by Georgia Kinch
When was the last time you walked through the grass barefoot, allowing the soles of your feet to connect with Earth’s surface? In today’s culture, keeping your feet protected with sturdy shoes is the norm. But there are some people who believe that such contact between our bodies and the Earth is essential to our health and wellbeing. The process is referred to as “earthing” or “grounding”, and the idea is that the Earth’s surface contains free electrons that can be transferred to human bodies via direct contact, and that these electrons then act as antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals in our bodies to reduce inflammation and prevent disease. The idea of earthing is nothing new, as the practice began with our ancient ancestors who often had no choice but to walk barefoot and sleep directly on the Earth. Today, the practice is most common among people who follow a holistic health approach, which emphasizes the interaction between our body and the environment. There are countless websites and books that provide information on earthing, including the website Barefoot Healing: Australian Earthing Specialists, which makes the claim: “Earthing outdoors is easy, just touch your bare feet to the grass for at least thirty minutes or go barefoot at the beach and notice how fast stress and pain reduces and energy improves!” . The reason that the belief in earthing is extraordinary is because behind such substantial claims, there is little clinical evidence to prove that earthing is actually an effective health practice.
Despite a lack of concrete evidence, believers of earthing do put forth a convincing set of assertions. Some of the benefits that supposedly come from earthing include: Defuse the cause of inflammation, reduce/eliminate chronic pain, improve sleep, increase energy, normalize the body’s biological rhythms, improve blood pressure, lessen menstrual symptoms, and dramatically speed healing time (just to name a few) . A review of earthing research conducted by the Developmental and Cell Biology Department at the University of California at Irvine found that reconnecting the body to the Earth’s surface electrons actually may result in significant improvements in sleep disturbances and chronic plain. One of the studies reviewed involved randomly assigning subjects with sleep or pain disorders to sleep on conductive carbon fiber mattress pads, half of which were connected to the Earth’s surface, and half of which were not. The subjects who were connected to the Earth’s electrons reported a significant improvement in quality of sleep, feeling rested upon waking, muscle stiffness and pain, and general well-being when compared to the control subjects . The review concluded that more research does need to be conducted, but that earthing very well may be an essential element in the quest to increase human longevity.
While subjective responses and anecdotal success stories may be enough to convince some, there are plenty of non-believers in the supposed benefits of sticking your bare feet in the ground. The main argument against earthing is that the explanation of electron transfer doesn’t quite make sense from a scientific point-of-view. An article, eloquently titled “’Earthing’ Is a Bunch of Crap”, explains that from a chemistry-standpoint, electrons are electrons, and there is no significant difference between an electron that comes straight from the Earth and one that comes from any other synthetic material. The author also states that while there is an interaction between our bodies and the Earth’s electrons, it lasts such a short time that no enduring effect could be expected. He gave the example of what happens when you shuffle your feet across a carpeted floor (losing billions of electrons) and then touch a metal doorknob (instantly getting them all back): “It’s simply not possible to build up and maintain a significant charge imbalance between your body and the rest of the world, because everything we interact with contains electrons, and they move back and forth between objects all the time” . So, when you look at earthing through a scientific-lens, it really is hard to believe that the Earth’s electrons are of much more value than those of our own floors at home.
With little scientific evidence to back it up, why are there still such avid supporters of earthing? Several cognitive processes seem to be at play, with the most influential one being the confirmation bias. When someone has a specific belief about how an event will play out, they tend to focus on the evidence that supports their belief while ignoring evidence that contradicts it. This is often seen in the medical field and is known as the Placebo Effect. In the case of earthing, believers go into the practice with the hope that they will experience the health benefits that it is known for. With such expectations in mind, the body can actually trick itself into producing those effects on its own, and when the participant notices those changes, they likely will attribute the success to earthing.
At a time when death by chronic disease is at an all-time high, it’s unsurprising that so many people are turning toward alternative methods of medicine to maintain or restore their health. Believers of earthing typically belong to the holistic health community which, in general, has been growing in popularity for several decades. According to The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, approximately 38% of adults and 12% of children in America are using some form of complementary medicine . While earthing is by no means a part of traditional medicine, it does belong to the group of practices that is becoming more socially accepted as an effective way of maintaining health. As more people begin to support and practice integrative medicine, it can be expected that earthing will be socially reinforced and gain more popularity.
While earthing is difficult to validate from a scientific point-of-view, the testaments from those who practice it are quite inspiring. The idea that we can improve our health by reconnecting with nature is intriguing for many, but the Placebo Effect makes it almost impossible to determine whether the health benefits do indeed come from earthing, or if they come from our desire for earthing to work. Regardless, earthing appears to be a holistic trend that will continue to grow. Perhaps the next time you’re feeling sluggish, try taking a walk in nature and see what happens for you!
 What Is Earthing? (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from http://www.barefoothealing.com.au/v/what-is-earthing/22
 Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012, January 12). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from
 Orzel, C. (2014, May 28). “Earthing” Is a Bunch of Crap. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from
 The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. (2017, September 24). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from