Hilarious stuff. I love the book’s subtitle – “The most important health discovery ever?” As if this is up there with germ theory, antibiotics and vaccinations! This book is also supported by noted quackologist, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, who enjoys promoting nonsense about vitamins and detoxification,
Where do you find these things? You seem to have an endless fountain of this sort of nonsense at your disposal. Entertaining, but depressing.
I believe you’ve made a couple of mistakes in your discussion of the concept of grounding. As absurd as the whole concept of ‘Earthing’ is, it would be a shame to give it’s perpetrators a crack in your argument to work at (on the off chance that they have any understanding of physics or electrical circuits and are able to notice your mistakes).
First, I believe you are confusing the concept of current flow with the physical movement of electrons. When the initial experiments in electricity were being done, the concept of the direction of current flow was assigned at random. Unfortunately due to a bit of bad luck, the choice made was the wrong one, such that the direction of current flow chosen represented the movement of positively charged particles. By the time it was figured out that it’s the negatively charged electrons that move, it was too late, the convention had stuck. What this means is that if you have a circuit with ‘current’ flowing ‘into’ the ground, then what is actually happening is that electrons are flowing out of the ground. I remember finding this very frustrating in my first year circuits class.
Second, there is no guarantee in any given circuit that current will always flow into the ground. Current can just as easily flow out of the ground, depending on the direction of the voltage (positive or negative).
Other than that, a great take down of a particularly absurd piece of nonsense.
Technically, it’s not true that grounding only works by having electrons flow into the earth. Earth is simply an object so massive that it is unlikely to have it’s electrical charged changed by the activities of the things going on around it. So it becomes a reference point, a relative zero that won’t fluctuate (in a practical sense).
Electrons are negatively charged. The concept of having a negative or positive charge is a relative term, and if one object has more electrons than another then it will have a negative charge compared to that other. If the two objects are connected, then electrons will flow from that object to the other, balancing the two objects. Essentially, this is how a battery works – electrons flow from one side to the other.
If one of those two objects is the Earth, then you won’t be able to measure any significant change in it’s quantity of electrons, but still if the other object has a relative positive charge electrons will flow from the earth to the other object.
So it is possible, common, actually for electrons to move from earth into objects and it wouldn’t be correct to lambaste Ober for getting this technical detail wrong for the reasons that you stated. As to whether or not people generally collect negative or positive charges as they walk around life, and that are normally discharged every time they touch something that is grounded I couldn’t say.
The rest of the stuff sounds like BS to me. But if you’re going to knock him for getting the science wrong, at least make sure that you’re getting the science right.
Before I started working on nitric oxide, I worked 20 years on electrostatic separation, so I know a lot about electric fields, charges and electric potential.
In terms of DC, the human body is sufficiently conductive that it acts as its own Faraday cage.
In other words, any excess or deficiency of electrons shows up only at the external surface of the body. That is why people can stand on an insulated surface, put their hand on a Van de Graff generator and have their potential go so high that their hair stands on end. Their internal physiology is not affected at all.
The only possible mechanism by which being not grounded could have effects is by changing the flux of ions to the skin from the atmosphere. This will depend on the ambient concentration of ions and on the ambient electric fields in the atmosphere. These fluctuate with weather conditions. That is what causes lightning, a buildup of electric fields of hundreds of thousands of volts per meter over thousands of meters.
Plants, with roots, are just about as grounded as anything can be. Plants do experience ambient electric fields sufficient to cause electric currents to be generated by sharp points on their leaves. These sharp points can cause the generation of corona, where the air breaks down and becomes ionized. There is some thought that this might be slightly protective, during thunderstorms where the ions are released into the air and change the atmospheric space charge and reduce the likelihood of the plant being struck by lightning.
Corona generates ozone and can generate oxides of nitrogen. Those oxides of nitrogen end up as nitrate and can be utilized by the plant.
Essentially all particles in the air have a very slight charge and so are affected by ambient electric fields. This is important for deposition of things like pollen, fungal spores, bacteria and dust. Because plants can’t move, they are limited to the nutrients they can absorb from the ground they are in, and also the air that passes by. If plants arranged to electrostatically precipitate particles in the air, they could (in principle) receive trace nutrients from dust in the air. Airborne dust is a major source of iron in the ocean, it could also be a source of iron and other trace minerals in highly leached environments.
The ambient electric field is essentially all due to space charge in the air. The electric field due to that charge depends on the total charge between the measuring point and infinity (free space), or ground. Inside a building there is essentially no electric field because the building is sufficiently conductive to act as a Faraday cage, and/or is sufficiently conductive to be considered a grounded surface.
