What are they?
Negative ions occur naturally in the air and are produced by lightning, ocean surf and waterfalls. There are also electrical devices called 'air ionizers' that produce negative air ions. Such air ionizers have been used in the treatment of seasonal winter depression (SAD).
Technically, negative ions are atoms or molecules of oxygen (or carbon dioxide) in the air that have gained an electron.
'Negatively charged molecules of air, or negative ions, promote a sense of well-being for people.'
Charles Wallach, Consultant to the FDA
"Remember that feeling you've experienced near a waterfall or high in the mountains? Those are two places that thousands of negative ions occur. They create an effect on human biochemistry."
From the magazine Whole Self, Spring 1991, in article entitled "Ions and Consciousness".
Health Benefits of Negative Ions
The astounding degree to which negative ions can contribute to good health is becoming increasingly apparent, as extensive research on the subject suggests.
Negative ions are in the air that we breathe as well as in our bodies. They neutralize free radicals, revitalize cell metabolism and enhance immune function. In addition, they purify the blood and balance the autonomic nervous system, promoting deep sleep and healthy digestion. Negative ions also protect the body and mind from the harmful effects of environmental stressors such as electromagnetic fields. See below for more on the amazing healing properties of negative ions.
In order to ensure our health and well being, it is crucial that we surround ourselves with a sufficient amount of negative ions. In addition to wearing Ionic Balance Bracelets, which produce negative ions and may elevate their levels in our bodies, eating clean, healthy, alkaline-producing foods can also increase our negative ion levels.
What are Ions?
Ancient peoples recognized that the air is "electric," so to speak, but it is thought that the formal study of ions did not begin until fairly recently. In 1899, two German scientists, Elster and Geitel, discovered that there are particles in the atmosphere that carry electricity. These particles were later named "air ions" by the British scientist Faraday. The word "ion" was taken from the Greek language, in which it means to "go" or "wander about."
Ions are invisible particles, either molecules or atoms, which bear an electric charge. Atoms, for instance, consist of an atomic nucleus that contains neutral neutrons and positively charged protons, as well as orbiting electrons that are negatively charged. When an atom is in a neutral condition, the number of protons (+) and electrons (-) is equal. When the number of protons and electrons is not the same, the particle becomes an ion that is either positively or negatively charged. Generally speaking, positive ions are harmful to the human body, while negative ions are beneficial.
Positive Ion: an atom (or molecule) that has lost one or more electrons due to a high-energy impact. Natural forces that generate positive ions include the decay of radioactive minerals, radon gas, forest fires, lightning and ultraviolet rays.
Negative Ion: an atom (or molecule) that has gained one or more extra negatively charged electrons. Negative ions are naturally generated by evaporating water.
Electrons are highly sensitive to shock, impact, electric current and atmospheric change. Air pressure or heat, for instance, can cause electrons to escape from atoms and dissipate, increasing the number of positive ions in the air.
As mentioned above, the balance of negative and positive ions in the air is easily disturbed. A good example of this can be seen in the changes in ion levels associated with storm activity. Several hours before a thunderstorm, for instance, low atmospheric pressure causes the number of positive ions in the air to increase dramatically, to levels that sometimes exceed 5000 ions per cm³. In contrast, during a storm, negative ions increase to several thousand per cm³ while positive ions decrease, often to below 500 per cm³. (You can detect similarly high negative ion concentrations near waterfalls - see the chart below.)
In our daily lives, as well, we can directly experience the electricity of ions in the air in the form of static electricity - especially in winter, when the air is dry. Static is caused by a high ratio of positive to negative ions because of a lack of moisture in the air.
The Ratio of Negative to Positive Ions is Crucial to Health
The ratio of negative to positive ions is crucial, because negative ions are able to neutralize the harmful effects of positive ions. At the beginning of the 20th century, the ratio in the atmosphere was 1.2 negative ions for every positive ion. However, in recent years, the ratio has reversed and now there are 1.2 positive ions for every negative ion. This is due to environmental hazards such as air and water pollution, electromagnetic fields, and other factors.
