Bentonite Clay (Montmorillonite)
Bentonite is an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite. It was named by Wilbur C. Knight in 1898 after the Cretaceous Benton Shale near Rock River, Wyoming. The different types of bentonite are each named after the respective dominant element, such as potassium (K), sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), and aluminium (Al). Bentonite usually forms from weathering of volcanic ash, most often in the presence of water. However, the term bentonite, as well as a similar clay called tonstein, has been used to describe clay beds of uncertain origin. For industrial purposes, two main classes of bentonite exist: sodium and calcium bentonite. In stratigraphy and tephrochronology, completely devitrified (weathered volcanic glass) ash-fall beds are commonly referred to as K-bentonites when the dominant clay species is illite. In addition to montmorillonite and illite another common clay species that is sometimes dominant is kaolinite. Kaolinite-dominated clays are commonly referred to as tonsteins and are typically associated with coal.
Sodium bentonite expands when wet, absorbing as much as several times its dry mass in water. Because of its excellent colloidal properties, it is often used in drilling mud for oil and gas wells and boreholes for geotechnical and environmental investigations. The property of swelling also makes sodium bentonite useful as a sealant, since it provides a self-sealing, low permeability barrier. It is used to line the base of landfills, for example.
Bentonite Clay is a unique clay due to its ability to produce an “electrical charge” when hydrated. Upon contact with fluid, its electrical components change, giving it the ability to absorb toxins. Bentonite is known for its ability to absorb and remove toxins, heavy metals, impurities, and chemicals. – WellnessMama.com
Proven Benefits of Using Bentonite Clay (DrAxe.com)
Used on the Skin to Heal Eczema, Dermatitis & Psoriasis: When combined with water and left to dry on the skin as a clay mask, the clay is able to bind to bacteria and toxins living on the surface of the skin and within pores to extract these from the pours. This helps to reduce the outbreak of blemishes, alleviate redness, and also to fight allergic reactions from irritating lotions or face washes, and even helps help poison ivy. Thanks to the clay’s special ability to act as an antibiotic treatment when applied topically to the skin, the clay can help to calm skin infections and speed up healing time of wounds or eczema, even when prescription antibiotics were not able to help solve the problem.
Used in the Bath as a Soaking Liquid to Remove Toxins: The clay can be added to your bath water and used as a soaking liquid, binding to the toxins that are dispelled from your skin. The clay leaves skin feeling smooth, hydrated, and less inflamed, all while you relax in the tub effortlessly!
Allows Cells to Receive More Oxygen: Bentonite clay helps to get oxygen into the cells because it has the ability to pull excess hydrogen from the cells, leaving room for oxygen to take its place. When cells have more oxygen entering them, you feel more energized and your body can repair itself more easily from illness or hard workouts, including improving muscle recovery.
Alkalizes the Body: Much of the foods that are present in the “Standard American Diet” have an acidic reaction in the body, meaning they alter the body’s preferred pH level to make it more acidic than we’d like for it to be. The less healthy someone’s diet is, normally the more acidic their body is. This is the case because the stomach needs to work extra hard to produce strong acids in order to break down these foods, creating the need for even more alkalizing foods to balance things out. Proper digestion requires enzymes that are made from alkalizing minerals, so when alkalizing foods do not enter the body, acidity remains high and digestion suffers. Bentonite clay contains alkalizing minerals, which brings the level of the body’s pH to a more optimal balance between acidity and alkalinity, helping to make the blood, saliva and urine more alkaline.
Boosts Probiotics: By removing toxins, digestive-distress causing chemicals and heavy metals from the gut, bentonite clay helps to promote the “good bacteria” or probiotics living in your gut wall and decrease the amount of harmful “bad bacteria.” A healthy gut wall prevents us from experiencing malabsorption of nutrients from our food, increases our immunity, and also helps to elevate our mood and brain function. Research has also shown that bentonite clay can bind to particular toxins like “aflatoxins” that are common in the standard diet, found in things like peanuts and some grains.
Relieves Digestive Problems (Constipation, IBS, Nausea, etc.): Thanks to its ability to neutralize bacteria in the gut and kill viruses, bentonite clay helps to alleviate many digestive problems. It is often used as relief for nausea and vomiting by pregnant women, is a safe way to remedy constipation, and helps with IBS. Results from one study carried out in 1998 showed that bentonite clay was extremely successful at absorbing harmful rotavirus and caronavirus toxins within the gut of young mammals. Rotaviruses are one of the leading causes of gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea and nausea, in infants and toddlers.
Bentonite clay benefits your pets as well. It is safe for pet consumption within your own home and can alleviate pet’s nausea and vomiting in the same way. You can add bentonite clay to your pet’s water to help reduce symptoms like vomiting. Mix ¼ cup or less of the clay into their water until it dissolves; they should not taste anything or even notice that it’s there, but should feel better pretty quickly.
Boosts Immunity by Killing Harmful Bacteria and Viruses: Bentonite clay was also found to be effective at killing harmful bacteria. In a study published by the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, “results indicate that specific mineral products have intrinsic, heat-stable antibacterial properties, which could provide an inexpensive treatment against numerous human bacterial infections.” Much of the immune system actually lives inside of the gut, and when the gut wall is compromised, toxins are better able to leach into the bloodstream and cause serious problems. By protecting the gut wall and decreasing the amount of pesticides, toxins, bacteria and chemicals that could potentially enter the blood, the body is better able to protect its health.
