The physical properties
of clay material are largely determined by the clay-mineral
composition. Not until the techniques of x-ray diffraction,
differential thermal analysis and electron microscopy became
available, did it become possible to extract, identify
and study clay minerals.
Some common clays originate in sedimentary basins. When
waters of unusual chemical composition enter into sedimentary
beds of clay materials, the fascinating changes that produce living
clay begin. For example, water high in silica, iron,
or magnesium from igneous activity of water and rock, yield
minerals of extensive composition. This environment serves
to direct the clay mineral changes taking place at a greater
rate than in active sedimentary deposits.
Studies reveal fragmentation and hydrolysis of parent
materials is accentuated in geochemical or hydrothermal
environments indicated by pools of bubbling mud. When the
clay minerals are in a heated environment, they lose a
water molecule, which renders them electrically negative.
This loss is accompanied by some disruption or alteration
of structure, depending on the primary type of mineral
structure. In hydro-thermal temperatures structures disappears.
Depending on the nature of the mineral and the presence
of small amounts of extraneous elements, this disappearance
is followed by the development of new crystalline phases
The transformation of clay mineral from one crystal structure
to another in such an environment, shows regular sphere
outline. Where montmorrillonite is unaltered, mineral spheres
and hexagonal outline entirely. This suggests a much less
developed mineral composition.
The formation of clay mineral spheres in this manner starts
in the primitive molecule of solid granite or a similar
substance. Each minute particle is thus prepared in a way
that it can become an ion, essential to the human cell.
As each particle of living clay takes its place
it creates its own ionic field of energy.
Incomplete hydrolysis of the clay particle to the individual
mineral sphere denies it the ability to take electrical
charge. Therefore, the complete hydrolysis of clay is necessary
for its use by the human cell. The biological functions
of the human body require essential minerals in the ionic
state. So essential are these constituents that without
them life does not exist. From these specific, basic mineral
spheres the vital trace minerals the evolve. The movement
of life proceeds from the constant changing on one element
Breakdown of solid mass to a particle is influenced by
the environment. Eventually the seven basic types of clay
are formed. Studies in the science that deals with the
interaction of living organisms in relationship with the
mineral environment of the Earth's crust, leave no doubt
of our dependency on them. The instinctive use of clays
as an integral part of the existence of primitive people
is verified scientifically today.
All of these procedures have shown that clay materials
are essentially compose of externally small particles,
generally less than several microns in diameter, and a
few crystalline compounds knows as clay minerals.
A given clay material can be composed of a single clay
mineral or mixture of them. Chemically, the clay minerals
originate in particles composed of alumina silica and water.
Sometimes in addition there is iron, or magnesium, or both.
Certain clays also contain alkalis and alkaline earth materials.
Such components determine the physical property of clay
mineral, especially crystalline components and their atomic
structures. It is important to recognize that knowledge
of atomic structures is fundamental to understanding the
properties of clay minerals.
The mineral spheres in clay are arranged in a regular
three dimensional pattern. The spheres are building blocks
of the clay minerals and the arrangement of the spheres
is determined by the type of mineral. The character of
the clay mineral group determines the type of clay and
its eventual use. An understanding of the properties depends
on an understanding of the clay mineral structure. The
clay minerals are the sole determinants of the eventual
structure and any non-clay minerals are merely dilutants.
Of the great diversity of clays in nature, the most common
in its natural state is the illite group. Its availability
has brought it into the industrialized world to fill many
manufacturing needs. However, layered silicates such as
these are not presently researched for human or animal
nutrition. These include all the kaolin group where only
partial replacements of aluminum by iron, magnesium, nickel,
or manganese occur.
These white illite rich clays were used to make some of
the first Indian ceramic objects, because temperatures
used to fire them were low. Indian beads took the colors
easily when they were formed from common clay. Modern industry
has learned to purify these clays and increase firing temperatures
to make various industrial porcelain products as well as
filler and coating in paper production. Coatings for masonry
surfaces also contain these layered silicate, clay ingredients.
