Using Clay As Medicine
In Part I of how to use clays for healing, we covered some historical uses of clay, qualities of clay, and discussed 3 different medicinal clays.
General Recommendations for Using Clay for Healing
- Avoid using anything metal with clay. Do not use metal utensils or bowls to mix the clay. For bowls and utensils, it’s best to stick to glass, stone, clay or enamel.
- Only use wooden or plastic spatulas or spoons when mixing clay with water.
- Do not heat clay before use. If you want a warm application place the bowl with the clay in a bain-marie, i.e. a double boiler and check the temperature of the clay carefully to avoid burns.
- For internal use, start gradually. At the beginning, let the glass with water and clay sit overnight and drink only the water at first, but not the clay settled at the bottom. After you are used to this, e.g. after several days, you can drink the water with the clay still fully dissolved, i.e. right after you’ve mixed it.
- Do not reuse clay that you’ve used for a compress. Just recycle it, even in your yard. It should never be re-used for healing.
- Always finish the full course of a clay treatment. Don’t stop too soon. Your body needs a certain amount of time to react to the healing activity of the clay.
- Do not keep clay in plastic containers.
- Avoid taking clay internally when taking other medication, since it can dramatically decrease the absorption of medications.
Using Clay Externally
Compresses, also known as poultices or cataplasms, are a good and common way to use clay externally. Use them for sprains and muscle aches, burns and skin ailments. Some symptoms can get worse before they get better, which is especially common when using clay for healing. However, if a negative reaction such as abnormal tiredness, insomnia, or nervousness persists for more than three to four days, stop the treatment, at least for a while. After an operation, clay can be very helpful to heal scars and wounds. Wait until the stitches have been taken out to start start the clay treatment.
Instead of mixing clay with water, you can use herbal teas, herbal decoctions, hydrosols, honey and oils containing essential oil blends. (See below for some recipes.) Powdered medicinal plants can also be added to the dry clay before adding the water, herbal tea or hydrosol. The quality of water used for mixing clay is very important. It should be spring or mineral water, if possible, ideally collected from the source.
Preparing Clay Compresses
With regards to the ratio of clay and water when mixing, bear in mind that every clay is different and so different amounts of water are needed for each clay to properly hydrate. A good guideline for montmorillonite clay, which is a swelling clay, is around 2.2 parts water per ounce of clay. Because illite and kaolin clays swell much less, they only need approximately one part water to one part clay. For a successful compress, the clay should not be too runny or it will dissolve and spread everywhere and not remain thick enough on the area being treated. A good clay compress should hold together on its own, and be easily malleable and not too dry. The amount you make depends on the size of the area you are treating. The compress needs to be about ¾ inch thick and go beyond the treatment area by at least 1 inch on all sides.
Depending on the area to be treated, you can either apply to clay to the skin and then wrap it or put the clay in the wrap and then apply. For the first method, place the clay directly onto the treatment area and then cover with a compress, e.g. a piece of cotton material, such as a gauze pad. Then wrap the clay with bandage or a plaster. Alternatively, I often put the proper amount of clay on the cotton first and then apply both directly to the area. Wrap the bandage around the treatment area but, if possible, do not wrap the bandage over the treatment area so as not to put too much pressure where the clay is. It is not advisable to put gauze or a cotton pad between the skin and the clay.
For sprains and muscular problems, I often make a massage blend with carrier oil and essential oils that I apply to the skin before applying the clay compress. This way, the essential oils is easily absorbed by the skin and the carrier oil lubricates the skin and prevents the compress from sticking. This is especially important if there is body hair in the area where you apply the compress, since without this, the hair gets stuck in the dry clay and it can be uncomfortable to remove the dried compress. In most cases compresses dry and come off easily after a couple of hours. Two hours is a good time to keep a compress applied, unless it dries out completely beforehand. However, when putting a compress near a draining wounds I would advise changing it as often as possible. Some compresses can even be kept on over night. Make the compress thicker if applying over night.
If the compress or poultice is applied to an inflamed, fevered and congested body part, it will act to cool. If it is applied to a part where there is stagnation, coldness and humidity, the aim is that the clay should tone and revitalize. To help heat the body, the clay can be progressively heated in a bain-marie, in the sun or next to a fire or radiator. You may notice that sometimes clay that’s applied cold gets heated up by just the heat of the body. This is a sign of good vitality.
