Bentonite clay is a natural clay with a fine, soft texture. It forms a paste when mixed with water. Some people use this paste for medical or cosmetic benefits, such as treating rashes and acne or as a hair mask.
People have used bentonite clay to remove impurities on the skin, such as oils, and toxins from the body for thousands of years.
Bentonite clay is present in many skin products, but some people also add it to foods or drinks with the aim of relieving digestive issues or removing toxins from the body.
Many studies have looked at the health benefits of bentonite clay, though most of this research has used animal or cell models. More research is needed before scientists will know the true benefits and risks of bentonite clay in humans.
In this article, we will look at the research behind 11 potential health benefits of bentonite clay, along with potential risks.
How does bentonite clay work?
Bentonite clay can remove toxins from the body and help treat oily skin.
Scientists believe that bentonite clay works by adsorbing oils and dirt from the skin.
The theory is that bentonite clay adsorbs materials by sticking to their molecules or ions. As the clay leaves the body, it takes the toxin or other molecules with it.
When a person uses it on the skin, bentonite clay may have the power to adsorb oils and bacteria. When they consume the clay, it may adsorb toxins or other unwanted substances from the digestive tract.
Bentonite clay contains natural minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, which may provide additional benefits.
Bentonite clay forms from volcanic ash. It gets its name from Fort Benton in Wyoming, where it occurs in large amounts. People can also find this clay in other places where volcanic ash has settled into the ground. Montmorillonite clay, named after Montmorillon in France, is the same type of clay.
The following list looks at the benefits of bentonite clay and what the research says.
1. Removing toxins from the body
Some people ingest bentonite clay with the aim of removing toxins from the body. This may be one of its most well studied benefits.
Various studies suggest that bentonite clay may reduce the effects of toxins.
For example, a study on chicks found that bentonite clay reduced the effects of a toxin called aflatoxin B1, which comes from certain types of mold. Chicks that received a concentrated bentonite clay product had fewer toxic effects than those who did not receive the clay.
Another study looked at the effects of montmorillonite clay, which is very similar to bentonite clay, on reducing toxins in children in Ghana, West Africa. In the study area, aflatoxins in homemade nutritional supplements are linked with poor growth and related disabilities.
The researchers found that children who received a calcium montmorillonite clay product each day for 2 weeks had fewer signs of aflatoxins in their urine than those who did not receive it.
In a small-scale animal study, rats consumed wastewater that contained cyanide. Researchers gave some of the rats various amounts of bentonite clay or a placebo. Those that received the most clay had the lowest amount of the toxin in their bodies after 3 weeks.
Scientists need to conduct more research before they can confirm that bentonite clay is safe and effective for use in humans.
How to use
Mix up to 1 teaspoon (tsp) of bentonite clay with 6–8 ounces (oz) of purified water and drink once per day.
People can buy bentonite clay powder in drug stores or choose from many brands online. Be sure to choose a form of clay that the manufacturer has labeled as edible.
Take bentonite clay at least 2 hours before or after taking any medications. Because it can adsorb other molecules, bentonite clay may bind to some medications and reduce their effectiveness.
2. Treating oily skin and acne
Bentonite clay’s adsorbent power may be helpful in treating acne breakouts and oily skin. The clay can help remove sebum, or oil, from the skin’s surface, and it may also have a calming effect on inflamed breakouts.
Using a clay face mask can help remove impurities from the skin to treat acne or reduce the risk of pimples and skin infections.
How to use
Many commercial facial masks contain clays because of their clarifying effect on the skin. Some skin care masks contain bentonite, but a person can also make their own bentonite mask at home.
Mix bentonite clay powder with water to make a thick paste. Apply to the areas of skin that are prone to oil or acne. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes and rinse thoroughly. Repeat two or three times per week.
Otherwise, people can choose from a range of premade bentonite clay face masks
3. Detoxifying the skin
Some people use bentonite clay to cleanse specific parts of their body. Learn more about using bentonite clay in an armpit detox and a foot detox here.
4. Treating poison ivy
Many people are allergic to urushiol, the oil that poison ivy plants produce. When their skin comes into contact with poison ivy, they may develop the characteristic rash as an allergic reaction.
A poison ivy rash can cause redness, irritation, and severe itching. A study from 1995 found that bentonite clay can treat poison ivy rash and speed up healing following an allergic reaction.
How to use
Wash the skin with soap and water as soon as possible after touching poison ivy. Use dish soap or a soap designed to remove oils to help remove the urushiol from the skin.
Mix bentonite clay with water to form a paste and apply it to the affected area. Cover with a clean bandage or gauze pad. Repeat several times per day until the rash is gone.
