Primitive, Indigenous & Instinctual Use
of Edible Clay
Parrots Know Best - Geophany
While Dr. Weston Price has spent more
time studying the human use of dietary clays, he isn't
the only world traveller that has recognized unique
wise clay eating habits in nature.
a different view of the claylick where a
group of parrots are enjoying the morning "feast" on
the main claylick outside the Tambopata Research
Center. The claylick is pretty much a simple
cliff face. Somehow all of the birds know
that if the clay they eat in the morning
will dispell the toxins in the poisonous
fruit during the day. They only need to eat
clay during the times of the year when the
non-poisonous fruit is not available. Many
species of parrot know to do this. How do
they all know? When did they learn? How did
they discover this amazing property of the
clay and propagate it to the rest of the
- Mick @ MickTravels
Around the World Travel Guide, Copyright
To explore potential answers these excellent questions, consider
reading our new document: Living
As referenced below, Professor Diamond
masterfully-- and quite correctly-- sets the record
straight concerning the exact reasons that parrots
( and many other animals ) seek out clay as a supplement
to their diets. In the parrots' case, the decision
to use clay is one of life and death. As our world
becomes a far more toxic place to live, one might wonder
if the same situation may be applied to mankind.
Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography
Department of Physiology,
David Geffon School of Medicine, UCLA
"The commonest explanation for geophagy in birds is to provide grit8.
Because birds lack teeth, many ingest pebbles or coarse soil with which to grind
food in their gizzards. Preferred particle sizes of grit increase with bird size,
from 0.5 mm for sparrows to 2.5 cm for ostriches. However, Gilardi et al. found
that the soil preferred by Peruvian parrots is very fine: only 5% of it by volume
is coarse sand exceeding even 0.05 mm in particle diameter. Most of it is clay
less than 0.2 m in particle diameter, and preferred soils contain only a quarter
as much coarse sand and nearly twice as much fine clay as rejected soils. So
parrots are not eating soil to get grit. On reflection, this is not surprising:
parrots have no need for grit because their strong, sharp bills can shred the
"A second function of geophagy,
suggested for livestock, wild ungulates, rabbits, butterflies
and pregnant women, is to provide essential minerals6,7..."
" ...But Gilardi et al.10 found
that soils preferred by parrots contain lower available
quantities of most biologically significant minerals
than non-preferred soils, and much lower quantities
than the parrots' preferred plant foods..."
"...A third function of geophagy,
proposed for ungulate livestock, is to buffer the rumen
contents6. Because parrots lack
a rumen, it will come as no surprise that their preferred
soils have no more buffering capacity than distilled
"What, then, do the parrots actually
gain from ingested soil? It turns out that they regularly
eat seeds and unripe fruits whose content of alkaloids
and other toxins renders them bitter and even lethal
to humans and other animals. Because many of these
chemicals are positively charged in the acidic conditions
found in the stomach, they bind to clay minerals bearing
negatively charged cation-exchange sites..."2,3,5,9.
"...Peruvian parrots behave like
sophisticated human tourists and hunter-gatherers.
Their preferred soils were found to have a much higher
cation-exchange capacity than adjacent bands of rejected
soils -- because they are rich in the minerals smectite,
kaolin and mica. In their capacity to bind quinine
and tannic acid, the preferred soils surpass the pure
mineral kaolinate and surpass or approach pure bentonite.
Clearly, parrots would be well qualified for jobs as
"Gilardi et al. confirmed this hypothesis
with two sets of bioassays. First, they exposed brine
shrimp (the toxicologist's test animal of choice) to
extracts of seeds routinely consumed by macaws. Many
of the brine shrimp died, confirming the toxicity of
the parrots' diet. But mixing the solutions or extracts
with soil preferred by parrots reduced the effective
toxin loads by 60-70% and improved shrimp survival.
