An Introduction to Earthing For Earth Day 2022
By Dr. Jason Culp, Research & Development Director at Chiva-Som
When we consider nature and its impact on health, we usually think about phenomena such as pollution, climate, food production, etc. However, there is compelling research that shows that the simple act of coming into direct contact with the earth’s surface, such as walking barefoot or sitting on grass, has significant health benefits. This is commonly referred to in the natural health and wellness world as earthing or grounding.
The theory behind earthing is that when touching the earth’s surface, there is a transfer of electrons between us and the planet, which acts as a vast reservoir of these negatively charged particles. Cumulative research suggests that the earth's negative charge can promote a stable internal environment and normal functioning of all systems in the body.
Conversely, a disconnect from contact with the earth has been proposed as a major contributor to disrupted bodily functions and declining health around the world. Unfortunately, due to our modern lifestyles and much time spent indoors, along with insulating environments (including footwear), we find ourselves without direct contact to the earth’s surface for prolonged periods of time.
Doctors of the past were big proponents of walking barefoot. Some physicians would recommend an early morning barefoot stroll through the chilly, dew-filled grass in order to stimulate circulation and “enhance vitality”. Some studies even propose that earthing can decrease pain, enhance sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and surprisingly, thin the blood. Later research exploring health conditions such as insomnia has led to the development of specialised mats, bed pads, metal plates, electrode patches and even footwear for grounding.
Now, you may view earthing and its proposed health benefits with some skepticism. It’s healthy to be critical of any theory that is accompanied by a line of costly products and services. Doubts aside, there are some common-sense benefits to the practice of earthing:
- Generally getting back to nature can have a profound healing effect on the body. Fresh air, sunlight and natural sounds can regenerate the mind, replenish the body and empower the spirit. It’s also a great way to escape from stuffy offices, virtual meetings and conference calls, and regain admiration and appreciation for the planet.
- Removing your shoes and walking on the ground can be a practice in mindfulness – remaining in the present moment as you feel the warm, textured earth beneath your feet. Mindfulness is a great way to promote the relaxation response, which incidentally lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, enhances sleep and reduces inflammation (with the potential of thinning the blood).
- Earthing exposes you to the soil microbiome – which means not only a transfer of electrons to the body, but also a host of (good) microbes as well. Mounting research shows how the environment’s microbes play a major role in shaping our own microbiome (in the gut, on the skin, etc.). Biodiversity of the body’s microbiome improves the immune function and digestive health, and supports all other systems in the body.
The Science Behind Earthing
By Dr. Purnima Siddhanta, Holistic Manager of Zulal Wellness Resort By Chiva-Som
One of the pioneers of modern earthing is Clint Ober. A former television cable executive, Ober observed the similarities between the human body and the cables used to transmit television signals. When the body is not in contact with the earth, it is bombarded with electromagnetic fields and static electricity – just as when a cable is not grounded, there is interference in the signal.
What started as an observation turned into experimentation, and what he found was that sleeping while grounded improved quality of sleep and reduced aches and pains. Finding research in the scientific community lacking, he then went on to fund his own research, which was published in the ESD Journal in 2000.
In 2004, Dr. William Amalu of the International Academy of Clinical Thermography began studying the effects of earthing on inflammation and pain. Subjects were grounded using either bed pads or conductive electrode patches. Before and after thermal images showed significantly reduced or even eliminated inflammation after only 2-4 days of sleeping while grounded or 30 minutes while wearing electrode patches.
The science behind it is as follows: free electrons on the earth’s surface are transferred to the human body during grounding. These free electrons are bonded to by free radicals, thereby reducing the oxidative and inflammatory effects of these free radicals on the body. In other words, earthing helps prevent free radicals from attacking and damaging healthy tissues which often leads to inflammation and pain.
Dr. Jason Culp - Research & Development Director, Chiva-Som
For the past decade, Dr. Culp has held the position of senior naturopathic physician at Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, where he conducts natural wellness consultations with guests. In addition to his role as naturopath, he is the founder and director of the Research & Development department, with the primary objective of evaluating and exploring the use of evidence-based natural therapies in a holistic wellness setting.
Dr. Culp lectures internationally on the topic of wellness. His philosophy is that in order to create sustainable health, guests must fully engage and play an active participatory role in their own wellness process. The empowerment of the individual and the guest’s authentic understanding of their wellness goals, intentions and motivations take precedence in health and healing. In this way, each guest leaves with the feeling that they are the most powerful advocate in their own wellness journey.
Dr. Purnima Siddhanta - Holistic Manager, Zulal Wellness Resort By Chiva-Som
Dr. Siddhanta has almost two decades of experience as an Ayurvedic practitioner at some of the world’s leading hospitals and wellness institutes. She holds an M.D. in Alternative Medicine, has specialised in chronic illness, and is a certified counsellor. Dr. Siddhanta is passionate about introducing wellness practices into guests’ daily lives and helping them reach their health goals.