Healing Clays of the World ~ Illite, Bentonite, Montmorillonite - Eytons' Earth

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Clay Chemistry & The Mystery of Healing Clays

Aluminum Silicates and Smectite - Basic Building Blocks

Healing Clays:  Aluminum Silicates and Smectite

How to find bentonite and other healing clays...

Featured: Did You Know...?

  Mouth Infections are one of the most common "every day" health challenges, and are experienced by millions of people every day. Antibiotics sometimes fail to address the condition. Healing clay poultices or compresses applied "externally" in the mouth are incredibly effective. Read about clay and mouth problems in our form: Abcess tooth ( infection ) treatment with bentonite.



Volcanic Ash and Quartz Crystal: Clay Chemistry
Simple Composition Yields Complex Manifestations

Clay chemistry is extraordinarily complex, and we certainly wouldn't begin to claim to be experts.

For our purposes, however, the complexity of healing clays can be simplified by seeking the origin of the silicate class of clays, in particular smectite:

1. Smectite clays initially form through volcanic activity - volcanic ash to be specific. As such, we consider all healing clays ( in particular ) to be members of the Quartz class of crystals first and foremost, even though through the evolutionary process the crystalline structure of clays can be amazingly diverse. This perspective may or may not be accurate according to contemporary clay chemistry theory, but it serves as a good general starting point to understand the unique nature of clay minerals.

2. Quartz crystal acts as a transducer. It can convert energy in the form of light into energy in the form of sound, or vibration ( and vice versa ). As volcanic ash evolves, the process of selective sorption is the fundamental determinant of both the makeup and the properties of the end clay -- that, and the nature of the environment with which it interacts.

The generalized formula for smectite:

(Ca, Na, H)(Al, Mg, Fe, Zn)2(Si, Al)4O10(OH)2 - xH2O

The variation of mineral content between products is one of the defining features of the quality of clay for healing purposes. In some cases, he greater the variety of mineral content in the bonded matrix, the less sorptive power the clay may contain (an example would be a completely calcified bentonite). This does not, however, mean that clays rich with organic/non-organic substances do not have profound uses; it means only that comparative experimentation and meticulous observations must be conducted with careful consideration to the sorptive power of the clay.

Bentonite @ 25000X


How to find bentonite and other healing clays...


Montmorillonite and Bentonite

Let's take a look at the base equation for smectite once more:

(Ca, Na, H)(Al, Mg, Fe, Zn)2(Si, Al)4O10(OH)2 - xH2O

The term "bentonite" and "montmorillonite" are both words coined based on local deposits, and not scientific names in themselves. Bentonite was named after a large deposit of clay in Wyoming. Montmorillonite was named after a large deposit of clay in France.

One base chemical equation given for "bentonite":


Notice that in the above chemistry equation, sodium is not included. Notice in the top equation, calcium, sodium and hydrogen hold an optional position in the final equation. These elements are positive ions and are the result of the sorptive properties of the base clay coming in contact with these substances in the natural environment; the negatively charged particles of the clay attract the ions.

Therefore, the terms calcium bentonite, sodium bentonite, and bentonite can and often do refer to different substances. How the exact chemistry of a healing clay affects the end efficacy is not known.

One formula given for a granular Wyoming bentonite:

(Al, Fe1,67'Mg0,33),Si4O10 (OH)2Na+Ca++

This particular clay is a soft gray color, but does not necessarily represent all of the Wyoming bentonites. Notice the freely associated sodium and calcium at the end of the equation.

One manufacturer calls the following equation hydrated magnesium aluminum silicate-- very interesting since the magnesium has replaced the aluminum, and therefore there is no aluminum in the end product. Perhaps it would be better called a hydrated magnesium silicate.


Another manufacturer refers to a sodium bentonite (as apposed, one can safely assume, to a bentonite without the sodium ion):


Still another company sells a bentonite "mud"( no sodium):


And here is a product referred to by a manufacturing company as Smectite / Montmorillonite:

(Na,Ca) (Al,Mg)6(Si4010)3(OH)6-nH20

As one can see, it can get quite confusing (even though it is very interesting) wading through the terminology. One department of geology states that there is bentonite in montmorillonite; other experts say that montmorillonite is the prime ingredient in bentonite.

For our purpose, the importance lies in finding and understanding the value of the more mineral rich clays, such as Pascalite (a Calcium Bentonite), and in understanding the value of healing quality smectites that contain no or few sorpted minerals (such as water-washed, ultra-ventilated clay)

How to find bentonite and other healing clays...

Illite: A Second Class of Green Healing Clay

~ Illite Micrograph ~


Another clay with known healing power is Illite, a clay mica: Potassium aluminum silicate hydroxide fluoride. The chemistry of this type of healing clay reveals many similarities to the smectites, although the two clays are truly strikingly different:

(K, H)Al2(Si, Al)4O10(OH)2 - xH2O

Although Illite is an aluminum silicate, it is a non-swelling clay. Illite has the same range of use as the smectite clays. In fact, some believe that Illite performs better than the smectite clays when used internally, the consideration being that the particle size of illite is smaller than smectite particles.