The external electric field depends on charges in the air, not on the grounding status of an individual. The external electric field will only affect the deposition of charged particles on the skin, any charged particles in inhaled air are shielded from the external electric field by conductive tissues. Even in someone charged up by a Van de Graff generator, the electric field in their lungs is zero.
Cathode ray tubes, the old computer monitors were CRTs. They use high energy electrons to write the image on the screen and that is why those screens would become charged. That level of charge can facilitate deposition of charged particles on the face and eyes of people using the screen. Grounding or not grounding the individual would have essentially no effect.
It strikes me that this is so ridiculous that it is a conscious con. Like Hubbard and Scientology.
As an aside, I enjoyed the explanation of free radicals and antioxidants very much. Those are two terms you see a great deal in marketing of various “healthy” foods and supplements and I’m ashamed to say that I never really looked up how they worked.
Being struck by lightning is sometimes much easier to survive than surviving a near miss, where lightning strikes the ground near you.
What kills people is current, not voltage. A lightning bolt is such a high current, that the normal resistance of the body causes a voltage high enough that air becomes conductive. Ohm’s law, V=IR, voltage equals current times resistance. Once air becomes conductive, it has essentially zero resistance, so there are only a few tens of volts across the ionized air path that is in parallel with the body. At a few tens of volts very little current flows through the body so there are very limited or even no effects.
The ionized air at the surface can have effects, thermal, UV from the ionization, or even mechanical shock from the shock wave. Nerves do tend to be more conductive than other tissues and they have an extended morphology, so nerves do tend to be damaged due to electrical effects.
Being grounded in the vicinity of a lightning strike would be bad. When lightning hits the ground, the very high current spreads out along the surface. Organisms standing near by can be injured by the electrical potential difference along the surface. Current goes up one leg and down the other, stopping the heart along the way. This is why you should avoid standing under a tree, if the tree is hit, there will be ground currents that could kill you. This is also why a herd of cattle can be killed by a single lightning strike, they all have multiple legs in contact with the ground, the current goes up one leg and down another. I suspect that may be why some herd animals have evolved the behavior of stampeding. A running animal has only one leg in contact with the ground at a time, and so is completely immune to ground currents. Standing on one leg would make one completely resistant to ground currents.
The potential difference between two feet in contact with the ground can be high, many thousands of volts, so being insulated from ground might not work, the current could just ionize the air and arc across the path.
I sometimes still work with high voltage electricity, so I prefer somewhat non-conductive shoes. When I was a child I had shoes made of PVC that were so non-conductive that I could touch an electric fence with no effects.
I think it’s a good idea to be completely precise about the true science when debunking pseudoscience. What you said is not accurate: “…the purpose of this low resistance path is so that current can flow from the system to the earth – not the other way around. The earth is not a source of electrons, it is a bottomless pit into which electrons can be thrown.”
Static charge can be negative (excess electrons) or positive (deficit of electrons). If a positively charged object is grounded, electrons will flow from the earth to the object to neutralize the charge.
The Triboelectric Series ranks materials by their tendency to accumulate positive or negative static charge. In fact, human skin is at the extreme positive end of the series. So if human skin is statically charged, upon grounding electrons will flow from earth to neutralize the charge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triboelectric_effect
This guy should stick a fork in an outlet and get rid of all his free radicals, with a full set of free flowing electrons. Grab onto Dr. Oz too at the same time. I am not advocating violence just trying to help them maintain balance, Qi, neutralizing electrons or what ever else they are trying to achieve.
Hi – You guys are really too much. I suggest you look into the concept of Earthing a little deeper.
As a danish distributor of the Earthing products I know from my personal experience and the experience of my customers, that physical contact with the ground, either directly of through an specially designed Earthing product, works.
Calling it pseudoscience tells more about you quys than it does about the MD’s behind the research on Earthing.
The Earth can act as a source or a sink for electrons; the free flow of current along the low-resistance path isn’t just one-way.
Samuel Morse and others originally ran telegraph wires with one wire, using the Earth as a “return path” for the current. The resistance of the Earth is large enough that it wasn’t a true return path, but the batteries used in the telegraph were able to put electrons into the ground at one point and draw other electrons up from the ground at another point so it worked quite well.
Thanks for the corrections. Spelling errors corrected.
I can see how my description of current was confusing. I know electrons are negative and current is the “flow” of positive charge, so I should not have used current when I was referring to electron flow.
