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The other day my friend asked what I think about "earthing" claiming that their products provide electrons we used to get from walking barefoot on the earth surface and that they have positive (healing) health effects.

If you haven't heard of earthing yet, this article describes what it is about. In short, they claim that the "lack of grounding" due to not walking barefoot is partly responsible for the rise in modern diseases. In the "What Happens to You When You Walk Barefoot?" section of the linked article the whole procedure is described. See also their homepage.

They claim

Since Earthing greatly reduces oxidative stress and inflammation it is expected to increase life expectancy and improve health.

Is there any basis to that claim?

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What is "oxidative stress"? –  David Thornley Apr 2 '11 at 17:31
    
@David Oxidative stress is a (natural) chemical process taking place in the cells that destroys proteins due to high concentrations of oxygen (which is highly reactive if not bound). Cells have developed a defense against oxidation. But eventually, yes, oxidative stress will kill you. Again, this is natural. Anything that claims to reduce oxidative stress is usually a scam. –  Konrad Rudolph Apr 4 '11 at 11:04
    
Does [this] (guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2011/apr/21/…) fall in the same cathegory? Again someone trying to sell electrons? –  Bazilika Apr 27 '11 at 14:18
    
Walking on the beach in California on a warm sunny day with feet bare may or may not scientifically do anything for us, but just walking, soaking in the sun, walking on sand barefoot with fresh air does have a positive effect. The minute one starts to question pro or con of anything stress is the result, for instance, a scientific type wants to prove or disprove walking on a sandy beach with the same conditions as that described will not be benefited as the uninhibited beachcomber simply living life in a natural environment. We came from Africa, it's doubtful our African ancestors were hunting –  user7475 Jun 9 '12 at 16:09
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2 Answers

The claim in the article that "Your skin in general is a very good conductor." is simply untrue. Body resistance is on the order of thousands to hundreds of thousands of ohms; and a good thing too, or we'd be electrocuting ourselves whenever we touch the terminals of a battery. Human skin is more an insulator or semiconductor than it is a conductor.

Regarding a build up of negative charge being good for what ails you: When you pet a cat, there is a transfer of electric charge from the cat's fur to your hand: negative charge has been rubbed off on to your hand, leaving the cat positively charged (poor kitty!). A similar thing happens when you walk across a carpeted floor in your socks in the winter, yet neither cats, nor wintery weather are noticeably associated with our being especially healthful. Of course, if we were better conductors, neither of these things would happen. But we aren't good conductors, so the article's thesis falls apart.

The author appears to be rehashing Wilhelm Reich's old Orgone theory for the new millennium. That's likely a profitable pursuit for him.

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What's your evidence for the claim that cats aren't associated with positive health effects? –  Christian Apr 2 '11 at 21:12
    
There seems to be a good bit of scientific research indicating health benefits; I am surprised that you do not address these. –  Abe Jul 21 '13 at 4:50
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There are studies in this regard, like Can electrons act as antioxidants?,

The most reasonable hypothesis to explain the beneficial effects of earthing is that a direct earth connection enables both diurnal electrical rhythms and free electrons to flow from the earth to the body. It is proposed that the earth’s diurnal electrical rhythms set the biological clocks for hormones that regulate sleep and activity. It is also suggested that free electrons from the earth neutralize the positively charged free radicals that are the hallmark of chronic inflammation.

[...]

It is possible that the benefits of many bodywork, energetic and movement therapies, as well as of various energy medicine devices, are partly due to their ability to enable mobile electrons to penetrate into the inflammatory pockets where they neutralize the free radicals that contribute to so many different chronic diseases.

or this study that looks at "the biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep"

Measurable improvements in diurnal cortisol profiles were observed, with cortisol levels significantly reduced during night-time sleep [...] Subjectively reported symptoms, including sleep dysfunction, pain, and stress, were reduced or eliminated in nearly all subjects.

Results indicate that grounding the human body to earth ("earthing") during sleep reduces night-time levels of cortisol and resynchronizes cortisol hormone secretion more in alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile.


However, seeing people making money by selling "Earthing Products" does tickle my spidey sense...

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Why would earth electrons be any better than other electrons? I mean we do not live in an isolated environment. We are in contact with electrons all the time. And if our ancestors made their beds (nests in a way) they were not grounded during sleep... there is to much of inconsistency. –  Bazilika Apr 8 '11 at 9:37
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I'm wondering how the 'free electrons form earth' would even get to the inside of our bodies? Even though I don't know the mean free path length for electrons in a human body, I doubt it's longer than our skin is thick. –  Oliver_C Apr 8 '11 at 15:50
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