ROOTBALANCE™

Dear Mark: What Are the Health Benefits of Negative Ions?

Source: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/negative-ions-health/#axzz2REqCYzMa

Anyone who’s been through a health store has heard about ions. If it’s not someone offering samples of ionized water, it’s someone selling ionized bracelets. It sounds wacky, woo-woo, crazy, and as if it belongs firmly in the same realm as crystals, magnet therapy, and cryptozoology (although the kid in me is still holding out hope that both Squatch and Nessie are found), but is there actual science behind this negative ion stuff, or are the people who buy into this stuff totally off their rockers? Today, we venture into what some might consider the realm of the non-scientific to discuss negative ionizers – both the natural kinds (like waterfalls) and the man-made variety (negative ion generators).

Let’s get to it:

Hi Mark,

I’m almost scared/embarrassed to even ask you about this, but here goes: my friend, who’s into crystals, homeopathy, and other types of alternative health modalities with less than concrete supporting evidence, has been talking my ear off about negative and positive ions. She’s got her entire house decked out with negative ion generators and she’s always trying to “avoid positive ions.” I’ve even seen her ducking past air conditioners. Is there anything to this, or is she crazy?

Thanks,

Beth

Maybe. Let’s take a look.

But first, lest we fall into the trap of talking about abstractions (a la “toxins”), let’s define our terms. What are ions?

Ions are atoms or molecules in which the number of electrons is different than the number of protons. In other words, an ion is a negatively (more electrons than protons) or positively (more protons than electrons) charged atom or molecule. Positively charged ions are called cations, while negatively charged ions are called anions. Because they are either positively or negatively charged, ions are “mobile.”

Negative ions generally appear in natural settings in greater numbers than positive ions. For instance, negative ions are generated by moving water – rivers, waterfalls, crashing waves, even showers and fountains – and the presence of negative ions is actually used to identify potential sources of water on other planetary bodies, like Enceladus and Titan. Waterfalls are probably the greatest producers of negative ions, thanks to the violence with which falling water breaks apart on both hard and aqueous surfaces (PDF). Plants also produce negative ions, especially when exposed to intense light during photosynthesis.

Okay, that’s great and all. Everyone likes waterfalls and all, but does the fact that they generate lots of negative air ions have any bearing on our health?

They can certainly exert “physiological effects” on living things. In fact, that negative and positive air ions could have physiological effects on people was once a field of serious study, but after snake oil salesmen released a slew of air ion generators with the promise that they’d cure cancer, heart disease, and just about every malady under the sun in the 1950s, the reputation of the field was forever tarnished. Research continued, but its name was sullied, and little serious attention was paid to its findings. The result is that anytime anyone even mentions “ions,” they’ll get laughed out of the room or immediately branded a nut job. And that’s a shame, because there is something to this stuff.

Even if some modern skeptics pride themselves on discarding an idea that sounds a little kooky without doing any actual research, that doesn’t mean evidence doesn’t exist. Let’s see what the research says:

Mood

Not everyone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can afford to slumber amidst the babbling mist of a nearby brook with the gentle caress of the day’s first sun softly nudging them awake. It’s ideal, but studies indicate that simulating those conditions with negative ion generators, naturalistic dawn simulating lights, and someone blowing raspberries at your face can be just as effective at combating SAD as bright light therapy (okay, maybe not that last one).

Chronic non-seasonal depression has also been shown to be improved with negative ion therapy. High density ion therapy was far more effective than low density ion therapy.

Negative ions (along with bright light and auditory stimuli) reduced subjective measurements of depression, improved mood, and reduced anger in both depressed and non-depressed college students.

Stress

In a study on the salivary responses of people completing a 40-minute word processing task on the computer, exposure to negative air ions reduced the rise in salivary chromogranin A-like immunoreactivity (a marker of stress and anxiety) and improved performance.

Breathing

The trachea is the windpipe, the passage through which air travels into our lungs. Along the trachea are cilia, tiny organelles which keep airborne particles from passing into the lungs. If cilial activity is inhibited, as in cystic fibrosis, more foreign particles are introduced into the lungs. If cilial activity is uninhibited, the junk is kept out of the lungs and discharged later via saliva and mucus. Research shows that negative ion exposure increases cilial activity in the trachea of humans and monkeys, while positive ion exposure inhibits it.

Another study in asthmatic children found that exposure to positively ionized air exacerbated their asthmatic response to exercise.

All told, there does appear to be something to it.

Maybe that’s why sitting around a campfire with your buddies surrounded by towering examples of plant life feels so good. Toss in a nearby river gurgling over stones, throwing mist up in the air? You’ve got a potent recipe for negative air ions. Could that be why camping out in the great outdoors is so rejuvenating and so energizing? Sure, you could argue that camping is just a way for us to get away from the madness of work and city life, get some fresh air and exercise, and reconnect with our Primal selves… but there has to be a physiological mechanism for that. What if negative ions play an important role in that mechanism? What if part of what we’re “getting away from” is the glaring lack of negative ions?

