Bentonite clay: Benefits, types, side effects, how to use

In recent years, bentonite clay has become increasingly popular as a natural solution for various health and beauty issues. This ancient substance, known for its remarkable properties, has found a place in modern medicine and skincare routines. 

In this article, we will explore the origins of bentonite clay, its composition, and its many benefits. 

Additionally, we will discuss how to use bentonite clay effectively, the precautions to consider, and its role in alternative medicine. 

What is bentonite clay?

Bentonite clay, or montmorillonite clay, is a naturally occurring substance derived from volcanic ash. Various civilizations have utilized its medicinal and healing properties for centuries.

The unique composition of bentonite, rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron, contributes to its therapeutic value. 

This clay has a fine, velvety texture and a grayish-green or off-white color. Due to its high absorbency and swelling properties, the clay is commonly used in various industries, including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and environmental applications.

Today, it is widely recognized for its ability to detoxify the body, improve skin health, and promote overall well-being.

What is bentonite clay?

Historical use

The use of bentonite clay dates back to ancient times when it was valued for its healing abilities. Indigenous cultures incorporated it into traditional medicine while ancient Egyptians used it to mummify the dead [1]. 

The clay was often applied topically to soothe skin irritations, treat wounds, and relieve digestive issues. Its remarkable properties were recognized and passed down through generations, contributing to its widespread usage.

Composition and properties

Bentonite clay primarily comprises layered silicates, with montmorillonite being the dominant mineral. This mineral structure gives bentonite clay a unique ability to absorb and retain water. 

When hydrated, the clay forms a gel-like substance with a high surface area, allowing it to bind with toxins, impurities, and excess oils. This adsorption process makes bentonite clay an effective cleansing agent, both internally and externally.

What are the health benefits of bentonite clay?

1. Detoxification and cleansing

Bentonite clay is renowned for its detoxifying properties. When ingested, it can help remove harmful toxins, heavy metals, and impurities from the body. 

The clay absorbs these substances, preventing them from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Additionally, it can aid in improving liver function and supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes.

2. Skin care and beauty

In skin care, bentonite clay is a popular ingredient in face masks, cleansers, and exfoliators. This product is excellent for acne treatment, reducing blemishes, and improving your complexion because it effectively removes impurities from your skin [2]. The clay’s mineral content also nourishes and revitalizes the skin, making it smooth and refreshed.

3. Digestive health

Bentonite clay has long been used to promote digestive health. Consumption can help relieve indigestion, bloating, and occasional constipation. 

The clay’s binding properties aid in the removal of toxins and waste material from the digestive tract, supporting regular bowel movements and overall gut health [3].

4. Oral health

The antimicrobial properties of bentonite clay make it beneficial for oral health. It can help combat harmful bacteria in the mouth, reducing the risk of cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. 

Some toothpaste and mouthwash formulations use bentonite clay for its natural cleansing and purifying effects [4].

5. Allergy relief

The clay has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate symptoms of allergies. It can soothe skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, relieving itching and inflammation. 

Moreover, its internal use may help reduce allergic reactions by supporting the immune system.

How to use bentonite clay

Bentonite clay offers many benefits when used correctly. If you want to enhance your skin, boost digestive health, or rid your body of toxins, we’ve covered you with comprehensive guidelines on how to use it effectively.

External use

1. Face mask

Mix the clay with water or other liquid ingredients like apple cider vinegar or aloe vera gel. 

The consistency should be smooth and spreadable. Apply the mask evenly to your cleansed face, avoiding the delicate eye area. 

Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes or until it dries completely. Rinse it off with warm water and pat your face dry. You’ll notice a refreshed and revitalized complexion.

2. Poultice

Create a clay poultice for localized skin issues like acne, insect bites, or rashes. Mix the clay with water to form a thick paste. 

To treat the affected area, apply the paste directly and ensure it covers the entire surface. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing off. This method allows the clay to draw out impurities and soothe inflammation.

