Blog Post

Grounding aka Earthing is Based on Bad Science

Despite its complete lack of scientific evidence, grounding (aka “earthing”) is once again becoming popular. We first wrote about it in 2013 and can confidently report that in the last 10 years, almost nothing has changed except for the addition of new “earthing” products developed by folks who insist upon believing in this pseudoscience.

For those who have never heard of it, the premise of grounding is that by taking off our rubber-soled shoes and walking barefoot on the earth, we are able to absorb electrons from the earth that can heal us.

". . . (E)arthing generates a powerful and positive shift in the electrical state of the body and restores natural self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms," this site claims. "We know that Earthing allows a transfer of electrons (the Earth’s natural, subtle energy) into the body."

Actually, we don’t know that the practice allows a transfer of electrons, at least not in the realm of serious science. As Dr. Steven Novella explains on his blog on the Science Based Medicine website, these claims are based upon the erroneous notion that in our natural state, primitive man was more connected to the earth by walking barefoot on the ground. This enabled electrons to flow to and from our bodies, creating a kind of electrical homeostasis that was good for our health. However, in the modern world, we live in buildings and wear rubber-soled shoes which isolates us electrically from the earth and causes us to be “out of electrical homeostasis.”

Modern science has found that this assertion lacks merit. It was cooked up by a man named Clint Ober, author of Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? and a contributor to Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial Goop blog.

According to his official bio, Ober first learned about grounding when installing Cable TV systems in the early 1960s. He eventually formed his own corporation which specialized in proper grounding of cable installations for safety and TV signal stability. In the 1980s, he became involved in the developing computer industry and partnered with McGraw-Hill to distribute live digital news services, via cable, to PCs. This led to the development of the first cable modem and an increased awareness of the need for proper system grounding.

A major health challenge in 1995 caused him to embark on a personal journey to discover a higher purpose in life and it was during his travels that he noticed people wearing rubber soled shoes that insulated them from the earth. He wondered if no longer being naturally grounded could affect our health which led to an experiment in which he discovered that grounding alone reduced chronic pain and improved sleep.

“Thereafter, he developed a working hypothesis: Grounding the human body to the Earth normalizes the functioning of all of the body's systems — the body utilizes the earth’s electrical potential and free electrons to maintain its internal electrical stability, normalizing all of its self-regulating and self-healing systems," the bio states.

However, none of this is scientifically plausible. As Dr. Steven Novella states, “Even with rubber soles, we are far from electrically isolated. We easily share electrons with everything we touch. When you have a brief buildup of electrical charge you usually find out right away, because you get a static electric shock the next time you touch something conductive (which, of course, neutralizes the charge). Just from the perspective of basic physics, earthing makes no sense. It sounds like the nonsense someone with only a partial understanding of the underlying science cooked up.”

His assertion is shared by Dr. Mubashar Rehman, a pharmaceutical scientist and author of more than 30 articles in leading medical publications. “The planet isn’t a giant electric battery, nor are living things,” he tells InsideHook. “In this regard, the idea that there are loose electrons lying in wait on the bare earth in some special way to connect with you and heal you is rather nonsensical. The idea that our bare feet can somehow act like special connectors to some mystical current flow is similarly false.”

In the past decade, the only scientific evidence for Ober’s assertions is the usual assortment of heavily biased and methodologically unsound tests.

But that hasn’t stopped the alternative industry from cranking out a myriad of products for people in search of grounding which contain materials such as “conductive carbon pigment” which is what allegedly conducts the earth’s energy. You can buy an Earthing Yoga Mat for $119, Earthing Sleep Systems that start at $369, Earthing Pillowcases for $59, Earthing product tester kits for $37 and ground rods for $30.

Our advice is to keep your wallet closed and pass on this fad. While it might feel good to kick your shoes off and walk around barefoot at the end of a long day, that's about as far as it goes.

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