From what I read, however, people are just as likely to build up negative static charge as positive, depending on the materials involved. Walking on a wool carpet, for example (a common source of static electricity) should build up a negative charge on a person. (The triboelectric series determines this -http://www.electrostatics.net/articles/static_build_up_on_people.htm)
Looking back at my sources, they often referred to “electricity flowing” or “charge flowing” to the ground, which is not the same thing as “current”, which caused my confusion. I also see that grounding can dissipate charge build up by either providing electrons or taking them away.
I will make the appropriate corrections to the original post.
ralphb, there is nothing incorrect in what Dr Novella has written. Current is defined as a flow of positive electric charge. Electrons are charged negatively. Current flows in the opposite direction of electron flow. In some materials the charge carriers are charged negative (electrons) or positive (holes).
The Earth is both a source and sink of electrons and current. The sign of charge that flows from a grounded object to ground can be either positive or negative depending on the ambient electric field.
The triboelectric series is more complicated than the discussion in wikipedia indicates. The series is not monotonic. There are circles where each material charges to one sign with respect to the other where A charges positive with respect to B and B charges positive with respect to C and C charges positive with respect to A.
There are some non-correct statements in the wikipedia article. Low relative humidity increases electrostatic effects by reducing conductive films of water on solid materials, not by changing the conductivity of air. Dry air and humid air are both excellent insulators. Conductivity only depends on mobile charge carriers. If there are no charge carriers, a material is not conductive. Air doesn’t have charge carriers unless it is ionized, neither does steam. Dry air, humid air and steam are all excellent insulators.
The explanation of triboelectric charging is not very good. It is all “contact” charging, the charge transfer is due only to contact. Rubbing only serves to change the degree and nature of contact. All materials (except inert gas solids) have electrons that are holding the material together in bonds. These electrons can be removed from the material, the energy to do so is called the work function. When two materials are contacted, at the point of contact all electrons must have the same energy, so electrons move until the energy at the point of contact is equalized. This generates fields in the material, known as band-bending in the semiconductor industry. This generates a potential across the interface between the two materials equal to the difference in work function. If that work function difference is 0.1 volt, and the spacing is 1 nanometer, then the electric field is 0.1 volt/10-9 meters or 10+8 volts per meter. Breakdown in air is about 3×10+6 volts per meter, so breakdown of air due to materials contact charging is common. This breakdown generates ions and electrons, the electric fields can accelerate those electrons, those high energy electrons can penetrate into dielectric materials and become trapped. This is how teflon and polyethylene become so negative charging.
There can be substantial hysteresis where charges can be permanently “trapped” and form electrets. This is the source of the negative charging properties of teflon and polyethylene. They have trapped electrons in the material that are stable long term (years or even centuries for teflon). Those negative charges are then “compensated” by positive charges which accumulate on the surface, but which are not conducted to the trapped charge because the materials are non-conductive. When the surface is contacted, those “compensating” charges are easy to remove, leaving behind the negative trapped charge.
clausbee – your response is very typical when I right such articles. You have not contradicted anything specific I said in the post, just offered your own personal anecdotal evidence. Thanks, as least, for admitting that you are a distributor and therefore have a blatant conflict of interest.
If you want to be taken seriously please provide links to well-conducted clinical research demonstrating any claim made for earthing products. (“well-conducted” is the key)
clausbee – you sell some very interesting things on your website and obviously have a vested interest in promoting this stuff. Do you really need all those wires to get “Earthed”? Can’t you just plant your feet in the dirt, like the cover of the book suggests? Why do you need a grounding thing for a car seat? Aren’t the rubber tires on a car insulators?
Wow, I was on the T this morning and these two people behind me were talking about Earthing. Basically their whole conversation went on and on about how the earth is trying to heal itself (with the increases in natural disasters … which aren’t actually increasing) and how we need to return to our roots, and how humans are more healthy when they live next to water, and how homeopathy cured her nephew’s autism. I almost turned around and started talking to them …
I am always baffled by the tendency to romaticize the past, and I think that is also part of this pseudoscience. There is this notion that what happened decades ago (or hundreds or thousands of years ago, depending on the topic) was ideal, and modern society has harmed us by taking us away from how things are “supposed” to be. This idea is in direct conflict with reality as, every time we measure it, our life expectancies are at all time highs, and we live lives of relatively luxury. Sure we have some modern health problems, but I’ll take those every day of the week versus what people we worried about decades ago.
OK, good Dr. N. — first let’s stipulate that Earthing is indeed a huge, fresh, redolent, steaming pile of stupid, and further stipulate that you have assessed its value to the nickel.
With that said, may I be permitted a nit-pick?
You say that
Obstructive sleep apnea is an anatomical problem – closing off of the airway during sleep. It is not treatable physiologically.
