioning at the cellular level. Since all of the body’s systems operate on electrical impulses, which are responsible for everything from the beat of our hearts to the firing of our neurons, the benefits of grounding pertain to the entire body, head to toe.
How Earthing Works
Earthing is premised on the assumption that a principal cause of illness, pain, and fatigue is the fact that, as modern humans, we have become largely “ungrounded.” Few adults, and a substantial proportion of children, today get regular physical contact with the Earth’s elements. We work, live, and play largely indoors. When we are outside, we often “protect” our feet with shoes or sandals. If you’re like so many busy adults today, you probably don’t even remember the last time you strolled barefoot in the grass!
Earthing seeks to reverse the harms of being “ungrounded” by restoring the body’s direct physical connection to the Earth. The most obvious way to get “grounded” again, of course, is simply to get outside, take off your shoes and socks and walk around, sink your toes into the soil, or sit or lie down in the grass (no blankets allowed!).
Earthing outdoors feels great, to be sure. You’re likely to feel both energized and tranquil for a long while after. Unfortunately, though, outdoor Earthing isn’t always practical if you want to do it often enough to truly reap the health benefits. Inclement weather, a busy schedule, or a mobility impairment or other health concern may make Earthing outdoors difficult or unfeasible.
The good news is that it is possible to get grounded while indoors. An array of products, from conductive mattress pads to electrodes and other wearables can help you get the sustained, daily contact with the free electrons your cells need to heal, repair, and replenish themselves.
How Earthing Heals
A mounting body of evidence is proving that Earthing provides a diverse array of health benefits. Here are some of the most well-documented.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects
Research suggests that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties of Earthing may account for its diverse healing effects (1, 2, 3).
Anecdotal reports of the pain-relieving benefits of Earthing are now being supported by empirical studies demonstrating that pain-inducing inflammatory processes decrease following grounding. For example, a 2019 study by Chevalier et al. found that workers engaged in highly physically strenuous labor reported significantly less pain, fatigue, and low mood when grounded than did the control group, which was not engaged in Earthing practices (4). The study also found that the grounded group also exhibited significant improvements over the control group in inflammatory biomarkers.
Such findings hold a great deal of promise for people dealing with chronic pain and fatigue, such as that associated with fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. This is especially true for those experiencing inflammatory illnesses, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis (9).
In addition to the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of Earthing, there is increasing evidence that being grounded has important cardiovascular benefits. The previously cited Chevalier et al. study also found that measures of heart rate variability (HRV) improved for the Earthing cohort, as did blood viscosity levels (4). This decrease in blood viscosity can have important benefits for the cardiovascular system, including reducing the risk of heart attack and ischemic stroke (8).
Effects on Sleep
Earthing seems to improve stamina and reduce fatigue not only by reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, HRV, and blood viscosity but also by improving sleep. A study by Lin et al. (2022) found that grounding reduced sleep disturbances and significantly improved the overall quality of sleep in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease (5).
Similarly, Ghaly and Teplitz (2004) found that grounding during sleep helps to regulate both diurnal (nighttime) and circadian (24-hour) cortisol levels. The result was that grounded subjects enjoyed better sleep, experienced less pain, and reported lower levels of stress (6).
Effects on metabolic processes
Due to the bioelectric mechanisms of grounding, it’s perhaps not surprising that there is evidence to suggest that Earthing can produce significant metabolic benefits. For instance, Sokal and Sokal (2011) found that grounding during sleep produced substantial changes in concentrations of potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, and albumin in the blood and/or urine. At the same time, study subjects experienced increases in ferritin, transferrin, and various globulins (7). In other words, the researchers found that grounded subjects experienced significant and rapid improvements in endocrine and nervous system functioning. Such findings suggest the immense potential of Earthing in addressing some of humanity’s most common, and most debilitating, conditions, such as diabetes, a disorder of the endocrine system.