A new study has appeared in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.  Its’ authors looked at the zeta potential of red blood cells. Zeta potential describes a small electrical potential residing upon the surface of blood cells. This is a quite normal and healthy phenomenon. If zeta potential is low red blood cells exhibit a natural tendency to want to clump together. Quite why this is the case I do not know, but I imagine a well-kept secret in nature is what attracts cells to form groups or clumps in the first place.
If single-celled organisms persisted for so long, what event or eventuality had some of them alter their strategy to begin associating in colonies that exhibit tendencies for collective enterprise and division of labour? It’s a possibility that stems from when eukaryotic cells emerged above (later than) the prokaryotes. Despite that makes me sound knowledgeable – I haven’t the foggiest notion of the functional implications.
Anyhow red blood cells reveal a tendency to clump together in blood, and this tendency may bear upon the ‘stickiness’ of blood. But zeta potential, which is a negative charge sitting upon the surface of the blood cell counters this tendency. Opposites attract and likes repel, remember, so sufficient and satisfactory negative charge, or zeta potential, helps keep the red blood cells apart, and that may assist their fluidity, and the fluidity of blood, by reducing blood viscosity. Keeping the blood viscous would seem to be good for flow, and must aid the passage of blood down the finest of capillaries.
At first thought you might think that there is absolutely nothing you can do to influence the zeta potential of your blood cells, but you’d be quite wrong.
Good and healthy zeta potential of red blood cells is made possible by the presence of free-electrons that may be conveyed by species of biochemicals that are ‘ionised’. Being ionised simply means a molecule of something or other has been stripped of an electron (and has a net positive charge)or is carrying an extra electron (which gives it a net negative charge). Quite how negative ions can be transported to the surface of a red blood cell remains a mystery, but some people seem satisfied they are.
Water is a simple molecule with the formula H2O, but it has some interesting properties. The shape isn’t linear as in H-O-H. Instead the two hydrogen atoms hang off the atom of oxygen (kinda like swept back wings) to form a deltoid shape. The atom of oxygen tends to hog the electrons and so the molecule of water is slightly negative at the oxygen ‘head’ and slightly negative at the hydrogen tails. Water molecules exhibit a dipole-dipole charge and when they get together they arrange themselves in a neat lattice. The lattice is fluid above OoC but becomes rigid below:It freezes.
Additionally H2O readily ionizes to H+ and OH- (H is hydrogen and OH is hydroxide) and this property amongst others seems crucial to life. Much of the bodies biochemistry, physiology and metabolism is about ionic exchanges, but the textbooks guard against thinking that water itself supplies most of the hydrogen ions the body may utilise, for often, the textbooks say it doesn’t, and the hydrogen ions are supplied by other biochemical species. Biochemistry is out to confuse, but setting that aside for a wee moment ..
.. Our Earth equates to a giant battery. The upper atmosphere, sometimes called the ionosphere, is highly +ve, (to the tune of several hundred thousand volts) and the surface of the Earth, its’ watercourses, and oceans are very -ve. We tend not to notice. Living upon the negative terminal of a giant battery is what nature intended: It’s quite ‘normal’.
The global electrical circuit escapes our attention unless we get struck by lightning, or face the prospects in a thunderstorm. Lightning is happening all the time somewhere upon Earth, and lightning is how the global battery self-regulates the build up of its own potential through regular discharge. Steady and repeated discharge (through lightning) prevents the global electrical circuit storing up too much charge.
The key thing of note is that the negative terminal of a giant battery, or even a small one, is replete with free electrons. Our Earths surface is replete with free-electrons. Any creature, or plant, that has contact with Earth or water taps into these free-electrons and, if you like, sucks them up, through roots, or through the soles of the feet. Electrons are the mobile aspect of electricity, and they are drawn to wherever there may be a deficit. A retired Cable TV guy, named Clinton Ober, was prompted to take some readings and he found the body establishes a net positive charge. He began wondering if this was normal.
Low zeta potential arises if we do no have a conductive arrangement with ground, and what this study is at pains to point out is that redressing an unnatural electrical isolation from ground and its’ store of free-electrons, or ions, works wonders for the zeta potential of red blood cells. Low zeta potential is evidence, if you like, that a creature, humans in this case, have been starved of free-electrons through insufficient contact with Earth or ‘ground’. So if a person takes trouble to connect themselves to ground, free-electrons will be sucked up, the build up of positive charge will be countered, and blood cells can re-establish the rightful, and healthful, level of zeta potential.
Proponents say earthing has benefits for health, and it is intimated that lack of earthing, as arises because we now make shoes, beds, and homes from material that isolate us from ground, results in a dearth of free-electrons and thence contributes to inflammation and to inflamm-aging. I think they are correct. Their theories stack up well, and are supported by personal experiences and accounts of people who have tried it. I tried it. The headline result seemed to have a positive effect upon an elbow strain whose recovery and healing seemed to have ‘plateaued’. The bodies ability to heal itself is greatly diminished if free-electrons are in short supply. Other and more subtle benefits seemed to follow, for me.
I actually put off reading the ‘Earthing’ book for almost six months after I first caught sight of it. During the delay I kinda figured for myself that the natural precedent is that every living thing has a conductive relationship with Earth, and that the human was once no exception, but has become one in the modern age.
Once I read the Earthing book  I was convinced, but I still harboured questions. The most profound question centred upon the issue of how we become depleted of free-electrons to wind up with a net positive charge, as the proponents direct we do, such that we should then find it therapeutic if the electron deficit is addressed. And after 12 months I feel I have touched upon the answer.
If you like you can read what a qualified doctor has to say about earthing.
Dr John Briffa generally retains an open mind and in March 2012 he took up with interest on the matter of earthing. He blogged about it in a post dated 18th April 2012 (link here) and then again on 3rd May 2013 (link here). He’s been earthing for a year and acknowledges that over the course of that year some niggling health issues have righted themselves. He remains an advocate, but you’ll detect from his words he is careful not to rush to conclusions that are difficult to substantiate.
I am genuinely pleased for Dr Briffa and I think Dr Briffa could allow his level of assurance about the benefits of earthing to trend more towards being convinced, and in my next post I’ll run to explain why. Before I do I’ll let you in on a little secret:
Early in 2012 I tugged at Johns’ coat-tails having sent him a couple of emails intended to direct his attention to the natural phenomenon of earthing, and to the growing attention given to the purported benefits, and I’m glad that eventuality has been a benefit to him, as the book evidently has been to others. I think it is good if good and helpful words get passed around.
If you have tried earthing and noticed nothing it doesn’t mean it isn’t doing good. If you have tried earthing and noticed it is doing good that’s great, and it is no bad thing if you better understand how and why, for then you can spread the word about a natural and normal phenomena that ought to seem to us to be as essential to life as is water itself. Let me also address the case that you’ve heard the term and learnt about the craze but consider it no more than a fad based upon mumbo-jumbo. I shall make it as plain as I can.
Earthing was normal practice right back at the beginning, when life got started 3.9 billion years ago. Life began in the oceans. The oceans are teaming with life and diversity. The oceans are also an electrolyte. Earthing has remained the persistent policy for all of life ever since – with just one exception. Just so long as you can figure for yourself which species has allowed itself to become the exception you ought to become better placed to begin to appreciate the supposed benefits. It’s effects upon the viscosity of blood would seem to number among them.
1, Chevalier G, et al. Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity – a Major Factor in Cardiovascular Disease. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013;19(2):102-110
2, Earthing: The most important health discovery ever? (Book) Clinton Ober, Stephen T Sinatra MD and Martin Zucker. (2010)