As a child, how many times have you been told to wash the dirt off your hands because it might make you sick? Now what if I told you that eating dirt actually has tons of benefits – will you consider? Geophagy, often occurring in preindustrial or rural communities and among some animal species, is a practice of eating soil or other substrates like clay or chalk. It may be frowned upon and considered an abnormal behavior but there is actually a plausible explanation for that. Moreover, I’m not really talking about ingesting any random earth within your reach. I’d like to share with you the health benefits of bentonite, a healing clay.
What is Bentonite Clay?
Bentonite is a type of clay with high concentration of minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, silica, and potassium. For centuries, it has been used by indigenous cultures to address common health issues like diarrhea, flu, fever, and colds. Externally, it is popularly used as a facial mask but it can also be a very valuable shampoo and toothpaste component.
The name bentonite was derived from Fort Benton in Wyoming, where it is found in abundance. Bentonite clay is commonly composed of the mineral montmorillonite, a type of aged volcano ash. It is gray or cream in color, with very fine consistency, and odorless. It is not soluble but it can absorb water as much as 12 times its volume.
Commercially, bentonite clay is available in powder, gel, and capsule forms.
Ways to Use Bentonite Clay
Bentonite Clay can be used internally and externally as:
- Facial and Body Mask
- Shampoo or Scalp Treatment
- Topical treatment for Cuts and Wounds
- Dietary supplement
Benefits of Bentonite Clay
At the moment, the FDA does not regulate bentonite clay. Like many natural products, there are no official therapeutic benefits advised to the public. Nevertheless, the popularity of this healing clay is not without proof. There are a number of studies that prove how the internal and external use of bentonite clay can improve overall health.
As a Dietary Supplement – Good for the Gut
Bentonite Clay Helps Remove Toxins
As early as 1910, records during the Balkan war showed that bentonite clay reduced the mortality rate from cholera among soldiers (from 60% to 3%) because of the clay’s adsorption of the cholera toxins and inclusion of the bacteria. Later studies also revealed that bentonite can adsorb certain viruses and bacteria.
When ingested, bentonite can absorb many organic and inorganic materials in the gastrointestinal tract without affecting mineral metabolism and absorption. In fact, dietary clays increase nutrient digestibility by causing physical changes in the intestinal mucosa. This makes it an effective alternative treatment for toxicity caused by aflatoxins, mycotoxins, and fumonisin found from food (grains, peanuts, etc.) or our environment. These toxins are linked with poor growth, disabilities, and a number of diseases in humans and animals.
In numerous studies, bentonite-infused diets help reduce or eliminate toxicity among animal subjects. Various researchers showed that its administration may be useful in removing some lead in the body, thus preventing lead poisoning. Some animals that already have damaged livers due to toxins benefited from partial restoration of liver function through bentonite ingestion.
Because of it’s ability to remove toxins, heavy metals, chemicals and other impurities, bentonite clay is commonly used in both internal and external detox and cleansing products.
Bentonite Clay Helps Adsorb Uric Acid and Creatinine
Detoxification is not the only benefit of taking bentonite clay internally. According to some studies, montmorillonite in bentonite adsorbs uric acid and promotes its diffusion from blood vessels to intestine. This prevents uric acid absorption in the intestine and reduces uric acid levels in the serum. Therefore, bentonite clay could be a natural treatment for gout.
Aside from gout, those with kidney or renal problems may be helped with bentonite supplementation as well. Animal experiments prove that montmorillonite with the bentonite decreases serum creatinine by absorbing it in the GI tract and accelerating its excretion from the intestine. Creatinine and uric acid metabolism and synthesis are closely correlated.
Bentonite Clay May Contribute to Weight Loss
This bentonite clay benefit is not as widely studied as the other points but there is still enough proof to back it up.
According to a 2016 publication, dietary lipid-adsorbent montmorillonite has an unexpected role in obesity prevention. It also countered high cholesterol or tricylcerides (hyperlipidemia) and fatty liver (hepatic steatosis) among rats with high fat diet. This may mean that bentonite supplementation may also help enhance fat excretion via bowel movements, therefore contributing to weight loss.
Bentonite Clay For Chronic Diarrhea and Bile Relux
The property of adsorption is what makes clay so good for diarrhea caused by various factors – virus infection, food poisoning, allergy, spastic colitis, or mucous colitis. Absorption is the process of drawing into itself, absorbing something. Adsorption is the process whereby something adheres to the outside. So, with clay, toxins stick to the outside of the clay molecule which can stop the diarrhea rather quickly. This makes it invaluable for traveler’s diarrhea, dysentery or even for bile reflux. The bile that has refluxed up into the stomach adheres to the clay and passes out through the stool. Excessive bile can be a cause of diarrhea or loose stools.
