Earthing & Grounding: Legit or Hype? (How to & When Not To)

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Earthing and grounding- how to do it and when not to
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Earthing & Grounding: Legit or Hype? (How to & When Not To)

Earthing (also called grounding) can be a controversial topic. Many people report amazing benefits, while critics point out the lack of solid scientific studies supporting this practice.

Let’s delve into the evidence:

What is Earthing or Grounding?

In short, earthing or grounding is putting the body in direct and uninterrupted contact with the earth. This means that skin needs to touch soil, sand, water, or a conductive surface that is in contact with the earth.

From a scientific perspective, the idea is that the earth has a mild negative charge to it. Over time, especially in modern life, our bodies build up a positive charge. Direct contact with the earth can even out this positive charge and return the body to a neutral state.

Many people don’t have this contact with the earth anymore, and some experts wonder if this is a contributor to the (many) rising health problems we face today. As a population, we wear rubber shoes and live indoors. In theory, many of us could go years without directly touching the earth at all, even if we’re outside.

Over time, the theory is that this positive charge builds and can lead to health problems.

Earthing Science 101

If you’re interested in the deeper science, Dr. Briffa gives a more detailed explanation:

During the normal processes of metabolism the body generates what are called ‘reactive oxygen species’ which are commonly referred to as ‘free radicals’. These compounds appear to be important, at least in part because they have the ability to attack and destroy unwanted things within the body including bacteria and viruses. However, too many free radicals are a bad thing, and have been implicated in chronic disease and well as the very process of aging.

Free radicals are involved in the process known as inflammation, which is part of the healing process. However, low-grade inflammation throughout the body may lead to pain and other problems in the muscles and joints, and is also believed to be a key driving factor in many chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In short, we want free radicals, but not too many.

Free radicals lack sparks of energy known as ‘electrons’. One way to quell them is to give them electrons, and these can be supplied by nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, and plant substances known as ‘polyphenols’ (found in, among other things, tea, coffee, cocoa and apples). However, substances we eat and drink are not the only way to get electrons into the body: earthing does this too. If the body has a positive charge on it, earthing allows electrons to flow into the body where, in theory, they can neutralize overblown free radical and inflammatory damage.

Carrying a positive charge may well affect the body in lots of different ways, which means that earthing may offer a range of wellbeing benefits.

Benefits of Earthing & Grounding

According to emerging research, earthing may be beneficial in:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Improving Sleep (I can vouch strongly for this!)
  • Increasing Energy (I noticed this also)
  • Lowering stress and promoting calmness by reducing stress hormones.
  • Normalizing biological rhythms including circadian rhythm
  • Normalizing blood pressure and blood flow
  • Relieving muscle tension and headache (I noticed this)
  • Improving menstrual and female hormone symptoms
  • Speeds healing- used in some places to prevent bed sores
  • Reducing jet lag
  • Protecting the body from effects of EMFs
  • Shortening recovery time from injury or athletic activity
  • Reducing  snoring
  • Helping  support adrenal health

Scientific Evidence for Earthing

This is where the controversy begins. Critics claim that there isn’t any evidence to back up this practice and that it could even be dangerous. Proponents cite anecdotal evidence and a few small studies.

So who is right?

There actually are a couple of small scale studies that looked at the affects of earthing or grounding. One study examined 60 people with chronic pain and sleep troubles. Half of the participants slept on a grounded sheet to simulate earthing. The other half slept on a placebo sheet.

The participants who slept grounded reported reduction in chronic pain, respiratory problems, arthritis, apnea and hypertension while the control group did not.

Another much smaller study found (PDF) that earthing reduced blood viscosity, which is a risk factor in heart disease.

There have also been some preliminary studies on the effects of grounding on cortisol levels and inflammation (PDF) and I’m confident that research will continue in this area.

Grounding and Inflammation

What fascinates me most is the testing done in thermographic imaging, which basically shows a heat map of the body. Heat patterns can signal inflammation in the body.

How to Get Healthy While You Sleep

This thermographic image was taken of a woman who complained of stiffness and chronic pain. The first picture was taken before earthing, and the second, after just 30 minutes of earthing.

Unfortunately, all of the studies on earthing are relatively small and poorly run. Hopefully future research will shed some light on the effectiveness (or not) of earthing, but for now, the strongest evidence seems to be anecdotal.

The possibility of grounding or earthing resolving inflammation is exciting, as many chronic diseases cause and stem from inflammation in the body.

My Experience with Earthing

I first encountered the idea of “Grounding” or “Earthing” when I read the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever.

The idea that we are meant to connect with the earth regularly made sense. At the same time, I was skeptical that something so simple would be effective. I ran the idea by some electrical engineer friends and a friend who has done research in the biomedical field and they confirmed that there could be a beneficial effect to the body.

Have you ever noticed that you sleep better on a beach vacation after walking in the sand or being in the ocean? One theory for that: the sand and ocean water are both naturally conductive materials and both help ground the body and remove excess positive electrons.

