It’s official … this Christian midwestern momma grizzly to four cubs is now a full-fledged, card-carrying hippie. You see, I just got back from a trip with some girlfriends to Northern California’s coastal redwood country. The stress of being a nurse practitioner in a busy AF ER was wiped away clean. 

Sure, the whole environment was beautiful with majestic Roosevelt elk, but there was something magical about how powerfully the redwoods affected my psyche. If only I could uproot a few of them and plant them in my backyard here in Nebraska!

So I got to thinking, was the relaxation I felt the result of just being on vacation in a beautiful environment? Or was there something more to the story? Are there science-backed benefits of getting in touch with your inner hippie? While I might not be quite ready to live in a tree, I want to spend more time among them. And here’s why…

Tree Hugging = Earthing/Grounding

Simply put, when your hands or feet make contact with the Earth’s surface—or products that mimic the Earth’s electromagnetic field—this act is called earthing or grounding. Grounding enhances health and provides feelings of well-being. And you don’t have to be a hardcore hippie to reap these benefits. Trust me, I’ve never sparked a doobie or listened to Janis Joplin! But those redwoods trees got to me, I’m telling ya!

But don’t take my word for it. “Research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth (grounding or earthing) produces intriguing effects on physiology and health, says a published in the Journal of Inflammation Research (JIR) titled, “The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”

How Does Grounding Positively Influence Health?

Basically, there’s four theories. First, the Earth’s surface carries a negative electrical charge. Now, negative does not imply here that it’s a bad thing. Just like a battery has positive and negative, the Earth has both negative and positive ions (charged particles). 

When you’re in the woods sitting by a stream, walking along the beach, or hugging redwood trees like I did, you’re being exposed to 

These negative ions, which neutralize positively-charged free radicals. 

So yeah, keep taking your vitamins and eat lots of fresh produce. But spend more time in nature because it’s a natural antioxidant!

The second way grounding may boost health is by neutralizing electromagnetic fields (EMFs). We’re constantly bombarded by EMFs through our cell phones, computers, Wifi routers and other electronic gadgets, not to mention power lines and 5G towers. EMFs can disrupt the body’s natural electrical balance; grounding may help to restore it.

In addition, spending time outdoors and being in contact with the Earth’s natural electromagnetic fields may help regulate our internal biological clocks and promote better sleep, hormonal balance, and overall circadian rhythm synchronization. This, in turn, helps reduce stress. 

The Benefits of Grounding and Earthing

But what does grounding do physiologically? In other words, what’s going on under the hood when we embrace our inner hippie? 

“Grounding an organism produces measurable differences in the concentrations of white blood cells, cytokines, and other molecules involved in the inflammatory response,” the JIR study concludes. 

The researchers added that based on current research, “grounding reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, and also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation.”

Another study showed that substances that trees emit called phytoncides increase human natural killer (NK) cell activity, which helps fight pathogens like viruses and harmful bacteria. 

Although your teenagers don’t want to stay grounded, it’s good for us older adults! (Sorry for the corny pun). 

How To Do Grounding/Earthing

The first obvious way is to get out in nature and all it takes to benefit from grounding/earthing is a brisk 20-minute walk or so. 

Staring at screens all day and no time in nature is bad for the soul. That’s why the Japanese, a typically overworked society, invented the concept of “forest bathing”. 

In one research study, forest bathing was shown to lower concentrations of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. In addition, the research showed that immersing yourself in nature lowers heart rate and blood pressure and activates the body’s rest-and-digest parasympathetic nervous system. 

Grounding/Earthing Products 

If you can’t get out in nature often or want to do more grounding, just sleep it off! Grounding sleep products such as mattresses, sheets, pillows and sleeping pads are a thing. 

Life coach Scott Jeffrey (website) explains that earthing sheets are made from electromagnetic-conductive material which connects to a wire that’s plugged into a grounding port on a standard electrical outlet (the third prong; the single hole beneath the other two prongs).

Jeffrey continues: “Every household outlet has a ground wire that connects the electricity in the house to the ground outside. In case there’s a short circuit, the ground absorbs the electrical current via the grounding wire.” Without a ground wire, when a person makes contact with an electrical device, the electric ground path is completed, resulting in possible electrocution.

“By grounding your bedding to this grounding wire, you’re theoretically grounding yourself to the Earth, allowing electrons to scavenge your excessive free radicals,” Jeffrey explains. 

If you sleep with a Wifi router in your room or your smartphone next to your bed, grounding sheets and other earthing sleep products may eliminate harmful, inflammatory electromagnetic radiation while you sleep, by introducing new electrons into your body. 

Do Grounding Products Really Work?

But is this hippie science or does it work? Jeffrey points to a preliminary study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which found that participants who slept with a grounding pad showed a reduction in cortisol levels and had more normalized circadian rhythms. 

Now, this study was not exactly a huge meta-analysis or large clinical trial but the benefits of grounding and earthing echo the findings I mentioned above.

So whether it’s mattresses, sheets, sleeping pads, pillows, foot pads, grounding shoes, or other products, go get grounded!

Or just go for a long walk on the beach barefoot. Or do what I proudly did and go hug a tree! (You don’t have to fly to California to visit a redwood, any tree in your neighborhood will do.)

And if you need more hand-holding in improving your health and getting rid of pain, that’s why God put me on this great, green Earth! Get in touch with me for health coaching and functional medicine testing.

Until next time,

Jenna Witt, NP