There’s something in the air.
No, I don’t mean love. I’m talking ions!
A bit like you, the ions are sometimes positive, at other times, negative. When it comes to ions, negativity is good.
Negative ions are the invisible forces of awesomeness that we inhale ocean-side, in the mountains and at waterfalls. When they hit your bloodstream, they are like sweet nectar, producing biochemical reactions that help your mood, stress levels and positively impact your sleep.
Negative-ion generators, including increasingly popular space-age looking lamps called himalayan salt lamps, help us to recreate the ocean environment and its corresponding health boosts in our homes.
This post looks at when and why we might need these ‘air quality improvers’, along with other effective strategies for ensuring an adequate supply of negative ions in our environments.
Ions (like love) are all around us
Ions are all around us. They affect the way we think and feel, and our overall health.
In geek-speak terms, ions are molecules that have lost or gained an electron through various atmospheric forces or environmental influences.
Negative ions are abundant in natural settings – waterfalls are thought to be the greatest producers of them (it’s that water-on-water smashing). Plants also produce negative ions, especially when exposed to intense light during photosynthesis.
Positive ions, a by-product of electrical discharge, are generated by electronic devices like computers, TVs, microwaves, and air conditioning units. This is ‘eletro-smog’. It is thought that positive ion production is the primary culprit for ‘sick building syndrome’ – a condition plaguing office workers, typically marked by headaches and respiratory problems.
Other man-made hazards that increase positive ion levels include exhaust fumes, factory smoke, river pollution, acid rain, dioxin produced from the burning of waste materials, pesticides and food additives, formaldehyde and phosphorus compounds used in everyday products.
Lack of ventilation and long, dry spells rob the air of negative ions. The poorest quality of air is found in windowless rooms and closed, moving vehicles.
You can measure ions in the air using an Air Ion Counter (Japanese manufactures are leading the way on this, which might not come as too much a surprise).
Just to give you an idea, here are some negative and positive ion levels measured in various locations:
Industrial Areas (50/300)
Shopping Arcades (220/280)
Residential Areas (200/180)
Kowakidani Hot Spring (2,500/820)
Near Minoh Waterfall (5,000/300)
How ions impact health
The physiological effects of negative and positive air ions was once a field of serious study – that is before ion generator manufacturers rocked up and tarnished things with convoluted claims. Shame.
Problems with excess positivity
Hanging out in positive ions (or alternately put, in depleted negative ions) is linked to allergies, stress and sleep trouble. Spending time in environments with excessive amounts of positively charged ions might also cause increased nervousness, lapses in focus and concentration and increased free radical accumulation (a factor in early aging and onset degenerative disease).
Benefits of negative ion immersion
Here are some conditions and health benefits linked with spending time in an environment rich in negative ions:
- Energy and mood. Research has shown that negative ions normalize serotonin levels in the brain, potentially improving outlook and mood.
- Cognitive performance. Testing has shown that people exposed to high levels of negative ions perform better in mentally challenging tasks than those breathing ‘normal’, positive ion dense air. It states in the Owners Manual for the Brain that “negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.”
- 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 a marker of stress and anxiety and improved performance.
- Breathing. 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.
- Sleep. A French study found using negative ionizers could help you to sleep better.
- Reduction in instances of headaches and sickness. Research has found that installing negative ion air cleaners in a work area full computers and other electronic equipment reduced instances of reported sickness and headaches by 78%.
- Depression. Studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants.
Optimizing ion ratio in air at home
Obviously if you live a super-natural lifestyle, then this isn’t going to be such a concern for you. Air purifiers only really become necessary when you live (as many of us do) in polluted cities, and surrounded by all manner of electronic equipment.
Air purifiers typically work by emitting negative ions, which transform room air by attaching to impurities and sinking them. Negative ions neutralize positive ions (they bond together).
Broadly, there are three main ways to optimize the air quality about your person – devices, lamps and plants.
This is probably the most effective way to clear up your air.
You can buy different types of devices now that purify the air of mold, bacteria and toxins.
Ionizers are getting smaller and more stylish all the time. There are highly portable versions you can take to work, like USB stick ionizers that you plug into your computer at the office to counteract that positive ion heavy environment. Alternatively, you can purchase light bulbs that produce negative ions whenever they are switched on.
You can also get ion bracelets.
For me, this is one of the best ones around.
Himalayan salt lamps are one increasingly popular type of negative ion generator.
Salt lamps are thought to create a micro-climate that is similar to the air after a light spring storm. Plus, they look kind of epic, and create this soft amber light that’s super soothing.
Salt lamps work by attracting humidity causing the surface of the salt crystal to become moist, creating a buildup of ions and binding excessive positive ions with their negative ions.
They are almost definitely less potent than the electronic negative ion generators used in scientific studies. On the plus side, they look a lot more appealing on your coffee table.
These lamps should be put in a room where you spend most of the time or in rooms where there are a lot of electronic devices.
It is clear that having plenty of healthy houseplants leads to a healthier home.
In addition to producing negative ions, plants process carbon dioxide and harmful chemicals and help to maintain humidity levels. They look nice too, and you’ll get the additional health benefits that come with tending to and caring for something.
Not all plants are equal when it comes to air cleaning. NASA conducted a Clean Air Study to identify the best air-filtering indoor plants, all of which commonly found at local flower shops. Excellent choices are spider plants, peace lilys, snake plants, garden mums, dracaenas, ficus, boston fern, bamboo palm, aloe vera, areca palm, english ivy, australian sword fern and rubber plants.
Other guidelines for generating negative ions
You aren’t going to feel a lot of resistance in complying with these suggestions.
Go to the beach and swim! Climb a mountain! Go for a hike! Spend some reading awesome books in the garden! Swim underneath a waterfall! Hell, just step outside the office and turn off the AC: every little helps.
By the way, showers do a good job of producing negative ions in their own right (it’s the effect of water hitting water). So you can ponder on that as you are lathering up.
You could do as Primal Mark suggests and design a negative ion-generating garden, using running water and plenty of green life. The important factor appears to be the presence of running water, since the negative ions were highest right around the waterfall.
If we will continue to surround ourselves with electronics from the moment we wake up till the minute we go to sleep (and we probably will), then investing in an air ionizer is probably smart. Doing so will help us to optimize health and recreate the healing benefits of oceans and trees in our homes.
In terms of home air filtration mechanisms, a salt lamp and plants would be my choices. Although these methods are probably slightly less effective at creating localized zones of improved air quality than using a device, they are super affordable and bring other benefits.
What do you do to improve your negative ion quota? Get in touch in the comments below!