There have been few instances in my life that I have been reminded of how small man is with regards to the schema of this universe. I found myself feeling like a mere speck. Nothing more than a particle of dust floating through the air. This is the feeling I got as my eyes gazed onto the overwhelming beauty around me from our campground on the banks of the Sanctuary river in Denali National park, Alaska. Standing in front of the rolling hills each fighting one another to create space for the river running in between.
All this beauty was almost too much to take in for the 5 senses, but then there was the air. The air that with each breath felt as a cloth wiping the blemishes on one's being. It was so fresh. Unlike anything that I had ever felt before. It made me curious and I went looking for answers as to why the air we breathe out in nature is different from the air that we breath in the concrete metropolis that many of us call home. The research I did kept bringing me to the concept of negative ions.
An ion is anything that has an extra electron or proton. Each atom has an electron, protons and neutrons. The nucleus consists of neutrons and protons and then around the nucleus are electrons. Negative ions are when oxygen molecules in the environment gain an extra electron. When the oxygen molecules lose electrons, they then become positive ions. It is believed that negative ions impart some benefits onto the body. These negative ions are abundant in the environment through natural process from the interactions between water, air, sunlight and the Earth’s inherent radiation. The rich quality of the air after a thunderstorm, near a waterfall or at the beach and the sheer bliss that such air provides are due to the ions in this air.
Here are some of the benefits that negative ions provide:
Negative ions have an effect on Seasonal depressive disorder. This disorder is characterized by seasonal changes in mood during fall and winter. Symptoms include weight gain, increased sleep, and lethargy.
Negative ions also have antibacterial activity. According to a 2008 study, exposure of E.coli and Pseudomonas fluorescens led to a 33% and 42% reduction in viability of e. Coli and P. fluorescens, respectively. Pseudomonas is a very dangerous bacteria that cause urinary tract infections and pneumonia. Ecoli is the leading cause of urinary tract infection in the united states and known to cause meningitis and diarrhea in children.
According to the study in 2006, negative ions produced rapid mood changes - with small to medium effect on mood- in depressed and non- depressed subjects, compared to placebo. Thus this stimuli was found to improve mood acutely in a student sample, including a subset with depressive symptoms. The average age of study participant was 19 yo. This means that negative ions could be particularly beneficial for your college freshman about to leave the warmth and comforts of home.
According to a small 2002 study, negative air ions are effective for the reduction of and the prompt recovery from stress caused by computer operation.
Another study found that positive air ions depress ciliary activity of trachea of monkeys and man, while negative ions increase it. Ciliary activity is very important for the proper functioning of the immune system. Cilia in your lungs move like little dusters “brushing” up and out the dust and microbes that might flow into your body form the air you breathe. Cilia are critical in preventing respiratory infections and often are compromised in cystic fibrosis patients.
Clearly, a case can be made for the efficacy of negative ions. Negative ions can be generated in your household using himalayan salt lamps or a negative ion generator. So the next time you go for a walk on the beach, just keep in mind the negative ions in the air and make sure to enjoy that breeze swiping onto the shores.