… which, in context, is not perfectly responsive to the particular stupidity at hand. The quoted passage refers only to “sleep apnea” without specifying whether Earthing is an absolutely peachy sovereign cure for Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) or, as you suggested, for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Now, I realize that, if Earthing cures everything, the distinction is academic. But what if Earthing causes electrical thingies interfering with your brain’s motor signals to drain away, thus curing CSA? Or, conversely, what if Earthing causes a contraction of the genioglossus muscle at just the right moment, thus curing OSA? In such a case reversing the polarity might cause you to swallow your tongue! And die!! Have there been any mysterious fatalities among Earthers? This calls –nay, cries out, for an investigation!
jre – I noted the distinction, which is why I added “obstructive” sleep apnea to be clear what I was talking about. If the article meant central, they should have said so. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common than central, and so that is likely what they meant.
The theme of the post is how fraud,camouflaged as scientific novelty sells fly by night products.Pseudoscience is an efficient delivery system,imbuing products with elemental forces that heal through alchemy.The demographic the huckster is exploiting is a dumb-downed, television addicted sloths.Many people’s lives are instructed by the divinity of the commercial where advertising claims and science are equivalent.
I have begun to be the local skeptic in my meetups here in my corner of the deep south that is easily cast as a “too quick to dismiss alternative medicine without enough evidence”…..I had another skeptic get pretty pissed at me for suggesting that glucosamine/chondroitin (despite her hard stance that it works) does not work, and began to discuss the larger more recent reviews of the research etc and so on….same with acupuncture…I am making my case, and I can just feel everyone saying “dude, you are just being too extreme about this”….
Even among skeptics, this primitivism and the appeal to nature as well, is so strong. Mix that with a bit of cynicism and broad sweeping foggy beliefs about the evils of many aspects of the practice of “western medicine”, and there still is decent amount of traction for the woo woo alternative crapola….
It saddens me that I cannot just come out and call it crapola and just be preaching to the choir among a bunch of atheist skeptics (although not skeptical enough about some of the woo woo crapola in my opinion) – they will come around though…they have been at least open to hear the points so far…but with each battle I win, they seem to retain the general feeling that “ya know, there is just something to this stuff though, I am unwilling to be ‘that’ skeptical of alternative medicine”
Btw…what the hell are these goofy shoes people are wearing at times that have little or no soles with the toe slots…..an applicant to our pharmacy residency was wearing a pair to the interview and I asked him about them when we were having lunch….I was informed that it improves running performance and form….I had major skepticism right off the bat….seems like just another appeal to nature fallacy?
‘I had another skeptic get pretty pissed at me for suggesting that glucosamine/chondroitin (despite her hard stance that it works) does not work’
Strangely enough, for the last two years I have been experiencing an increasingly serious pain in my knee – no doubt due to my lengthy soccer career and the fact that my only use for a left leg on the pitch was to keep me vertical. My doctor had suggested that key hole surgery might be necessary.
A couple of my family members suggested to me that glucosamine had helped them. Of course I was the total skeptic, and thought it must be the placebo effect, some kind of homeopathetic psychiatric rubbish, a waste of time and money etc, but I decided to try it. Guess what! A week after I started a course my pain started to dissipate, and after a month I was pain free. I still am. It is possibly the placebo effect in action or probably my knee may have started to heal naturally, but the difference it has made is so strong that I do wonder, despite the scientific literature.
I am not going to bother to investigate earthing just yet though.
I am probably confusing correlation with causation but has not people’s lifespan and health improved dramatically since the introduction of rubber soles? Maybe he has it backwards and should be promoting Insulating.
“My doctor had suggested that key hole surgery might be necessary.”
Why? What did the MRI show?
“Of course I was the total skeptic, and thought it must be the placebo effect, some kind of homeopathetic psychiatric rubbish, a waste of time and money etc… ”
If you are the total sceptic then I assume you must have researched this – because a total sceptic does not dismiss anything out of hand, they collect evidence and make conclusions based on that evidence.
“but I decided to try it.”
If you researched this and concluded that the evidence showed it did not work, why would you bother trying it? That’s what being a total sceptic means to me. It is easy to be a sceptic in the case of someone else’s illness, but he true test of a sceptic comes when he applies it to his own illness.
“the difference it has made is so strong that I do wonder, despite the scientific literature.”
You place one anecdote against the scientific literature and that makes you wonder?
“I am not going to bother to investigate earthing just yet though.”
What if makes a big difference? Won’t that make you wonder?
