8 Ways to Use Clay as a Natural Remedy
This post was originally published in August of 2012, but the tips and advice are still timely, especially in the summer months!
Of all things, did you ever think that I would tell you to go eat some dirt?
Well, mark your calendars. Today’s the day. Stephanie has officially gone off the deep end.
Bizarre as it may sound, clay has actually become one of my favorite go-to remedies for health and healing over this past year. This summer I have been surprised to find myself reaching for clay more and more frequently, as I realize just how useful this “dirt” can be.
Mind you, this isn’t just any old clay that you can shovel up somewhere. The clay I’m referring to is bentonite clay, and it comes from pure sources of undisturbed deposits in the ground. What is special about bentonite clay is that it has two ways of drawing toxins out of the body.
I’m going to get very practical in a moment, sharing exactly how I’ve been using clay in our home, but first I think it’s helpful to understand just a little bit of the science behind how and why clay works.
This isn’t a typo. The word is aD-sorption, not aB-sorption. They are two different things (more about absorption in a minute). Although I understand this concept, I’m not much of a scientist, so I’m going to borrow this helpful explanation of what adsorption is and how it relates to clay:
At a molecular level, the formation of bentonite resembles tiny business card shapes with the wide surfaces having a negative charge and the thin edges having a positive charge. Nature hates a lonely ionic bond, so each negatively charged ion seeks to satisfy its bond by pairing with a substance carrying a positive ionic charge. As luck would have it, many toxins, heavy metals, and free radicals carry a positive charge. The negative ions in Redmond Clay are eager to attach to these toxins, swapping negative ions for positive, and creating a bond that keeps the toxin and clay together in suspension until the body eliminates the pair together.
If you’re a visual thinker, it’s a reasonably accurate metaphor to imagine Redmond Clay as a magnet, and toxins as little bits of metal. Once the two become paired, it’s simple for your body to dispose of the magnet, and the metal bits along with it. (source)
Who knew, right? Amazing!
This is the word we’re more familiar with, and of course, it’s natural to think of how a sponge absorbs water. Clay does essentially the same thing, absorbing not only water, but also other harmful substances like toxins, infection, etc.
Due to its capacity for absorbing, you need to avoid using clay internally at the same time as other medications or supplements, because it can interfere with their use by (what else?) absorbing them. It’s best used alone.
Additionally, clay has one more thing going for it when it comes to natural healing…
We all know that pH is a measure of acidity, and with a pH of around 8.7-9.8 (at least, this is the pH of Redmond clay, it would vary slightly from clay to clay), that makes it on the alkaline side.
Alkalinity is a useful thing, because many health problems in the body arise due to acidity, and clay is able to neutralize that acidity. This is particularly helpful for ailments like heartburn, because the clay can neutralize the excess stomach acid that is causing the discomfort.
Phew… now that we understand the basics of how clay functions, allow me to share some practicaul uses for it.
8 Ways That Our Family Uses Clay as a Natural Remedy
Insect stings and bites
I discovered firsthand this summer that a bit of hydrated clay on a mosquito bite helps to relieve the itching and swelling quickly.
We also found out last winter that it helps with spider bites. My husband noticed a fairly large spider living in the light on our deck. He took a long stick and tried to knock the spider out. The spider dropped itself down on its thread and I wish I had filmed this little man vs. spider duel! They literally lunged at each other back and forth until my husband succeeded in knocking it out of the light, but not before the spider gave him a good bite on the arm. It didn’t appear to be a particularly poisonous spider, but nonetheless, the bites do hurt and it was swelling up. We slathered the bite in clay and within a short period of time, the pain had subsided and the swelling went down.
On the subject of stings and bites, a product that has proved SO useful to me this summer are the tubes of hydrated clay from Redmond. When I first saw them I thought “why don’t I just mix it up myself? It’s only powder and water.” And I can do that, and yes, it’s pretty easy. But squeezing it straight from a tube when I need it quickly is just so darn easy, I find myself using clay more frequently as a result.
This is probably the most common way that our family uses clay. Whenever one of us complains about an upset or sour stomach, this is what we take. You can either put the powder into capsules (or even buy capsules pre-made, but I just make my own), or you can liquify the clay and drink a spoonful or two (this is easiest for kids). You know that yucky feeling you get when you eat something that’s gone bad, or your stomach just has an out-of-sorts day? Clay really helps to absorb whatever is bugging you.
