10 Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses

February 6, 2018
Bentonite clay - Dr. Axe

Never heard of bentonite clay before? Well, then you may be very surprised to hear that individuals in various cultures refer to it as “healing clay” that cleanses the body. In fact, many people enjoy bentonite clay benefits by taking internally (in other words, drinking and eating it), on top of using it externally on the skin.

Bentonite clay, also called Montmorillonite clay, is taking off as a wellness trend among people who are looking to help detoxify their bodies and defend against illnesses. While it’s been used for centuries around the world to promote better health and ward off disease, many people in the U.S. and Europe have begun using it to reap the benefits.* (That being said, some caution needs to be exercised if using bentonite clay, in terms of quantity as well as the chosen type.)


Bentonite Clay History

What is bentonite clay? It’s actually composed of ash made from volcanos. The largest known source of bentonite clay is found in Fort Benton, Wyoming, where numerous volcanos 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 clays in numerous ways for centuries. Because the clay is readily available and required no modern processing, it has been a popular and cost-effective way of “detoxing” the body for quite some time.


How Bentonite Clay Works

We come into contact with a range of toxins numerous times every day, as toxins are given off from common products like paint, cleaning supplies, markers, substances used in building homes, low-quality unpurified water, and even pesticides that are widely sprayed regions that have farming present. It is quite common to inject a range of different toxins just by breathing in the fumes that are present all around us, not to mention the toxins that we receive from an unhealthy diet filled with low-quality processed foods.

“Heavy metal toxins” usually refer to substances like mercury, cadmium, lead and benzene. These can be found in the products previously mentioned, and also in foods that contain high fructose corn syrup or certain types of fish. Bentonite clay benefits your body by helping to expel many of these toxins (thus as part of a heavy metal detox) and fight various pathogens responsible for disease, such as E. coli and the virus that causes staph infection. (1)

On top of being able to draw-out toxins from the body, the clay itself has a range of nutrients. Bentonite clay is known to have an abundance of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron and potassium.

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. Therefore, some people use it as a supplement since the clay is a natural source of important dietary nutrients.

Bentonite clay also benefits the body because it has the ability to produce a charge that is electrical in nature when it comes in contact with liquid — similar to how earthing (touching your bare feet to the earth, in particular wet grass) works. When the clay touches any type of fluid (normally water), it takes on a different charge and is thought to bind to any present toxins within the fluid.

While in its natural state, bentonite clay has negatively charged molecules. Most toxins and heavy metals have positively charged molecules. This allows the two to bind together easily and stay united while the toxin removal process happens.

Bentonite clay essentially “seeks” toxins in the body to bind with because naturally any substance that has a missing ion (which gives it its “charge”) looks for oppositely charged types of substances that will make it complete. Upon binding, the clay is then able to help remove toxins, chemicals, impurities and “heavy metals” from the gut, skin and mouth.   

If you ever use chia seeds in baking and combine them with any milk or water, you have likely experienced their ability to swell and soak up the fluid that is around them, creating a gel-like consistency. Bentonite clay has a similar ability: It absorbs the liquids that is comes into contact with and expands to extract toxins from the liquid.


10 Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses

 1. Used on the Skin to Help Heal Poison Ivy, Dermatitis and Wounds

When combined with water and left to dry on the skin as a clay mask, the clay is able to bind to bacteria and toxins living on the surface of the skin and within pores to extract these from the pores. This helps to reduce the outbreak of blemishes, alleviate redness, and also to fight allergic reactions from irritating lotions or face washes, and even helps heal poison ivy. (2)

Thanks to the clay’s special ability to act as an antibiotic treatment when applied topically to the skin, the clay can help to calm skin infections, like contact dermatitis, and speed up healing time of wounds, even when prescription antibiotics were not able to help solve the problem. (1, 3)

Topical application of bentonite clay has even been shown to heal Buruli ulcer, which is a “flesh-eating” infection resulting from Mycobacterium ulcerans bacteria generally seen in third-world countries. (4)

Some people have reported using bentonite clay as a soaking liquid to remove toxins on the skin.

2. Supports Healthy Digestion

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. (5, 6) When left unattended, an influx of aflatoxins can contribute to liver damage and potentially even the onset of certain cancers.

In a 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). (7) 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, bentonite clay helps to alleviate many digestive problems. Some people use bentonite clay as relief for nausea and vomiting by pregnant women, as a safe way to remedy 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. (8, 9) So far, this effect has only been observed in animals, but may also apply in human subjects.

