I will let "Wellness Mama" explain rather than me try and improve on an already fine job.
I myself have gone through weeks of drinking clay (sometimes months) and then took a break for a while. When I go back to it I wondered what took me so long.
Regarding minerals, I'd add a caveat on this article. Not all clay minerals are bioavailable. and it seems to depend on the age of the mine it was taken from as to whether it will contain the ligands needed for absorption. For the more geeky amongst us, I've pasted an article below explaining all about it.
Since this article is more for the cleansing benefits of clay, it is not important. From other places on this site we can see that minerals are best taken internally as organic, plant derived and in their full spectrum complex.
Though they have been largely forgotten in recent times, Bentonite Clay and other healing clays have been used by cultures throughout history for their nutrients and to help rid the body of toxins. Many animals will instinctively turn to eating dirt and clay to help remove poisons from their systems or during times of illness or distress.
In recent times, healing clays like bentonite clay have once again gained popularity for internal and external detoxification, and with good reason.
What is Bentonite Clay?
According to Mountain Rose Herbs:
Bentonite, also referred to as Montmorillonite, is one of the most effective and powerful healing clays. Bentonite can be used externally as a clay poultice, mud pack or in the bath and, in skin care recipes. A good quality Bentonite should be a grey/cream color and anything bordering “pure white” is suspect. It has a very fine, velveteen feel and is odorless and non-staining. The type of bentonite offered by Mountain Rose herbs is a Sodium Bentonite.
Bentonite Clay is composed of aged volcanic ash. The name comes from the largest known deposit of Bentonite Clay located in Fort Benton, Wyoming.
What Does it Do?
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.
Bentonite is a swelling clay. When it becomes mixed with water it rapidly swells open like a highly porous sponge. From here the toxins are drawn into the sponge through electrical attraction and once there, they are bound.
Bentonite clay carries a strong negative charge which bonds to the positive charge in many toxins. When it comes in contact with a toxin, chemical, or heavy metal, the clay will absorb the toxin and release it’s minerals for the body to use. Bentonite also helps get oxygen to cells as it pulls excess hydrogen and allows the cells to replace it with oxygen instead.
Bentonite clay is a common ingredient in detox and cleansing products. It has an alkalizing effect on the body and when taken correctly, it can help balance gut bacteria.
Personally, I’ve seen people benefit from taking Bentonite Clay to help with:
Digestive disturbances like acid reflux, constipation, bloating, gas, etc. (Kaolin clay was common ingredient in medicines like Maalox and Rolaids for years)
Helping with skin and allergy issues
To help provide minerals for the body
To help speed recovery from vomiting and diarrhea
In oral health preparations
Externally for all types of skin problems and to speed healing
Healing clays like Bentonite have a high concentration of minerals including silica, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, and potassium.
Even Dr. Weston A Price, in his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” reported that several native cultures including those in the Andes, Central Africa and Australia consumed clays in various ways, most often my carrying balls of dried clay in their bags and dissolving a small amount of the clay in water with meals to prevent poisoning from any toxins present.
In a study from Arizona State University, bentonite clay was found to be highly effective at killing MRSA as well as Salmonella, E.Coli and others.What is promising as research continues in this area is that depending on the method in which the clay kills the infection, it may not be possible for the MRSA or other bacteria to develop a resistance to it as it does with antibiotics.
How to Use Bentonite Clay
Bentonite (and other clays) are staples in my homemade herbal cabinet and medicine chest. I’ve used them internally and externally for various issues on myself, my husband my kids. I order from here and it is an inexpensive natural remedy.
Important Notes: Do not let healing clays like Bentonite come in to contact with anything metal, as this will reduce the effectiveness. I mix with water in a glass jar with a plastic lid by shaking well or using a plastic whisk. If you take it internally, do not take within an hour of food for best results and do not take within 2 hours of medications or supplements as it might reduce their effectiveness. Check with your doctor before using if you have any medical condition.
On the Skin: Externally, I apply a paste of bentonite clay and water on any skin irritation like blemishes, insect bites, cuts, skin itching, or burns. I leave it on until it dries and wash off. This is said to be especially calming to skin itching from eczema, psoriasis, chicken pox, etc.
Skin Poultice for Bites/Burns/Cuts/Stings: For more severe issues, I create a poultice by putting a thick layer of clay on the skin and applying a wet gauze or cloth over it. I wrap the area and leave the poultice on, changing every 2 hours.
Face Mask: For smooth and healthy skin, I make a paste of bentonite and water and apply to my face as a mask (a similar mask is used in many spas). I leave on for 20 minutes and wash off. I typically do this once or twice a week.
Detox Bath: I sometimes add about 1/4 cup of Bentonite Clay to a bath for a relaxing detox bath that softens skin.
For Oral Health: Because of it’s excellent ability to bind to heavy metals and toxins as well as to provide minerals, I use Bentonite Clay in my Remineralizing Tooth Powder Recipe. It can even be used alone for brushing and is tasteless and relatively textureless.
