In 1998, when I first googled Bentonite Clays, I got 5,000 results. Today, ten years later, I get 618,000 results. That’s quite a significant increase.

What can we attribute this increase to? With the growing realization of the dangers of traditional medicines, the search for a natural and safe alternative has brought man back to this healing element that has been used for hundreds of years by indigenous people around the globe.

With this rising popularity and recognition of clays being safe, natural and inexpensive, clay companies are popping up over night. This alternative to prescription, side-effect-riddled medicine has everyone wanting to get in on this opportunity to make money - and some actually care about sharing this remarkable healing agent.

As with anything that grows too fast, the lack of education and knowledge about clays can pose a danger to society. Kitchens and garages become launch pads for home grown businesses and new domain names flood the Internet with eager entrepreneurs in search of financial freedom. Common sense and safety in handling are ignored in eagerness to capture a corner of the market.

With that in mind, it is extremely important to know your clays, what the law requires, and what the clay companies should provide in the way of service and information.

First, all clays are different, making it complicated to understand the many differences in clay families. For this article, let’s focus on the Smectite Family of Clays known commonly as Bentonites. A unique trait of the Smectite Family of clay is the ability to adsorb, as well as absorb. In the Smectite Family of clays, there are predominately Sodium and Calcium Bentonites.

Sodium Bentonites are naturally high in salt – as high as 14%. They are the swelling or expanding clays, taking on more water when hydrated. These have been used primarily for industrial purposes (e.g., liner materials for landfills, binders for iron ore processing, suspension agents in oil well drilling, and water-proofing products for building materials.

In addition, all Calcium Bentonite Clays are not the same! They differ in composition of minerals, colors, textures, swelling capacity, taste, odor, grittiness and purity. The major differences lie in proportion of the trace minerals that make up clays. All clays contain from 60 – 70 trace minerals, and most in parts per million (ppm) and in insignificant amounts. The primary minerals determine the common names of many clays, as do locations.

Calcium Bentonites are more widely known as healing clays for detoxing, cleansing, drawing out impurities and used in many products such as toothpaste, antacids, and cosmetics.

Today, clays are carving a significant niche in the natural health world. One of the major problems is that industrial clays are not mined with attention to purity and cleanliness. For industrial purposes, it is NOT important for the clay to be clean and pure. For these purposes, clays are dirt cheap (excuse the pun), as they are only scooped up, bagged, and sold (and usually only sold by the tonnage or truck load).

The FDA has given all Bentonite clays a certification as GRAS: Generally Regarded as Safe. This refers to the exposure to clays during the milling process and for external uses. This does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that you can make health claims about clays LEGALLY. A clay company selling clay cannot legally say it will stop the pain of an insect bite, a Jellyfish sting, a tooth ache, clear up Acne, accelerate wound healing, stop Acid Reflux, diarrhea, or detox heavy metals until it has undergone one of the million dollar tests performed to FDA specifications and gets the FDA Approval. Since Clays have been known to help 50- 100 ailments, you would need a test for each ailment, and I think you can do the math on that one. Basically, clay has positive effects on so many ailments, it would take billions to get it approved for all the health claims.

Clay companies making healing claims are riding on the edge of serious trouble as clays become more and more popular. It is only a matter of time before the FDA rears its head and starts investigating the healing claims and shuts them down and/or issues serious fines. Today, the FDA has other fish to fry, so they have not messed with these up-and-coming clay companies.

There are companies that sell clays for internal use legally, but they have had to have their clay processed to meet FDA requirements. When clays are processed, whether by heat, sterilization or irradiation, the efficacy (strength) of the clay has been greatly reduced.

So if you can’t make healing claims, what can a company legally say about the clay they sell? They can legally say clay relieves, detoxes (can’t say what), soothes, draws impurities (it is a known fact that clay is used by the wine and beer industry for drawing out impurities), stimulates, and a few other very safe generic terms with no real meaning.

