- What is Bentonite Clay? + Dangers & How to Use
- What Is Bentonite Clay?
- Kaolin Clay vs Bentonite Clay
- Components & How It Works
- Drug Delivery Systems
- How to Use Bentonite Clay
- Side Effects & Cautions
- Drug Interactions
- Best Bentonite Clay
- Further Reading
- 11 benefits of bentonite clay: How to use it and side effects
- Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review
What is Bentonite Clay? + Dangers & How to Use
Bentonite clay is formed from aged volcanic ashes and is most often used to detox and to cleanse skin and hair. Read on to learn more about this healing clay’s components, how it works, and when to use caution.
What Is Bentonite Clay?
Bentonite clay tops the list of healing clays, many of which have been used for enhancing health since ancient times .
Bentonite clay forms when volcanic ashes react with sea water and take up its minerals. This clay has no taste or smell and its color can vary from light (cream, yellow, green) to darker (brown, black) tones depending on its impurities. Its consistency is very soft and it doesn’t stain [2, 3].
Bentonite clay is named after its largest source in the world (Fort Benton, Wyoming). The name of its main component, montmorillonite, derives from the place where it was first discovered (Montmorillon, France). The US is the largest producer, followed by China, Greece, and India .
You may be surprised to know that humans have been using clays both internally and externally throughout history. Scientists think that “geophagy” or earth-eating was an adaptive behavior for acquiring nutrients from soil and eliminating gut parasites and toxins [1, 5, 6].
Bentonite and other clays have traditionally been eaten and applied on the skin and hair for [7, 1]:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Diarrhea and other digestive issues
- Skin irritation
- Hair cleansing and softening
What makes bentonite clay different from similar clays, such as kaolin clay? Let’s take a look.
Kaolin Clay vs Bentonite Clay
Kaolin is a clay with a similar composition to bentonite. But kaolin has a different chemical structure, which reduces its capacity to retain water and electrolytes [8, 9].
Both clays are common ingredients of face masks but have different effects. Since bentonite is a better absorbent, it can remove more fat and toxins from the skin. In turn, kaolin is more efficient at exfoliating dead skin due to its larger particles .
People with oily skin would do better with bentonite masks, while those with drier, more sensitive skin should choose kaolin.
Aside from these two clays, Fuller’s earth is another option for skin care. Research suggests it absorbs toxins and reduces the detrimental effects of pollution on the skin .
Components & How It Works
The main component is montmorillonite, a soft clay formed by layers of silica and alumina. Montmorillonite is normally bound to many clay minerals, especially sodium, calcium, magnesium, and aluminum [8, 3].
Bentonite may also contain small amounts of impurities such as other clays (illite, kaolinite) and crystalline silica (quartz, cristobalite). While the levels typically found in this clay are not dangerous, both kaolin and crystalline silica dust may cause lung diseases if breathed in large amounts. Silica dust is also linked to autoimmune disorders, kidney damage, and cancer [8, 3].
Montmorillonite’s negative charge gives rise to bentonite clay’s effects. Similar to a magnet, it attracts positively charged molecules and binds them to its surface (adsorbs them). This way, it can trap many heavy metals and toxins, preventing them from entering the body [12, 9].
Montmorillonite particles have an astonishingly large surface area, which gives them a high capacity to bind toxins. The particles also take up water alongside toxins, infusing both into the spaces between their layers and causing the whole clay to swell .
Drug Delivery Systems
Bentonite clay can be modified into synthetic materials (with polymers). These can be used as improved delivery and slow-release systems of drugs for :
- Cancer (such as doxorubicin, paclitaxel, and tamoxifen) [14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22]
- Infections (ciprofloxacin, curcumin, praziquantel) [23, 24, 25]
- Sunscreen protection (Eusolex, NeoHeliopan, zinc and titanium oxides) [26, 27]
- Glaucoma (betaxolol) 
- Psychiatric disorders (olanzapine) 
- Impotence (sildenafil) 
In the case of sildenafil, bentonite clay also helped mask its unpleasant taste .
How to Use Bentonite Clay
Bentonite clay normally comes as a clay powder. You can prepare a paste simply by adding water until you achieve the desired, yogurt- consistency. To make sure your clay is not too diluted, add water to the powder bit by bit, letting the clay soak it up gradually.
Note: Bentonite clay might react with metal objects and lose effectiveness, although studies are lacking to confirm this claim. To stay on the safe side, consumers and manufacturers often recommend using ceramic or glass bowls and plastic or wooden spoons.