How to find bentonite and other healing clays...

Annotated References on Healing Clay Chemistry for Further Research

Comparison of clay characteristics by class of clay ( micas, smectites, tectosilicates )

The above article is a most excellent general reference for the chemistry of healing clays, although we ask the reader to remember that the in-vivo ( in the body ) data in the article applies only to the response of clay action caused by direct contact of clays and the environment, which is by far the least important benefit of pelotherapy / healing clay therapy.

When viewing the data about internal consumption of bentonite, keep in mind that the practice of natural medicine recognizes a far wider action with far less clay consumed than the information in this article presents. It is not so much the binding of mycotoxins ( or any other "digested" substance ) in the digestive system that one is after by utilizing clay internally for cleansing, healing, and general health purposes. Rather, it is the catalyst action of small amounts of clay, which begins at the moment the clay touches the tongue.

Upon consumption, clay begins to restore the natural biological terrain of the entire digestive and elimination system, including adjusting the pH level; our experience with clay water reveals a greater PH level than the article suggests, ranging from 9 - 10 (from tests with a natural desert bentonite) . As a part of this process, the body's own ability to maintain a proper bacterial balance is restored (a normalization of bacterial counts results from the near-uniform reduction of bacterial populations), and thus quality clay use can positively affect the body's ability to digest food substances due to improved efficiency of the digestive system.

In particular, the effect that clay used internally has on the stimulation of the liver is often completely overlooked. Many scientific researchers stop at the realization that clays used internally are (at first!) inert and not adsorbed by the liver. However, in reality the clay stimulates the liver directly invoking a healing response that is easily observable with careful observation of long term use of small amounts of clay with those with chronic liver conditions.

Many of these effects remain largely unexplained but widely recognized. It is a good idea to remember that the healthiest peoples in the world consumed clay particles on a daily basis for their entire lives, generation upon generation, either through a clay-rich water source or through natural/cultural utilization of clays as a part of a normal diet.

Aluminum in Edible Clays

One of the more common concerns about the use of clays internally is the aluminum content in clay. As outlined above, the aluminum in illite and smectite is complexed; it is a part of the alumino-silicate crystal, which is a very stable molecule. As such, it is completely inert in the human body. There are no normal or abnormal conditions in the human body that would cause the aluminum, bound to silica and oxygen, to "break free".

Numerous individuals have undergone heavy metal testing after having used traditional edible clay for years, and in some cases, decades (the author included). It is abundantly clear that the use of clays assists the body in the removal of aluminum.

To be clear, in order for aluminum to be an issue for human or animal health (numerous animal studies have been done studying safety issues), it must be bioavailable. In order to be bioavailable, it must be in an uncomplexed form or interchangeable form (unstable molecule in reference to localized environmental conditions allowing reactivity) and it must be in a water or fat soluble state.

The crystalline structure of clay particles prevents the absorption of aluminum, which is one reason why smectites have always maintained an "un argued" GRAS status in the U.S.

Heavy Metals in Traditional Edible Clays

There are two types of metals associated with clays:

1. The metals in the earth at the time of a clay's formation.

2. Metals that clay may come in contact with after the clay's formation.

Trace amounts of arsenic and lead, for example, are commonly found in traditional edible clays. These metals are are not nascent, and do not become bioavailable in the body; they are simply removed from the body along with the clay particles.

Clays, however, that have been contaminated with heavy metals post-deposit, such as from the environment, may pose a potential risk for heavy metal adsorption.

A simple geological study of any given clay deposit is usually enough to establish the quality of the deposit for human use.

In our study of traditional-use clays (clays with a long history of use by indigenous cultures), it should be noted that  extremely dangerous or volatile elements are never found in edible clays in sufficient quantities to pose a health risk, such as mercury and cadmium.  Clay deposits with elevated levels of elements such as mercury and cadmium do exist, but they are not utilized for human/animal use.

Furthermore, strict analytical studies done in France have perpetually demonstrated that even high grade sea clays (from an ancient sea bed) have less than 0.5 mg/L of water soluble levels of each heavy metal tested. These metals simply remain a part of the clay as it exits the body.

There is no evidence to suggest that traditional use clays (clays which have been consumed by humans for 3-4+ generations) increase the metal burden of human or animal bodies.  All studies that have been done demonstrate a reduction in the body-bio burden of harmful metals and an improvement in nutrient uptake.

However, it is possible that clay, POST deposit, could have come in contact with environmental conditions that result in undesirable metal contamination from air, water, soil, or industrial contamination.

Natural Radiation in Clays

Clays from all countries contain natural radiation. Raymond Dextreit, the famed French naturopath known for his mastery of clay therapeutics and herbology (author of Earth Cures) noted that the vital energy contained in clay resulted from a minute amount of naturally occurring radioactive Isotopes.