Improves the Health of Teeth and Gums: The mouth is one of the most susceptible areas of the body when it comes to harmful outside “invaders” taking over, like bacteria and toxins. Bentonite clay binds to unhealthy substances in the mouth, such as around the teeth and on the tongue and gums, and helps to remove them before you swallow them and become sick. Because of Bentonite’s antibacterial properties, it has been used in natural toothpastes and even mixed with water and used as a daily rinse.
Purifies Water: Bentonite clay has been researched as an effective way to remove some of the fluoride that is often in drinking water. When combined with magnesium, the clay has been shown to benefit the purity of tap water, which leads to some promising possibilities for using it in the future as a widespread cost-effective water purification method.
Useful As a Baby Powder Alternative: Bentonite clay can be applied to any area on the skin of babies that is irritated, red or needs soothing in the same way that traditional powders are used. Plus, it is very gentle and naturally cleansing. Apply a small amount of the clay directly to the skin and allow it to sit for several minutes before wiping/rinsing it away.
Suggestions for Personal Use
If you plan on consuming bentonite clay by mouth (ingesting it either by eating or drinking the clay), try this: Drink 1/2 to 1 teaspoon once per day as many days of the week as you’d like. Mix the clay with water, preferably in a jar with a lid where you can shake the clay and make it dissolve. Then drink it right away.
If you plan on only using it externally on your skin, try this:
- Enjoy the bentonite clay benefits by adding a ¼ of a cup of the clay to your bath and massage your skin with it. Or just allow the clay to dissolve into the water and soak it in for as long as you’d like, then rinse your skin well with clean water.
- Try gargling the clay in your mouth with some water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, similarly to using mouth wash. Then spit out the clay and rinse your mouth with clean water.
- Try creating a face mask by smearing the clay directly onto your skin, especially anywhere where you have blemishes, red spots, irritations or scarring. Allow the clay to dry (this usually takes about 20 minutes) and then rinse it off with warm water. It’s recommended to use the clay mask one or twice per week for best results.
- For scrapes or bug bites, apply a concentrated amount of the clay directly to the trouble area and cover with a Band-Aid or gauze, then let it sit for about 2 hours, then rinse it off.
Common Commercial Uses
Purification: Bentonites are used for decolorizing various mineral, vegetable, and animal oils. They are also used for clarifying wine, liquor, cider, beer, mead, and vinegar. Bentonite has the property of absorbing relatively large amounts of protein molecules from aqueous solutions. Consequently, bentonite is uniquely useful in the process of winemaking, where it is used to remove excessive amounts of protein from white wines. Were it not for this use of bentonite, many or most white wines would precipitate undesirable flocculent clouds or hazes upon exposure to warm temperatures, as these proteins denature. It also has the incidental use of inducing more rapid clarification of both red and white wines.
Absorbent: Bentonite is used in a variety of pet care items such as cat litter to absorb the odor and surround the feces. It is also used to absorb oils and grease.
Groundwater barrier: The property of swelling on contact with water makes sodium bentonite useful as a sealant, since it provides a self-sealing, low-permeability barrier. It is used to line the base of landfills to prevent migration of leachate, for quarantining metal pollutants of groundwater, and for the sealing of subsurface disposal systems for spent nuclear fuel. Similar uses include making slurry walls, waterproofing of below-grade walls, and forming other impermeable barriers, e.g., to seal off the annulus of a water well, to plug old wells.
Medical: Bentonite has been prescribed as a bulk laxative, and it is also used as a base for many dermatologic formulas. Granular bentonite is being studied for use in battlefield wound dressings. Bentonite is also sold online and in retail outlets for a variety of indications. Bentoquatam is a bentonate-based topical medication intended to act as a shield against exposure to urushiol, the oil found in plants such as poison ivy or poison oak. Bentonite can also be used as a desiccant due to its adsorption properties. Bentonite desiccants have been successfully used to protect pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and diagnostic products from moisture degradation and extend shelf life. In fact, in the most common package environments, bentonite desiccants offer a higher adsorption capacity than silica gel desiccants. Bentonite complies with the FDA for contact with food and drugs.
Pottery: The clay from which pottery is made is described as “plastic” if it can be stretched without cracking or “short” or non-plastic if it tends to break up when formed. A small amount of bentonite is often added to make a clay mixture more plastic. This makes the clay more easily formed, by methods such as throwing on a potter’s wheel and various hand building techniques. Short clay, such as a porcelain mixture consisting only of kaolinite and feldspar, can be formed only by a limited set of methods such as pressing and molding, that do not put the clay under tension. One problem with adding bentonite is that it typically contains minerals that affect the color of the mix.
Where does it come from?
Bentonite clay is composed of ash made from volcanos. The largest known source of bentonite clay is found in Fort Benton, Wyoming where numerous volcanos are present, so the name of the clay stems from the town where today much of the supply is still harvested.
In 2011, the U.S. was the top producer of bentonite, with almost one-third world share, followed by China and Greece. Most high-grade natural sodium bentonite is produced from the western United States in an area between the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming and the Tokat Resadiye region of Turkey. Mixed sodium/calcium bentonite is mined in Greece, Australia, India, Russia, and Ukraine. In the United States, calcium bentonite is mined primarily in Mississippi and Alabama. Other major locations producing calcium bentonite include New Zealand, Germany, Greece, Turkey, India, and China.