Dr. Tamara C. Hill
Why hippies hug trees and you should too
Surprise, surprise, there are times when i get called a "hippie." i thoroughly enjoy asking everyone's definition of what that means exactly, and although it varies it typically includes things such as "loves the Earth and eats granola." Don't get me wrong, i do like granola and i eat it occasionally, i just don't agree with that assessment of infatuation with oatmeal -- i do, however, LOVE mama Earth.
i have always felt as though there is a whirlwind of just the right combination of calming and uplifting energies that being outdoors has offered me. It is as though being outdoors is healing in a way.
In addition to being whimsical hippie, i am a Virgo moon sign and hence there is a part of me that needs order, itineraries and hard factual proof of the magic that is the ecosystem. i desired to know the reasons and the science as to why hugging trees just felt so groovy. So i made it my dissertation. i studied and did a research study on what is called Earthing.
i used what we know about our molecular structure and neuronal electrical firing to study how larger molecular bodies could shift the electrical potential of smaller bodies. i wanted to know if the larger molecular body (Earth) could shift the smaller one (humans) in a way that helped reduce what we perceive and feel as stress.
What is Earthing?
Earthing or grounding is the process of placing direct contact of the body to the earth, whether it is soil, sand, grass or concrete. The earth maintains a negative potential at its surface and grounding allows the body to absorb some of the earth’s electrons, bringing the body to the same electrical potential as the earth.
Why is this such a magical thing?
The absorption or transfer of electrical potential has been found to have positive effects on overall health functioning.
Humans are bioelectrical beings, regulated by bioelectrical signals, and the electrons within the body are the “marquee performers.” Without electrons, it would not be possible for the body to produce molecules. The body is constantly regenerating new cells and without the process of regeneration, pathology, disease and inflammation occur. The reason the body is able to regenerate cells is due to a key electron transport chain in mitochondria that produces that energy source and ability.
The electrons from Earth help eliminate free radicals within the body which inhibit electron transport. When the body is grounded, it provides enough electrical potential for the body to regenerate cells in a healthy manner. Earthing helps with reducing inflammation and pain. It improves blood flow and blood viscosity which directly impacts cardiovascular health and other blood-based diseases such as diabetes. Earthing has also been shown to help reduce stress and improve sleep and energy levels. It has also been shown to accelerate wound healing in trauma and injuries.
Researchers have shown the effects of grounding to greatly improve and reduce inflammation, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and oxygen levels. The Earth’s electrical potential can be a key factor for setting biological clocks and regulating diurnal body rhythms, as well as cortisol secretion.
Heart Health and Stress Levels:
Heart rate variability (HRV) which measures beat-to-beat alternations in heart rate provides a reliable and noninvasive way to measure the autonomic nervous system and heart health.
Doctors Chevalier and Sinatra from the University of California Irvine had research subjects sit comfortably in a chair while connected to an Earthing patch for 40 minutes. Measurements calculated from electrocardiogram recordings showed there were statistically significant changes in HRV. Overall, grounding increased relaxation levels by 50% at the end of the forty-minute grounding session. This increase in parasympathetic (PNS) function was continuous throughout the entire forty-minute grounding period – showing that even short periods of grounding can have an effect on the autonomic nervous system.
Sleep and Cortisol:
In another research study conducted by Ghaly and Teplitz (2004) subjects were grounded during sleep via a mattress pad. The participants’ cortisol levels were also measured with saliva samples taken every 4 hours, once before the study began, and then 6 weeks after grounding. Results from the study showed that cortisol levels drifted toward normal levels that align with the natural circadian rhythm while grounded. The effects in this study were more dramatic for females than for males – however most subjects reported feeling better and stated they had less fatigue than before they began the study.
Chevalier (2015) observed the effects of using indoor grounding pads that stimulate being barefoot outdoors on a person’s subjective mood states. In a double-blind procedure, 29 participants sat in a recliner that was either grounded with the pads, or sham-grounded for control. After sitting for an hour they were re-assessed with a mood scale for the second time. The grounded group reported a significant increase in pleasant as well as positive mood and they also reported being more relaxed - supporting the researcher’s hypothesis that improvements in mood could be found with a grounding simulation pads.
If you made it this far, congrats - here is a summary:
Get outside and put your feet and body on the Earth and hug trees because it is really good for you.
References and additional reading:
Chevalier, G., & Sinatra, S. T. (2011). emotional stress, heart rate variability, grounding,
and improved autonomic tone: Clinical Applications. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, 10(3), 16-21.
Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth's surface electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012291541.
Chevalier, G. (2015). The effect of grounding the human body on mood. Psychological Reports,
Ghaly, M., & Teplitz, D. (2004). The biologic effects of grounding the human body during
sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 10(5), 767-776 10p.
Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Chevalier, G., & Sinatra, D. (2017). Electric Nutrition: The Sur
prising Health and Healing Benefits of Biological Grounding (Earthing). Alternative Therapies In Health & Medicine, 23(5), 8-16.
Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2011). Earthing the Human Body Influences Physiologic
Processes. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 17(4), 301-308 8p.
Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing the Human Organism Influences Bioelectrical Processes. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 18(3), 229-234 6p.