This is not to be confused with clays contaminated with nuclear waste. The radiation adsorbed by clay naturally is the Gamma radiation from the Earth.

Natural Naphtha in Clays

Raymond Dextriet (author of "Our Earth, Our Cure", famed French naturopath and "The Grandfather" of clay therapy, was the first to note that it is not uncommon for therapeutic clays to contain naphtha; after all, a good clay is harvested from a subterranean vein. If a clay is not "cleaned" via water-washing, chances are there that one can smell/taste a petroleum smell emitting from the clay.

Raymond Dextret believed that the naphtha naturally found in clay enhanced its therapeutic properties. While some people not familiar with clay become alarmed at this fact, there is no cause for concern. This isn't highly concentrated refined gasoline, it is trace amounts of a gas absorbed by clay. Exposure is not "naphtha poisoning".

If individuals are concerned by the smell: Simply mix clay well in water several times, and allow to sit overnight. Once clay is hydrated, the naphtha outgasses from the clay.

PLEASE NOTE: This is far different from clay that has been exposed to refined gasoline and contaminated. Clay that has been contaminated with gasoline will cause moderate skin irritation; applying wet clay to the skin for five minutes (do not allow to dry... clay drying on skin itself is a mild irritant) and then rinsed off will result in a burning sensation of the skin and a deep red color.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can I be sure that the body doesn't absorb the lead and arsenic in edible clay?

In order for the human body to be negatively affected by these elements:

1. The elements must exist in a form that the body can absorb. This means that they need to be a) fat soluble, b) water soluble, or c) in a nascent form, AND small enough or in an active enough form to be absorbed through the intestinal tract. Most of the metals found in clay are fused into the aluminum silicate structure of the clay particles. The rest are bound by the clay, because that is exactly what clay does and is scientifically used for.

2. The clay particles would have to be degraded in some manner, such as extreme heat (in the thousands of degrees), or a very powerful acid (much more powerful than stomach acid).

Although no extensive human studies have been done on using edible clays (although animal studies have been done), our work thusfar has demonstrated a reduced metal burden on the body through long term of clay. This work has been done by doing heavy metal challenge tests before and after detox protocols, including test cases of individuals with elevated mercury levels due to exposure from amalgams (with amalgams still in-mouth and removed).

While these isolated studies are not scientifically significant from a statistical standpoint (no controls used and not enough of a population sample), every such study we've seen simply re-enforces the existing knowledge that clay assist the body in removing harmful substances; it does not increase them.

3. Studies done in France show that clay does not release a significant amount of heavy metals into water. The studies were conducted by first testing an edible clay via 4-acid base testing, and comparing the results with water subjected to the same clay.

4. Perhaps the most important evidence is the overwhelming benefits reported by individuals using quality clays in formal detox protocols. This includes, but is not limited to, "formal" environmental medical doctors such as Dr. Grace Ziem.

See Also:

Thimer Mercury Toxicity & Healing Clay Baths


Featured: Did You Know...?

  Researchers at the University of New England in Australia claim to have made a surprising discovery. While searching for means to combat a serious stomach disorder common to Australian sheep, they found that "small quantities of a naturally occurring clay, called bentonite, mixed into a sheep's drinking water" not only improved the animal's digestion but increased wool growth, reports The Australian. One of the researchers, Professor Ron Leng, said that a daily dose of a half ounce of bentonite mixed into their drinking water had resulted in increase of up to about one tenth of an ounce a day in a sheep's growth. It is hoped that use of this mixture on sheep nationwide will bring increases in wool production worth millions of dollars.

-AWAKE! 6/22/88




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~ New Articles Section on bentonite and clay minerals - the clay cure ~
|| what is bentonite? || bentonite clay mineral formation & evolution ||
|| hydrated sodium bentonite studies - edible clay || bentonite & food poisoning ||
|| Pascalite article - white calcium bentonite || clay use by primitive & indigenous cultures ||
|| trace minerals and clay || living clay: bentonite || healing clay therapy books ||
Silver, Clay and Ozone Heal a Broken Infected Finger || Stinging Trees of Australia & Healing Clay
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Read about the future of the Eytons' Earth Foundation and Nutritional Study Program

colon cleansing & detox || Clay Cure for Molluscum Contagiosum

Eytons Earth Healing Clays - Bentonite, Montmorillonite & Illite

Book: Upon a Clay Tablet
The Definitive Guide to Healing with Homeostatic Clays
Volume I

Eytons' Earth, a non-commercial, public awareness organization dedicated to researching the values of healing clays (bentonite, illite, zeolite and montmorillonite), is based out of Las Vegas Nevada. Feel free to us at any time. While we are not always able to respond, we do our best to answer non-commercial inquiries!

Green Clay - Medicinal Healing Clay - Bentonite, Montmorillonite, Illite

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