For more than 10 years I have been involved as a researcher, and most gratefully so, in what I regard as one of the most exciting and off-the-beaten-track fields of research that exists today: exploration of the Earth’s natural healing properties. Science has known for a long time that the surface of the planet we live on is negatively charged, due to a virtually limitless reservoir of electrons. All living things are in contact with this natural electric charge, but science has yet to appreciate that life appears to be nourished by it. Call it “electric nutrition,” if you like.
Earthing, also known as grounding, refers to the discovery that contact with the Earth’s electric energy generates significant physiological changes in the body, including reduction of inflammation and pain, a shift in the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic (stress and vigilance) to parasympathetic (more relaxed and calm), a thinning of the blood, better sleep, and more energy. And when I say significant, it is an understatement. Remarkable, formidable, would be better terms, but perhaps as a researcher I have to shy away from such terms. But that’s what I know to be true. Two Polish doctors, one a cardiologist and the other a neurosurgeon, have conducted independent grounding research. They conclude that the connection with the Earth is primordial, and may actually be a “primary factor regulating endocrine and nervous systems.” In other words, part of Nature’s design.
We believe that it is the syncing of the body with the natural electric frequencies of the Earth and the influx of free electrons from the ground that generate great healing effects.
Animals are naturally in contact with the surface of the earth. Plants, obviously so. Humans, hardly at all anymore. Unlike our ancestors, we do not walk barefoot very much. We don’t sleep on the ground. Today, we wear synthetic soled shoes that insulate us from the earth’s electric energy. We no longer live and work on the ground. Our homes and workplaces are elevated off the ground, and often very high off the ground. Simply stated, we are disconnected. And, based on our research, this disconnect may actually be a totally overlooked contributor to the epidemic of inflammation at the basis of so many common diseases and even the aging process itself.
As a biophysicist and electrophysiologist, I was invited to participate in Earthing research by Clinton Ober, a retired pioneer of the U.S. cable TV industry, who had made the discovery in 1998 that he could eliminate his severe back pain, and the need to take painkillers, by sleeping on a crude homemade conductive pad he rigged from metallic duct tape. The pad was connected with a wire to a ground rod he pushed into the Earth outside his window. Intrigued by his personal experience, Mr. Ober then “grounded” some friends who had sleep and pain problems and found that their pain and sleep issues substantially resolved as had his.
He wasn’t quite sure what he had found, but felt it was something important. He looked for existing research. He found none. He talked to sleep experts. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t.
So he, a non-scientist, carried out a study himself, working with a nurse. They found 60 volunteers with pain and sleep issues, and in a blind study, found that those who were “grounded” at night in their beds had significant improvement. Those who were ungrounded did not.
Mr. Ober was inspired to fund further research and subsequently engaged a number of researchers, including me.
Video: CHI video interview with Dr Gaétan Chevalier
In the summer of 2008, he asked me to conduct a study to investigate the impact of Earthing on a variety of physiological functions in the body. During preliminary work to test the design of the study, I invited a friend – he was a retired probation officer − to the laboratory to act as a “guinea pig.” The subjects in the experiment were going to be grounded while sitting in a comfortable reclining chair. The friend sat down in the chair and Mr. Ober started talking with him.
During the conversation, my friend said that he had painful arthritis in his hands, something I didn’t know. Mr. Ober asked him to describe his current level of pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being unbearable pain. My friend said 8 in the left hand and 9 in the right, which astonished me as he never showed he was in so much pain. Mr. Ober then proceeded to stick an electrode patch on the palm of each hand and then snapped on a wire connected to an outside ground rod. We kept talking. After about a half hour, Mr. Ober asked my friend about the pain level now. My friend looked surprised. He thought a moment and said 2 on the left and 3 on the right, and then commented, “I have not experienced so little pain in my hands for a long time. This is amazing.”
Around the same time, I learned that one of my yoga instructors had severe arthritis in the thumbs and even something as simple as picking up an object − a cup, for instance − would often shoot pain into her arm so bad that she dropped the object. So I invited her to the laboratory and we grounded her. After a half-hour, she said she didn’t feel any pain. I would see her every week at yoga class and after several months she said that the pain in the thumbs never came back. She continued to be pain-free by walking on the beach as often as possible and sleeping grounded.
