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Health & Balance

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Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes

There's something in the air that just may boost your mood -- get a whiff of negative ions.

Vitamins of the Air?

Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy," says Pierce J. Howard, PhD, author of The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research and director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.

"They also may protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation."

And for a whopping one in three of us who are sensitive to their effects, negative ions can make us feel like we are walking on air. You are one of them if you feel instantly refreshed the moment you open a window and breathe in fresh, humid air.

"You may be one of them if you feel sleepy when you are around an air-conditioner, but feel immediately refreshed and invigorated when you step outside or roll down the car window," Howard tells WebMD. "Air conditioning depletes the atmosphere of negative ions, but an ion generator re-releases the ions that air conditioners remove."

Generating Negative Ions

In fact, every home has a built in natural ionizer -- the shower.

But when it comes to springing for that negative-ion generator you saw advertised in the local paper or on the web, buyer beware, says Columbia's Terman.

"There is a major problem with advertised units," he tells WebMD. "Output levels are not ... specified in a way that could advise antidepressant dose."

And, he says, the cost of apparently equivalent units ranges from $100 to $1,000.

"The safest course of action, in my opinion, would be to use units that have been demonstrated effective in our clinical trials and trials to come," he advises WebMD readers.

Room air circulation, heat and humidity, the proximity of grounded devices that may emit counteracting positive ions (such as computer monitors) may affect output levels (of a negative-ion generator), he explains

"We have tried to minimize the influence of these factors by adding grounded wrist-straps [commercially available] or grounded bed sheets [not yet available] for connection to the ionizer," he says.

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