3. Body wrap

Mix the clay with water or a hydrating oil like coconut or olive oil to detoxify and nourish your body. Apply the mixture onto your body, paying extra attention to the areas that require it, like the abdomen, thighs, or back.

Wrap the treated areas with plastic wrap or a warm towel. Leave the wrap on for 30 to 60 minutes, then rinse off in the shower.

Internal use

1. Internal cleansing

Choosing a high-quality, food-grade clay product is vital when using bentonite clay internally. Mix 1 teaspoon of clay with 8 ounces of water or juice in a glass or plastic container (avoid metal). 

After stirring thoroughly, leave it for a few minutes to allow the clay to absorb the liquid. Drink the mixture on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning or before bed. It’s important to drink enough water every day to avoid dehydration.

2. Smoothies and beverages

Another way to incorporate bentonite clay into your routine is by adding it to smoothies, juices, or other beverages [5]. 

Start with 1 teaspoon of clay per serving and gradually increase as your body adjusts. Ensure proper mixing to avoid clumping, and consume the drink immediately after preparation.

Precautions and safety measures when using bentonite clay

While this clay is generally safe to use, keep these precautions in mind:

  • Always choose high-quality, food-grade bentonite clay labeled explicitly for internal or external use.
  • Consult a healthcare professional before using if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking medications, or have any pre-existing health conditions.
  • Before applying topically, perform a patch test to check for allergic reactions or skin sensitivity.
  • If you feel any adverse effects or discomfort after using it, stop using it and consult a medical professional.

Remember, proper hydration is crucial when using bentonite clay internally to support its detoxification process. Listen to your body; start with small doses, and gradually increase as tolerated.

Types of bentonite clay and how to use them

While the term ‘bentonite clay’ may suggest a single entity, there are several types, each possessing its unique mineral composition and, consequently, its uses and benefits.

There are two widely used types of bentonite clay: calcium bentonite and sodium bentonite.

Types of bentonite clay and how to use them
Photograph: stockimagefactory/Envato

Calcium bentonite

Also known as ‘living clay’ for its healing properties, calcium bentonite is known for its ability to absorb and adsorb toxins. 

It is often used for internal detoxification. When ingested, it can bind to toxins in the gut and help to eliminate them from the body. 

Calcium bentonite can draw out impurities from the skin. It is commonly used topically for skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis due to its ability 

Sodium bentonite

Sodium bentonite is mainly used for industrial applications because it can expand and form a very absorbent mass when hydrated.

Nevertheless, it also plays a role in the health and beauty industry. Sodium bentonite’s swelling property makes it useful in masks and baths, as it can draw out impurities and toxins from the skin and provide gentle exfoliation.

How to choose and buy bentonite clay products

When choosing and purchasing bentonite clay products, several factors must be considered to ensure you get a high-quality and effective product. 

Here are some essential factors to consider:

Types of bentonite clay

It can be classified into two main types: sodium bentonite and calcium bentonite [6]. Of the two, sodium bentonite is known for its high swelling properties and is commonly used in industrial applications such as sealing ponds and drilling mud.

On the other hand, calcium bentonite is preferred for internal and external use due to its lower sodium content and mineral concentration. Choosing a clay product labeled calcium bentonite is essential for optimal results.

Quality and purity

If you want to guarantee the quality and purity of your product, take note of the following tips:

  • Source: Look for clay products from reputable locations known for their natural deposits of high-quality bentonite clay. The source should be clearly stated on the packaging or product description.
  • Testing and certification: Check if the product has undergone testing by a third-party laboratory to verify its quality and purity. Look for certifications such as organic, non-GMO, and ISO standards, which indicate a commitment to quality control.
  • Additives and fillers: Read the ingredient list carefully to ensure the product is free from additives, fillers, or potentially harmful substances. Pure bentonite clay should contain only one ingredient: bentonite clay.
  • Packaging: Opt for clay products that come in airtight and moisture-resistant packaging. This helps preserve the clay’s integrity and extends its shelf life. Avoid products packaged in transparent containers, as exposure to light can degrade the clay over time.