These events, and the positive results of the research project we did at that time, turned me from an open-minded skeptic to a believer. Since those days there have been nearly two dozen studies conducted on grounding the human body, and I am proud to have participated in many of them. The positive results in the early studies prompted deeper and more sophisticated investigations about how grounding affects the body and its complicated inner machinery. The ongoing research has started to put together the pieces of an amazing story into a multifaceted hypothesis with great implications for human health. Here are some of the results:
Grounding reduces blood viscosity, a major factor in cardiovascular disease (1)
This study examined the effects of grounding on the electrical charge (zeta potential) on red blood cells (RBCs) and the effects on the extent of RBC clumping. Grounding increased zeta potentials in all samples by an average of 2.70 and significantly reduced RBC aggregation. Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events.
One-hour contact with the earth improves inflammation and blood flow (2)
Thermal imaging showed clearly improved circulation of fluids (including blood) throughout the torso, which in turn, translates into enhanced delivery of blood to the head and the face as well.
Grounding after moderate exercise reduces muscle damage(3)
A previous study demonstrated that grounding resulted in shortened duration of pain after exercise. This study showed that grounding significantly reduced the loss of Creatine Kinase (CK) from injured muscles indicating reduced muscle damage.
Grounding improves vagal tone in preterm infants (4)
Low vagal tone (VT) is a marker of vulnerability to stress and the risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. The researchers measured the electric field strengths in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) environment and determined that connecting an infant to electrical ground reduced the skin potential by 95% and increased VT by 67%. They also determined that pre-grounding VT was inversely correlated with skin potential. Their conclusion: the NICU electrical environment affects autonomic balance toward increased stress and grounding improves VT and may improve resilience to stress and lower the risk of neonatal morbidity in preterm infants.
Effects of grounding on massage therapists (5)
Massage therapists often develop a number of health problems relatively early on in their career. A doubled-blind randomized controlled trial examined the effects of working and sleeping grounded for 4 weeks on massage therapists’ blood viscosity, stress (through HRV), inflammation (IFN-γ, IL-6, TNF-α, and hsCRP) and oxidative stress (MPO and MDA) biomarkers. The results showed that grounding decreased stress and blood viscosity, effects that lasted for at least one week after ungrounding. Inflammation markers increased rapidly, within one week, after ungrounding. The findings suggest that grounding is beneficial for massage therapists in multiple ways.
I find it amazing that now, 2018, we are just realizing that the Earth itself is a largely unexploited resource for health and healing. That it is, as I like to think of it, the original painkiller.
Past cultures put great emphasis on connectedness with the Earth, a relationship still honored by many indigenous people today. To what extent this connection was recognized as a healing factor among past cultures is not a subject that has been studied. Now, finally, science is exploring the dynamics and benefits of this connection.
The studies I have been involved with have yielded an intriguing picture of what happens when we connect to the Earth. In short, it’s as if a switch is somehow turned on, and, in response, the body’s inner workings start functioning more efficiently and robustly.
Grounding is as simple as being barefoot outside, on conductive surfaces such as grass, sand, soil, and concrete, or indoors, while sitting or sleeping in contact with conductive mats, bands, and patches.
We believe this discovery represents a missing link in the health equation, and that more and larger studies over time will prove it unequivocally.
- Gaétan Chevalier, Stephen T. Sinatra, James L. Oschman, and Richard M. Delany. Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity—a Major Factor in Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013;19(2):102-110.
- Gaétan Chevalier, Gregory Melvin, Tiffany Barsotti. One-Hour Contact with the Earth’s Surface
(Grounding) Improves Inflammation and Blood Flow—A Randomized, Double-Blind, Pilot Study. Health, 2015:7:1022-1059.
- Richard Brown, Gaétan Chevalier, and Michael Hill. Grounding after moderate eccentric contractions reduces muscle damage. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;6:305-317.
- Rohit Passi, Kim K. Doheny, Yuri Gordin, Hans Hinssen, and Charles Palmer. Electrical Grounding Improves Vagal Tone in Preterm Infants. Neonatology. 2017;112:187-192.
- Gaétan Chevalier, Sheila Patel, Lizabeth Weiss, Christopher Pruitt, Brook Henry, Deepak Chopra, and Paul J. Mills. Effects of Grounding (Earthing) on Massage Therapists: An Exploratory Study. Health, 2018;10:228-250.