If you frequent health food stores or new age bookshops, you've probably seen Himalayan salt lamps prominently on display - or other air purifiers that act as negative ionizers. These devices are said to improve health, clear your mind and dispel brainfog, improve creative focus, and uplift low moods and spirits. But what are negative ions, and how do they work?
What are Negative Ions?
Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electric charge, giving them a positive or negative charge. Positive ions are produced by machines and technology. Computers, televisions, refrigerators, cars, airplanes, heating units and air conditioners saturate homes, offices, and other indoor environments with positive ions.
Negative ions counter the exhausting effect of positive ions - and they have also been found to be profoundly, well, "positive" for immunity, the respiratory system, mood, and more.
How Negative Ions Support Health and Well-Being
According to a 1992 article published in Popular Electronics Magazine, positive ions have been linked with "a number of low grade problems, such as fatigue, headache, and anxiety." (Iovine, 1992) On the other hand, negative ions have been linked with an assortment of benefits to mood, clarity of mind, and creativity. They do this by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain, improving coordination and giving more mental energy.
Negative air ionizers are also said to improve air quality and help those with allergies and respiratory issues. This occurs because the negative ions attract dust, germs and bacteria, collecting them until they are heavy enough to hit the ground and be vacuumed up, instead of remaining airborne and aggravating the respiratory tract.
According to studies, about one third of the population is sensitive enough to notice an immediate difference in their clarity and focus just by opening a window onto nature, or upon entering a room where a negative ionizer has been at work.
Negative air ionizers have been found by researchers at New York's Columbia University to be as effective as chemical antidepressants at combating chronic depression.
Negative Ions Occur in Nature
Negative ions are abundant in nature. They are especially present near flowing water, or anywhere that molecules may have lost a charge thanks to radiation, sunlight, or moving air or water. Michael Terman (Columbia University) credits negative ions with the feeling of optimism in the air after a thunderstorm.
Natural sources of negative ions include:
moving air in the mountains
crashing surf at the beach
near waterfalls and other moving bodies of water
Research on Negative Ions
Studies on the effects of negative ions in the home and work environment report that:
negative ions improve learning in normal and disabled children
cattle were able to be over 90% protected against respiratory disease with negative air ionization
negative ions resulted in more than 40% reduction of airborne microbes in dental clinics
visual test performance in college students improved when negative ion exposure was increased
Portable Home Sources of Negative Ions
The best source of negative ions is always going to be spending time in nature. Unfortunately, city living doesn't always allow hours to be spent at the beach or trekking through the mountains every day - so negative air ionizers can be a close second.
You can generally find home air ionizers in health food and home improvement stores, but you might also consider the warm, soothing elegance of a salt lamp or a mechanical waterfall to help shake the strain of positive ions and improve your air with negative ions.
Iovine, John, "Negative Ion Generator," Popular Electronics Magazine, Gernsback Publishing, 1992.
Mann, Denise, "Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes," WebMD.com, May 6, 2002.