Mood-Boosting Air Scrubbers: About Negative Ions


The sweet smell and freshness of the air near a waterfall, at the beach or after a thunderstorm is something most of us relish. What causes this atmospheric magic, and why do we find it so refreshing?

An abundance of negative air ions is responsible for this rejuvenating experience. These ions scrub the air of pollen, dander, dust, smoke, bacteria and mold spores. Negative ions are nature’s air filter, and our senses register the effects.

Where Negative Ions Come From

A negative ion is created when a molecule of oxygen grabs and holds an extra electron, giving the oxygen molecule a negative charge. Moisture in the air, from microscopic water droplets, allows the oxygen molecule to hold onto the electron and maintain negative status. It is no wonder that negative ions are plentiful near rapids, at the seashore and in tropical rain forests.

Negative Ions and Mood

One of the suggested health benefits of negative ions is their buoyant effect on a depressed mood, and it turns out there have been plausible studies done validating this claim. One study was done at Columbia University.

Negative Ion-Depression Study

The Columbia research involved subjects diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder and who experienced winter depression symptoms.

  • One group of subjects received light therapy, a second group received high-density negative ions, and a third group received low-density negative ions.
  • The subjects in groups one and two reported significant symptom relief, while those in the third group (low-density ions) experienced little to no relief.
  • Improvements reported were not only related to mood; the subjects also enjoyed more energy, better sleep, higher work productivity and increased libido.
  • The study was repeated using subjects with chronic depressive disorder, and they also benefited from light and negative ion therapy.
  • The Columbia researchers concluded, “Treatment with high-density negative air ions actively combats depression.”

Scientists do not know why negative ions lift a depressed mood. It could possibly affect serotonin, neutralize positive charges clinging to the body, or stimulate the pheromone-sensing vomeronasal structure in our nose causing signaling changes in the brain.

The favored hypothesis is that ionized air increases oxygen uptake by the lungs. If this proves to be true, and research is being done to check it out, increased oxygenation is the real mood lifter.

How Negative Ions Clean and Why They Are Scarce

In air heavy with negative ions, pollutants will clump together forming heavy particles that fall to the floor or ground, clearing the air. Or pollutants can take on a negative charge and become neutralized when they bump into grounding objects such as your TV or computer.

Unfortunately, many of us live and work in atmospheres very low in air-washing negative ions.

  1. Plumbing, house wiring, radiators and electronic devices serve as electrical grounds, attracting negative ions and neutralize them. Zap.
  2. Our offices and homes are climate-controlled. During the winter, we heat cool, dry air, which makes it even drier. In the summer months, our air conditioners take humidity out of the air. Without ample water droplets in the atmosphere, oxygen molecules cannot hold a negative charge.

Do Your Ionizer Research

If you are interested in using an ionizer to boost negative ions in your home or office, you will be wise to research and compare products first. Some ionizers on the market are too weak to be of much use, and some may not even produce negative ions. There are also ways to maximize the effectiveness of ionizers once you have a viable one. You can find helpful information at the Center for Environmental Therapeutics website.

Source: Terman, M. PhD, and McMahan, I. PhD, Chronotherapy, Penguin Group, 2012


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