Positive and negative ions also exist in our bodies, and the ratio of ions in the air we breathe influences the ratio in our bodies. Ions enter the body through the lungs (inhalation) as well as through the skin - especially through meridian (acupressure) points, which have weak electronic resistance. Then they travel through the blood and lymphatic systems to cells throughout the body. Wearing an Ionic Balance Bracelet may increase the number of negative ions absorbed through the skin.
Negative and Positive Ion Levels Measured in Various Locations
|Negative Ions||Positive Ions|
|Kowakidani Hot Spring||2,500||820|
|Near Minoh Waterfall||5,000||300|
(These measurements were taken in Japan)
In some offices with computer stations, no negative ions were detected at all! Inside typical Tokyo residences, positive ions were found to be 500 times more numerous than negative ions. These findings may be due to inadequate ventilation both in office buildings and energy - efficient houses, as well as from the use of electronic devices that generate electromagnetic fields and from building materials that emit formaldehyde and other toxic fumes. On the other hand, high negative ion levels, such as at waterfalls, hot springs and other highly moist areas, will neutralize positive ions, leading to very low positive ion levels.
In any case, these measurements suggest that it is difficult to maintain sufficient levels of negative ions in the present age.
How Positive and Negative Ions Affect Our Bodies
|Negative Ions||Positive Ions|
|Blood vessels||Dilate blood vessels||Constrict blood vessels|
|Blood Pressure||Stabilize BP||Increase BP|
|Blood||Increase blood alkalinity||Increase blood acidity|
|Bones||Strengthen bones||Weaken bones|
|Urinary tract||Promote urination;
increase nitrogen in urine
decrease nitrogen in urine
|Respiratory||Stabilize respiration and make breathing easier||Accelerate respiration and make breathing more difficult.|
|Pulse rate||Decrease pulse rate||Increase pulse rate|
|Heart||Enhance heart function||Impair heart function|
|Fatigue||Speed physical recovery||Prolong physical recovery|
|Autonomic Nervous System||Calm and relax nerves||Tense and strain the nervous system|
|Growth||Promote healthy growth||Suppress and delay growth|
Harmful Effects of Positive Ions
Ions were first linked to human health by a Japanese medical study in 1910, which showed that patients with arthritis experienced greater pain when weather fluctuations elevated the percentage of positive ions in the atmosphere. As a result of this and other research, in Japan the close relationship between ions and health has long been widely recognized.
Cold fronts and low pressure systems increase the percentage of positive ions in the atmosphere, leading to a decrease in the number of negative ions in our bodies. Doctors in Japan report that under such conditions, the symptoms of their asthma and arthritis patients are aggravated, and the number of strokes increases.
In North America, the relationship between positive ions and asthma has also been studied. Positive ion winds (in which there are extremely high concentrations of positive ions) in Calgary, Alberta, southern California, and other places around the world have been found to coincide with increased incidence of asthma attacks (Guy Cramer, "Advanced Research on Atmospheric Ions and Respiratory Problems", Certified Medinex Website, Sept. 2, 1996, http://mypage.direct.ca/g/gcramer/asthma.html).
Moreover, in recent years a number of doctors in Japan report that high levels of positive ions in the immediate environment - due to electromagnetic fields generated from computers, cell phones and other electronic devices - can both impair brain function and suppress the immune system, leading to a host of ailments. Symptoms include headache, lack of energy, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, nausea, stomachache, breathing difficulty, vertigo (dizziness), poor concentration and mental performance, and sleep disturbance. When blood or urine samples from individuals reporting such symptoms are analyzed, extremely high levels of the stress hormone serotonin are detected. This hormone is known to be potentially harmful to the body at high levels, and it is thought that positive ions may work to increase serum serotonin. (Negative ions, on the other hand, cause the body to convert excess serotonin into a harmless compound).
