Up until a few hundred years ago,
our ancestors lived in direct contact with the Earth's surface. They walked barefoot upon the ground, slept close to the earth, or perhaps were separated only by the thinnest of animal skins and plant based bedding materials. Our ancestors were constantly grounded, and lived in intimate contact with the earth. In China, the ancient Daoist yogis intuitively felt that the earth possessed energy, called earth chi. In many places the chi was strong; near flowing water, near ocean beaches, in the rocks and it was easily absorbed through the soles of our feet.
Today, we have adopted a very different lifestyle from our ancient forbearers; we wear shoes with rubber soles and sleep in beds and houses that are insulated from the ground. We also experience diseases and maladies that were very rare for our ancestors. Is there a correlation? Could cutting ourselves off from the surface of our planet somehow be a cause or a contributor to many of our modern ailments? If there is such a thing as earth chi, are we chronically deficient?
Inflammation and Disease
Inflammation comes from a Latin word, which means, "to set on fire." Hmmm, doesn't sound like a good thing. And yet, when our body is damaged, we respond by inflaming that area. Why? The inflammation response allows us to mobilize resources needed to protect the body. Swelling occurs and a blockage, a pouch, is created to seal off the damaged area from the rest of the body. White blood cells are mobilized to attack any invaders. One way we destroy an invading microbe is to attack it with free radicals; these are molecules (usually oxygen molecules) that the mitochondria in our cells create that are missing a few electrons. These electron-starved radicals are now free to steal electrons from the cell walls, organelles and even the DNA of the invading microbes, effectively killing the invader. This is part of an acute inflammation response.
Unfortunately, some of our free radicals leak outside the pouch and escape the damaged or infected areas of our bodies; they leak into healthy areas. With no bad guys to attack, they start to draw electrons away from our healthy cells. The body senses that we are under attack and responds with more inflammation, leading to a never-ending cycle of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in a host of diseases and ailments from heart disease (which has been recently considered to be mostly an inflammation problem) to many immune system disorders. (See the table for a more extensive list.) It is the persistence of these free radicals that cause the chronic inflammation. Beyond our own immune system, there are many environmental sources of these free radicals: too much UV radiation from the sun, microwave and other kinds of radiation, smoke, pesticides, and toxins in our air and food.
It is for very good reason that we have been urged to consume foods high in antioxidants. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals by binding to them and allowing our body to discharge them. Fresh veggies and fruits can be high in antioxidants but you may be pleased to know that dark chocolate is one of the most effective antioxidant sources. (See the table for a listing of the top antioxidant foods.)
If you are not getting enough of these foods, then supplements are recommended, especially Vitamin C and E, however there is some debate over whether supplements can really provide the antioxidants we need.1 We are not sure if the supplemented antioxidants get into the blocked off inflamed areas. Dr James Oschman, the author of two books on energy medicine, speculates that bodywork (massage and physiotherapies) helps to break open the pouches that contain the inflamed areas of our body, which allows antioxidants to get at the free radicals doing the damage.2 One of the most common types of bodywork being performed today is yoga! Our yoga practice may be instrumental in helping our antioxidants flow into the inflamed areas of our bodies.
Or course, our ancestors did not have access to supplements and vitamin pills. Hundreds of years ago, only people living in South America had access to the cocoa plant: no dark chocolate in medieval Europe or Asia! So, how did our forefathers cope with their chronic inflammation? And, while we are talking about our ancestors, how come they did not suffer from so many of the disorders listed earlier as we do today? What were their secrets? One secret we already mentioned: yoga and other exercises and massage therapies that mobilized the tissues and enhanced the flow of energy throughout the body. The other secret was a source of powerful and abundant antioxidants that did not come from our food.
The Global Earth Circuit
To neutralize all those free radicals being produced by our chronic inflammation, we need a source of free electrons. Guess where the biggest supply of the free electrons are? Yep - you guessed it - right beneath our feet! We've been walking on Vitamin G (G for ground) and never knew it.
The surface of our earth is electrically negative relative to the upper atmosphere.3 In clear weather, electrons leak from the earth to the atmosphere, fortunately in tiny amounts, so we are not zapped when we walk on the earth. In stormy weather, lightening discharges electrons from the bottom of thunderclouds and they end up back in the earth. The whole cycle is called the Global Earth Circuit. The electrons can travel along the surface of the earth and water: these are called telluric currents.4
When our skin is touching the surface of the earth, these electrons are drawn into our body. Where do they go? Hmmm, well, where in our body is there a deficit of electrons? The free radicals! The electronics neutralize the free radicals, helping to reduce and even end the cycle of chronic inflammation. All it takes is to touch the earth, and we can reduce or stop inflammation. This process has recently been named earthing.5 You can read much more about the way this works and the medicals studies proving its therapeutic benefits in any of several articles written by Dr Oschman.2
Earthing Made Easy
Not everyone has time to get outdoors, take off her shoes and walk barefoot upon the earth, but there is another way to soak up these free-radical-busting electrons that the earth provides in endless supply. Clint Ober, a retired cable-TV executive, noticed one day, while sitting on a park bench, that everyone he saw was wearing shoes. He wondered if this simple fact had an effect upon our health. He convinced several medical researchers to study this question, and discovered that, indeed, the earth is a source of natural medicine for all of us.
