Earthing, interchangeably called “grounding,” is a term that refers to walking on the surface of the earth without any footwear. The bare feet must make contact with the ground. Advocates for earthing describe it as a free, natural way to achieve a wide range of health benefits.
But has earthing ever been studied in medical research, and if so, what were the effects? How does earthing actually work? And how do real people who try earthing describe the effects they experience?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we review medical research on earthing to highlight some of the potential health benefits. We'll break our article into four sections to discuss four potential health benefits: anti-inflammatory, improved mood, better sleep, reduced cardiovascular risk. We'll also share a review from someone who tried earthing in nature for seven days straight.
First, we'll explain the biological effect that earthing has on the body, which is pretty fascinating.
How Does Earthing Work?
Earthing is proposed to work because electrons enter the body through the Earth’s surface and are able to neutralize damaging free radicals in a more efficient manner than dietary antioxidants.
This continual free radical scavenging is what may cause earthing to reduce inflammatory markers, and may be one reason our ancestors had such lower incidence of chronic disease than modern humans (though the main reason is certainly lifestyle factors like diet and exercise).
Most of the medical research studies that we'll discuss in the coming sections propose this as the mechanism of action.
A medical review published in the Journal of Inflammation Research found that grounding has the potential to reduce and totally alleviate inflammation caused by injury.
The researchers reviewed several case reports, including an 84 year old diabetic woman whose non-healing wound healed after two weeks of daily 30-minute grounding sessions.
Another report from this study, complete with medical infrared imaging, documents a 33-year old woman who suffered from chronic knee pain for over 15 years due to an injury sustained as a teenager.
After only four weeks of daily 30-minute grounding sessions, she was able to play soccer and reported that for the first time in 15 years she felt no instability and little pain. After 12 weeks, her pain had diminished by 90% and after six months she was able to complete a half-marathon.
A 2019 clinical trial measured the effects of grounding on pain. The study used a fake and a real grounding device (which provides similar electric current to the Earth) to control the placebo effect, and measured pain scores of participants. The subjects that used the real grounding mat experienced diminished pain, and this effect was more notable for subjects with higher pain to begin with.
It’s important to note that these studies are early-stage and not particularly well designed in our opinion. We would be curious to see a comparative study on earthing and a pain medication in the future.
A clinical trial published in the Psychological Reports journal tested the effects of grounding on mood. Trial participants either used a real grounding or a "sham" grounding device.
Those using the real grounding device experienced a 9.8% improvement in mood after one hour of treatment.
A medical review on grounding found that the practice promotes significant quality-of-life improvements.
We Tried Earthing Ourselves
As one of the authors of this article (Calloway), I wanted to try earthing myself to share my thoughts on its effects.
I spent 30 minutes grounding outdoors in a garden outside of my house for one month straight (I did miss a few days).
I don't have chronic pain and I'm relatively healthy, but I sometimes get neck and back tension from long hours working remotely. I found that after grounding daily for one month, this muscle tension was greatly reduced.
Perhaps it's a placebo effect or perhaps grounding reduced inflammatory markers in my body, but in any case it makes me feel good so it's a practice I plan to continue.
I also noticed that earthing improved my mood. This could be simply due to being in nature, but I felt more relaxed and level-headed after. If I was having a stressful day, I'd often experience less stress post-grounding.
I went into this practice not expecting anything but have been pleasantly surprised.
A clinical trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested earthing as a way to solve sleep disturbances in 12 patients.
Circadian cortisol rhythms were normalized in all patients, and sleep quality improvements were reported by all participants. It’s important to note that this wasn’t a study controlled with a placebo group, so the results are relatively weak but are still interesting.
A 2022 clinical trial with a better study methodology (the trial was double-blinded) than the previously-linked study tested the effects of earthing on sleep quality in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease.
Participants in the grounding group experienced a 62.5% reduction in sleep disturbances, while the placebo group only experienced a 14.4% reduction in sleep disturbances.
Reduced Cardiovascular Risk
In the most astounding study we’ve seen yet on grounding, the practice was shown in a 2013 clinical trial to reduce blood viscosity.
This is important because blood viscosity can be a predictive factor for cardiovascular incidents like heart attacks.
This was a study with a small sample size, that has yet to be replicated, but if future medical trials confirm that earthing can normalize blood viscosity it would be an amazing scientific development.
Another study was done measuring earthing’s impact on blood pressure, which is one of the most important cardiovascular risk factors.
Patients in the study had high blood pressure, and used earthing devices for 10 hours a day in their homes for three months. At the end of the trial, the average systolic blood pressure decrease was 14.3%, which is significant and is a superior result to most leading blood pressure medications.
We’re not suggesting that earthing is superior to blood pressure medications, as this study wasn’t placebo-controlled and has yet to be replicated. We’re just highlighting how impressive this early-stage research is.
Real, Unsponsored Earthing Review
A health and wellness influencer called "Sky Life" published a YouTube video reviewing her earthing experience after seven days straight in nature:
How to Practice Earthing in Winter
Earthing is obviously free for those who have access to safe nature trails or beaches year-round. But many people in the modern world live in climates where it's too cold to go earthing year-round, or who may not have transportation or time to access a park every day.
For these consumers, it may be worth trying an earthing mat. The brand we recommend is the Earthing Grounding Mat sold by the Earthing brand on Amazon.
This mat has the best reviews of any of the earthing mats we surveyed, and some of the clinical trials cited in this article used earthing mats rather than actual earthing outdoors.
One of the benefits of earthing mats is that they allow for longer periods of earthing, given that most modern inhabitants who are employed can't spend half of the day outdoors without shoes.
Interested consumers can check out the Earthing Grounding Mat at this link to the product's official Amazon listing.