What’s old is new again. In ancient times cultures around the world benefitted from the internal and external healing properties of a type of a highly absorbent, mineral-rich clay, derived from volcanic ash deposited in seawater 150 million years ago. In the early 20th Century the clay was used by the British Army in India to treat acute bacterial food poisoning and in China as a cholera antidote. This clay is found all over the world, but the largest known deposit was discovered in 1898 near Fort Benton, Montana, hence the name bentonite, now a catch-all phrase for all similar clays which, by the way, are currently experiencing an explosion in popularity around the world!
Bentonite is a special kind of detoxicant. Most metabolic, environmental and chemical toxins (wastes) are positively charged. Bentonite contains mostly negative ions. Adding water to the clay causes it to expand and attract or adsorb (bind physically to) positively charged substances. It can adsorb about 40 times its own weight of these substances present in the alimentary canal. Thus, because the clay is not digested, it tightly binds to harmful material which is then excreted from the body (along with the clay) through normal bowel movements. This is the genius of bentonite: the ability to heal by attracting and eliminating heavy metals and other toxins in a safe and painless way.
The Many Benefits of Bentonite
- Improves digestion. The clay helps neutralize harmful bacteria which can create digestive problems so common these days. Turns out, commercial digestive products like Rolaids and Maalox contain antacid compounds from clays. Animal studies have found bentonite highly effective in adsorbing substances which contribute to nausea and diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems in young mammalian species. This may be why on nature TV shows you often see animals, like deer, parrots, elephants, seeming to love eating and rolling in dirt. Instinctively, they know it’s good for digestion. Young children also have this inclination, though usually frowned upon by adults.
2. Clears up skin problems. Because the clay naturally binds toxins when mixed with water, it
is a good choice for treating skin issues (e.g., eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis). Apply the clay
to your skin to draw out toxins from pores. This enables the skin to heal and also provides a
nice exfoliating effect. Bentonite can aid healing skin infections. In many cases the clay
may work better than prescription antibiotics (without the negative side effects). Also,
animal studies show that bentonite improved collagen formation in mice within just 14 days.
Collagen is key to keeping skin elastic and free of wrinkles. A human study found that
applying clay and jojoba oil reduced acne lesions up to 54% in 6 weeks.
3. Strengthens immune function. The job of the immune system is to remove foreign material from the body so that organs and glands can function optimally. The detoxifying action of the clay enhances this function by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria, e.g. Salmonella, E. coli, MRSA, etc. It also removes common chemical toxins emitted from paint, building materials, cleaning products and so many other exposures that are nearly impossible to avoid in our modern age. The clay helps remove toxic heavy metals (e.g. mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, chromium, thallium) which accumulate from processed foods, poor quality drinking water, air pollution, etc.
4. Provides a good source of nutrients. Besides all itshealing qualities,bentonite clay is valuable for nutritional supplementation. It’s a rich source of minerals which many people lack, such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, copper, iron, silica, potassium. A 2009 study in Tanzania (where clay is most often eaten by pregnant women) concluded that just 50 grams/day supplied 99% of the recommended dose of manganese, 75% copper, 13%. Iron.
How to Use Bentonite Clay
Bentonite is widely available in many health food stores or online in powder or liquid form. Some clay is designed just for topical use, so it may not go through as rigorous a purification process as clay meant for ingestion. It’s best to get food grade form. For internal use, we prefer the liquid version by Sonne’s called Detoxificant #7. This company has been producing products of the highest quality since 1946. Excellent brands for powders — you add the water — are Mountain Rose Herbals, Redmond Clay.
Internal For Detox.
The clay is basically odorless and tasteless. For Internal detox, if you’re using liquid bentonite like Sonnes #7, take a tablespoon of the liquid in a cup of water upon arising, then just before dinner, take 1 tablespoon straight. That’s it. If you’re using powder (food grade), start slowly by mixing half a teaspoon into a glass of water and drink. Gradually increase the clay to a full teaspoon in water. It’s easier to mix the clay and water in a glass jar and shake before drinking.
Simply eat normally; take water throughout the day, but not unusual amounts. If you do this daily for a couple weeks at a time, the body getsaccustomed to drawing out toxins gradually. If you are just using it for the first time, you may experience a few detox symptoms (like headache, fatigue) as your body removes toxic material. So start gradually, perhaps just a teaspoon twice a day, and observe how your body reacts.
Some people like to take the clay once a day or every now and then as a tonic. Others do the detox every day for several weeks a few times a year just to keep everything honest. Remember, stick to the prescribed amounts — more is not better. The body responds best to the gentle power of the clay.
Topical for Skin Conditions
Spot treatment. Apply a dab of liquid bentonite on any problem spot. If you’re using powder form, mix equal amounts with water. and apply. Let the clay dry (about 20 minutes), then rinse off with water. Effective on blemishes, bug bites or stings, cuts, eczema, psoraiasis, minor burns.
For more acute problems, you can make a poultice. Apply a thicker layer of the clay on the area, then wrap with gauze or a cloth. Change the poultice every few hours until you see improvement.
Clay masque. This is very popular now at high end spas, but why not save yourself the big bucks and do it at home? Mix one part bentonite powder and one part water to create a paste — one teaspoon of each should do. For an extra hydration boost, use 1 teaspoon bentonite, 1 teaspoon Manuka honey and just enough water to make a paste. Rub onto your face and neck; leave on ’til dried (15-20 minutes). Rinse off with a washcloth and cool water. Enjoy the warm flush from increased circulation. Do the masque once a week to exfoliate your skin, reduce blemishes and give your face that youthful glow.
Clay baths. Treat your whole body to the same effects as the clay masque! Stir 1/4 cup bentonite into the bath water. Soak for 20-30 minutes.
Toothpaste. The minerals in the clay help to whiten and nourish teeth. Just dip your toothbrush in a little bentonite powder, along with a natural (fluoride-free) toothpaste of your choice.
Any Adverse Effects?
Even mainstream food safety organizations endorse bentonite clay as a safe and natural product. As a food additive, FDA rates it as “generally regarded as safe.” Still, if you are new to taking the clay, always begin gradually with a small amount or, if you have any doubts, check with your medical advisor.
Some people shy away from bentonite because they’ve heard it contains trace amounts of heavy metals, like lead. This may be a concern in some inferior clay products, but, when you use quality “food grade” brands, the levels are too low to cause problems, lower than what you’d find in a serving of plant foods, like sweet potatoes or mixed nuts. More importantly the lead in bentonite clay is bonded to other molecules, which indicates it’s probably safer than the isolated lead found in lead paint or contaminated cosmetics. Because the lead atoms in the clay are so tightly bound with other atoms, they do not break away as the clay traverses through your body or interacts with skin. The clay molecules, in fact, have a large surface with a strong negative charge which acts like a powerful magnet drawing the positively charged lead out of your body. Indeed, many people take bentonite specifically to help remove heavy metals from their body.
When buying bentonite, remember some clay is only designed for external use, so it might not have gone through as rigorous a process as clays intended for ingestion. Whether you plan topical or internal use, it’s best to confirm that you’re buying food grade which has, therefore, gone through all the necessary safeguards.
“Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review” — National Institutes Of Health (NIH)
“Bentonite Clay: 11 Benefits and Uses” — Medical News Today
“The Best Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses” — Paleohacks
“Bentonite Clay: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, DIY & More” — MindBodyGreen
“Benefits of Bentonite Clay (& How to Use It)” — WellnessMama