My MRI did not show anything conclusive. My doctor suggested the next step would have to be an
arthroscopy – a type of keyhole surgery that is used both to diagnose problems with the joints and to repair damage to the joints. I was not keen and decided to wait and see if it would heal itself.
I had anecdotal evidence from two members of my family, including my elderly mother (in her 80s) who was able to resume her country line dance classes after a short course!!
The UK National Health Service stated ‘The evidence supporting the effectiveness of glucosamine is mixed and very limited. Some large trials have demonstrated moderate benefits, whilst others have not provided evidence of any benefit from continued use of glucosamine. Some trials have found glucosamine to be no better than taking a placebo’
If glucosamine sulfate actually is proven to be effective in patients with osteoarthritis, it may result from anti-inflammatory activity, stimulation of proteoglycan synthesis, decrease in catabolic activity of chondrocytes inhibiting the synthesis of proteolytic enzymes and other substances that contribute to cartilage integrity. Or do nothing at all.
So since glucosomine is cheap and readily available here, I decided it would do no harm. It worked for me, although I accept this may have been a coincidence.
I maintain that it does not work….if a patient asks me if they think it will work…I will say no based on the data…but if they go on to ask me if I think it will do harm..based on the data I would say no…..
I do not think Dirk you would disagree with this…I do not fault you for trying it out necessarily…and I am glad it worked for you….but as you said, there are many explanations for folks anecdotes beyond a broader assumption that “glucosamine/chondroitoin works”…..by the evidence, it does not.
I exaggerate of course but, for every back pain sufferer who has recovered from their back pain, there is a different treatment that cured them. What does that mean? Probably that the treatment that cured them was the last one they tried before their pain spontanously resolved.
About ten years ago I suffered severe unremitting back pain for just over twelve months. It started for no particular reason that I could determine and spontaneously resolved for no particular reason. I did not use any conventional or alternative medications or treatments.
Just a week or two before the pain spontaneously disappeared, somebody I met at a party recommended I try chiropractic. If I had taken up the suggestion I’m sure I would be crediting chiropractic for my miraculous cure.
I’m always reminded of this when anyone uses personal anecdote as evidence worth taking into account. As I have learnt on blogs such as these, anecdotes can serve only as hypothesis generators for which evidence via methodolgically sound clinical trials should be sought. Otherwise they are useless, nearly always misleading, sometimes harmful and, on occasion, even fatal.
How many people after reading Dirk’s anecdote will try glucosamine for their joint pain or recommend it to their friends?
And so the woo windmill keeps turning…
‘How many people reading your anecdote will, based on your implicit advice, not seek any treatment?
Yep totally agree! I told my little tale as an interesting personal anecdote – nothing more. You all must know by now how much I hate the pseudoscientific quack doctors – the homeopaths, the psychiatrists, and the crystal reflexologists. All those that feed themselves on the misery of the vunerable.
‘How many people reading your anecdote will, based on your implicit advice, not seek any treatment?’
There is only one CAM that I subscribe to and fully recommend to everyone. It is well known that inflamed haemorrhoids, the vascular structures in the anal canal which help with stool control, can be cured with the judicious use of the peyote cactus. Don’t knock it until you have tried it.
““How many people reading your anecdote will, based on your implicit advice, not seek any treatment? Hopefully none.”
say what?? I think we can say that what was meant was anecdotal evidence when there is significantly more non-anecdotal evidence becomes increasingly useless…with glucosamin chondroitin I would assert that one anecdote is useless.
‘I am always baffled by the tendency to romaticize the past’
It is a deep evolutionary human instinct. What works well in the past and contributes to our genetic replication, will ‘hopefully’ work just as well in the future. It is the basis of all our traditional beliefs. One one hand it maintains the great historical scientific insights such as the theory of relativity but on the other hand…
I was not using an anecdote to prove anything.
I was illustrating how it is possble to be certain that a particular treatment cured you when, in fact, even after it had been present for a long time before trying that treatment, it could have just resolved spontaneously.
After twelve months of unremitting pain, my back pain spontaneously resolved without any treatment. If, a couple of weeks prior to that, I had taken up the advice to try chiropractic I would probably now be singing its praises.
“It is a deep evolutionary human instinct. What works well in the past and contributes to our genetic replication, will ‘hopefully’ work just as well in the future.
I think you are missing the implications of what I meant by “romanticizing the past.” It implies that people think of the past in an unrealistic and idealized way, and overemphasize or even fabricate the positive aspects of the past and downplay/ignore the negatives. I do understand the potential benefits, but there is a pretty big downside. I can see how it contributes to a broad sense of happiness/contentment with one’s life experiences as a whole, but it also can make an individual relatively unhappy about current circumstances. It also can cause people to make bad decisions, since they are based upon inaccurate information.