Packaging and storage

Proper packaging and storage are essential to maintain the effectiveness and longevity of the product. Consider the following recommendations:

  • Airtight containers: Choose products in jars or bags with airtight seals to prevent moisture and air exposure. This helps preserve the clay’s properties and prevents clumping.
  • Opaque packaging: Look for clay products packaged in opaque containers that protect the clay from light exposure. UV rays can degrade the clay and reduce its effectiveness.
  • Storage conditions: Store your bentonite clay in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Excessive heat and humidity can affect the clay’s quality and consistency. Avoid storing it in the bathroom, as moisture can compromise the clay.

Sourcing ethical and sustainable bentonite clay

If ethical and sustainable sourcing is important to you, consider the following:

  • Organic certification: Look for certified organic products. This ensures that the clay has been sourced from sustainable practices that prioritize environmental conservation and minimize the use of synthetic chemicals.
  • Sustainable harvesting: Some clay brands follow sustainable practices, ensuring minimal environmental impact. Research the company’s ethos and values to ensure they prioritize sustainable sourcing.
  • Fair Trade: Some brands work directly with local communities and ensure fair wages and working conditions for the individuals involved in clay extraction. Supporting fair trade products helps promote social and economic well-being.

Remember to read product reviews, compare brands, and consult with trusted sources or healthcare professionals if needed.

What are the side effects of using or taking bentonite clay products?

While bentonite clay is generally safe for most individuals, there are a few potential side effects. It is important to use the clay responsibly and in moderation. 

Listed below are some potential side effects that may occur with the use or consumption it:

1. Digestive discomfort

Sometimes, consuming bentonite clay orally may cause mild digestive discomforts like bloating, gas, or changes in bowel movements. 

This can occur if the clay is not properly hydrated or if the individual is sensitive to its properties. It is recommended to start with small doses and gradually increase as tolerated.

2. Dehydration

Bentonite clay has strong absorbent properties, and when taken internally, it can absorb moisture from the digestive system. 

This may result in temporary dehydration or constipation if adequate hydration is not maintained. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day when using bentonite clay internally is crucial.

3. Interference with medications and nutrient absorption

Bentonite clay has the potential to bind to certain medications and nutrients, reducing their absorption and effectiveness [7]. 

If you are taking any medications, especially those with a narrow therapeutic range, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using bentonite clay internally.

4. Skin irritation

While bentonite clay is widely used in skincare products, it can cause skin irritation or dryness in some individuals, especially those with sensitive skin. 

It is recommended to perform a patch test before applying bentonite clay topically to check for adverse reactions. If irritation occurs, discontinue use.

5. Allergic reactions

Although rare, some individuals may be allergic to bentonite clay. Allergic reactions can manifest as skin rashes, itching, or respiratory symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing. 

If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

It is important to note that everyone does not experience these side effects, which may vary from person to person. 

If you have any concerns or pre-existing health conditions, consult your doctor before using bentonite clay.

Scientific studies on bentonite clay

The unique properties of bentonite clay have sparked the scientific community’s interest. Modern research has begun investigating clay’s traditional uses and exploring its potential for future applications.

Several studies have focused on bentonite clay’s capacity for adsorption, specifically its ability to remove toxins, heavy metals, and impurities. 

Research published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials has found that bentonite clay could effectively remove certain heavy metals from water, making it a potential solution for environmental cleanup and water purification [8].

In medicine, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology highlighted the potential of clay in wound care. Researchers discovered that a specific type of clay, including bentonite, helped wound healing by controlling bacterial infection and reducing inflammation.

Moreover, the clay’s digestive health benefits have also undergone scientific scrutiny. A research paper in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health noted that bentonite could bind and immobilize harmful substances like aflatoxins—a type of toxin produced by certain molds—in the gastrointestinal tract, potentially mitigating their harmful effects.

