People have used bentonite clay (sometimes called calcium bentonite clay) for centuries as a gentle yet stunningly effective detoxifier—and it works equally well internally as externally. The clay’s unique composition allows it to actually absorb toxins, safely pulling them from your body.
If you’re curious about bentonite clay benefits or wondering about ways to try it out for yourself, you’ve come to the right place.
This very special healing clay was discovered in Montmorillon, France, and it’s occasionally referred to as Montmorillonite clay. The name bentonite also pays homage to a place: Fort Benton, Wyoming, where large deposits of the clay still exist.
Composed of aged volcanic ash, bentonite clay is, in technical terms, an absorbent colloidal aluminum phyllosilicate clay. According to Dr. Ceppie Merry, a practicing doctor who also contributes to the site Healthy But Smart, “Bentonite contains varying quantities of iron, alkalies, and alkaline earths. It also contains mica, silica, and feldspar.” Other sources state that the clay contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium too.
Merry notes that the exact composition of bentonite clay varies based on the geology of the area from which it’s sourced. This means the color of the clay varies, too, from white to yellow, green, blue, and grey.
In order to understand the scientific mechanisms behind bentonite clay benefits, Merry says it’s important to know that it can exchange cations and has both adsorbent and absorbent properties. The more familiar term “absorption” refers to taking materials into another substance, Merry explains, like the way a sponge takes in water. And “adsorption refers to accumulating materials on the surface of another substance, e.g., dust on a cloth.” So, bentonite clay can both absorb toxins into itself like a sponge as well as collect toxins on its surface.
One of the most unique and beneficial characteristics of bentonite clay is its ability to produce an electrical charge when it comes in contact with water or other liquids. When mixed into a liquid, bentonite clay takes on a strong negative charge which then bonds to the positive charge given off by toxins, chemicals, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful molecules. Bentonite clay can also draw excess hydrogen from your cells, allowing oxygen to take its place.
Bentonite clay has a mild, neutral smell and a very soft, fine consistency. It doesn’t stain skin, fabric, or other materials and is easy to work with, making it a popular ingredient in all-natural DIY beauty recipes.
You can easily make a bentonite clay mask, poultice, mud pack, or even a bentonite clay detox bath. You can also find many ready-made beauty products that use bentonite clay as a primary ingredient.
And bentonite clay can do more than heal and enhance your skin. It’s safe to ingest small amounts of this detoxifying clay, which then pulls accumulated toxins from your body, improving your overall well-being. You can also use bentonite clay for hair cleansing and softening.
Here are the top five bentonite clay benefits.
You can easily make a DIY bentonite clay mask (check out the many, many bentonite clay mask recipes online if you need inspiration!). The absolute simplest version? Bentonite clay powder and water. Yes, that’s it!
Katie Wells, who shares medically reviewed and verified posts about natural health at Wellness Mama, has an important tip about how to make a bentonite clay mask: don’t let the clay come into contact with anything metal, which will comprise its effectiveness. “I mix water in a glass jar with a plastic lid by shaking well or using a plastic whisk,” Wells writes.
Once you have a clay paste at a good consistency, simply spread it onto your skin. You won’t feel the slight electrical charge it carries, but it will immediately go to work nonetheless drawing toxins from your skin.
Once the mask has dried completely—which typically takes about 10 minutes—gently remove it using a wet washcloth.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University in Tempe, bentonite clay has potent antibacterial properties. The researchers hypothesize that these properties could make the clay an effective and affordable treatment option for serious skin infections like necrotizing fasciitis.
Microbiological testing showed that bentonite clay was “effective at killing a broad spectrum of human pathogens.” These effects complement the clay’s healing abilities related to its absorptive and adsorptive properties.
The researchers conclude by expressing that given the increasing resistance bacteria have developed to existing pharmacological agents, using bentonite clay to combat pathogenic bacteria “would be particularly advantageous.”
Ingesting bentonite clay, typically by purchasing capsules from a health food store or an online retailer, increases populations of good gut flora and improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), leaky gut, and other digestive disorders.
An Italian study that enrolled 804 participants found that ingesting bentonite clay can lead to a statistically significant decrease in diarrhea as well as other symptoms of acute digestive distress. The randomized, case-controlled study found that bentonite can “increase intestinal barrier function.” No side effects were observed.
A separate study carried out in France looked specifically at irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study with parallel groups found that bentonite clay had an especially noticeable effect on abdominal pain and discomfort associated with IBS. It took place over the course of eight weeks and enrolled 524 participants.
Findings published in Scientific Reports in 2016 by a Chinese research team show that bentonite has the capacity to absorb and/or adsorb lipids (fat molecules) from your intestines.
An excessively high-fat intake, in the context of a diet that’s also high in carbohydrates, meaning your body preferentially burns the carbs for energy and stores the fat, can lead to bad health outcomes like unwanted weight gain and fatty liver disease. Since some people struggle to consistently eat a healthy diet, the Chinese research team set out to determine whether bentonite clay could counteract the damage done by a bad diet.
The results of their experiments to date are highly promising. It appears that bentonite can prevent weight gain associated with diet, lower plasma lipid levels, increase excretion of lipids, prevent insulin resistance, restore the integrity of your gut health, and improve gut dysbiosis.
The team also conducted test tube studies to analyze the mechanism behind bentonite benefits. They found that bentonite can adsorb or immobilize lipids, which the researchers hypothesize prevents them from being absorbed by your gut.
Because bentonite clay absorbs negatively charged toxins, it can flush a variety of harmful compounds from your body. A review published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health in 2017 gave an in-depth explanation of this benefit, as well as several more.
According to the 2017 review, bentonite clay has been found to absorb:
The review concluded that bentonite appears to be a highly effective and healing treatment for numerous types of toxicities.