Of the clays used for human nutrition, the montmorillonite
is the most common in nature. Because of the unusual properties
of this clay, it has proven to be most recognized in research
for its use in the human body.
Montmorillonite clay was originally named after the town
of Montmorillan in France. These clays were commonly used
by early cultures, both medicinally and nutritionally.
Clay was put aboard vessels departing from French ports.
It was used in the holds of ships absorb odors and moisture.
However, the sailors traditionally reserved supplies of
these clays for dysentery, burns, boils, sore mouths, and
other internal and external disorders. Its fame spread
in each port with tales of its use.
Legends told of a ship adrift at sea. Drinking water had
become badly contaminated and the sailors became sick when
they drank it. One old "saltie" told them to put the clay
in the water before they drank it. This made the water
drinkable and no more sickness occurred. As a result of
this tale, clay was put into all of the drinking water
taken on at each port and the dreaded dysentery was conquered.
On early steamships, the men feeding the boilers dipped
their hands and arms deep into a thick clay solution to
form a protective coating from the heat of the furnace.
Covering their faces with these smooth textured clays protected
them also from burns. This practice spread to the deck
hands to prevent sun burning. Where the clay was removed,
the skin was clear and healthy. Burns and wounds had healed
Clay became an item of barter at seaports. Clay of certain
textures and colors were valued far above others for human
use. These early observations indicating the differences
in clays, are now verifiable in research.
The term active or "living clay" is born of research
denoting ionic exchange capacities of given clay minerals.
In the montmorillonite group of clay minerals called smectite,
its micro crystals are extremely fine grained, irregular,
and thin layered. The layers contain ions that are loosely
bound and easily exchangeable, a characteristic which gives
smecitites the properties of absorption and adsorption.
This means that in clay found in the desert regions where
temperature is high and water scarce, leaching is minor.
The washing away of the ions, and chemical hydrolysis is
almost nonexistent. These clays are richer in silica and
alkaline earth minerals. In the hydro-thermal state the
synthesis of new clay minerals increases. Ions of silicon,
aluminum, iron, magnesium and potassium are concentrated.
Evaporation of the water greatly increases the trace mineral
content and leaves the ions negatively charged.
As these ions enter the human body in this form, they
respond to gastric activity to become electrons. Adsorption
takes place as dissolved matter is assimilated on the membrane
surface. This begins the process of absorption as nourishment
is changed into living tissue. This creates very favorable
conditions for human consumption of living clay minerals.
Clay and Amino Acids
Recent research has shown that a number of organic substances
formed by a combination of two or more molecules can be
bonded to the surface of clay minerals. A number of investigators
think the adsorptive properties of certain clays may have
played a crucial role in the origin of life. The hypothesis
arises as a result of the effort to simulate the conditions
under which amino acids may form proteins within the human
body. Experiment showed simple amino acids formed into
the longer chains called peptides on the surface of clay
particles. It is thought that clay acts a catalyst for
the information of long peptide chains, or proteins.
The hypothesis was tested experimentally in America and
abroad. Scientist added one amino acid in solution to various
clay minerals. Then they exposed the clay to temperature
and moisture variations. The main findings were that more
peptides were produces at various temperatures when clay
was present than when it was absent, and that production
peptides was a significant advantage in the presence of
Protein conversion to amino acids in the human body can
fail to proceed normally through peptide chain without
all the necessary constituents, thus preventing its use
entirely. This confirms the nutritional benefit of dietary
On the basis of these findings the three investigators
propose that temperatures and moisture bring about distribution
and redistribution of amino acids on the surface of the
clay particles that favors the amino acid linkage into
peptide chains. As moisture touches the surface of the
clay mineral, the active site on the surface that speeds
the formation of peptides from amino acids is cleared.
When the moisture is absorbed, new sites become available
for other amino acids to form a new chains. This continuous
function, completely dependent upon clay type minerals
in proper configuration, synonymous with life.
- Scientific American, April, 197x
Did You Know...?
We have a new section on bentonite research articles, including topics such as edible clays, bentonite formation, a definition for living clay, and more.