Diatomaceous earth is a type of powder made from the sediment of fossilized algae found in bodies of water. Because the cells of these algae were high in a compound called silica, the dried sediment produced from these fossils is also very high in silica. These deposits are found all over the world. The ancient Greeks used diatomaceous earth to make building materials, like bricks and blocks. Later on, it became popular in Europe for various industrial uses.
When taken by mouth, diatomaceous earth is used as a source of silica, for treating high cholesterol levels, treating constipation, and improving the health of skin, nails, teeth, bones, and hair.
When applied to the skin or teeth, diatomaceous earth is used to brush teeth or remove unwanted dead skin cells.
Diatomaceous earth is also used in industry. It is used to remove unwanted material from drinking water. It is also used as a filler or to prevent the formation of lumps in foods, medicine, paints and plastics, and pet litter. It is used to clean up spills or for insulation in industry, as well as to scrub things. Diatomaceous earth is used as part of various chemical tests. It is also used as an insecticide.
How does it work?
Diatomaceous earth is a powder containing about 80%-90% silica. Diatomaceous earth is thought to kill insects by dehydrating them or drying them out. Also, the powder allows liquids to flow through while capturing unwanted material.
Does Diatomaceous Earth Have Health Benefits?
It is claimed to have the following health benefits:
- Cleanse the digestive tract.
- Support healthy digestion.
- Improve cholesterol and heart health.
- Provide the body with trace minerals.
- Improve bone health.
- Promote hair growth.
- Promote skin health and strong nails.
- However, not many quality human studies have been done on diatomaceous earth as a supplement, so most of these claims are theoretical and anecdotal.
Supplement manufacturers claim that diatomaceous earth has many health benefits, but they have not been proven in studies.
Effects on Bone Health
- Silicon — the non-oxidized form of silica — is one of many minerals stored in your body.
- Its exact role is not well understood, but it appears to be important for bone health and the structural integrity of nails, hair, and skin
- Due to its silica content, some claim that ingesting diatomaceous earth helps increase your silicon levels.
- Some claim that the silica in diatomaceous earth can increase silicon in your body and strengthen bones, but this hasn’t been proven.
Effects on Toxins
One major health claim for diatomaceous earth is that it can help you detox by cleansing your digestive tract.
This claim is based on its ability to remove heavy metals from water, which is the property that makes diatomaceous earth a popular industrial-grade filter
However, no scientific evidence verifies that this mechanism can be applied to human digestion — or that it has any meaningful effect on your digestive system.
More importantly, no evidence supports the idea that people’s bodies are loaded with toxins that must be removed.
Your body is perfectly capable of neutralizing and removing toxins on its own.
There is no evidence that diatomaceous earth helps remove toxins from your digestive system.
Diatomaceous Earth May Lower Cholesterol Levels
To date, there has been only one small human study that was conducted on 19 people with a history of high cholesterol which used diatomaceous earth as a dietary supplement.
Participants took the supplement three times daily for eight weeks. At the end of the study, total cholesterol went down by 13.2%, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides decreased slightly, and “good” HDL cholesterol.
However, since this trial didn’t include a control group, it cannot prove that diatomaceous earth was responsible for lowering cholesterol.
The researchers concluded that a placebo-controlled study is required.
One small study found that diatomaceous earth can lower cholesterol and triglycerides. The study design was very weak and further research is needed.
Safety of Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe to consume. It passes through your digestive system unchanged and does not enter the bloodstream.
However, you need to be very careful not to inhale diatomaceous earth.
Doing so will irritate your lungs much like the inhalation of dust — but the silica makes it exceptionally harmful.
Inhaling crystalline silica can cause inflammation and scarring of your lungs, known as silicosis.