Ober went further and started to design simple products that would allow us to spend hours each day connected to the earth, without having to walk barefoot everywhere. He created pads, bands and sheets that connect to the ground wire of our household electrical outlets, or to a wire that you push into the earth outside your window. By connecting us to the ground, we are able to soak up free electrons from the earth even while we sit reading a book, typing on a computer or while asleep at night.6
Dr Oschman cites many case studies and experiments performed with Clint Ober's products.2 The results are impressive: improved sleep, reduced pain, increased range of motion, decreased symptoms from allergies, asthma, osteoporosis and many other problems.
Here is an excerpt from one of Dr Oschman's research papers:
In some cases the clinical changes took place within 30 min of the first use of the earthing patch; in others steady improvement took place during multiple treatments. Conditions treated included acute sprains, chronic myofascial pain syndrome, muscular strains, ligamentous sprains, peripheral neuropathies, carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammatory joint conditions, Lyme disease, chronic sinusitis, and a variety of other maladies. Up to 80% improvement took place in over 60% of the cases within 2-4 weeks of half-hour treatments given 2-3 times per week. These results are summarized and discussed in Oschman (2007).2
Dr. Jeffrey Spencer is another person who was convinced of the benefits of earthing. During several Tour de France victories of the US Cycle Team lead by Lance Armstrong, Dr Spencer connected the cyclists to the earth while they slept and when they were injured. The results were enhanced healing and speedy recoveries.2
Jet Lag and Earthing
The earth is not only a source of free electrons; it also provides a daily rhythm to our local electrical fields. This diurnal rhythm helps to control the cycle of cortisol levels within our blood. Cortisol helps regulate our sleep cycle, just as melatonin does. If our cortisol levels are out of whack, or if we have too much of this stress hormone, insomnia is just one problem. Elevated cortisol levels can contribute to many disorders including hypertension, mood disorders, decreased bone density and reduced immune responses.
The local electrical field of the earth, right where you live, can help regulate your cortisol levels if you are connected to the earth! If you are disconnected, you lose this natural regulation. Dr Oschman notes several web sites where research is posted showing that 15 minutes of barefoot connection to the earth can reduce or eliminate the effects of jet lag. Reconnecting to the earth in your new location helps to reset your inner cortisol clock.
We now know that providing antioxidants can reduce inflammations and their associated problems. We also know that the body can absorb free electrons from the earth and from others! Body workers, including yoga teachers who touch or adjust their students, may be one source of free electrons. There are many body workers who feel totally drained after performing their practice. It may be that in the process of touching an "electron-deficient" client, the body worker is literally drained of her store of free electrons. Traditionally, a body worker is advised to wash her hands in cold water after a practice. This is a great way to recover electrons. Water is connected to the earth. Another practice a body worker or yoga teacher can adopt is to walk barefoot on the grass for 15 minutes after each session.
Our Ancestors and Earth Chi/Vitamin G
Our ancestors touched the earth intimately and continuously. They walked barefoot or had shoes made of animal skins, which allowed an electrical connection to the earth. The ancient Daoist yogis felt that the Kidney 1 acupuncture points, located at the bottom of our feet, were the entrance for earth chi. Our ancestors slept close to the earth; either on the ground itself or on plant-based bedding that also was a good conductor of electrons. Homes were low levels and often made of stone or some other conductive material. Ancient yogis did not use rubber (insulating) yoga mats as we do today, but rather they used animal skin rugs (conducting) or they practiced right on the earth's surface.
Some places have better "earth chi" than others: the ocean shore, wet grass, mineralized rocks. Even today, these places naturally energize us. Most people love to swim in the ocean, walk barefoot in the sand or kick of their shoes and wiggle their toes in the grass. Gardening is such a therapeutic pastime for more reasons than the mental break we get. When we garden, we get our hands dirty we touch the earth. No one likes walking on blacktop, and for good reason - it is an electrical insulator. Concrete, however, can conduct some electrons, depending upon the mineralization of the concrete.
Do Your Own Earthing Experiments
Check it out for yourself. Try earthing yourself for 20 minutes everyday - it may be all it takes for you to start sleeping better, feeling better and loving life again. And if you don't have time for even this amount of vitamin G, then check out the products mentioned earlier. If earthing, if walking on the grass for 20 minutes each day helps you, then pass this information along to others.
Spread the vitamin G!
- Cook et al. (2007)
- Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2008) 12 - 40-57
- The Earth's Electrical Surface Potential - A summary of present understanding (January 2007) by Gaetan Chavalier, PhD, Director of Research, California Institute for Human Science, Graduate School & Research Center, Encinitas, CA
- See the article on telluric currents in Wikipedia
- Earthing is different than grounding, which is a term often used in the electrical industries to describe conducting excess or sudden charges away from a device, or a person, to the earth. In earthing, we are drawing electrons up from the ground into our bodies; in grounding we are sending an excess of electrons into the earth.
- Check out www.earthing.com to learn more about earthing products, and check out www.earthinginstitute.net to learn more about the research on the therapeutic benefits of earthing.
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