Clay can help heal burns rapidly and reduce scarring. Sprinkle some powdered clay directly onto the burn and then apply cold poultices. In the case of burns, it is advised to put gauze or a cotton between the burn and the clay, and this is a rare exception. The poultice should be taken off as soon as the burning sensation in the treatment returns. Renew the compress every hour for the first day, every 2 hours the second and third day and every 4 hours for the fourth and fifth day and then every 6 hours for the sixth and seventh day. After that apply only twice a day, mornings and evenings, until new skin tissue has formed. In case of burns, hydrosols can be used instead of water to make the compress. Hydrosols of the following plants are very good for burns: St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), plantain (Plantago sp.), and others.
Here are two ways of applying essential oils and clay for sprains:
1) Oil first then compress: Massage the affected area with 3 drops of neat Helichrysum italicum (immortelle) essential oil immediately, before applying the compress. OR blend 90 drops of Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) in 50ml carrier oil, e.g. jojoba oil, which penetrates well. Massage the area with either oil and then apply a ¾ inch thick compress.
2) Oil mixed into compress:
Blend the following essential oils in 2 tablespoons of carrier oil (arnica oil is excellent for muscular problems):
- Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon eucalyptus) 2 drops
- Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen) 2 drops
- Helichrysum italicum (Immortelle) 2 drops
- Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel) 2 drops
- Mentha x piperita (Peppermint) 2 drops
Mix this in with the clay before adding the water for the compress.
Boils and Abscesses
Clay is excellent for getting rid of pus and helping the organism to restructure and heal the tissues. It also helps calm the inflammation triggered by the infection and draw out the abscess.
Blend in a tablespoon of liquid (i.e. not cystalized) raw honey:
- Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea tree) 2 drops
- Chamaemelum nobilis (Roman chamomille) 2 drops
- Pelargonium x asperum (Geranium) 2 drops
- Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) 2 drops
- Origanum vulgaris (Oregano) 2 drops
Add this to the clay before adding the water and then apply the compress. It is important to keep applying poultices until the abscess is completely emptied of all pus and the wound is clean. Do not let the clay dry completely on open wounds, i.e. remove it before it has dried.
Using Clay Internally
Clay has traditionally been used internally to remove toxins. Its actions are similar to charcoal: it captures bacteria, viruses, toxins including alkaloids, etc. and reduce their bio-availability from the gastrointestinal tract to the organism. Rural farmers near lake Titicaca in Peru, who traditionally grow many varieties of potatoes, make a sauce with clay that they serve to accompany certain potatoes in order to adsorb some of the glycogen-alkaloids and solanin, which is a toxic constituent in potatoes and other members of the solanaceae (nightshade) family.3
In France nowadays, certain clays are officially used in hospitals for digestive problems such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal problems (such as reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), PUD (peptic ulcer disease), esophageal abnormalities), functional digestive problems, duodenal infections, colic, bloating and flatulence, etc.4
The layers of aluminum-containing molecules in clay have a very effective anti-inflammatory action and the silica acts as a wound healer. Clay is also used in many parts of the world against intestinal parasites. It is thought that it not only helps calm the symptoms triggered by the presence of parasites, but can actually get rid of them, probably due to absorption and adsorption.
Clay taken internally can help cleanse the colon and regulate intestinal bacterial balance. By adjusting pH levels, clay can also help restore health to the digestive environment and overall digestive functioning. It can stimulate the liver, which can be useful after exposure to heavy metals or harsh chemical treatments and for other detoxification protocols.
When using clay internally, allow the organism time to adjust to it. Begin in the morning on an empty stomach with a small glass of water and one tablespoon of dry, powdered clay. Some people drink the diluted clay, other people prefer to allow the clay to settle and drink only the water. Do this for three days and then take four days off, repeat this pattern for ten to fifteen days after which the body should have adapted to the clay and you could then undertake a 21 day treatment for example.
Although clay is a very safe remedy, there are a couple of things to be aware of: clay can sometimes cause constipation. It should not be used by people suffering from high blood pressure, as it can cause an increase in blood pressure in certain people. Clays should not be taken internally if someone is taking other medications, as the clay can interfere with the absorption and effects of these medications.
I love simple and effective remedies that have survived the test of time, and are are cheap and accessible, easy to use and safe. I hope this article will give you the basics for discovering the healing properties of this amazing mineral that we probably originated in from and what was at the beginning of life on Earth.