In the skincare arena, research published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health found that a cream made with bentonite clay effectively reduced acne’s severity [9].

Despite these promising studies, more research is necessary to solidify our understanding of bentonite clay’s full potential. 

However, these findings represent an exciting frontier in the overlap of traditional wisdom and modern science, reaffirming the clay’s status as a ‘modern miracle’ rooted in ancient practice.

Is bentonite clay safe for everyone to use?

While bentonite clay is generally considered safe, it is important to note that not everyone may react the same way. Like any health supplement or skincare product, its usage depends on individual health conditions, allergies, and sensitivities.

The topical use of bentonite clay is usually safe for most people. It’s non-toxic and has been used in skincare for centuries due to its ability to absorb oil and draw out impurities. 

However, those with dry or sensitive skin might find it overly drying or even irritating, especially if used excessively. It’s always recommended to perform a patch test before applying the clay to your face or larger body areas.

While many traditional cultures have consumed bentonite clay for internal consumption, modern medical professionals often cautiously approach this practice. 

When ingested, bentonite clay may assist in detoxification and digestive health, but it’s crucial to remember that it’s not suitable for everyone. 

People with iron intolerance, for instance, should avoid ingesting bentonite clay due to its high iron content.

Furthermore, bentonite clay can interact with certain medications and nutritional supplements, potentially reducing their effectiveness. 

Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and people with chronic health conditions should consult a healthcare professional before beginning any bentonite clay regimen.

As with any health product, it’s essential to listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

In closing

Bentonite clay has proven its mettle as an ancient remedy, versatile in its application and potent in its benefits. It has something to offer everyone, be it as a detoxifier, a skincare solution, or an environmental purifier. 

Its rising popularity reinforces the wisdom of our ancestors and the bountiful nature’s capacity to cater to our health needs. Despite its numerous benefits, understanding its various forms, potential uses, and side effects is crucial for safe and effective use. 

Bentonite clay is not a panacea; it should be a part of a balanced approach to health and wellness. This powerful natural substance teaches us about the enduring potential of nature, the wisdom of the past, and the promise of future discoveries. 

For anyone interested in exploring the benefits of bentonite clay, we encourage you to try it for yourself. Remember to seek advice from a health professional if you have any concerns, and embrace the journey of wellness that this ancient remedy offers.

FAQS

Can I use bentonite clay on my face everyday?

While bentonite clay is generally safe for facial use, it may be too drying for some people to use daily. It’s usually recommended to use a bentonite clay mask once or twice a week, depending on your skin type and needs.

Does bentonite clay fade dark spots?

Bentonite clay has detoxifying properties that can help clear the pores and remove impurities from the skin, contributing to an overall brightened complexion. However, while it can help improve skin health, there’s no direct evidence to suggest that it specifically targets or fades dark spots.

How long should you leave bentonite?

When using bentonite clay as a facial mask, leaving it on for about 10 to 20 minutes is generally recommended. However, if you have sensitive skin, you might want to rinse it off sooner—once the clay starts to tighten and dry before it completely dries out, to prevent skin irritation.

Does bentonite clay make you look younger?

Bentonite clay can support skin health by drawing out impurities, providing essential minerals, and enhancing your skin’s overall texture and appearance, which can contribute to a more youthful look. However, while it’s a beneficial addition to skincare routines, it should be noted that it’s part of a holistic approach to skin health and anti-aging, not a standalone solution.

[1] https://www.springerprofessional.de/en/application-of-bentonite-clay-for-human-use/12002138
[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/calcium-bentonite-clay
[3] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325241
[4] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bentonite-clay-benefits
[5] https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/use-bentonite-clay/
[6] https://draxe.com/nutrition/10-bentonite-clay-benefits-uses/
[7] https://supplements.selfdecode.com/blog/what-is-bentonite-clay/
[8] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389407013210
[9] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320008209_Bentonite_Clay_as_a_Natural_Remedy_A_Brief_Review

Photograph: stockimagefactory/Envato
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