You can experiment with bentonite clay powder for external use at home almost endlessly. Here are some ideas:
- Soothing skin paste: apply a paste on burns, bites, and rashes, and leave until it dries.
- Face mask: make a paste and leave on the skin for 10-20 minutes.
- Hair mask: apply a paste on the hair from root to tip 1x-2x/week. You can add a bit of apple cider vinegar with water and even mix in a couple of drops of your favorite hair-nourishing oil.
- Armpit detox: apply a paste on the armpits to remove toxins.
- Skin-softening bath: add bentonite clay to your bath water to soften the skin and get rid of built-up skin toxins.
- Homemade soap: this is slightly more complicated, but you can combine bentonite clay with oils and lye to make soap for oily skin.
- Tooth-brushing powder: clean your teeth with bentonite clay to remineralize them, make them whiter, and kill bacteria.
If you prefer, you can buy ready-to-use bentonite clay versions of most of these DIY remedies.
The FDA hasn’t approved bentonite clay for any topical uses. Before using this clay (or any natural remedies) on the skin, do a skin test for allergies. Apply a small amount, wait for 24 hours, and continue using the product if you don’t experience any reactions.
You can also take bentonite clay by mouth to remove toxins and help digestion. Bentonite clay has the FDA generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status as a food ingredient but is not approved for any conditions.
Users and manufacturers have established unofficial doses. As a rule of thumb, dissolve 0.5-1 teaspoon bentonite clay in 1 cup of water and drink 1x/day. Most clinical trials used up to 3g/day. In this case, you want to be absolutely certain that you have food-grade clay. Bentonite clay supplements are also available in tablets and capsules.
Finally, you can mix bentonite clay with water and give it to your pets to improve digestive issues or poisoning. The dose will depend on the size of the animal. However, we recommend consulting your veterinarian before giving your pets bentonite clay.
Side Effects & Cautions
Bentonite clay (1.5-3 g/day) is relatively safe and only caused mild digestive symptoms (flatulence, stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea) in less than 10% of people taking it for 2 weeks. Half this dose didn’t cause any adverse effects in children. In both adults and children, it didn’t reduce the uptake of minerals and vitamins [31, 32, 33].
In contrast, excessive oral doses may cause nutrient deficits. A 3-year-old girl who was given adult doses and a cat that ate litter containing this clay developed severe potassium deficit with vomiting, constipation, sleepiness, and weakness [34, 35].
Similarly, topical bentonite clay was generally safe in clinical trials. Only one person developed mild, temporary skin redness from a bentonite clay lotion .
High exposure to bentonite clay dust from mines and steel plants was associated with an increased incidence of respiratory diseases and cell damage in several studies. However, its potentially toxic impurities (quartz, kaolin, perlite) could have contributed to these effects [37, 38, 39, 40].
A dental assistant had a severe corneal inflammation with reduced vision and sensitivity to light after a tooth-polishing paste with bentonite clay came in contact with her eye .
Although its use during pregnancy or breastfeeding is not investigated in women, bentonite clay didn’t reduce mineral uptake or utilization in pregnant rats .
Bentonite clay may bind to some drugs, especially those positively charged, and prevent their transport into the bloodstream. Some of these drugs include:
- Antibiotics (such as tetracycline, trimethoprim, and rifampicin) [43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49]
- Drugs for heart disease (digoxin, quinidine) [50, 51]
- Antiallergic drugs (promethazine, chlorpheniramine) [52, 53]
- Stimulants (caffeine, amphetamine) [54, 55]
- Drugs for psychiatric disorders (lithium) 
- Drugs for respiratory diseases (theophylline) 
- Sedatives (propoxyphene) 
- Antidiabetic drugs (metformin) 
Consult your doctor before using bentonite clay internally if you take medication.
Best Bentonite Clay
There are two main types of bentonite clay: sodium and calcium :
- Sodium bentonite clay absorbs more water. While this makes it more effective at removing toxins, the clay is very alkaline and can be too aggressive to the skin. By mouth, it may cause constipation.
- Calcium bentonite clay takes up more electrolytes, making it more effective in case of poisoning. This clay is less alkaline and absorbs less water than sodium bentonite.
Although it’s generally assumed that only calcium bentonite can be used internally, both types are safe if they come from reputable sources. It’s important to buy pure/clean bentonite with a high montmorillonite content and free of toxic contaminants.
For instance, the FDA issued warnings against two bentonite clay masks (Bentonite Me Baby and Best Bentonite Clay) after laboratory tests found unsafe levels of lead.