Positive ions turn into free radicals in the body, oxidizing cells throughout the entire system. They damage healthy cells and increase the acidity of the blood. When cells are oxidized, lactic acid levels rise drastically, resulting in a variety of maladies, including cancer. The balance of the endocrine, immune, and autonomic nervous systems is thrown off, and blood and lymph circulation declines. As a result, aging processes accelerate, and premature aging occurs.
The following are human-made environmental factors that increase positive ion levels; each hazard is either new to the last century, or has magnified significantly during that time.
Human-Made Hazards that Increase Positive Ion Levels
- Exhaust fumes - the major environmental cause
- Factory smoke
- River pollution and acidic rain
- Dioxin produced from the burning of waste materials
- Pesticides and food additives
- Phosphorus compounds used in everyday products
- Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by X-rays, electric appliances, computers and other electronic devices, power lines, etc.
Negative Ions Neutralize Free Radicals
It is said that 2% of the oxygen we breathe turns into free radicals in our bodies. When these free radicals combine with free radicals produced by other sources (such as heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and positive ions), they become even more harmful. Negative ions work to prevent oxidation by neutralizing the free radicals in our cells. As a result, cells are revitalized, and immunity and resistance are strengthened. Negative ions also work to balance the autonomic nervous system and improve gastrointestinal function. They can relax the mind and body, promote deep sleep, increase metabolism, stabilize appetite and blood pressure, enhance recovery from physical exhaustion, and help one feel refreshed and invigorated. Negative ions are essential to overall health. Below is a summary of the healing properties of negative ions.
Healing Properties of Negative Ions
Recovery from physical exhaustion or fatigue - by increasing oxygen levels in the blood and facilitating more efficient oxygen utilization, negative ions help accelerate recovery from fatigue.
Stabilizing brain function - by promoting abundant oxygen levels in the blood, negative ions help normalize brain function, resulting in relaxation and calmness.
Blood purification - by increasing the levels of calcium and sodium in the blood stream, negative ions help restore a healthy (slightly alkaline) pH balance to the blood.
Increasing metabolism - by stimulating the exchange of electronic substances in cell walls, negative ions help increase metabolism.
Strengthening the immune system - high levels of negative ions promote production of globulin in the blood, resulting in stronger resistance to illness.
Balancing the autonomic nervous system - negative ions can calm and relax taut nerves by balancing the opposing sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system.
Promoting better digestion - by counteracting over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, negative ions help ease tension in the stomach and intestines, promoting the production of digestive enzymes and enhancing digestion.
Cell rejuvenation - negative ions help revitalize cell metabolism, enhancing the vitality of muscle tissue and strengthening internal organs.
For overall health - negative ions can rejuvenate and revitalize all of the body's systems and cells, promoting a stronger overall constitution.
Researching the Effects of Negative Ions
Studies Conducted in Japan
Many doctors and researchers in Japan have been studying the effects of negative ions. According to them, an insufficient number of negative ions in our environment results in suppressed immune, nervous, and digestive function, eventually leading to a variety of illnesses. Some doctors in Japan even treat their patients using a medical device that produces natural (not artificially produced) negative ions, with successful results. Below are some of the research results on the effects of negative ions.
In 1975, Nanzandoh Medical Clinic in Japan published some astonishing results from their research on negative ion therapy, finding it effective in the treatment of high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), as well as for various disorders of the nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems, thyroid gland, and skin. It was also found to speed recovery from illness and slow aging processes.
A clinic near Ueyamada Hot Spring in Shinshu, Japan, treated Alzheimer's patients with negative ion therapy, and more than half were cured of the disease, recovering on their own with no further treatment! Following this, a medical team at Shinshu University also found that negative ions work to heal damaged cells in mice.
Dr. Tomoh Tsubushi, a medical professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University and sports medicine specialist, has closely followed negative ion research. In 1997, he concluded from his own studies that when negative ion therapy was applied after exercise, it quickly normalized blood pressure, reduced serum serotonin levels, and accelerated recovery time from exhaustion. In 2000, his paper on the beneficial effects of negative ions on the human body was published in Shuki no Kenkyu, a Japanese scientific journal.
