Bentonite is a very old clay. The fine powder forms when volcanic ash ages. It’s named after Fort Benton, WY, which has a lot of it. But it’s found all over the world.
People have eaten bentonite clay or put it on their skin for thousands of years. It’s been used to:
Today, bentonite is used to make medicine and makeup. You can buy it in powder or pill form, too. It’s sometimes used in:
How Does It Work?
Bentonite clay adsorbs and absorbs. That means it attracts particles, like dirt on your skin. It also takes in a lot of water. That’s how it turns into a face mask. Bentonite is what makes pet litter clump.
Bentonite has a high cation exchange capacity. That means clay, which has a negative charge, can attract positively charged cations. Those are minerals like magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Bentonite also has aluminum and silica.
It may also attract positively charged toxins in your gut.
Are There Health Benefits?
Bentonite clay is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
It also has trace minerals like calcium, iron, copper, and zinc. Some people eat it to get these nutrients. That’s called geophagy. But the foods people typically eat already have these minerals.
Most of the research on bentonite clay involves animals. Studies show it may lower the amount of certain toxins in the body, like aflatoxins. They’re made by certain molds and can hurt your liver. Some research shows it may remove pesticides and help treat metal poisoning. But more human studies are needed.
Uses of Bentonite Clay
Skin. Think of bentonite clay as a sponge. It absorbs dirt and oil, like sebum. Too much sebum can lead to acne. The anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may help your skin heal.
Studies show bentonite clay may help with:
Test a little bit of the clay on your skin first to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction. Talk to your doctor if you have acne or dermatitis (eczema). They can help you figure out the best way to treat it.
Digestion. Some animal studies show bentonite might boost good bacteria in the gut. This may help with taking in nutrients. In humans, bentonite is sometimes used to treat occasional or ongoing diarrhea. One study showed bentonite helped with constipation from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But more research is needed.
Teeth. Natural toothpaste makers say the minerals in bentonite clay are good for teeth and gums. Some say brushing with clay can “purify, detoxify, and alkalize” your mouth. But there are no scientific studies to back up these claims.
Researchers are also studying the effects of bentonite clay on:
Is It Safe?
Bentonite clay is generally OK to use on your skin and hair. But the FDA doesn’t regulate health and cosmetic products, so there’s no way to know exactly what’s in them or if they’ll work.
Doctors don’t recommend eating clay. It could cause a blockage in your intestines. And it can affect how you absorb nutrients and electrolytes. Plus, clay or soil can have high levels of harmful germs and heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury.
Eating clay can be a sign of pica -- when people or animals eat things that aren’t food. It could mean you’re not getting enough minerals, or you might have a mental disorder.
Talk to your doctor before you take oral bentonite or any supplement, especially if you’re pregnant or take other medicines.