Regarding your comment about remembering what worked in the past, I don’t think romanticizing is really necessary for that, and in fact may be misleading as it is an inaccurate perception.
clausbee – you sell some very interesting things on your website and obviously have a vested interest in promoting this stuff. Do you really need all those wires to get “Earthed”? Can’t you just plant your feet in the dirt, like the cover of the book suggests? Why do you need a grounding thing for a car seat? Aren’t the rubber tires on a car insulators?
Yes indeed! And they are also excellent at generating a charge as they rub across asphalt over the period of a day, which is part of the reason I tend to question the recommendation to avoid blowing yourself up at a gas station by making sure you don’t climb back in your car while pumping — while climbing into the car (especially if you have cloth seats) can indeed generate charge, your car has probably generated quite a bit more, which may discharge when you touch it with the nice, conductive, grounded gas pump nozzle. (There had been a tendency for a while to blame vehicle explosions at gas stations on women who climb back into the car while pumping, but I don’t think that women — or any kind of humans — are usually the main static charge generators in this situation. I think it’s the cars themselves, so ground before tanking.)
@starskeptic – Can you clarify the significance of “Sedona, Arizona” for me?
Sedona is a very pretty town in Arizona, where the rocks are famously a natural salmon color, particularly lovely at certain times of the day. It may be this natural beauty that made the town a major draw for artists decades ago, and it grew up as sort of an art commune, far away from major cities. In the 60s and 70s, a lot of counterculture and New Age stuff started moving in as well, probably drawn by the same things that drew artists there, and today it has a high concentration of craziness and medical wackaloonery. One unique to the area is the belief that there are “vortexes” in the region. I’m really not clear on what that is supposed to mean.
But it’s such a lovely place that it’s still worth visiting just to see it. Seriously. I’ve only been there once, but it was gorgeous.
Greetings, Dr. Novella and response team!
I am highly motivated to make sure I understand what you are and are not saying. As a practicing Family Physician, I have numerous patients for whom my consistent application of evidence-based medicine has not led to as much improvement in their lives as we would like, so additional tools for my toolbox could have a big impact. And historically, the truth of an assertion has correlated poorly with the amount of scorn and ire that it has generated. So I hope you will take my inquiries seriously enough to answer them logically/factually to the best of your ability.
Question One: I hear loudly and clearly your position that the Earthing studies are poorly designed. I’d like more detail about this. I do know better than to base conclusions on testimonials. However, at least a few of the studies on the Earthing website are actually double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized studies of single variables in human beings. Have you or your colleagues attempted to replicate any of these and found different results? Have you personally calculated the statistics and found that an effect, while apparently present, fails to meet statistical significance? If so, I would love to hear/read those details. If not, I would like to read more about your specific objections, based on relevant experience. (If the experience is based on patients studied while shod/insulated in indoor labs, I’d like you to explain how these are relevant; if the experience has to do with the charge on air molecules, I’d like your thinking about how that relates to charges within cells. If you have a theory other than Earthing to explain the findings of the studies, such as the blood viscosity or heart rate variability changes, I’d love to hear your alternate explanations.) For the safety of my patients I need to know whether these Earthing people are onto something potentially useful, or simply exaggerating and over-interpreting the placebo effect of a harmless activity, or being accused of actual fraudulent publication of data.
Question Two: Do any of you happen to know whether wild animals in nature give each other static electricity shocks when they encounter one another?
Question Three: Do any of you happen to know whether wild animals in the wild get autoimmune diseases or allergies?
Question Four: Have any of you, or anyone you know, tried Earthing techniques and found them unhelpful? Damaging? Will you tell me about that?
Question Five: How was it determined that the body acts as a Faraday cage and that therefore all the relevant charges are on the surface? Why do technicians in high-power jobs need special grounding footwear if the condition of the floor or ground doesn’t affect internal organs? How is it that lightning can change the electrical rhythm of the heart, and how can EEG’s and EMG’s tell us anything, if non-surface cells of the body all have the same electrical potential all the time?
Question Six: Do you think there is a difference between romanticizing the past and paying attention to factors with which a species did or did not co-evolve?
Thank you in advance for your help.
All you have written, may all be true. But it is written from a scientific mind. And so, off course, it sees what is wrong with all the so-called scientific research of earthing-product.
But did you tried an earthing-mat yourself and listened to the feedback of your body after half an hour, a night, a week. Then you probabaly get an whole other truth! But that will be a truth our scientific mind cant explain.
