From the February 2005 Idaho Observer:

Clay: The Healing Underground

Julie Crist, M. Ac.

Jesus healed the blind with it. Dams are patched with it. The Native Americans used it for money. The Russians capped Chernobyl with it after the nuclear plant melted down. NASA feeds it to astronauts to prevent osteoporosis.

In a culture that worships high-tech, "scientific" medicine, let me make the following sacrilegious statement:

Clay is the most versatile, profoundly effective, cheap, mysterious, underrated, covered-up health treatment available.

I know this because I am a natural health professional who uses clay personally and professionally for healing and health maintenance. I research and read everything I can find on the therapeutic use of clay. I have seen clay perform "miracles." I get very excited about mud. And in case you think I got my diploma out of a Cracker Jackís box, rest assured; I have a bonafide Masters Degree.

There is a lot of confusion out there about clay therapy. For everything I write about clay here, someone else will give you conflicting information. I think there are two reasons for that:

1. In my experience with and research about clay, I have come to the conclusion that good clay is homeostatic. This means that if you and I take the same clay at the same time we might get different results, based on what our bodies need. Homeostasis is the "tendency toward a stable state of equilibrium," so you may need some minerals I donít and I may need some detoxification you donít, and clay can do all of that.

2. The other reason is that every vein of clay in the world is different. Weather, geology, plate tectonics, mineralization and a handful of other factors give clay deposits their own fingerprints, much like people. While some clays are quite alive, others are deader than a doornail. These subtle variations do not matter when using clay for industrial purposes, but for therapeutic treatment it does.

So you can see the challenge in trying to standardize clay so we experts can make sweeping, universally true statements about clay therapy.

Speaking of experts, some "doctors", natural or otherwise, want you to believe that healing is a complicated process that requires the intervention of "experts" with all their fancy herbs, drugs, gee gaws and whatchamacallits. So in the interest of job security, they are probably not going to spend much time educating themselves or you about anything so cheap, easy and effective as clay therapy. Thatís why this may be the first time you have ever heard of it.

Clay has been used for centuries Ė probably since our humble human beginnings Ė to heal everything imaginable. We just forgot how to use it.

Kinds of clay

This is what you need to know about clay in order to use it effectively:

1. The clay we are talking about is bentonite clay. Bentonite comes in a variety of flavors.

2. You can buy an industrial bentonite at the feed store for about six bucks for a fifty-pound bag. This is usually sodium montmorillonite. This is a low-quality bentonite used for ponds, sealing wells, making paper, cat litter and so on. Sodium bentonite clay swells, sometimes up to 18 times its dry size when it becomes wet. I keep a bag of this on hand for emergencies. What do I mean by emergencies? This material is used to patch dams. If you cut your leg with a chainsaw, what do you think powdered bentonite will do for the bleeding?

3. The best clay to use for treatment is calcium montmorillonite. It is also known as "living clay", for it principally consists of minerals that enhance the production of enzymes in all living organisms. It swells zero to little. It is a source of highly absorbable minerals (just ask NASA). It absorbs radiation. Smart farmers use it with their livestock Ė it treats several veterinary diseases, animals gain more weight on less feed, and production skyrockets. Manufacturers use it heavily for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food processing. So just remember that while I tell you about taking clay internally. Yup, I eat dirt. Actually, I drink it.

In fact, try this on for size: the Otomac Indians who live along the Orinoco River in Venezuela hunt for fish with bows and arrows when the water is low but for two or three months of the year, when the water is too high and rapid, they survive on a diet of mud balls. The mud does not contain any nutrient that we can recognize and yet these Indians remain healthy and strong through the "dirt eating" season.

Reasons to use clay

Compared to that, what I have to say next about taking clay will seem downright conservative.

Why would you want to take clay? Bentonite attracts and neutralizes poisons in the intestinal tract. It can eliminate food allergies, food poisoning, mucus colitis, spastic colitis, viral infections, stomach flu, and parasites (parasites are unable to reproduce in the presence of clay). There is virtually no digestive disease that clay will not treat. It enriches and balances blood. It absorbs radiation (think cell phones, microwaves, x-rays, TVs and irradiated food, for starters). It has been used for alcoholism, arthritis, cataracts, diabetic neuropathy, pain treatment, open wounds, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, animal and poisonous insect bites, acne, anemia, in fact, the list of uses is too long for this article. It was used during the Balkan war of 1910 to reduce mortality from cholera among the soldiers from sixty to three percent.

According to Dr Walter W. Bennett, PhD., Epistemologist and Research Scientist, "When used as a media of raw material it inhibits the growth of representative pathogens such as staphylococcus, streptococcus, salmonella, escherichia coli and pseudomonas aeruginosa." So my rule of thumb is to try it on everything.

According to the Canadian Journal of Microbiology (31 [1985], 50-53), Bentonite can absorb pathogenic viruses, aflatoxin (a deadly mold), and pesticides and herbicides including Paraquat and Roundup. The clay is eventually eliminated from the body with the toxins bound to its multiple surfaces.