Second, Amazon parrots were given an oral dose of the
alkaloid quinidine with or without preferred soil,
and quinidine levels were measured in the parrots'
blood for three hours as absorption took place from
the gut. Providing soil along with the quinidine reduced
absorbed quinidine blood levels by 60%."
as quoted from Nature 400, pp. 120 - 121 (1999) © Macmillan
with references from Dr James Gilardi,
PhD., University of California, Davis
PRIMITIVES USED CLAY
The use of volcanic ashes internally is almost older than
civilization itself. Primitive tribes of various continents
have used various types of clay for conditions of toxicity.
Dr. Weston A. Price in his book, "Nutrition and Physical
Degeneration:, pages 266-267, stated that in studying diets
of certain tribes he examined their knapsacks. Among those
examined in the high Andes, among those in Central Africa
and among the Aborigines of Australia he reported that
some contained balls of clay, a little of which was dissolved
in water. Into the clay were dipped morsels of food. The
explanation was that this was to prevent "sick stomach".
These people were reported to use the clays for combating
dysentery and food infections. In South America he found
that the Quetchus Indians, believed to be descendants of
the once powerful Incas, were largely vegetarians and he
stated, "Immediately before eating, their potatoes are
dipped into an aqueous suspension of clay, a procedure
which is said to prevent 'souring in the stomach'." Yet,
only comparatively recently has the white man apparently
begun to use kaolin, one of the clays.
On page 418 of this work, under the chapter heading, "Application
of Primitive Wisdom" Dr. Price stated:
"In Chapter 15 I presented data regarding the treatment
used by several primitive races for preventing and correcting serious disturbances
in the digestive tract. This consisted in the use of
clay or aluminum silicate which modern science has learned
has the important quality of being able to adsorb and
thus collect toxic substance and other products..." (
Emphasis ours. )
Dr. Price then commented upon the work of Dr. C. F. Code,
reporting that he had received an award from the American
Association for Advancement of Science for discoveries
as to primitive and modern uses of clays and aluminum silicate
especially against toxic materials produced in the alimentary
tract as a putrefaction product of the proteins by the
actions of certain microorganisms of the colon group. (
for Bibliography see 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 below )
Apparently primitive man was not a dumb as the modern
white man has often assumed.
For one reason or another, certain conditions of toxicity
can occur in the human body - which past experience and
results of the experimentation reported above indicate
can generally be aided by action of hydrated bentonite
upon the alimentary tract.
Throughout the above report on hydrated bentonite various
conditions ( such as diarrhea, virus infections, and
the like ) are referred to in reporting certain results
of scientific experimentation. Such references are
made in the interest of providing a full report concerning
such experimentation and not for the purpose of offering
hydrated bentonite ( either as such or under a specific
product name ) for such specific conditions. Such hydrated
bentonite is offered solely as an aid in detoxification
via the alimentary canal, and is not offered for any
other use except as the same may be prescribed only
by a qualified and competent medical person. Certain
so-called authorities may disagree with one or more
of the conclusions expressed above. Nevertheless, we
believe such conclusions to be based upon reputable
and substantial scientific authority.
of this circular or reprints from the Medical Annals
of the District of Columbia entitled THE VALUE OF BENTONITE
FOR DIARRHEA are obtainable from V.E. Irons, Inc. at
.03 cents each, or ( 10 ) for .25 cents, or more (
25 ) or more .02 cents each.
Boyd, E.M., in Drill, V.A., editor: Pharmacology in
Medicine, 2nd ed. New York: Blakiston, 1958, p. 696.
Goodman, L.S., and Gilman, A.: Pharmacological Basis
of Therapeutics, 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1955,
Bastedo, W.A.: Pharmacology, Therapeutics and Prescription
Writing, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1947, p. 167.
Oker-Blom, N., and Nikkila, E.: Ann. Med. Exp. Fenn.,
1955, 33, 190.
Mussgay, M.: Zbl. Bakt [ orig ], 1957, 169, 12.
Dr. Weston Price & Primitive Use of Clay
Dietary studies of descendants of the Incas of long ago,
reveal clay eating as a common practice. When their ancestral
mountain empire was ravaged, the last of the Inca's rulers
escaped deep into the Andean mountains. They took with
them supplies of clay, which were valued even above the
treasures of the empire. They were transported by human
carriers to the secret city.