To test the theory personally, I decided to make an effort to ground myself outside often and even use an earthing sheet while sleeping.

I was certainly skeptical at first but figured I had nothing to lose by trying to electrically ground myself. I made a point to walk barefoot outside each day and purchased an earthing sheet to use while I was sleeping, as this is the body’s peak repair time.

My Grounding Results

To my surprise, I noticed the first night I used the earthing mat that I fell asleep much easier and had no trouble falling back asleep after waking up to nurse the baby. Of course, one night of results could have easily been placebo.

After sleeping great for about a month, one night I was tossing and turning and couldn’t fall asleep for a couple of hours. The next morning, I realized that the earthing sheet had disconnected!

Blood tests confirmed that my cortisol levels also improved over a period of six months while using an earthing sheet and making an effort to spend time outside barefoot.

From what I’ve read, reactions to earthing/grounding can vary drastically. Some people will notice a difference immediately while others take a few days or weeks. Others won’t feel any changes but measures of cortisol levels will show improvement. In general, it seems that the more inflammation one has, the more of a difference may be noticed from grounding.

I’m not the only one…

Many on the Tour de France, supposedly including Lance Armstrong used an earthing recovery bag to speed recovery and increase sleep quality while on this endurance race. Various Olympic swimmers, runners, and triathletes have reported using Earthing and various professional athletes have used Earthing methods as well.

Well known doctor and natural health proponent Dr. Mercola has reportedly been using an earthing mat for years and even Dr. Oz has gotten on board recently!

How to Try Grounding/Earthing

Obviously, walking outside barefoot is the easiest and cheapest way to ground yourself or practice earthing. If you are close to an ocean or swimmable natural body of water, this is another great way.

To work, the skin must be in direct contact with rock, dirt or water. The beach/ocean is possibly the best place as not only are sand and salt water extremely conductive, but salt water is also very high in magnesium. Perhaps this is why many people seem to sleep better on vacation at the beach!

Earthing Indoors

Those who can’t or don’t want to spend time outdoors can accomplish some of the same results indoors. There are various products to make indoor grounding easy:

  • An earthing mat can be used under your arms or feet while on a computer to reduce the amount of EMFs you are exposed to. It is also easy to bring when traveling.
  • A half size earthing sheet can be used on any bed size.

Personally, I try to use an earthing mat while on my computer (it is under my desk) and an earthing sheet on our bed. I’ve definitely noticed positive changes since beginning this routine.

The Basic Concept of Earthing Is This:

The grounding mat (or sheet) is an amazing invention that allows you to do earthing while you’re inside a building. It just plugs in to the grounding wire port of a normal 3-prong outlet or a grounding rod (US and Canada only). The earth’s natural electrons flow right up through the ground wire and onto the mat, even if you’re in a high rise. The mat comes with an outlet tester you plug in to see if the outlet is configured correctly.

When NOT To try Earthing/Grounding

I recently talked to EMF expert Dr. Libby Darnell of. Revived Living about EMFs and grounding. You can listen to her interview on the podcast here, but she explained one serious caution about earthing that many people don’t consider: ground current.

Basically she explained that if there is a strong ground current it is actually possible that attempting to ground or earth oneself could be problematic and create more problems. In theory, this is most problematic in really large cities and over wires run in the ground. Her podcast episode will talk about how to test for this in your area.

Earthing: Bottom Line

Like I said, this is a controversial topic with a lot of additional research still needed. That said, in most cases (when there isn’t a strong ground current), it is free to go outside and spend some time barefoot. Spending time barefoot has many benefits, so there isn’t really a downside.

It is also relatively simple to try earthing and track results to see if it helps:

  1. Spend a lot of time in contact with the earth or using something like an grounding sheet
  2. Use a sleep app to track sleep patterns and see if sleep improves with earthing
  3. Also keep track of things like joint pain, headaches, etc and see if those improve over time with earthing

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Ann Shippy, who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a certified Functional Medicine physician with a thriving practice in Austin, Texas. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Ever tried earthing or grounding? Think it’s crazy? Weigh in below!

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

345 responses to “Earthing & Grounding: Legit or Hype? (How to & When Not To)”

  1. Patrick Avatar
    Patrick

    I think I get more REM sleep when earthed. This is only based on the fact that I seem to have more dreams at night when I sleep grounded. The pillow cases help for a couple months, but they stop working due to oxidation of the silver threading. To counter this, I bought some cheap EKG patches and plugged the wire into them. Now I’m back to sleeping like when my pillowcase was new.

