Clay Health Properties
HILDA LABRADA GORE: Many of us know about the benefits of clay masks and even clay baths for the health of our skin, but did you know that clay can gently detox us on the inside of our bodies as well? Victor Cozzetto, a nutritionist and certified emotion code practitioner with a focus on holistic wellness, has fine-tuned the use of a number of tools to heal the gut and mind through detoxification. Victor explains that clay is much more than dirt. Clay’s special structure works to help rebalance our body’s own electric frequencies. Victor also goes over clay’s many detoxing properties along with the fact that clay can nourish the body with trace minerals and electrolytes. In short, clay is a truly ancient earth medicine. Victor, let’s start with your own first experience with clay.
VICTOR COZZETTO: I had learned about clay through studying shamanism. In my first physical experience—meaning beyond research—I used clay internally to help me with constipation. This was before I drank kefir, which perfected my bowel movements. Many people don’t realize that clay can be used for constipation or diarrhea. My mother had great success with it to stop diarrhea.
HG: I had heard that it would help if you had diarrhea, but not if you have constipation—but you are saying it works for either symptom?
VC: Yes. Most people imagine that clay dries us out. Even when people use it topically, they imagine, “It’s tightening my skin. It’s drying everything,” but that’s not exactly what’s going on. There’s much more going on with clay.
HG: Since you’ve done extensive research, help us enter into “Clay 101.” Help us understand what some of its properties are and what it does for our health.
VC: A lot of people think of clay as dirt—it comes from the earth. But it’s different than dirt, soil or sand. It is formed from volcanic activity. It’s more closely related to a quartz crystal, which you don’t often hear about. You might hear people talk about it as an aluminum silicate, but it has a very special structure. It contains a lot of different minerals and elements.
There are many kinds of clay. When I’m speaking about clay, I’m talking about bentonite clay. That’s what I mostly use. But there are so many great clays all over the world—there’s no prejudice here. Everyone has access to clay. When you were in Australia, you probably stumbled across people talking about clay that they have there. If you go to Africa, South America, Europe, or the U.S., it is the same. Bentonite clay is what you usually see being sold everywhere. It comes from volcanic activity on the earth, and it has a very special structure. It gives us minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium. It will give you minerals or electrolytes. I think your audience is very familiar with the idea of electrolytes and how important minerals are in that sense. They help us electrically.
The way clay does this is when it comes into our body or even topically, the clay structure itself has a very strong negative charge, so it holds onto positive ions. For example, things like magnesium, calcium, and potassium—the clay will be holding that. When it comes into your body and toxins are present—like lead, mercury, and so on—the clay prefers those because they have a stronger positive charge. It does what we call a “cationic exchange.” It swaps out. It’s like, “I want that mercury ion, so I’m going to give your body a magnesium ion instead.” It’s cool. We have this twofold benefit because we get rid of a toxin and get a mineral.
HG: Is this why some people call clay a binder? It holds onto the toxin, chemical or element that we don’t want in the body and escorts it out?
VC: Yes. It gets carried out. The word “binding” is a pretty good word. It’s a neutral word. A lot of people are familiar with the idea of chelation. If you get in a trauma situation or get poisoned, you’re going to go to the hospital. You will be given some very powerful chelation agent to suck up the poison as fast as possible. Clay is not a chelator because in chelation, when it grabs a toxin, it creates a new compound that is often toxic—but less toxic. The detox system in our body works this way. We go through different stages where we reduce the toxins step by step and then get them out. In most of what’s going on with clay, it does this cationic exchange. It’s like a magnet. It can be a lot gentler for detoxing.
HG: I wonder who first thought of it for internal use. I would equate clay or the use of clay as a topical application. I could picture it for my face, or if I had a rash on my arm. I wouldn’t think of ingesting it. I wonder when that practice began. Do you have any idea?
Clay healing properties
VC: It would be impossible to trace perfectly because the animals were doing it before us. There are thousands of years of history that we do know of. One of the nefarious motivations was royalty trying to protect themselves from poisoning. They would take clay with all their meals. In every culture, we’ll see that. You’ll see, for example, in the animal kingdom I believe it’s one of the tropical birds that first consumes clay so it can then go consume a certain type of berry that would be toxic to it. It’s a seasonal thing that it does. It’s quite amazing because we see different animals use clay; even elephants will have their favorite places to go for clay. They’ll prefer one area over another.
HG: That conjures up nice memories for me of when I went to Kenya and Zimbabwe. I was able to see some elephants dust bathing. They must have known exactly what they needed and gone to the right clay hole.