According to research conducted by Shiseido, the world renowned Japanese cosmetics company, inhaling air containing 3,200 positive ions per cubic centimeter for 20 minutes resulted in thirst, loss of voice, and nasal congestion due to elevated serum serotonin levels. In contrast, inhaling negative ions for 10 minutes stabilized brain waves, resulting in a sense of calmness. In the group that inhaled negative ions, hardly any serotonin was detected in blood or urine samples. (Negative ions cause the body to convert excess serotonin - the antagonist for most of the problems - into a harmless chemical compound).
Studies Conducted in the U.S. and Other Counties
The following is excerpted from an article by Guy Cramer, entitled "Advanced Research on Atmospheric Ions and Respiratory Problems" (Certified Medinex Website, Sept. 2, 1996, http://mypage.direct.ca/g/gcramer/asthma.html):
"A doctor treating burn victims with negative ion generators found that those patients who also had respiratory problems - chronic bronchitis or asthma - all reported that negative ion therapy helped them breathe more easily. With these findings the doctor started research into the effects of ions on respiratory ills. This research was carried out at the Northeastern Hospital, at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate Hospital, and the Frankford Hospital in Philadelphia. He found 63% of patients suffering from hay fever or bronchial asthma 'have experienced partial or total relief' because of negative ion therapy. One hospital doctor who worked on the project said later, 'They come in sneezing, eyes watering, nose itching, worn out from lack of sleep, so miserable they can hardly walk. Fifteen minutes in front of the negative ion machine and they feel so much better they don't even want to leave.'"
"The U.S. experimenters Windsor and Becket gave sixteen volunteers overdoses of positive ions for just 20 minutes at a time and all of them developed dry throats, husky voices, headaches, and itchy or obstructed noses. Five of the volunteers were tested for total breathing capacity, and it was found that a positive ion overdose reduced that capacity by 30 percent. Exposed to negative ions for ten minutes, the volunteers' maximum breathing capacity was unaffected. What is significant here is that negative ions did not affect the amount of air breathed, but positive ions made breathing more difficult."
"In Britain, two Oxford University statisticians conducted a study among 100 victims of asthma, bronchitis, and hay fever chosen at random from a list of people who had purchased negative ion generators in the hope that it would help their problems. In the end their report was based on interviews with only 74 of the 100. They found that 18 of 24 asthmatics; 13 of 17 bronchitis sufferers; 11 of 12 hay fever victims; and 6 of 10 people afflicted with nasal catarrh reported that negative ion generators had noticeably improved their condition. A few claimed the generator had cured them."
"Brazilian Hospitals have commonly used ionizing devices for the treatment of breathing problems, including allergies, following a test involving 36 children with asthmatic allergies. All of them had consistent and in some cases crippling problems before taking negative ion therapy; during the treatment only one of them suffered an allergy attack and afterward all were reportedly cured, at least to the point that they no longer suffered problems so long as they took part in occasional negative ion therapy sessions."
"In 1966 at a hospital in Jerusalem, doctors performed a series of tests on 38 infants between two and twelve months old. All suffered to about the same degree from respiratory problems. They were divided into two groups of nineteen, one kept as a control group in a ward without any ion charge and the other where a negative ion generator was in use."
"The researchers reported that negative ions without any other treatment - that is, no drugs - seemed to cure attacks of asthma and bronchitis more quickly than drugs, antibiotics included. They also observed that there were none of the 'adverse side effects' frequently found when treating such children with drugs. They concluded that the children treated with negative ions were less prone to 'rebound attacks' (relapses). As to objectivity, the scientific report said that the tests 'demonstrated that the atmospheric ions have an effect on infants, especially those suffering from asthmatic bronchitis.' Less scientifically, they found that babies didn't cry as often and as loudly when they were breathing negative ions as they did in normal air. And there is nothing subjective about a bawling baby."