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Bentonite Clay Benefits — for the Skin, Gut and More
While bentonite clay has been used for centuries around the world to promote better health and ward off diseases, those living in the U.S. and Europe have, for the most part, only recently become familiar with this product.
What is bentonite clay used for? Bentonite clay (BC), also called calcium bentonite clay or Montmorillonite clay, is now taking off as a wellness trend among people who are looking to help naturally improve their skin’s health, detoxify their bodies and improve digestion.
Individuals in various cultures refer to BC as “healing clay,” since it cleanses various parts of the body. It’s possible to enjoy bentonite clay benefits by taking it internally (in other words, drinking and eating it), on top of using it externally on your skin and hair.
What Is Bentonite Clay?
Bentonite clay is a product composed of ash taken from volcanoes. The clay is dried in the sun, filtered and then sold commercially in several forms, including as facial clay masks, ointments/pastes, and hair treatments.
When mixed with water it forms a thick paste.
Technically BC is an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate clay. The largest known source of BC is found in Fort Benton, Montana, where numerous volcanoes are present.
The name of the clay stems from the town where today much of the supply is still harvested.
The other name that bentonite clay is typically given, Montmorillonite clay, stems from the region of France called Montmorillon, where the clay was first discovered.
Today the clay is harvested mostly in the U.S., France and Italy. “Bentonite” is actually the trade name that the clay has been given, but people for the most part speak about Montmorillonite and Bentonite clay interchangeably and are referring to the same product.
Bentonite clay stems back far in history as a traditional healing method for protecting the body from disease. It has been reported that several traditional cultures living in regions of the Andes, Central Africa and Australia have applied and consumed volcanic clays in numerous ways for centuries.
Because the clay is readily available and required no modern processing, it’s easy to see why it’s been a popular and cost-effective way of “detoxing” the body for quite some time.
What are the benefits of bentonite clay? As explained more below, these include:
How It Works
Bentonite clay benefits your body in several key ways:
BC can help to reduce the negative effects of toxins that we encounter every day, such as those given off from paint, cleaning supplies, markers, substances used in building homes, low-quality unpurified water, and even pesticides.
Some people also choose to use BC as a supplement, since the clay is a natural source of important dietary nutrients. When ingested into the body, either in a drink form or by eating the clay, its vitamins and minerals are absorbed similarly to how a supplement would be.
Top 12 Benefits and Uses
Benefits of bentonite clay for skin include:
When combined with water and left to dry on the skin as a clay mask, BC is able to bind to bacteria and toxins. It can help to remove these substances from the surface of the skin and within pores, helping to reduce breakouts.
Thanks to the clay’s special ability to act as an antibiotic treatment when applied topically, BC can also help to calm skin infections, like diaper rash and contact dermatitis.
Topical application of bentonite clay has even been shown to help heal Buruli ulcers, which is a “flesh-eating” infection resulting from Mycobacterium ulcerans bacteria generally seen in third-world countries.
By removing toxins, digestive-distress causing chemicals and heavy metals from the gut, bentonite clay helps to promote digestion. Research has also shown that, in animals, bentonite clay can bind to particular toxins like “aflatoxins” that are common in the standard diet, found usually on improperly stored food products.
When left unattended, an influx of aflatoxins can contribute to liver damage and potentially even the onset of certain cancers.
In one study using cows, scientists found that bentonite clay molecules bound to bovine rotavirus and bovine coronavirus, two major viruses that contribute to gastroenteritis (referred to as stomach flu in people). Variations of both of these viruses can also be present in human beings.
Thanks to its ability to neutralize bacteria in the gut and kill viruses, BC helps to alleviate many digestive problems. Some people use bentonite clay as relief for nausea and vomiting (including pregnant women), constipation, and to help with IBS.
It’s possible that the reason people find relief in these situations has to do with the way bentonite protects the lining of your intestines from letting toxins through, which would otherwise contribute to leaky gut. So far, this effect has only been observed in animals, but may also apply in human subjects.
BC may benefit your pets as well. It is safe for pet consumption within your own home and can alleviate pet’s nausea and vomiting in the same way.
As part of a healthy diet containing plenty of alkaline foods, natural detox drinks and probiotics/prebiotics, bentonite clay has been found in certain studies to contribute to weight loss in healthy men over a 21-day period. The participants, overall, also saw improvement in total cholesterol.
Because of the uncontrolled nature of this study, it is not possible to determine how influential bentonite clay, as a single element, was on the observed weight loss, so these results should be approached with caution. To date, no controlled, human studies exist to reflect this benefit.
However, a 2016 trial in rats tested the impact of BC on weight loss and found that the supplement was correlated with weight loss, as well as decreased cholesterol.
In mice studies, BC has been found to absorb certain thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), resulting in the alleviation of hyperthyroidism. This result suggests bentonite might potentially help people keep thyroid levels down, although the test has not been duplicated in humans as of yet.