I get a lot of these comments (like marold). They basically state:
- I disagree with the scientific evidence because I don’t like science
- I prefer to listen to anecdotal evidence
- you should try X so that your personal anecdotal evidence can also trump careful scientific evidence.
This line of argument will never be compelling to a scientific, skeptic, or critical thinker. But it is useful in revealing the poor thinking and logic that leads people to accept such dubious claims as earthing.
jenbkm – can you tell me what your relationship is with earthing?
To answer your questions:
1 – I gave a link to the studies I critiques. You claim there are good studies – Please provide specific references and I would be happy to evaluate them.
2 – What is the relevance of this question? How exactly would you test this?
3 – Animals gets autoimmune diseases. Again – not sure how we would test “wild animals in the wild” and why that would matter.
4 – Anecdotal evidence not relevant
5 – Who said there are no relevant charges inside tissue. This is a straw man.
6 – there is a difference, but earthing is a clear example of the naturalistic fallacy, in my opinion.
The questions seem like a diversion from the fact that the promoters of earthing have the burden of proof that their concepts are correct and the evidence supports their claims. They have not met this burden – not even close.
My relationship with Earthing? Never heard of it until someone lent us the book about 10 days ago and I read it. As I mentioned, I’m a practicing Family Physician, and there are a great many more people in pain and suffering than we docs can take good care of, both for financial/access-to-care reasons and because of the gaps in collective medical knowledge. I have a few patients who still have high blood pressure despite being on five BP meds, for example; I also have patients who are allergic to all the pain meds we can find to try. So if there is something else that might help and is unlikely to do harm, I don’t act as if the burden of proof is on the discoverer or rediscoverer–especially if it’s free. “Should I encourage my patients to try walking on wet sand barefoot, or is that a waste of their precious time?” That’s my relationship so far.
OK, now for the studies. In your link called “summarized here,” one is called 2.41. It is randomized and double blind and shows a change in left hemispheric EEG. I’m not suggesting that the review article proves that earthing will, say, prevent seizures, but do you think it doesn’t show that earthing affects reg?
Then there’s 2.4.3. It sounds like it may be only single-blinded—can’t tell—but in addition to subjective results, it measures creatine kinase and WBC counts—things that are real measures of muscle breakdown and inflammation in my world, and ought to be relevant to delayed onset muscle soreness. Any objections there?
In 2.4.5, another double-blinded study, grounding appeared to affect TSH, as well as urinary calcium excretion. Whether or not it is a strong or prolonged enough effect to protect one from osteoporosis, of course, remains to be seen; but lots of patients have TSH fluctuations (over periods of months) that I can’t explain using the current cutting edge of MD-style endocrinology. And prolonged low TSH definitely causes osteoporosis.
Relevance of wild animals in the wild (i.e. in grounded state, not in zoos with insulated-floor cages) not giving static electric shocks or not getting autoimmune diseases—merely that if true, it would help me and my patients visualize the concepts involved, even if we aren’t electroscientists.
Anecdotal evidence is only anecdotal, but in many parts of M.D. medicine that’s about all we’ve got. (I have to prescribe meds for patients who are nothing like the people in those meds’ studies, for example; “this drug is safe and effective for six months in 60 year olds; you’re 75 and have been on it for 12 months and it seems to be still helping you; I guess I can refill it.”) Please do note that I asked only for the negative evidence, since the book was full of the other part; where huge well-designed studies of relevant clinical endpoints are lacking, at least I need to listen to people with all different experiences before deciding what tentative recommendations to make. I love science—just can’t get enough of it!
About the straw man—sorry, I guess I misinterpreted daedalus2u.
About the naturalistic fallacy—OK, you’re entitled to your opinion. Some folks think the burden of proof should be on those who want to expose people to factors with which we did not co-evolve, since we survived evolution so far. (Not too popular with biotech companies…) But I can benefit from your reply about the specific studies above, even if we never agree on this past part.
The earthing products work. I don’t care what the science is behind them. A lot of this stuff does nothing for me and the earthing pad does. I have osteoarthritis and the meds the doctor gave me didn’t help. Nothing helped. This takes all the pain and inflammation out of my joints. And I noticed folks scoffing about glucosamine on here. My husband has bad knees. He has no kneecaps left, they have disintegrated. The pain was horrible. He went to an osteo doctor and was told he would have to have them replaced. I started him on glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM supplements and fish oil. That was 7 years ago. He has almost no pain and walks fine now, before was using a cane and in agony many days of the week. I don’t know or care what the science is behind these items, I just know they work and the conventional doctors/meds could not help us. So you can smirk at this stuff all you want but when conventional medicine and doctors can’t help you and you are in pain every day, where is your answer. And by the way, the glucosamine does not work for me. Every person is different and has a different chemistry. As a doctor, you should know this. Making fun of products just because the studies may not fit your narrow band of acceptance or calling them pseudo science etc. just shows a closed mind. I thought md’s were supposed to help heal the patient or at least alleve their pain. That’s where your efforts should be.
