Most people feel better when they spend time barefoot in the outdoors. Fresh air and relaxation are big factors – but the biggest factor appears to be the connection with the earth itself. According to preliminary research, direct contact with the earth, referred to as “earthing,” reduces stress, improves sleep, enhances recovery, restores normal biological rhythms – even reduces chronic inflammation.
“It’s all quite simple when you understand the nature of our connection with the earth,” says Clint Ober, the man who discovered earthing. “We evolved in constant connection with the earth’s direct current and with frequencies that our biology has become ‘tuned’ to.”
Ober’s discovery confirmed the long suspected necessity for regular barefoot contact with the earth. It also opened the way for the development of an ingenious system for re-connecting the human body with the earth while we are indoors. Ober’s discovery goes back to a connection he developed with the earth during his formative years in Montana.
“My immediate and extended family were farmers and ranchers. I was also exposed to the Native American culture, and I was taught respect for the land and to learn from the ways of the natural world,” recalls Ober.
Ober eventually left the family ranch and for 23 years he rode the success of the cable TV industry. As an executive, he watched cable TV thrive by giving people superior broadcast images that were only possible because the cables were “grounded” in the earth. The crisp image delivered by the cable results from shielding that is electrically connected to the earth (grounded), so that the earth can either deliver or absorb electrons and prevent the build-up of electrical charges (static).
Following his retirement, Ober had the chance to ponder the possible significance of grounding the human body. He realized that since the development of plastic, most people had become insulated from the earth. With the knowledge he had of electrical grounding, and knowing that the body is a natural electrical conductor, he asked the question: “Could loss of natural grounding affect health?”
“It occurred to me that there might be a similarity between the human body and a TV cable,” he recalls. “The TV cable has hundreds of channels of information flowing through it. Similarly, the body has miles of nerves, blood vessels, and other channels that conduct electrical signals. When the skin is grounded, it might prevent the entry of ‘noise’ that could disturb physiological signaling.”
His investigation began with a simple voltmeter using a procedure he had used many times to check the electrical potential on shielded cables. He found a substantial 4 to 5 volts on the surface of his body when he was sitting at his computer. (Voltages are induced onto the body by electric fields radiating from household electrical wires and appliances such as lights and computers.) Then, by taking a voltmeter around his house, he observed how his body voltage varied as he moved from place to place. He determined that the area around his bed was the most “electrically active” region of his home.
“I wondered whether connecting to the earth during sleep might be helpful – especially since sleep is the time the body regenerates,” remembers Ober.
To test his idea, he placed a crude conducting system on his mattress and connected it to a wire that went out his bedroom window to a rod pushed into the earth. Lying down on this grounded surface, his body voltage dropped to nearly zero. It appeared that lying on the conducting system he had created was equivalent, electrically, to lying directly on the earth.
At that time, Ober did not sleep well. Several surgeries had left him with chronic back pain that kept him awake every night. His first night sleeping on the grounded mattress was extremely revealing. Lying down with the voltmeter, he confirmed that his body voltage had dropped to nearly zero. He fell asleep and woke up the next morning with the voltmeter still on his chest. He had slept soundly for the first time in years and had not moved at all during the entire night!
Excited, by his discovery, he gathered some of his friends to see if their experience was in any way similar to his own. Everyone reported that they slept better on the grounded mattress. After several days, when one of his friends mentioned that he was no longer stiff and sore in the morning, Ober suddenly realized that he, too, had stopped taking pain medications in the morning.
“I had been waking stiff and sore for years, but that was no longer the case,” says Ober.
Within a month, Ober had moved to California to find researchers and engineers who could help test and further develop the idea. He adopted the term “earthing” to distinguish between the grounding of electrical equipment and connecting the human body to the earth.
In the first study, sixty people with sleep problems, pain, and stiffness were selected. Half of them slept on an improved version of the mattress pad for 30 days in their homes. The other half slept on non-conductive pads. The results showed that those who were connected to the earth went to sleep more quickly, slept throughout the night, woke feeling more rested, had reduced muscle stiffness, and experienced reduced chronic back and joint pain. During the study, subjects also reported relief from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea, and hypertension.
Ober met with an anesthesiologist, who was skeptical of the results of the first study and agreed to conduct his own clinical trial to monitor cortisol levels. Since cortisol is a reliable indicator of both stress and inflammation, the anesthesiologist reasoned that shifts in cortisol levels would indicate whether or not inflammation was really being reduced.
Although the anesthesiologist set out to prove that the earthing concept was flawed, what he found was just the opposite. To his surprise, he discovered that earthing reduced nighttime levels of cortisol and shifted the 24-hour circadian cortisol rhythms toward normal. He also found that nearly all participants reported the reduction or elimination of a variety of symptoms.
The next research included a series of case studies that proved earthing reduced inflammation. Within minutes, thermal imaging showed that connecting with the earth reduced the heat associated with inflammation (see images, previous page.)
“I have spent nearly every waking hour over the last eight years investigating and documenting the health effects of earthing the human body. The results to date extend far beyond anything I could ever have imagined,” says Ober.
Today, research is continuing at some of the largest research institutions in the world. During the last several years, studies have shown that earthing has nearly instantaneous effects on the brain, muscles, blood pressure, and respiratory rhythms. Clinical sleep studies demonstrate improvements in a wide variety of parameters that influence quality of sleep. Whole athletic teams have been “earthed” – with amazing results. But even more importantly, there are products available for you and me. These products make it possible for anyone to have the benefits of being connected with the earth, even in climates where standing barefoot outside is impractical.