The ransom for prisoners was often paid for by edible
clays rather than silver, in that same period. Studies
of some Indian people who are most surely descendants of
the ancient Incas, reveal they existed largely on a vegetable
diet. These vegetables were dipped in an aqueous suspension
of clay. This dietetic procedure of very ancient origin
is universal among these Indians today.
Dr. Weston Price, a researcher studying primitive races
of the high andes, Central Africa, and also the Aborigines
of Australia, asked for the privilege of seeing what the
natives carried in their knapsacks. Without exception,
each one contained a ball of clay, a little of which would
be dissolved in water. Their morsels of food would be dipped
in their mixture before being eaten. This practice is carried
on today and is undoubtedly one reason the people of these
cultures experience physical stamina and endurance.
As the explorers came to the New World, they observed
the American Indian using various clays. Some of these
uses were: The face mask of a proud warrior, the painted
body of a ceremonial dancer, or a cool clay pack on an
exhausted messenger. Al contained special clays usually
gathered locally. However, those for eating were highly
treasured and to secure a supply, the natives often traveled
long distances. The use of clay was introduced to the pioneers
through the skills of the native Indian women, who on occasion
were taken as wives by the white men. However, the gathering
of the clay had traditionally been done by the men of the
tribe, thus substitutions began to occur in the white villages.
Slowly the effectiveness of this healing art was lost.
Clay was used in sacred ceremony by the American native.
In these rituals, they reverently acknowledged the intimacy
they felt with mother earth and all nature. In deep reverence
they partook of the sacred clays, believing the clay and
water that flowed from the breast of mother earth was to
nurture their spirits, as they believed the flow of a mother's
milk was given to feed the spirit of the infant.
By Indian tradition, the tribal father sought visions
to guide his people. While solemn ceremony, he might perceive
spirits petitioning birth into his clan. Lengthy preparation
including clay ceremonies would then follow. Tribesmen
would leave the village together for several weeks to go
The tribesman's knowledge of plant life and clays used
to predetermine male offspring was held in reverent secrecy.
Observation of the moon as well as instinct directed the
time for their return and the completion of conception
ceremonies. The participating women prepared for the sacred
rites at the moon lodge.
Upon the birth of their infants they would return to the
lodge for further ceremony. As the moon rose in her full
majesty, sacred clays were place upon the infant as a symbol
of protection from lurking spirits.
Should a maiden of the tribe be violated by a vagabond,
she would go to the village outskirts in solitude to heal
her spirit and restore her virginity. She used food and
clays daily that had been blessed by the spiritual father,
as she shamelessly sought her purification.
Heat lodges were a common practice of most tribes. Some
sweats lasted a few hours at the day's end. Other sweats
were held deep in the heart of a mountain in caves and
could last several days. Clays were traditionally used
at both. The lengthy sweats were attended only by men and
involved the extensive use of clay. Skilled medicine men
of the tribe presided at these sites as the tribal fathers
awaited spiritual vision.
Seasonal migration of the Indians would take them to sites
of warm clay pools. The complete submersion of their bodies
in clay held significant ceremonial purpose. It also served
to cleanse and heal their bodies. As it was tribal custom
never to be without the edible clays, supplies were dried
to be carried on the homeward journey.
The use of clay by the American Indian was held in each
tribe's tradition; it was shared only among the tribesmen.
The seeking of clay took them to specific places, especially
where the bubbling mud had brought sedimentary deposits
to the surface in active or extinct hydro-thermal activity.
On rare occasions, clay would be pastel blue, green, or
pink. However, most were grey or reddish in color.
This was due to extensive mineral concentrations, especially
iron left by the continuous evaporation of water in bubbling
mud. The hydrolysis and fragmentation of clay minerals
in the heat and steam of a hydrothermally active site,
is much more complete than in the sedimentation stage.
The clay minerals may otherwise be only mildly transformed
in various other ways.
Climatic effects do give rise to different types of clay
minerals. Modern scientific research enables us to determine
the geographic zone wherein the initiation of the clay
minerals' evolution began and what benefits it may have
to the human body.
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
Weston A. Price, MS D.D.S.