A lab study conducted in 2016 discovered that bentonite clay stopped the growth of cancer cell line U251, a human cancer cell found in a central nervous cancer called glioblastoma. However, another cell line was grown larger when exposed to the substance.
The researchers explained that the cell formations and swelling of bentonite clay is the reason for this, and that it could potentially be effective against specific types of cancers (like glioblastomas), but not others.
Another lab experiment observed bentonite clay caused cell death of Caco-2 cells, a colorectal cancer line. In this study, the clay exhibited a large amount of oxidative stress upon just the cancer cells without damaging the DNA.
BC has been found to be effective at killing harmful bacteria. In a study published by the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, “results indicate that specific mineral products have intrinsic, heat-stable antibacterial properties, which could provide an inexpensive treatment against numerous human bacterial infections.”
More research is still needed on the topic, but results of studies so far appear to be promising in terms of how the clay can be used as a treatment for these gut-related illnesses. On top of killing these types of infections and viruses, bentonite clay benefits your immune system by keeping the gut wall strong.
Much of the immune system actually lives inside of the gut microbiome, and when the gut wall is compromised, toxins are better able to leach into the bloodstream and cause serious problems. By protecting the gut wall and decreasing the amount of pesticides, toxins, bacteria and chemicals that could potentially enter the blood, the body is better able to protect itself.
One type of virus that, at least in a lab, finds its match in bentonite clay is human adenovirus. While these viruses are not generally lethal, they do cause respiratory infections that can be particularly dangerous to infants or those with compromised immune systems.
No currently accepted treatment method exists for these viral infections, but it’s possible bentonite clay could be a candidate for more research on the subject.
Bentonite clay is also likely able to successfully treat paraquat poisoning in humans.
Paraquat is a toxic herbicide and is not available easily in the U.S. However, if it is ingested or breathed in, it can cause many a disease called Paraquat lung.
Like Fuller’s earth, some research shows that bentonite seems to be a potentially powerful agent against the damage paraquat can cause.
The mouth is one of the most susceptible areas of the body when it comes to harmful outside “invaders” taking over, like bacteria and toxins.
Bentonite clay binds to unhealthy substances in the mouth, such as around the teeth and on the tongue and gums, and helps to remove them before you swallow them and become sick. Because of BC’s antibacterial properties, it has been used in natural toothpastes and even mixed with water and used as a daily rinse.
Bentonite clay has been researched as an effective way to remove some of the dangerous fluoride often found in drinking water, which is linked to serious diseases such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction and brain damage.
When combined with magnesium, BC has been shown to improve the purity of tap water, which leads to some promising possibilities for using it in the future as a widespread cost-effective water purification method.
Bentonite clay can be applied to any area on the skin of babies that is irritated, red or needs soothing in the same way that traditional powders are used. Plus, it is very gentle and naturally cleansing.
One study found that compared to calendula, bentonite had faster healing effects and is more effective at improving infantile diaper dermatitis. It’s also capable of speeding up healing time of wounds, in some cases even when prescription antibiotics are not able to help solve the problem.
Bentonite clay is used for hair conditioning and styling because its minerals help to moisturize, soften and defrizz hair, especially curly hair, according to anecdotal evidence. It may also help support hair growth, make hair shinier, reduce dandruff, and prevent infections that can affect the scalp.
Because it acts as a natural cleanser and bacteria-killer, BC can help to remove odors from various surfaces (and your body!). It’s especially effective when combined with cleansing products like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, arrowroot flour, and essential oils such as lemon, orange or tea tree.
Related: Baby Powder Asbestos Dangers: Should You Worry?
How to Use, Plus DIY Recipes
You can use BC at home, such as to make DIY skin masks, by purchasing bentonite clay powder.
What color is real bentonite clay? Bentonite clay normally comes in a gray or cream color, not a bright white color, which can indicate that it may have gone bad.
The clay should also be odorless and not have much of any taste at all.
When preparing BC mixtures, always use a “nonreactive bowl,” in other words one that is wood, plastic or glass. This keeps the charge of BC from reacting with the metal of the bowl/spoon, which will change its effects.
How often should you use bentonite clay?
Internally, you can take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon once per day, as many days of the week as you’d like. Most experts recommend that you don’t consume BC internally for more than four weeks in a row.
After testing your skin’s reaction, you can use BC on your skin (or hair) several times per week for best results.
When should you take BC?
For the best results, do not take bentonite within an hour of food. Also avoid taking it within two hours of medications or supplements, since it can interact with other substances.
Bentonite clay for skin
Bentonite clay hair mask for hair
Bentonite clay bath
Gargling BC for dental health
Consuming bentonite clay drinks and capsules
Giving BC to your pets
Risks and Side Effects
What bentonite clay dangers should you be aware of? While generally safe when used correctly, some caution needs to be exercised if using BC in terms of both quantity as well as the chosen type.