Clay serves as a protective agent for the GI mucosal barrier by increasing the surface area of the GI tract, modifying the characteristic of the intestinal environment. The ion exchange capacity of clays also changes the pH and oxidation state in the gut, creating a more conducive environment for the growth of good bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. It also helps speed up the elimination of the bacteria or viruses that may be causing the loose bowel movement.
Aside from providing relief from diarrhea, montmorillonite may improve abdominal pain or discomfort in IBS patients.
As a Beauty Product – Good for the Skin
Bentonite Clay Detoxifies Skin
Over time, we damage our skin because of accumulated chemicals, exposure to toxins, and continuous application of make-up. Thankfully, bentonite’s detoxifying abilities are not limited to our internal organs. It can also help detoxify the skin, making it clearer, fairer, and younger-looking.
Externally, bentonite clay can be used as a face mask, shampoo, toothpaste, and an agent for armpit and foot detox. Although there are not enough studies to show its efficacy for skin detoxification, this healing clay is believed to reduce the amount of skin odor due to bacteria and toxin build up. This makes it a great alternative to harmful deodorants and antiperspirants that are absorbed by the skin.
Bentonite Clay Helps Protect the Skin
Bentonite clay, when applied topically, can act as a barrier for the transfer of toxic compounds across the skin. This is why sunscreens with bentonite clay have been reported to have optimized functional properties like resistance to water and skin adherence. When compared to commercial lotions with the highest SPF, products with bentonite clay components are still better at protecting the skin from harmful UV rays.
Bentonite Clay May Help Fight Acne
If you or someone you know suffers from acne, then bentonite clay might be able to help you.
Acne occurs when your follicles produce too much oil (sebum), when you have dead skin accumulation in your pores, or if there is bacteria build up in your skin. Whatever the cause may be, bentonite clay applied as a mask or lotion can help prevent or manage a breakout.
Aside from addressing the causes of acne, this healing clay also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce swelling, redness, and pain. That effect also makes it a good option for the treatment of wounds and cuts.
Bentonite Clay Helps Speed up Healing
Bentonite really lives up to its reputation as healing clay since it can help in the treatment of wounds, cuts, burns, allergic contact dermatitis, and diaper rashes. There are various mechanisms by which the clay contributes to the healing process:
- Decreases the bleeding and clotting time
- Reduces inflammatory reaction
- Increases fibroblast migration needed for skin reconstruction and repair
- Enhances circulation of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the affected area
It is important, however, to clean the wounded or affected area first before applying bentonite clay. Also, make sure that you are using clay from reputable brands and sources so that it won’t further cause infection.
Bentonite Clay Calcium vs Sodium
Sodium bentonite is more of an absorber which means it can hold water and cause swelling. It is used in cat litter as it absorbs the urine well. This is why it is the clay of choice to dry oily skin as well. Sodium bentonites used internally may raise blood pressure. They are generally cheaper than the calciums but are not as good for detoxification.
Calcium is more of an adsorber which makes it work better for detox and work more quickly to detox. Even on the skin, the calcium form is the better detoxifier of bacterial and viral warts or acne. It may help with regeneration or lightening of acne scars as well.
Medi-Clay-FX contains the calcium bentonite in capsule form. Simply open 1-2 capsules into a dish and mix the powder with a little water to form a paste wand apply to stings, bites and wounds.
Bentonite Clay Recipes
For Your Dental Hygiene
- For teeth and gums, you may mix a little bit of bentonite clay and water together to form a thick mixture and use it as a toothpaste.
- You may also use it as a mouthwash if you add more water to the mixture and use it for gargling.
- Rinse your mouth with clean water after.
As Hair Mask
- Combine 1 cup of bentonite clay powder with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- Add 2 tbsp of your chosen oil. It may be argan oil, coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil.
- Apply mixture to hair and let it sit for 20 minutes.
- Rinse hair and pat dry.
As Facial Mask
- Prepare the following ingredients:
- 6 capsules bentonite clay (opened)
- 1/8 cup rosewater or clean water
- 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 drops of your selected essential oil – suggested types are lavender, rosehip oil, tea tree oil, or chamomile
- Mix the ingredients well to make a paste
- Apply the mixture to face and neck. Let it dry for 15 to 20 minutes
- Rinse face and moisturize.