Earthing, another false whatever you want to call it. I had severe knee pain from sports, then a whiplash accident then sciatica. Then I got a dog and after a few months my knees were pain free and my back felt great. and I could get out of a chair without the usual pain associated with just sitting that I had.
The real reason for all of this was that I was not moving around. At 75 I thought I was active but apparently I needed more. So the getting up and down on the floor playing with the dog and walking the dog was what I needed.
I like to go to the Jersey shore in the summer. I feel energized. I walk barefoot on the beach and deep breath the ocean air. Earthing? NO! The walking and breathing are what makes me feel good.
While there are certainly cranks, quacks, and pseudo-scientists aplenty that fill books and the internet with nonsense, earthing is not one of these things. It has real benefits that I can personally attest to, as can hundreds of other people. Is the Earthing book poorly written? Yes. Does it use sensationalistic language to try to attract attention? Yes. Are its claimed benefits and method of action counter-intuitive to scientific investigators? Yes. Does that mean it doesn’t work? No.
Just because nobody has truly figured out why it works, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Scientists risk making themselves into “pseudo-scientists,” as the author of this rude and condescending post has done for himself, by refusing to investigate causal mechanisms that they “know” can’t be true. They dismiss them without trial, to the detriment of millions, and the detriment of science itself.
Medical fallacies have blinded scientists and physicians to beneficial treatments in hundreds of cases down through the centuries, and extending right to the present day. Probably the current most egregious case is chronic fatigue syndrome, which, though it has real and lasting physiological effects and has recently finally been investigated for viral and bacterial causes, is still dismissed by many scientists as a form of neurasthenia to be classified as a psychiatric condition. These knowlegable, trained scientists decline to investigate what they dismiss as “anecdotal evidence” time after time because of what they think they know to be true, that has later been proven to be false.
For generations, scientists and doctors believed peptic ulcers were caused by acid in the diet, compounded possibly by stress. When Helicobacter pylori was rediscovered in 1982 (having been suspected nearly a century earlier) by Warren and Marshall, and implicated as a causative factor for ulcers, their hypothesis was poorly received. It was not widely believed for another 15 years, despite real evidence that, again, was dismissed as “anecdotal evidence.” In 2005 Warren and Marshall were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on H. pylori and PUD. Doctors now know that their prescribed low-acid diets actually caused more harm than good. Gee, who woulda thunk it? But you couldn’t have told them that previously.
For many decades, the human appendix was thought to be a vestigial structure that has lost all or most of its original function through the process of evolution. It was removed as a “precaution” in thousands of other surgeries over decades. Evidence now indicates that the appendix acts as a lymphatic organ and is rich in infection-fighting lymphoid cells. Many doctors still don’t believe it. Why are we not surprised?
Similar story for constipation and bowel disease that was treated, to MUCH ill effect, for generations with soft food diets because physicians “knew” that the bowels got bound up with too much fiber. What they “knew” was ridiculous and is now known to be so, but you couldn’t have told them then.
I can go on and on, and I haven’t even ventured outside of medicine to talk about the “scientists” who dismiss other kinds of truths as fiction when they are later proven to be true. It happens over and over and over again.
Here’s what I know. Three years ago, in my mid-fifties, I was headed for hip-replacement surgery and planning to sell our house and move to a house with only one floor because of the never-ending pain in my left hip. Couldn’t sleep at night. Couldn’t climb stairs. Knees also shot, having injured my ACLs in both knees in two different sports. I lived on aspirin and rub-on arthritis gels, and had done so for three years. ONE DAY after trying earthing, my pain was almost gone. Within a week it was gone for good. It has never returned. I am now able to work out, walk, climb as many stairs as I want, bike, etc. Earthing is the only thing that changed in my life, at least until I felt well enough to exercise regularly. Earthing cures nothing. It only reduces inflammation, so there may still be a date when that hip replacement surgery is needed. But I believe this will be a distant future. My doctor is absolutely amazed, and so am I.
If the pseudoscientists (yes, they make themselves so, therefore I will call them that) who are so sure that this doesn’t work because of what they “know,” would get off their ridiculous high horses and actually figure out WHY it works, as opposed to why it “can’t work,” they would be much more credible. Until then, they should shut up. You are hurting many people who could have pain relief as I have had.