How to Get Exposure to Negative Ions

The best way to get exposure to negative ions is of course going to be the old, natural way. Go to the beach (and play in the water, don’t sit bundled up on the shore). Climb a mountain. Go for a hike. Spend an afternoon reading a great book in a garden, surrounded by plant life. Swim underneath a waterfall. Heck, even just stepping outside the stifling stuffy air of your office, turning off the AC and lowering the car windows, or letting some cross breeze into your house will help.

Take a shower. The closest thing many of us get to moving water is our regular showers. And that’s not so bad. Moving water is moving water, and showers do a good job of producing negative ions in their own right.

Another way is to design a negative ion-generating garden, using running water (preferably a waterfall or fountains) and plenty of green life. This method is a mite more involved than simply buying a generator or visiting natural sites of negative ion generation, but here’s a study in which researchers mapped out the distribution of positive and negative ions across a sample garden (PDF). It should give you an idea for your own garden. The important factor appears to be the presence of running water, since the negative ions were highest right around the waterfall.

For your home or office, I highly recommend a negative ion generatorMany of them aren’t terribly expensive. For, say, 50 bucks you can enrich your stale office in negative ions and filter out impurities to boot. Give it a shot, especially if you don’t spend time in the natural settings where negative ions predominate. If you’re stuck inside all day, bathed in air conditioning, a negative ion generator is worthy of serious consideration.

Or, if you’re handy enough, you could always just make your own ioniser.

Anyway, I’d like to hear about your experiences with negative ionizers (and negative ions in general). Have you noticed anything? Let us know in the comment section!



Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/negative-ions-health/#ixzz2REqK8pib

WEBMD: Negative Ions Creative Positive Vibes

There's something in the air that just may boost your mood -- get a whiff of negative ions.


By 
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

May 6, 2002 -- There's something in the air and while it may not be love, some say it's the next best thing -- negative ions.

Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Think mountains, waterfalls, and beaches. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.

And these are a few of the reasons we see negative-ion generators being sold in stores and all over the Internet, but do they really work as well as antidepressants? Can they also relieve allergies by filtering out dust mites and dander?

It's too early to tell for sure, experts tell WebMD, but that's not to say there is not some sound science behind the concept.

Science 101

Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. . They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. You may have experienced the power of negative ions when you last set foot on the beach or walked beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions -- Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.

"The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods," says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York.

 

In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants. "The best part is that there are relatively no side effects, but we still need to figure out appropriate doses and which people it works best on," he says.

Vitamins of the Air?

Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy," says Pierce J. Howard, PhD, author of The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research and director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.

 

"They also may protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation."

 

And for a whopping one in three of us who are sensitive to their effects, negative ions can make us feel like we are walking on air. You are one of them if you feel instantly refreshed the moment you open a window and breathe in fresh, humid air.

"You may be one of them if you feel sleepy when you are around an air-conditioner, but feel immediately refreshed and invigorated when you step outside or roll down the car window," Howard tells WebMD. "Air conditioning depletes the atmosphere of negative ions, but an ion generator re-releases the ions that air conditioners remove."

Generating Negative Ions

In fact, every home has a built in natural ionizer -- the shower.

But when it comes to springing for that negative-ion generator you saw advertised in the local paper or on the web, buyer beware, says Columbia's Terman.

"There is a major problem with advertised units," he tells WebMD. "Output levels are not ... specified in a way that could advise antidepressant dose." 

And, he says, the cost of apparently equivalent units ranges from $100 to $1,000.  

"The safest course of action, in my opinion, would be to use units that have been demonstrated effective in our clinical trials and trials to come," he advises WebMD readers.

Room air circulation, heat and humidity, the proximity of grounded devices that may emit counteracting positive ions (such as computer monitors) may affect output levels (of a negative-ion generator), he explains

"We have tried to minimize the influence of these factors by adding grounded wrist-straps [commercially available] or grounded bed sheets [not yet available] for connection to the ionizer," he says. 

The possible interaction of negative-air ion therapy and antidepressant drug or light therapy for seasonal depression has not yet been investigated, he says. "It stands to reason, for example, that drug ... dose could be tapered [even to zero], if the patient responds to negative ion exposure.  

"I would advise anyone who experiences clinically significant depression to try negative-ion therapy only under doctor's guidance, and that doctors read up on this methodology before OKing such a trial, especially if the patient is already receiving other treatment," he advises.

What About Allergies and Asthma?

Harold Nelson, MD, professor of medicine at National Jewish Medical Center in Denver, was so excited when he first heard of negative-ion generators 20 years ago that he went out and bought one to study among allergy and asthma patients.

Unfortunately, the findings were "not terribly encouraging. We couldn't demonstrate anything," he tells WebMD. "I was disappointed. I had high expectations and they did not pan out, " he says.

The best bet for people with allergies and/or allergic asthma is to try to eliminate exposures, he says. "If you can't, or if you still have symptoms, then medication is the next step and fortunately we now have excellent medications," he says.

Published June 2, 2003.

Reference: http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/negative-ions-create-positive-vibes?page=2