Have you ever thought about why we feel so good walking in the woods, on a beach, or near a river, breathing fresh air in the mountains, or just breathing the the air after a rain shower?

The air around us is filled with electrically charged particles. Positively or negatively charged, they are called ions. Both positive and negative ions occur naturally in the air. However, the environment we live in today has far more sources of positive ions than in the past, creating an electrical imbalance in the air and our bodies. They are also called free radicals.

Free radicals are highly reactive, imbalanced molecules that are the byproducts of normal metabolism. They are associated with the degenerative aging process. Free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells to neutralize their own charge, and thereby cause cellular damage.

Free radicals (the positive ions) are produced by the discharge of voltage in high-voltage networks, heating and cooling systems, TVs, radios, transmitters, radar systems, computers, exhausts, cigarette fumes, smog, radiation and many harmful chemicals and toxins.

Water generates negative ions. Despite the connotation of the word “negative,” negative ions are the good ones for us.

It has been discovered that the dispersion of water from waterfalls, waves, or even lightning and water evaporation from plants, create  hydrogen ions by splitting water molecules. The negative electrons join up with other free positive electrons in the air neutralizing their electrical charge.

The breaking of the surface tension of water (waves, waterfalls or evaporation)  releases negative hydrogen ions and their ability to stick to different free radicals is very beneficial to our health.

Negative ions of hydrogen are more concentrated in fresh air. Water being sprayed and dispersed releases hydrogen negative ions which purify the air, kills bacteria, and increases our energy level. That after-rain aroma in the air after a thunderstorm on a sunny day is a good example. When it occurs in the presence of the sun, the effect is increased.

Negative-ion treatments are given to patients for bronchial conditions.

Negative ions have also been used to treat depression, which is our nation’s most prevalent mental health problem. Supposedly, about 15 million Americans spend about $3 billion a year on drugs to fight depression.

Most medications target either serotonin or norepinephrine (the brain chemicals which are neurotransmitters).

Low serotonin levels are believed to cause many cases of mild to moderate depression and symptoms of anxiety, apathy, fear,  insomnia and fatigue. High levels of negative hydrogen ions in the air were discovered to increase serotonin levels in the bloodstream.

A closed room with several people will have a decreased level of negatively ionized air. That may be a large part of the “sick building syndrome.” Homes and workplaces are built much more air tight with less fresh air and heating and air conditioning systems cause friction which depletes the negative ions.

Naturally occurring  negative ions can have health benefits. Claims are made for them enhancing the immune system, increasing alertness, productivity and concentration. There are claims that you can get relief from sinus, migraine headaches, allergies, and asthma attacks by increasing lung capacity.

Some tests have shown that negative ions can stabilize alpha rhythms in the human brain. Alpha waves usually occur when we are awake and relaxed.

If you feel sick, tired or depressed and wanted to try negative ions as a “therapy,” what could you do?

It’s not my place to be a health expert, but I do my research, and I pass it along. Here are some suggestions.

Try to avoid spaces with no fresh air – especially where you can’t even open a window. Even standing in your shower with the window open and fresh air can be invigorating. You have felt that, haven’t you?

Some people would recommend an indoor waterfall or a salt lamp for closed spaces.

An air ionizer (or negative ion generator) is a device that uses a high voltage charge to ionize air molecules. Most commercial air purifiers are designed to generate negative ions. Air ionizers are often used in air purifiers. Airborne particles are attracted to the electrode in an effect similar to static electricity. These ions are de-ionized by seeking earthed conductors, such as walls and ceilings.

The computer notebook producer ASUS even introduced air ionizers in their computers.

But, pretty obviously, the best thing to do is to find spaces in nature where the moving water is creating those ions. Get to a beach, waterfall, or river. Get into the sunlight.

“…I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.” – from the opening of Moby Dick