Bentonite clay 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. You can add bentonite clay to your pet’s water to help reduce symptoms like vomiting. Mix one-fourth cup or less of the clay into their water until it dissolves; they should not taste anything or even notice that it’s there, but should feel better pretty quickly. (10)

3. May Promote Weight Loss

As part of a healthy diet containing plenty of alkaline foods, natural detox drinks and probiotics/prebiotics, bentonite clay was found to contribute to weight loss in healthy men over a 21-day period. The participants, overall, also saw improvement in total cholesterol. (11)

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 bentonite clay on weight loss and found that the supplement was correlated with weight loss as well as decreased cholesterol. (12)

4. Helps with Thyroid Function

In rats and mice, bentonite clay helps to absorb certain thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), resulting in the alleviation of hyperthyroidism. (13) This result suggests bentonite might potentially help people keep thyroid levels down, although the test has not been duplicated in humans as of yet.

5. Stops Growth of Two Cancer Cell Lines in a Lab

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. (14)

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. (15)

6. Boosts Immunity by Killing Harmful Bacteria and Viruses

Bentonite clay was also 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.” (1)

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. (8,9)

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.

7. May Support Respiratory Health

One type of virus that, at least in a lab, finds its match in bentonite clay is human adenovirus. (16) 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, bentonite seems to be a potentially powerful agent against the damage paraquat can cause. (17)

8. Could Improve the Health of Teeth and Gums

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 Bentonite’s antibacterial properties, it has been used in natural toothpastes and even mixed with water and used as a daily rinse.

9. Removes Fluoride from Drinking Water

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, the clay has been shown to benefit 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. (18)

10. Useful As a Baby Powder Alternative

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.

Apply a small amount of the clay directly to the skin and allow it to sit for several minutes before wiping/rinsing it away.


How to Effectively Start Using 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.

If you plan on consuming bentonite clay by mouth (ingesting it either by eating or drinking the clay), try this:

  • Drink 1/2 to 1 teaspoon once per day as many days of the week as you’d like. Mix the clay with water, preferably in a jar with a lid where you can shake the clay and make it dissolve. Then drink it right away.

If you plan on only using it externally on your skin, try this:

  • Enjoy the bentonite clay benefits by adding a ¼ of a cup of the clay to your bath and massage your skin with it. Or just allow the clay to dissolve into the water and soak it in for as long as you’d like, then rinse your skin well with clean water.
  • Try gargling the clay in your mouth with some water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, similarly to using mouth wash. Then spit out the clay and rinse your mouth with clean water.
  • Try creating a face mask by smearing the clay directly onto your skin, especially anywhere where you have blemishes, red spots, irritations or scarring. Allow the clay to dry (this usually takes about 20 minutes) and then rinse it off with warm water. It’s recommended to use the clay mask one or twice per week for best results.
  • For scrapes or bug bites, apply a concentrated amount of the clay directly to the trouble area and cover with a Band-Aid or gauze, then let it sit for about 2 hours, then rinse it off. 

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and safe way to help rid toxins from your body, consider trying bentonite clay in one of its many uses. Whether you are looking to clear skin irritations or undergo a more dramatic internal detox, experiment with this traditional and completely natural method of healing that has been practiced for hundreds of years.


Precautions

Some bentonite clay products contains trace amounts of lead and other heavy metals and may not be appropriate for consumption by children and pregnant women.

*The FDA is warning consumers to not purchase “Bentonite Me Baby” by Alikay Naturals or “Best Bentonite Clay” by Best Bentonite because of a potential lead poisoning risk, as these products apparently have unsafe levels of lead. (19, 20)

Bentonite clay should not be ingested in massive quantities because of the way it expands in the body. Too much could potentially result in the disruption of digestion and in the absorption of vital nutrients.

There has been at least one report of a pediatric patient developing severe hypokalemia (low potassium) after being given large amounts of bentonite clay both orally and rectally. (21)


Final Thoughts

Bentonite clay is an age-old method of treating many different disorders in a number of cultures. From the skin to the digestive system, this substance has the ability to fight infection, boost immunity and more.

If you choose to consume bentonite clay, be sure to do it only in small quantities and use clay sold by trusted merchants.

Read Next: 7 Fulvic Acid Benefits & Uses: Improve Gut, Skin & Brain Health


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