I’ve even used it when I’ve had what was probably mild food poisoning that kept me up in the night with stomach cramps, and within 30 minutes it helped to start calming my stomach down so that I could go back to sleep.
As I mentioned above, the alkalinity of clay also makes it helpful for heartburn or reflux.
Another interesting way to use clay is for prevention of digestive issues. When I first began learning about clay, I instantly remembered reading in Weston Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration how the indigenous peoples in the Andes mountains would keep small balls of clay with them and dissolve just a bit of clay in water. As they ate a meal, they would dip their food in this slightly clay-ish water to prevent indigestion!
When we went to the Philippines, I was very careful about what I ate and drank, but I also took liquid clay just in case every morning, to help prevent any foreign bacteria or pathogens from taking up residence in my system while I was there. I have no idea if I would have gotten sick otherwise, but it seemed like a wise bit of prevention.
This was what first intrigued me about clay. I read Shoshanna’s story of detoxing in a bath full of Bentonite clay, and then began reading stories of others who used clay to detox on the About Clay website. When I later read the free clay ebook from Redmond Clay, I stumbled upon this idea of detoxifying with clay yet again.
When you understand the adsorption and absorption qualities that I wrote about at the beginning of this post, it becomes clear how detoxification happens. Taking clay internally can literally help to pull toxins, heavy metals, and free radical cells out of the body, cleansing it. We also know that skin is the largest organ in our body, and that what we put on it goes into the body, so it stands to follow that when we use clay externally, it can also pull toxins out through the skin as well.
On cuts and scrapes
Clay works perfectly for drawing out the dirt and grime that gets in cuts and especially in children’s scraped knees and elbows. It calms down the pain and because it cleans the wound, it encourages faster and better healing. Our tube of First Aid clay has become what our children know as “owie cream”.
For beautiful skin
Ok, so this isn’t a remedy per se, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Clay makes a fabulous facial mask, for shrinking pores, tightening and toning skin, removing impurities, sloughing off dead skin cells, and just making your skin look and feel great overall. It can also be used directly on pimples to reduce their size and inflammation and get rid of them faster.
For drawing out infections
Though I chose to use activated charcoal, I could have easily used clay in its place when healing my son’s infection. Clay, like charcoal, has that same ability to draw out toxins and harmful bacteria.
I did use clay this past week on my daughter’s lip when she cut it open badly with her teeth. The doctor said it probably should have had stitches (although it was too late at that point) and he recommended oral antibiotics to prevent infection as it was beginning to look at bit red. Instead, I just put hydrated clay on the outside of the lip, put some herbal healing salve on the inside, and had her swish with salt water a couple times a day. It’s healing just fine now with no sign of infection.
Clay is soothing and healing to the skin when used on minor kitchen burns, sunburns, etc. Now, I haven’t used it on any serious burns to date (although I have read testimonies of others who have with success), so I can’t personally say more than that, but there are some very interesting stories in this free ebook. The one recommendation is that clay should not be allowed to dry on a burn, but should be kept wet (used as a paste or gel, and then wrapped in something like plastic to keep it from drying out).
These are useful for detoxification, as I already mentioned, but also for times when the skin needs soothing. I have used them frequently for my toddler’s eczema. Once a week baths with clay seem to help keep the eczema to a minimum (although it is the dietary changes that make the most difference), but the clay reduces the itchiness a lot and helps her not to scratch at it.
I also give one of my sons a clay bath once a week because his body doesn’t seem to flush toxins very well. If I forget to give him the clay baths for several weeks, I can sometimes begin to tell by his behaviors and reactions to situations, which I used to observe in him frequently back when his body was more toxic (before we did a major detoxification with him). When he is regularly using the clay, I don’t usually notice those same strong behaviours.
I know, these are both anecdotal and not scientific at all, but moms notice these sorts of things. Not to mention, using clay in baths gets expensive because you use larger amounts than in other types of applications, and so if I wasn’t’ seeing results, I would put an end to the clay baths.
Want to learn more about using clay, both internally and externally?
I know that I’ve given you a lot of ideas and suggestions, but it’s important to read more on your own to better understand how clay works, how it has historically been used for medicinal purposes, how to mix or prepare it for various types of internal and external uses, etc.
Redmond Clay has put together a free book called We Eat Clay (And Wear it, too!). It’s a fascinating read!