Oral Rinse to whiten and remineralize teeth: Besides the use in my tooth powder, I use Bentonite mixed with water as an alkalizing and toxin removing mouth rinse. I mix 1/2 teaspoon of clay in 1/4 cup water in a small jar with a plastic lid and shake well. Then, I rinse with the water for 1-2 minutes and repeat until I’ve used it all.
For Mastitis: I’ve created a poultice or mask of Bentonite Clay and water and applied externally to the area. I repeat as needed every hour until the infection is gone. I also take internally during infection along with Vitamin C and fermented cod liver oil.
For Baby Powder: Plain Bentonite Clay makes a very soothing baby powder for use when there is infection or redness. It can also be made into a clay “mask” to help speed recovery in this area.
For Morning Sickness: I took 1/2 tsp of Bentonite Clay in water during early pregnancy to ward off morning sickness. It helped with the nausea and helped me feel better. I checked with my doc/midwife first and was told this was fine. Check with your doctor or medical professional before using during pregnancy.
For Internal Cleansing: I drink 1/2 to 1 teaspoon most days in a cup of water. I combine in a glass jar with a plastic lid and shake until well incorporated. This has helped improve my digestion and also seems to give me more energy. Since adding this and getting gelatin in my diet or through Gelatin powder daily I also notice that my nails and hair grow more quickly. Make sure that any clay taken internally is labeled safe for internal use. Redmond Clay is one good option.
For Pets: For pets that are sick, vomiting or showing signs of illness, you can add Bentonite to their water or mix and give orally with a dropper or syringe without the needle. I have seen several cases where this helped pets recover quickly from what could otherwise have been serious illnesses.
Though I have not needed to use for these reasons personally, I have read cases of Bentonite and other healing clays being used internally to help reduce radiation exposure, in alternative cancer treatments, and in MRSA infections. It is also said to greatly help in Parasite removal, though I have not tried this personally.
Secrets of Nature that provide both plants and humans with bioavailable minerals
by Michael King
Clays and other inorganic earth-based sources are known to be abundant in minerals. The question that arises is: “Are the minerals from geological deposits bioavailable to the body in their present form?”
It is wrongly believed that plant-based minerals are more bioavailable to the body than earth-based minerals. This misunderstanding stems from the belief that if a plant has assimilated a mineral then it will be readily assimilated by the body as well.
The truth is, that the plant itself will not assimilate a mineral without earth-based ligand (binding) compounds already existing in the soil that permit the roots of the plant to take up the minerals from the soil medium.
The same is true of the human cell. The human cell will not be able to utilize a mineral unless the mineral is first bonded with a ligand (a specific kind of nutrient escort & chelator). Ligand escorts must first exist in the earth-based medium (soil) before a mineral will enter into the plant, and similar ligand escorts must remain with the mineral or exist in the body to escort the mineral through the cell wall. Once inside the cell the chelated mineral, but not the unchelated mineral, can then provide its benefits to the cell. Certain herbs and clays act as mineral/nutrient chelators to facilitate this process.
Chelation Therapy vs. Chelated Minerals
By the way, since the question will arise, chelation therapy and mineral chelation are two very different processes. Chelation therapy uses toxic compounds that strongly bind with certain metals and disrupts your overall mineral balance (resulting in a number of side effects). Ligand chelators are natural compounds that make both inorganic and organic minerals bioavailable to plants and humans.
Ligand escorts come in a number of varieties, (silicic acids, humic/fulvic/olmic acids, sulfur amino acids, citric acids, etc.) and are found in abundance in amorphous silica clays ( Sacred Clay & Ormalite for the human; Silica Rich and Liquid Gold for the farm or garden), seaweeds & algae (Earth & Sea Greens, Thyroid Balance), whey, nettle leaf, cilantro, parsley, garlic, citrus fruits, amalaki berry, rose hips, camu camu (Herbal C), and numerous other whole food/herbal sources.
Without these ligands, nutrients do not become bioavailable. With these ligands, minerals and nutrients are more able to enter the cells and perform their vital functions.
Silicic Acids from Amorphous Silica Clays
With respect to clay, the younger a clay deposit is, the more likely it will contain a built-in ligand-forming mineral called amorphous silica. "Amorphous" means: noncrystalline; without definite form nor apparent structure. Silica in the amorphous form is in contrast with quartz silica which is held in a rigid crystalline structure.
Younger clay deposits (like the one associated to Sacred Clay) tend to carry more amorphous silica than older clay deposits, because as a clay deposit ages (as in millions of years) the silica in the clay will gradually form into a structured crystalline matrix (quarts). Quartz silica is unavailable to the body and therefore less valuable in terms of making mineral nutrients bioavailable.
The amorphous (unstructured) silica common to fresh volcanic lava (subsequently converted to clay) is more versatile and has several beneficial properties not shared by its older quartz form. The analogy is something like the young athlete that is capable of feats today that he or she will not be able to perform years later as the body changes with age.
The intelligent part about a young clay deposit with greater amounts of amorphous silica in it, is that the amorphous silica in the clay will convert to orthosilicic acid when mixed with water. Orthosilicic acid is recognized as an anti-aging nutrient given its essential role in the formation of collagen and tissue repair.