Up until a few hundred years ago, our ancestors lived in direct contact with the Earth's surface. They walked barefoot upon the ground, slept close to the earth, or perhaps were separated only by the thinnest of animal skins and plant based bedding materials. Our ancestors were constantly grounded, and lived in intimate contact with the earth.
In China, the ancient Daoist yogis intuitively felt that the earth possessed energy, called earth chi. In many places the chi was strong; near flowing water, near ocean beaches, in the rocks… and it was easily absorbed through the soles of our feet. Today, we have adopted a very different lifestyle from our ancient forbearers; we wear shoes with rubber soles and sleep in beds and houses that are insulated from the ground. We also experience diseases and maladies that were very rare for our ancestors. Is there a correlation? Could cutting ourselves off from the surface of our planet somehow be a cause or a contributor to many of our modern ailments? If there is such a thing as earth chi, are we chronically deficient?
Inflammation and Disease
Inflammation comes from a Latin word, which means, "to set on fire." Hmmm, doesn't sound like a good thing. And yet, when our body is damaged, we respond by inflaming that area. Why? The inflammation response allows us to mobilize resources needed to protect the body. Swelling occurs and a blockage, a pouch, is created to seal off the damaged area from the rest of the body. White blood cells are mobilized to attack any invaders. One way we destroy an invading microbe is to attack it with free radicals; these are molecules (usually oxygen molecules) that the mitochondria in our cells create that are missing a few electrons. These electron-starved radicals are now free to steal electrons from the cell walls, organelles and even the DNA of the invading microbes, effectively killing the invader. This is part of an acute inflammation response.
Unfortunately, some of our free radicals leak outside the pouch and escape the damaged or infected areas of our bodies; they leak into healthy areas. With no bad guys to attack, they start to draw electrons away from our healthy cells. The body senses that we are under attack and responds with more inflammation, leading to a never-ending cycle of chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in a host of diseases and ailments from heart disease (which has been recently considered to be mostly an inflammation problem) to many immune system disorders (see the table for a more extensive list). It is the persistence of these free radicals that cause the chronic inflammation. Beyond our own immune system, there are many environmental sources of these free radicals: too much UV radiation from the sun, microwave and other kinds of radiation, smoke, pesticides, and toxins in our air and food.
It is for very good reason that we have been urged to consume foods high in antioxidants. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals by binding to them and allowing our body to discharge them. Fresh veggies and fruits can be high in antioxidants but you may be pleased to know that dark chocolate is one of the most effective antioxidant sources.
If you are not getting enough of these foods, then supplements are recommended, especially Vitamin C and E, however there is some debate over whether supplements can really provide the antioxidants we need.1 We are not sure if the supplemented antioxidants get into the blocked off inflamed areas. Dr James Oschman, the author of two books on energy medicine, speculates that bodywork (massage and physiotherapies) helps to break open the pouches that contain the inflamed areas of our body, which allows antioxidants to get at the free radicals doing the damage.2 One of the most common types of bodywork being performed today is yoga! Our yoga practice may be instrumental in helping our antioxidants flow into the inflamed areas of our bodies.
Of course, our ancestors did not have access to supplements and vitamin pills. Hundreds of years ago, only people living in South America had access to the cocoa plant: no dark chocolate in medieval Europe or Asia! So, how did our forefathers cope with their chronic inflammation? And, while we are talking about our ancestors, how come they did not suffer from so many of the disorders listed earlier as we do today? What were their secrets? One secret we already mentioned: yoga and other exercises and massage therapies that mobilized the tissues and enhanced the flow of energy throughout the body. The other secret was a source of powerful and abundant antioxidants that did not come from our food.
The Global Earth Circuit
To neutralize all those free radicals being produced by our chronic inflammation, we need a source of free electrons. Guess where the biggest supply of the free electrons are? Yep - you guessed it - right beneath our feet! We've been walking on Vitamin G (G for ground) and never knew it.
The surface of our earth is electrically negative relative to the upper atmosphere.3 In clear weather, electrons leak from the earth to the atmosphere, fortunately in tiny amounts, so we are not zapped when we walk on the earth. In stormy weather, lightening discharges electrons from the bottom of thunderclouds and they end up back in the earth. The whole cycle is called the Global Earth Circuit. The electrons can travel along the surface of the earth and water: these are called telluric currents.4
When our skin is touching the surface of the earth, these electrons are drawn into our body. Where do they go? Hmmm, well, where in our body is there a deficit of electrons? The free radicals! The electronics neutralize the free radicals, helping to reduce and even end the cycle of chronic inflammation. All it takes is to touch the earth, and we can reduce or stop inflammation. This process has recently been named earthing.5
- Cook et al. (2007)
- Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2008) 12 - 40-57
- The Earth's Electrical Surface Potential - A summary of present understanding (January 2007) by Gaetan Chavalier, PhD, Director of Research, California Institute for Human Science, Graduate School & Research Center, Encinitas, CA
- See the article on telluric currents in Wikipedia
- Earthing is different than grounding, which is a term often used in the electrical industries to describe conducting excess or sudden charges away from a device, or a person, to the earth. In earthing, we are drawing electrons up from the ground into our bodies; in grounding we are sending an excess of electrons into the earth.
This article is an excerpt of Bernie's full version article. What do you think of the idea of this article? Would the idea of earthing is plausible to you? Or have you practiced it already? Contact us with your stories or leave your comments below :)