If you are planning to take it by mouth, make sure it’s food-grade bentoniteclay. The one for external use may contain additives that shouldn’t be ingested.
- 3+ Bentonite Clay Benefits (incl. Detox & Clay Mask for Hair)
11 benefits of bentonite clay: How to use it and side effects
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Bentonite clay is a natural clay with a fine, soft texture. It forms a paste when mixed with water. Some people use this paste for medical or cosmetic benefits, such as treating rashes and acne or as a hair mask.
People have used bentonite clay to remove impurities on the skin, such as oils, and toxins from the body for thousands of years.
Bentonite clay is present in many skin products, but some people also add it to foods or drinks with the aim of relieving digestive issues or removing toxins from the body.
Many studies have looked at the health benefits of bentonite clay, though most of this research has used animal or cell models. More research is needed before scientists will know the true benefits and risks of bentonite clay in humans.
In this article, we will look at the research behind 11 potential health benefits of bentonite clay, along with potential risks.
Share on PinterestBentonite clay can remove toxins from the body and help treat oily skin.
Scientists believe that bentonite clay works by adsorbing oils and dirt from the skin.
The theory is that bentonite clay adsorbs materials by sticking to their molecules or ions. As the clay leaves the body, it takes the toxin or other molecules with it.
When a person uses it on the skin, bentonite clay may have the power to adsorb oils and bacteria. When they consume the clay, it may adsorb toxins or other unwanted substances from the digestive tract.
Bentonite clay contains natural minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, which may provide additional benefits.
Bentonite clay forms from volcanic ash. It gets its name from Fort Benton in Wyoming, where it occurs in large amounts. People can also find this clay in other places where volcanic ash has settled into the ground. Montmorillonite clay, named after Montmorillon in France, is the same type of clay.
The following list looks at the benefits of bentonite clay and what the research says.
Some people ingest bentonite clay with the aim of removing toxins from the body. This may be one of its most well studied benefits.
Various studies suggest that bentonite clay may reduce the effects of toxins.
For example, a study on chicks found that bentonite clay reduced the effects of a toxin called aflatoxin B1, which comes from certain types of mold. Chicks that received a concentrated bentonite clay product had fewer toxic effects than those who did not receive the clay.
Another study looked at the effects of montmorillonite clay, which is very similar to bentonite clay, on reducing toxins in children in Ghana, West Africa. In the study area, aflatoxins in homemade nutritional supplements are linked with poor growth and related disabilities.
The researchers found that children who received a calcium montmorillonite clay product each day for 2 weeks had fewer signs of aflatoxins in their urine than those who did not receive it.
In a small-scale animal study, rats consumed wastewater that contained cyanide. Researchers gave some of the rats various amounts of bentonite clay or a placebo. Those that received the most clay had the lowest amount of the toxin in their bodies after 3 weeks.
Scientists need to conduct more research before they can confirm that bentonite clay is safe and effective for use in humans.
How to use
Mix up to 1 teaspoon (tsp) of bentonite clay with 6–8 ounces (oz) of purified water and drink once per day.
People can buy bentonite clay powder in drug stores or choose from many brands online. Be sure to choose a form of clay that the manufacturer has labeled as edible.
Take bentonite clay at least 2 hours before or after taking any medications. Because it can adsorb other molecules, bentonite clay may bind to some medications and reduce their effectiveness.
Bentonite clay’s adsorbent power may be helpful in treating acne breakouts and oily skin. The clay can help remove sebum, or oil, from the skin’s surface, and it may also have a calming effect on inflamed breakouts.
Using a clay face mask can help remove impurities from the skin to treat acne or reduce the risk of pimples and skin infections.
How to use
Many commercial facial masks contain clays because of their clarifying effect on the skin. Some skin care masks contain bentonite, but a person can also make their own bentonite mask at home.
Mix bentonite clay powder with water to make a thick paste. Apply to the areas of skin that are prone to oil or acne. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes and rinse thoroughly. Repeat two or three times per week.
Otherwise, people can choose from a range of premade bentonite clay face masks online.
Some people use bentonite clay to cleanse specific parts of their body. Learn more about using bentonite clay in an armpit detox and a foot detox here.
Many people are allergic to urushiol, the oil that poison ivy plants produce. When their skin comes into contact with poison ivy, they may develop the characteristic rash as an allergic reaction.