Clays contain a slew of minerals ó mostly calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Additionally, zinc, copper, selenium, and aluminum can be found in some types.

Externally, every condition I have applied a good quality clay to has responded or been cured. Heck, Iíve even gotten results from using poor quality clay. Lacerations, bedsores, spider bites, poison ivy and mysterious rashes seem to vanish. In fact, I "discovered" clay when I sliced my fingers open with a razor knife while cutting sheetrock. I sprinkled dry clay into the cuts and they stopped bleeding within a minute. Then I bandaged them up and went back to work. And then to my great astonishment, within 15 minutes the pain was gone and the cuts completely healed within 3 days. I also used it on a cat bite that wasnít healing (very dangerous) and it cleared it up overnight.

Clay has a negative electrical attraction for particles that are positively charged. Most toxic poisons, bacteria and viruses are positively charged. These toxins are irresistibly drawn towards the clay. Clay is made of flat, microscopic, credit-card-shaped "flakes". Laid edge-to-edge, one gram of these particles has the surface area of somewhere around 10 football fields. The greater the surface area the greater its power to pick up positively charged particles.

How to use clay

"How do you use it?" is usually the next question. Well, since we live in a free country, I probably canít tell you how to use it. But I will tell you how I use it.

For cuts or wet, open wounds I sprinkle it on dry until the bleeding/oozing stops. Then I shake off the excess and wrap it in a clean bandage. For dry skin conditions like stings, splinters, bites, rashes etc. I make a paste of powdered clay and clean water, smear it on thick, and cover it with a leaf or some plastic (I prefer collards. I hate plastic) and wrap the whole thing in a bandage. This works best for overnight. The clay pack will draw like a monster truck at a tractor pull. Just ask Michael (not his real name).

Mike had been stacking wood when he noticed his lower lip started to burn and itch. Five days and three doctorís office visits later, the doctor found a spider bite on Mikeís lip and determined that a Fiddleback spider (also known as the Brown Recluse) caused the problem. By then the lip was about four times its normal size and Mike was very sick from the spiderís poison. Fiddleback bites can be deadly, sometimes leaving large, open wounds that donít heal.

I gave Mikeís mom my clay poultice blend and showed them how to mix and apply it. When I left, he had smeared it all over his lip and was wearing a lettuce leaf over the plaster to keep it moist.

I visited Mike the following day and found him wolfing down a big plate of food. He had slept well, the pain was receding, and his color was normal. His mom said that she gagged at all the infection and dead tissue that came off with the clay pack after just a couple of hours. He continued applying a couple of clay packs a day and by the next day his lip was halfway back to normal size. Even I was amazed at how fast and completely he healed.

I like to soak or shower with clay, but you have to be really careful not to get it in your septic system. They do patch dams with it, after all. We have an outdoor shower for that purpose, so why not a soaking tub, too? It just takes a pound of clay in a nice, hot tub of water. For folks who are quite sick itís best to start with about half that because these are very powerful detox treatments.

Clay can be mixed with water, formed into little balls, and used for very effective suppositories for whatever is bothering your nether regions.

I also like to drink about a teaspoon of clay in a glass of water once, sometimes twice a day, and sometimes a lot more than that. Work up to this slowly Ė maybe every other day at first. If you get constipated, back off until your body can move it out. The clay is just parking in there a little longer because you have extra nasties to clean out. If even that is too strong you can mix it up, let it settle for a couple of hours and drink the clay water. We occasionally do juice fasts, and clay really helps boost the detoxification process. Let common sense be your guide, and, (gasp!), listen to your body instead of the experts for a change.

It is recommended that you take clay an hour before or after nutritional supplements or drugs. The common wisdom says that it can absorb those, too. 

Some folks also soak cotton in that same clay water and wear it between their cheek and gum all night for dental problems, and fine clay makes an excellent tooth powder. The clay water has also been used as an eye wash. Clay has also been added to water for centuries to purify it for drinking.

There are a couple of good books on the uses of clay ó Earth Cures: A Handbook of Natural Medicine for Today, by Raymond Dextreit, and The Clay Cure, by Ran Knishinsky.

After several years of experimenting with clay on myself, friends and family, I have found it to be the most user-friendly, forgiving material I have ever worked with. Itís cheap, foolproof, side-effect free, so simple a child could use it, and endorsed by Jesus Christ, Mahatma Ghandi and Hippocrates. I dare all you "experts" out there who may want to challenge this information to show me just ONE drug or herb that can make the same claims.

I use a variety of clays in my practice and blend different varieties for different purposes. You can find more information about buying and using clay at my website Ė

Julie Crist, M. Ac., C. Ac., is a nationally board certified acupuncturist living and working in Northeastern Washington. You can reach her by email at or call 1-888-749-5948 for more information and appointments.

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