Anytime a good thing comes along, there are those who recognize it as an opportunity to make money and will jump in and take advantage by pushing the rules. The misuse of the internet is a good example. More and more clays are pushing the edge of truth. Some are copying information verbatim from other sites and claiming it as their own.

One man claimed to be selling Dead Sea mud that actually was Illinois dirt laced with cornstarch. Another clay with supposed healing powers contained toxic concentrations of arsenic at 500 times the level approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is another interesting statement: “Vegetables are not attacked by pests when grown with Brand X clay in the soil.” I would say to show me some proof. If you have a concern with a statement made by a clay company, question it and ask for an explanation.

While clay may or may not decrease pest attacks on plants, clays added to the right composition of soil mixes can enhance plant growth. Agronomy is a chemical study of soil compositions: one mineral can affect the release of another mineral’s absorption and it is about finding the right formula for the results you want.

In general, plants have enzymes that are capable of breaking down the trace minerals in clays to synthesize them and absorb them as nutrients vital to living plants’ growth.

Clays not only help plants, but animals, too. For example, the shrimp study by Louis Kervran, the French scientist, world-famous for his provocative work on Biological Transmutations, is about a shrimp that lives in clay:

“It has been known for a long time that living organisms inhabit clay without any organic supply of food from the outside…the Niphargus shrimp… lives in the clay of caves…. Experiments have shown that it grows normally in pure clay to which nothing has been added. Research workers therefore thought that the shrimp lived on clay and nothing but clay, an impossibility according to the laws of biochemistry. Actually, it cannot live thus in clay alone, but this clay contains microorganisms which work for the shrimp, making vitamins, various mineral products, nitrogen, phosphorous, and calcium, etc” (Abehsera 1977, 7).

So can you see if you irradiated or heat processed clays to clean out ALL of the microorganisms, you are damaging the efficacy of the NATURAL elements as they are meant to be? Check the clay for dangerous elements by all means; that means no Escherichia Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus and/or Pseudomonas Aeruginosa.

Some people are genuinely excited about their clays. Listening to them, they think they have found the best clay on the planet. Most go to great pains with the wording that sets their clay apart and they take bits and pieces here and there, and suddenly it is all about their clay.

My greatest concern with the influx of new clays is the lack of clay knowledge and the harm it will bring to the good reputation of quality clays.

There are many confusing and misleading statements to lure you to a particular clay. KNOW YOUR CLAY. Do your due diligence by asking the company questions and for a lab test as to the purity, cleanliness and an analysis of the primary minerals.

Criteria for selecting a quality clay and a reliable clay source:

*A natural calcium Bentonite clay pure and free of contaminants.

*A pH of 8.5 or above.

*Provides a mineral analysis sheet.

*Provides a certified laboratory microbial test.

*A Montmorillonite-Smectite Clay that Absorbs and Adsorb.

*So pure it is odorless and tasteless.

*It is an all natural vs. processed clay.

*Has professional packaging (no Ziploc bags or hand-written labels) with labels showing directions and ingredients.

*A non – gritty clay.

*A company that gives you direct contact information - a phone number, physical address and an e-mail address.

*A company available to answer questions about their clay.

*A reliable company that has been in business for several years.

*A clay that does not stain material.

Continue to ask for the proof and do your due diligence. Educate yourself and use common sense. If you cannot speak to a person from that company, considerate it a red flag.

Now go find your perfect clay!

Abehsera, Michel. 1977. The Centuries-Old Healing and Beauty Elixir…Rediscovered! The Healing Clay: Amazing Cures from the Earth Itself. Brooklyn: Swan House Publishing Company.

Author's Bio: 

Perry A~ is the author of Living Clay: Nature’s Own Miracle Cure ( and has been an ongoing student in the study and research of Bentonite Clays since the early 1990s. It was then she was first introduced to a green healing Calcium Bentonite Clay that captured her fascination as to the amazing healing potential of dirt. She has been an advocate for Bentonite clays ever since. She is available for radio interviews, clay workshops, presentations and to answer questions about clay. She can be reached at 1-866-262-5611 or