5. Aiding weight loss
Some studies suggest that bentonite clay supplements may help aid weight loss.
Bentonite clay may be a helpful supplement for people who are trying to lose weight.
One study in rats found that ingesting a montmorillonite clay product helped reduce weight gain among those eating a high-fat diet.
Although some traditional healing methods have used clay products for many years, there are better ways to lose weight. Reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity levels are still the best choices.
6. Relieving constipation
Because bentonite clay can stick to toxins, it may be helpful for regulating a person’s digestive tract.
One review of the benefits of bentonite clay has suggested that the clay may help some people who have irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. This use of bentonite clay merits more research but shows promise.
7. Treating diarrhea
Some research suggests that adsorbent clays such as bentonite may help alleviate virus-related digestive issues, such as diarrhea.
For example, rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea and spreads easily from person to person. One study found that an adsorbent clay called diosmectite helped stop rotavirus from replicating.
Another study found that clay minerals adsorbed rotavirus in cows.
If diarrhea does not subside after treatment with clay products, a person should continue to drink plenty of fluids, try more common approaches to treating diarrhea, and contact their doctor.
How to use
For virus-related mild diarrhea, take 1 tsp of bentonite clay mixed in water no more than twice per day. If diarrhea persists, see a doctor.
8. Treating diaper rash
Bentonite clay was effective in treating diaper rash in one study.
Around 93% of the infants who received the clay had improved rashes within 6 hours, with 90% completely healed in 3 days. Another study had similar positive results.
How to use
Mix a small amount of bentonite clay with water to make a paste and apply it directly to the rash.
Alternatively, mix the clay with shea butter, coconut oil, or zinc oxide cream. Do not shake the powder directly on to the baby’s skin, as they may inhale some of it.
Keep the mixture in a clean glass container with a plastic, silicone, or glass lid. Do not use metal lids, as the clay may adsorb some of the metal’s properties over time.
Always speak to a doctor before trying any new remedy in a baby or child.
9. Providing sun protection
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved bentonite cream as a sunscreen ingredient. However, one study suggests that the clay can protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays.
For this reason, people may wish to use it alongside FDA-approved sunscreens.
10. Removing lead and other heavy metals
Excessive exposure to heavy metals such as lead can cause health problems. Children’s brains are especially sensitive to lead, and it can cause learning disabilities and other issues.
Avoiding exposure to lead and getting tested for lead exposure are the best ways to prevent lead poisoning. According to some research, bentonite clay may be helpful in removing some lead from the body.
Bentonite clay has a negative charge, meaning that it can bind to positively charged metals such as lead. One study found that bentonite clay was effective at removing lead from wastewater.
How to use
Ask a doctor before giving bentonite clay to a child. If a doctor approves it, give half a teaspoon mixed well with water once per day.
11. Lowering cholesterol
High cholesterol is a leading cause of heart disease. High cholesterol causes fats to build up in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
A study in rats found that a bentonite clay product increased the amount of cholesterol excreted in their stool.
How to use
People receiving treatment for high cholesterol should talk to their doctor before using bentonite clay or other natural remedies. Bentonite clay should not replace medical treatment for high cholesterol or heart disease.
Mix 1 tsp of bentonite clay with purified water and drink once per day.
A person should choose a reputable brand or source of bentonite clay.
Studies have not found serious side effects of using bentonite clay in recommended amounts. However, because it is a natural product, there is a risk of contamination.
Bentonite clay comes from the earth, where it may collect heavy metals, pesticides, or other substances.
The FDA do not regulate bentonite clay products. As such, it can be difficult to know whether the product contains only the ingredients on the label. In fact, experts have found that some bentonite clay products may contain heavy metals.
In 2016, the FDA warned consumers not to use a certain type of bentonite clay due to it having high lead levels.
If a person wants to use bentonite clay, they should look for a product labeled as safe for internal use from a reputable brand or source. They may also wish to have a doctor check their blood lead levels to be sure that they are not exposed to lead from bentonite clay.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day while using bentonite clay. This will help flush the clay from the digestive tract and prevent constipation.
Before using bentonite clay or any natural remedy on the skin, do a skin test for allergies. Apply a small amount of the product to the area inside the elbow and wait for 24 hours. If no reaction occurs, proceed with using the product.
Bentonite clay is an ancient remedy that could hold promise as a treatment for various health conditions. It has a low risk of side effects when a person uses it in moderate amounts.
As with any natural remedy, people with health conditions should talk with their doctor before using bentonite clay to be sure that it is safe.