As of 2011, the United States ranked as the top producer of bentonite worldwide, followed by China and Greece. It is an absorbent aluminum phyllosilicate clay that typically forms from the weathering of aged volcanic ash. It has been used for centuries for its spectrum of benefits, ranging from serving as a foundry-sand bond in iron and steel foundries, as a groundwater barrier, and as a base for dermatologic formulas. Native cultures in the Andes, Africa, and Australia consumed tiny amounts of this clay by dissolving it in water with meals to prevent potential poisoning from toxins.[i] This healing clay has resurfaced in modern cultures as a detoxifying formula—specifically, as one of the most effective and powerful healing clays available today.
Peace Out, Toxins!
Rejoice, body! Supporting its long history and traditional use as a therapeutic alchemy, modern research further emphasizes the ability of bentonite clay to combat the effects of multiple toxins present in our everyday environments. Bentonite clay can uniquely produce an “electric charge” upon contact with fluids; once hydrated, the clay’s electrical components morph—and this is physically apparent as the clay swells like a porous sponge—and are able to absorb and remove toxins, chemicals, impurities, and heavy metals.[ii] It basically acts like a magnet in and on our bodies, attracting metals and toxins towards it and away from us, making the clay a fantastic ingredient for a variety of detox and cleansing products. Think of it, if you will, as a heroic (and not villainous) rendition of Magneto in the world of clays, with that X-man’s properties of manipulating metals and magnets (remember that, in this case, he's fortunately fighting on your side).
Bentonite clay is typically used to cleanse the body of toxic compounds such as mercury, lead, benzene, and cadmium—all of which can inflict damage on the body over time, and each of which may be found in everyday processed foods (particularly those containing a high level of fructose corn syrup), drinking water, and building materials. Studies by the University of Virginia revealed that organoclays such as bentonite clay are capable of removing these toxins, exhibiting dual sorptive properties for both heavy metals and organic contaminants (including benzene, a ubiquitous chemical that can cause leukemia and other hematological cancers).[iii]
Natural filtration within your body? That’s the work of the kidneys, but bentonite clay can make your life a lot easier in that department. This clay’s absorptive abilities are thanks to the relatively low number (seventeen!) of minerals that comprise this substance, giving it the higher potential to absorb other molecules.[iv] Researchers at India’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute discovered that the combination of bentonite clay and magnesium chloride successfully reduces the fluoride—toxic in large doses—contained in water.[v] Just so, bentonite clay has been shown to decrease health conditions associated with the ingestion of dietary aflatoxin, a mold-like compound produce by organisms in food crops (sometimes detectable in peanut butter and cooking oils) which are as toxic as their name indicates and have been known to contribute to liver damage and cancer.[vi]
Bentonite clay even takes care of Mother Earth, taking to heart “from dust you emerged and from dust you shall return”. It has been shown to reduce the contaminates—benzene, xylene, toluene, and so forth—that ensue in chemically-adulterated soils, like those found alongside busy highways and roads. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati found that organophilic bentonite acts as a successful absorbent for removing these aromatic organics, including petroleum spills and landfill liners.[vii]
Boosted Immune System, Purified Skin
Due to its alkalizing effect, the clay can even help balance the bacteria in our gut. It affects the body’s pH, providing the body with some essential minerals. Researchers at the IPA Agricultural Research Centre in Iraq have discovered the ameliorative effect of graded levels of dietary sodium bentonite on suppressed immune systems in broiler chicks, showing that aflatoxins’ immune-degrading effects were sufficiently reduced by the administration of the clay.[viii]
Naturally, it also serves as a spectacular facial and body cleanse, extracting toxins from your body’s biggest organ: your skin. There have been a plethora of recipes brewing with this new favorite detox and cleanser. Some of our favorites include:
- Homemade Clay Toothpaste, which entails the following six easy ingredients: ¼ cup bentonite clay, 3/8 cup boiling purified water, ¼ tsp. unrefined sea salt, 15-25 drops of stevia, 10-12 drops of peppermint essential oil, 4-6 drops of tea tree essential oil. Find out how to create this paste here.
- Clay Hair Detox for Thick, Shiny Hair, which is as simple as combining brewed tea (or water), apple cider vinegar, a dozen drops of your favorite essential oil, and—of course—nearly a full cup of bentonite clay. Get the scoop on this here.
- All-Natural Home Deodorant, because you can. According to the awesome folks at Oh Lardy, all you need are 5 tbsp. coconut oil, 1 tbsp. baking soda, 6 tbsp. arrowroot powder, 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil, and 2 tbsp. bentonite clay. Mix it until it becomes a paste and apply!
- Facial Clay Mask, because who you absolutely deserve a super easy mini spa at home. Just use 1 tsp. bentonite clay and 1 tsp. of water or apple cider vinegar. Mix them together in a bowl or cup until they become a paste. You can spread along your face and neck with your fingers, a cotton ball, or a cosmetic sponge. Leave it on 20-60 minutes (leave it on for a short period if you’ve very sensitive skin; it takes at least 15 minutes just to dry and it’ll feel tight against your skin once it does—that’s normal). Rinse it off thoroughly with water. Your face might appear a bit pink at first, but that’s just from the increased blood flow as the clay pulls out toxins from your pores.
The Essence of Balance
Check with your doctor before using bentonite clay if you have a medical condition. Depending on its concentration of elements—including aluminum, calcium, potassium, and sodium—bentonite clay comes in different types. The two most commercially available varieties are sodium bentonite (best for detoxing purposes due to its stronger negative electromagnetic charge) and calcium bentonite (ideal for re-mineralizing the body with silica and calcium).[ix] Taken appropriately, bentonite clay can prove to be a spectacular tool for detoxifying your body and home, purifying your hair and skin, reversing digestive stress and combatting illness, inflammations, and poisoning, and even heal burns, cuts, and other skin ailments.