What Is Diatomaceous Earth?[toc]
Chances are that you have never heard of diatomaceous earth (DE) or you are at least unfamiliar with exactly what it is but this silica based substance which was once used only in the pesticide and agricultural industry is now becoming more popular as a human supplement.
So before we go any further we should take a look at exactly what this stuff is. Diatomaceous earth is actually made from the ancient fossilized remains of microscopic organisms known as diatoms.
These tiny organisms are tens of millions of years old and over vast periods of time they accumulate to form large deposits in the sediments of dried up lake beds, oceans and rivers. It is from these areas which diatomaceous earth is mined these days.
Diatomaceous earth is around 80 to 90% silica (amorphous silica dioxide) and also includes trace amounts of minerals like alumina and iron oxide amongst its compounds. Because of its very high silica content, when you look into the benefits of diatomaceous earth you are effectively looking at many of the health benefits of silica.
Websites with a vested interest in extolling the virtues of diatomaceous earth often cite a very long list of potential benefits. Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of research to support these uses and most of the evidence is purely anecdotal. Purported benefits range from heart health to detoxification to skin care but how many of these benefits are authentic and how many are motivated by marketing is unclear.
In this review, I will stick to the most common uses and proven benefits of diatomaceous earth and look at some of the research that has
Benefits of Diatomaceous earth
1) For Bone Health
The effects of diatomaceous earth on bone health is possibly the most significant use studied so far. A study published in 2007 in the Journal of health and aging illustrated the beneficial effects of silicon with regard to bone health especially among the aging population.
The study mentions that it is important to consume several minerals to prevent bone weaknesses and degenerative conditions like osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a common condition among the elderly resulting in weakened bones and difficulty healing from fractures.
It is already well known that calcium and Vitamin D are beneficial for bone health and other minerals such as potassium and magnesium help build bone mass and strength. This study goes on to illustrate the beneficial effects of silicon with regard to bone health. (1)
2) For Cholesterol
Another well researched use for diatomaceous earth is its positive effect on our blood cholesterol levels. In 1998 a paper was published regarding the effects of diatomaceous earth on cholesterol.
The study used 19 adults with high cholesterol levels who were treated with diatomaceous earth over an 8 week period. The subjects were given 250 mg of diatomaceous earth three times each day.
By the end of the trial researchers found that the subjects experienced a significant reduction in serum cholesterol which actually remained lower weeks after ceasing the treatment. Researchers also noted that triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels were significantly lower. (2)
3) For the Skin
There are many ways in which diatomaceous earth may help improve your skin’s health.
First up, it can be used as an exfoliator because it has fairly strong abrasive qualities. Exfoliating is an important measure in taking care of your skin because it helps get rid of dead skin and reverses the worn out, tired appearance that we all experience from time to time.
Apart from being an effective exfoliator, diatomaceous earth is also able to boost the production of collagen necessary for healthy skin. Studies on animals have demonstrated that those supplemented with bioavailable silicon had significantly higher concentrations of collagen.
Because diatomaceous earth has somewhere between 80 and 90% silicon, it can significantly boost your collagen levels and help keep your skin supple and healthy.
Diatomaceous Earth Uses
Home-made Diatomaceous earth facial scrub
You can make your own gentle exfoliating facial scrub with a few readily available and cheap ingredients.
Make a thick paste by combining a tablespoon of diatomaceous earth with an equal amount of water, some milk and a little organic honey. Add and subtract ingredients if necessary to get a good thick consistency.
When you have finished, apply the mixture to your face with your fingertips in circular motions. Let the paste sit on your face for a few minutes before removing it gently and thoroughly with a washcloth which effectively exfoliates the skin.
Because of its abrasive qualities and ability to strengthen the bones, diatomaceous earth is an excellent choice for your teeth. It can help remove stubborn plaque and unwanted tartar. Diatomaceous earth is an ingredient in many commercial toothpastes and polishes but you can easily make your own enhanced toothpaste at home by following some basic instructions.
First off, put some toothpaste into an airtight container. Mix in some food grade diatomaceous earth approximately 1 part to 8 parts toothpaste. Use the finished toothpaste to brush your teeth several times a week.
Alternatively, you can simply dip your damp toothbrush into some diatomaceous earth before adding toothpaste and brushing as normal.
2) For the Hair
According to anecdotal evidence and the marketing literature, using diatomaceous earth can have a very positive effect on the health and appearance of your hair. Studies suggest that supplementation with bioavailable forms of silicon can increase both the strength and the thickness of hair in women with thin hair. (3) However, because diatomaceous earth is not as bioavailable, it needs to be consumed in higher doses to have a similar effect.
The silica found in diatomaceous earth is not only a vital component to healthy bones and hair but is also essential for strong nails. If you suffer from brittle nails taking diatomaceous earth may prove beneficial within a few weeks.
Many people use diatomaceous earth to neutralize unwanted body odors. It is not as alkaline as similar other home remedies such as baking soda and is popular with people with sensitive skin who may otherwise experience rashes.
Diatomaceous earth has been used as a natural pesticide in the garden and on farms for a long time. Unlike many commercial pesticides, diatomaceous earth is not toxic nor harmful making it a popular option with farmers and gardeners alike.
According to proponents of diatomaceous earth, it can be used to help you detoxify the digestive system and improve bowel movements. DE is also useful to get rid of parasites. The sharp edges of DE pierce and help kill intestinal parasites.
The increased production of collagen which diatomaceous earth promotes helps support improved digestion, better absorption of nutrients and helps flush out waste.
Some people even claim that diatomaceous earth can help you to lose weight by improving metabolic function but there is nothing to prove this beyond anecdotal claims.
7) For Pets
Many people use diatomaceous earth as a cheap and effective option for treating their cats and dogs. It is an excellent remedy for fleas and other parasites and can be added to your pet’s food or used to clean the home of fleas and other unwanted critters.
How to Use DE
It is important that you get food grade diatomaceous earth as opposed to the pool grade variety used in farming. There are no recommended daily doses and it has not been approved by the FDA for consumption purposes.
Experts recommend starting with relatively small doses of approximately a teaspoon each day combined with 12 ounces of fluid. You can add it to your coffee or a juice drink or combine it with your favorite smoothie recipe. Combined with water alone, the flavor is slightly chalky and the texture might be a bit gritty.