  2. Chuck Avatar

    Many nay sayers will post that all published research is paid for by companies in the earthing business which creates a conflict of interest. I don’t see how this in any different than Pfizer conducting its own research for drugs they are creating. What I find interesting is there isn’t any impartial researchers doing peer review studies. Why? Afraid of what they will find? I’m really surprised though that some naturopathic college/university hasn’t attempted to reproduce some of the exciting research. Double blind studies can easily be done with earthing sheets. I recently purchased a grounding sheet after having a VERY painful herniated disc in my lower back. My pain was intense and sleeping was very difficult, I tried an earthing sheet and what I noticed as within 20 minutes of sitting on it I became UNUSUALLY sleepy. My eyelids were so heavy—something that I never experience. This was on day 4 after my disc herniated. I slept GREAT and woke one time to turn over—which was still somewhat painful. Getting out of bed in the morning was the most difficult part of sleeping/waking, but I woke up feeling refreshed. I was able to walk in much less pain that day. For curiosity—I slept that next night with the sheet unplugged from the outlet grounding slot and wasn’t sleepy like the night before. My night sleeping was as horrible and painful as the night before using the plugged in grounding sheet. Turning over took a lot of time and strategic planning. Getting out of bed was excruciatingly difficult. My stiffness that day was great as well as the pain. I was worse on day 6 than on day 5. Day 5 I felt 60% of normal self. Day 6 I was back to 10% of normal self. On the night of Day 6 I plugged sheet back into the ground on outlet and again—within 20 minutes felt the heaviness in my eyes. I was able to lay on my side with much less reduced pain. I slept through the night, got out of bed in the morning with much less difficulty, and that day felt noticeably better—around 80% of normal self. This is purely anecdotal evidence and -sure- could be a placebo effect. To that I say “who cares?” I feel much better! More research needs done on this subject!

  3. Cher Avatar

    This is a fascinating exploration of the concept of earthing and grounding. It’s always interesting to see the intersection of traditional wisdom and modern science. If it can help with better sleep, reduced inflammation, and other potential benefits, it’s certainly worth giving it a try for those interested. Thanks for shedding light on this topic!

  4. Janet Avatar

    it has taken afew months to get the most benefit from the mat. I have noticed I sleep better, go back to sleep faster and with urinary urgency it has mellowed.

  5. James Demello Avatar
    James Demello

    I have been earthing for a few weeks and it seems to be helping my inflamed feet that I get from a gout attack. Also, I just feel better after a session of grounding. Purely subjective evaluation on my part but I will keep on until I prove to myself one way or the other. Skeptics have a right to their opinion but often they seem to just enjoy sharing their antagonistic attitude. I never let them stop me from investigating myself. If in fact grounding is legitimate, it will be one of the greatest health innovations to be revealed, or rerevealed.

  6. Rhonda Avatar

    If I have a stainless steel heart valve, can I ground/earth with a bed mat or sheet that is grounded through a wall outlet?

  7. Rod Fransham Avatar
    Rod Fransham

    Don’t forget that the earthing and neutral conductors are tied at the supply transformer.
    Whilst I think this may be good idea, I am concerned attatching your body to the household electrical system , be it an earth point , that is tested using a ‘socket tester’ may result in an accident if an electrical fault develops on that circuit you are tied into or on another one as in theory the earthing system is or should be connected throughout the building . A very high fault current can flow in the event of a shorting between an appliance from conductors.

  8. Magarethe Donovan Avatar
    Magarethe Donovan

    I use a CPAP machine that is extremely helpful. My question is can I use my CPAP along with the grounding sheet I have ordered.

      1. Niki Avatar

        I’ve been grounding along with centering for several years. I have recognized health issues and with make life more comfortable, also be on as little medication as possible.
        I love it. I find it is best when I am somewhere where I can connect to all of the elements.

  9. Kelley Avatar

    Started using a 54 x 27 inch grounding sheet about four days ago. It has helped me with the most vexing challenge (of many issues) I have which is the discomforting feeling of a full bladder in the of the night. I believe it’s related to my formerly broken back rather than prostate issues.

    In any case, I’d wake up every couple of hours and each time the unpleasant pressure would be there. The first night I wore the sheet around my head, neck and shoulders. Slept for six hours straight, yet it barely felt like I needed to go to the bathroom! Went anyway and then slept for three more hours. Once again, the intense urgency was gone altogether. After arising, I puttered around for a few minutes in freedom before going to the bathroom. Wasn’t really sure if I needed to go.

    The evening of the second night, I’d drunk a large amount of aloe vera, so I did need to get up three or four times, but the urgency had let of partially. Night three was uneventful. up twice IIRC. Last night there was only one visit and no urgency either the middle of the night nor in the morning!

    It’s also important to mention that I’d been on the verge of leakage for months. That issue has nearly gone away and has been a mild feeling the few times it has arisen. This improvement in quality of life has been IMMENSE!

    To maximize and speed up whatever future benefits there might be, I’ve been draping the sheet on my skin under my clothes either front or back while sitting during the day which I do a lot of due to my past back injury.

    For example, it appears to have lessened my need for massive amounts of vitamin C. At the moment, 1,500 mg of lipidic C two to three times a day has replaced 3,000 mg twice a day. That’s what it takes to keep my thighs from feeling heavy and uncomfortable. Hopefully, there will be further reductions in the need for supplementation of various types which means the sheet would pay for itself many times over! I’d been taking kidney/bladder herbs without much if any discernible benefits, so it could be the next one to cut back on.

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