Bentonite clay is composed of volcanic ash minerals called montmorillonite, and sea or ocean water. It gets its name from Fort Benton, Wyoming, where it was first discovered in cretaceous rocks in the area. Although it can be found in several areas worldwide, the greatest concentration of bentonite clay is in the Great Plains area of North America. Bentonite clay has been used by indigenous cultures for hundreds of years to alleviate a number of gastrointestinal health issues, and in recent years it has become popular with alternative health care practitioners for its purported health benefits. Always consult with your health care provider before adding any new treatments to your routine, especially if you have an existing health condition.
Bentonite clay is best known for its internal cleansing properties. Bentonite swells when exposed to water, forming a type of sponge. Toxins are drawn into the spongy substance because the clay has a negative charge on its flat surfaces and positive electric charges on its edges, which attracts toxic ions like a magnet. The toxins then bind with the clay and are eliminated from the body through the intestines. The Canadian Journal of Microbiology reports that bentonite clay traps herbicides, pesticides and viruses; an article in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology claims that it also pulls out heavy metals.
For general internal cleansing purposes, start with one teaspoon (or one capsule) of bentonite clay powder in the morning before consuming food. Mix it with an 8-ounce class of pure water or juice and drink quickly. Follow with another 8-ounce glass of fluid. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day while taking bentonite, as it can be binding and cause constipation. Discontinue use and contact your physician if you experience any gastrointestinal discomfort, or constipation lasting more than one day. Bentonite clay can be taken internally up to four times per day during an internal or colon cleansing period, although it is not recommended to continue such use for longer than three or four weeks at a time.
Gastrointestinal Issues and Diarrhea
While there are no scientific studies to back the claim, bentonite is purported to help alleviate a number of gastrointestinal issues, including food poisoning and diarrhea. Because of its ability to absorb and bind toxins, including bacteria and viruses, it is purported to absorb toxic invaders directly out of the digestive tract almost immediately. In his book "The Clay Cure," Ran Knishinsky claims that diarrhea can be alleviated by bentonite clay because of its inherent binding action, which binds stool, and its ability to draw irritants out of the body.
To use bentonite clay to help alleviate gastrointestinal issues and/or diarrhea, start by drinking 1 teaspoon of clay mixed into 8 ounces of water or juice, followed by another 8 ounces of plain water or juice. Repeat every 2 to 4 hours as needed, until issue(s) is resolved. If symptoms persist for longer than 48 hours, contact your physician.
Cosmetic and Commercial Uses
Bentonite clay attracts dirt, oil and impurities, making it an excellent hair cleanser. Bentonite can be used to cleanse oily hair, and/or to clarify product build-up from hair. However, clays can be drying to hair when used regularly, so their use should be followed with conditioner or oil. Bentonite is also used in pharmaceuticals as a filler in drugs, and in cosmetic creams, wet compresses, and anti-irritant lotions for eczema. Medicinally, bentonite is used as an antidote in heavy metal poisoning.
For external use, such as on rashes, eczema, bug bits and infection, mix one part clay to three parts water to form a medium paste, and apply to affected site. Leave on for 20 to 30 minutes, or longer if desired. Bentonite clay can be added to a bath to alleviate skin issues, or just as part of a general skin cleansing regimen. Add 2 to 3 ounces of clay to a full tub of water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
To cleanse hair, mix one part clay to three parts water, or mix enough water into clay to form a thin paste, and put into a squeeze bottle with a narrow nozzle. Squirt the mixture over scalp and hair, and spread evenly using your hands. It can also be applied with your hands or a spoon. The mixture can be applied to either wet or dry hair. Leave the paste on hair for 20 minutes and rinse out with water.