A poison ivy rash can cause redness, irritation, and severe itching. A study from 1995 found that bentonite clay can treat poison ivy rash and speed up healing following an allergic reaction.
How to use
Wash the skin with soap and water as soon as possible after touching poison ivy. Use dish soap or a soap designed to remove oils to help remove the urushiol from the skin.
Mix bentonite clay with water to form a paste and apply it to the affected area. Cover with a clean bandage or gauze pad. Repeat several times per day until the rash is gone.
Share on PinterestSome studies suggest that bentonite clay supplements may help aid weight loss.
Bentonite clay may be a helpful supplement for people who are trying to lose weight.
One study in rats found that ingesting a montmorillonite clay product helped reduce weight gain among those eating a high-fat diet.
Although some traditional healing methods have used clay products for many years, there are better ways to lose weight. Reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity levels are still the best choices.
Some research suggests that adsorbent clays such as bentonite may help alleviate virus-related digestive issues, such as diarrhea.
For example, rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea and spreads easily from person to person. One study found that an adsorbent clay called diosmectite helped stop rotavirus from replicating.
Another study found that clay minerals adsorbed rotavirus in cows.
If diarrhea does not subside after treatment with clay products, a person should continue to drink plenty of fluids, try more common approaches to treating diarrhea, and contact their doctor.
How to use
For virus-related mild diarrhea, take 1 tsp of bentonite clay mixed in water no more than twice per day. If diarrhea persists, see a doctor.
Bentonite clay was effective in treating diaper rash in one study.
Around 93% of the infants who received the clay had improved rashes within 6 hours, with 90% completely healed in 3 days. Another study had similar positive results.
How to use
Mix a small amount of bentonite clay with water to make a paste and apply it directly to the rash.
Alternatively, mix the clay with shea butter, coconut oil, or zinc oxide cream. Do not shake the powder directly on to the baby’s skin, as they may inhale some of it.
Keep the mixture in a clean glass container with a plastic, silicone, or glass lid. Do not use metal lids, as the clay may adsorb some of the metal’s properties over time.
Always speak to a doctor before trying any new remedy in a baby or child.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved bentonite cream as a sunscreen ingredient. However, one study suggests that the clay can protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays.
For this reason, people may wish to use it alongside FDA-approved sunscreens.
Excessive exposure to heavy metals such as lead can cause health problems. Children’s brains are especially sensitive to lead, and it can cause learning disabilities and other issues.
Avoiding exposure to lead and getting tested for lead exposure are the best ways to prevent lead poisoning. According to some research, bentonite clay may be helpful in removing some lead from the body.
Bentonite clay has a negative charge, meaning that it can bind to positively charged metals such as lead. One study found that bentonite clay was effective at removing lead from wastewater.
How to use
Ask a doctor before giving bentonite clay to a child. If a doctor approves it, give half a teaspoon mixed well with water once per day.
High cholesterol is a leading cause of heart disease. High cholesterol causes fats to build up in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
A study in rats found that a bentonite clay product increased the amount of cholesterol excreted in their stool.
How to use
People receiving treatment for high cholesterol should talk to their doctor before using bentonite clay or other natural remedies. Bentonite clay should not replace medical treatment for high cholesterol or heart disease.
Mix 1 tsp of bentonite clay with purified water and drink once per day.
Studies have not found serious side effects of using bentonite clay in recommended amounts. However, because it is a natural product, there is a risk of contamination.
Bentonite clay comes from the earth, where it may collect heavy metals, pesticides, or other substances.
The FDA do not regulate bentonite clay products. As such, it can be difficult to know whether the product contains only the ingredients on the label. In fact, experts have found that some bentonite clay products may contain heavy metals.
In 2016, the FDA warned consumers not to use a certain type of bentonite clay due to it having high lead levels.
If a person wants to use bentonite clay, they should look for a product labeled as safe for internal use from a reputable brand or source. They may also wish to have a doctor check their blood lead levels to be sure that they are not exposed to lead from bentonite clay.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day while using bentonite clay. This will help flush the clay from the digestive tract and prevent constipation.
Before using bentonite clay or any natural remedy on the skin, do a skin test for allergies. Apply a small amount of the product to the area inside the elbow and wait for 24 hours. If no reaction occurs, proceed with using the product.
Bentonite clay is an ancient remedy that could hold promise as a treatment for various health conditions. It has a low risk of side effects when a person uses it in moderate amounts.
As with any natural remedy, people with health conditions should talk with their doctor before using bentonite clay to be sure that it is safe.
Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review
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