Thanks for the wonderful article! I have used clay for a while now. I have been using it on things like bites and bumps. I have used it to make a paste with water and place on ‘funny looking’ places on our skin. Occasionally my grown son has an ingrown hair on his arm, when he does we just make a paste and place a bandaid over it. It’s usually gone the next morning. I also add it to my homemade toothpaste.
Yes, we’ve done it for ingrown hair as well! Also, have you tried ingrown toenails? I get them sometimes and if I put on a thick paste over the affected area and cover it with a bandaid, within a day it’s usually gone!
I would like to know if clay could improve or heal eczema on my 2yo grandson who has had it since birth? Thank you, mb
Yes, Martha, it aboslutely could. For my little ones who get eczema, I have often given them weekly clay baths, which seems to help a lot. However, eczema is a more complicated issue than that. It can be caused by a myriad of things, but thankfully, can be very, very treatable as well (and we have been able to deal with it completely with several of our children!).
This is an older series on the blog (so I apologize that a few of the photos in it aren’t working anymore), but the information is still relevant – https://keeperofthehome.org/2009/05/eczema-solving-the-underlying-causes-part-2.html. This post has links to all the other posts in the series, four posts in total. It shares what I have learned over the years of dealing with eczema extensively in our own family, and I hope you find it helpful!
So I just bought this & the toothpaste, but when I read the back there was a warning about traces of lead? Does anyone know anything about that? Can it not be absorbed by your body because of the clays adsorption properties? Just checking concerned. Thanks!
I haven’t researched this in depth myself (just heard about it for the first time a few weeks ago), but Kate has looked into it more extensively and this is what she wrote – http://www.modernalternativemama.com/blog/2014/07/18/lead-bentonite-clay/.
I just started using bentonite clay the other day! Interested to see how it will benefit my family! I am trying to change over our more traditional remedies for more natural and herbal alternatives. We live in the country, and are outside alot, so we get random rashes and insect bites. I also tried it as a facial mask yesterday and I was impressed with results! My son definitely looked clearer afterward!
I love that you’re making the switch to traditional remedies, Rebecca! And yes, isn’t it great for the face???
We LOVE Redmond Clay. Along with all of these uses listed, I make remineralizing toothpaste as well as diaper rash “cream.” I add essential oils to the diaper cream to additionally help balance out the rash, but the clay is amazing at getting rid of rashes while I figure out what things baby’s eating or is getting in my breastmilk that cause the rash in the first place. My husband was skeptical at first, but he’s slowly converted to using clay 🙂
I even just like using the clay powder for diaper rash and think is works really well, better than any baby powder!
This is interesting. I ordered some of the clay toothpaste that you discussed either on this blog or maybe on a podcast? It took a little getting used to, but my kids like the Lemon flavor one. I’m intrigued by the bug bite remedy you mentioned above. Seems like we are covered with mosquito bites right now 🙂
I dont’ have a podcast, so that wasn’t me, but I have written an extensive post on the clay toothpaste (both the kind you buy, as well as a homemade recipe). My kids like the Lemon flavor, too. I like Wintergreen. And you know, we even use the toothpaste on bug bites if we’re in a pinch and don’t have time/energy to mix up a clay paste. 🙂
I fell in love with Redmond Clay last summer when it healed my son’s poison ivy rash within a half an hour. Since then, I’ve used it often on bug bites.
Bug bites are my #1 favorite use for it!
Thanks for letting us know about the premixed tube of clay available. I’ve found it challenging to mix the clay with water and get a nice, consistent, unlumpy paste! I have not used clay consistently but this article inspired me to try it some more.
Martha, I think clay could soothe your grandson’s exzema but I would also suggest making sure he is getting enough fatty acids and good oils internally. Our oldest two children (of eight) had horrible eczema and I found that good oils really helped them (ie. flaxseed oil, codliver oil). Another thing that made a huge difference was taking certain foods out of their diets; wheat and dairy were big ones.
Yes, the premixed tubes were a huge factor in us beginning to use clay more frequently. We actually just ran out and it’s totally bugging me and on my list to buy more. 🙂
Stephanie, this is so very helpful! Thank you!
You’re very welcome!
Any information on if it’s safe to take clay internally (drinking it) while breastfeeding? I don’t want the toxins to exit through my breastmilk, but I have been feeling so cruddy lately, I feel like I need to do *something* to detox. (If it matters, I’m an exclusive pumper and my daughter is a year old. I pump twice a day and she gets milk all day from what I pump, so I could easily go 12 hours after taking the clay before I would express any milk for her.)