VC: Animals seem to know much more than us instinctively and probably through some trial and error also. That’s the way we learn.
HG: Don’t pregnant women sometimes get a craving for clay or dirt? Don’t they call that condition pica?
VC: That’s interesting. I haven’t heard that in a very long time. Women’s intuition seems to be at a peak during pregnancy. They get cravings for things that the body knows it needs. Clay is fantastic during that time. There’s another thing women do. Especially for the first pregnancy, they will tend to dump a lot of their toxins into the first child. It is good if we can prevent some of that. The mother is also dumping everything else to assist the child from her own body.
HG: We want to return to this instinctive use of clay. I’m happy to report in the circles I run in, that this whole pandemic time has made people think, “What is more natural? What am I going to turn to, to shore up my body’s health?” A lot of people do see the benefits of the earth itself, and that’s where clay comes from.
VC: I love to talk about the idea that the earth itself gives us so many things to help us heal. There are many types of clay, and they can be used in combination. I’ll even use a combination of three different clays. The earth is amazing. Weston Price even noticed it and wrote a little bit about clay that he observed being used. The earth provides for us if we know where to look. For me, it has come to the forefront these last couple of years. From my perspective, every problem is a result of malnutrition and toxicity. Clay is hitting both of those things. It’s giving us a bit of nourishment. It’s not food, but because of the way it works with the mechanism of cationic exchange, it’s giving us a tiny bit of good minerals while it’s grabbing the toxins.
HG: It surprised me when you said it grabs the mercury and leaves magnesium in its place.
VC: I’m not suggesting that we can resolve our nutrient deficiencies by consuming clay. We want to follow a Weston Price diet to the best of our ability, but clay certainly does help us to augment that a little bit. Some people in the Wise Traditions community use clay even when cooking. They put a little clay in their bread. This is to help clean the food before we’re even consuming it.
It’s got a long history. For example, pottery—we used clay pots. Clay has been in use for a long time and for more than just its convenience. We were very aware of its detox properties, but I could also say medicinal. We know about the healing waters and other things. Clay baths are the same thing because you can absorb a lot of minerals topically, like magnesium.
HG: That’s exactly where I wanted to go next. What conditions do people have that you would suggest using clay to help restore their health?
VC: There is a very long list. Let me start with the most obvious. People use it topically for facials or over their whole body. An interesting thing to relate back to how we opened this is the idea of hydration or drying out. At first, you’re hydrating clay. Clay has a very special relationship with water, so it will help to hydrate your skin. It’s tightening and pulling, but it’s not drying it out. Your skin feels wonderful and rejuvenated after you’ve worn a clay mask. This same idea happens when you take clay internally. Although when we do it internally, we prepare it differently. We’re hydrating it in a one hundred to one ratio with water. You’re drinking water with some clay in it. The idea of hydrating the clay first is very important.
Benefits of eating clay
Internally, if I jump to the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s go to the extreme examples where I’ve got people who have had their ileum removed—part of their intestines removed—or have had a gallbladder removed. These people might have issues with what we call bile acid diarrhea (BAD), bile acid malabsorption (BAM), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or irritable bowel disease (IBD). These people have diarrhea that they cannot stop. Clay is as good as any medication we have for helping these people because it’s very good at absorbing excess bile acids. It’s fantastic for this. A lot of my clients are in these extreme states of unwellness where they’ve had surgical procedures. Clay can be a great help for that and then everything in between.
HG: It sounds so wonderful. I’ve interviewed people who talk about how the earth has healing crystals or stones and that they can help mitigate the non-native electromagnetic frequencies that we’re exposed to. Man creates artificial frequencies that are damaging to the body, and the earth offers natural healing frequencies that are good for us. In this way, the story of clay resonates with me.
VC: I’m so glad that you mentioned that. We have not discussed the extremely complex electromagnetic properties of clay. You led into a wonderful hornet’s nest in a way. Clay has very complex special electromagnetic properties because of its relationship with water. For example, there are topical uses of clay where you would put a poultice, you would make a magma, you would put almost an inch thick layer of clay over a wounded area, a fractured bone, over your kidneys, or your liver and such. It goes beyond just this topical absorption because you’ve got an electromagnetic field that’s created by that clay poultice that is now acting on your body.
Related to this, there are natural frequencies. The idea with crystals is the structure of a crystal lattice—the size is resonating or similar, in line, or in tune with frequencies that are good for us. That’s how you can start to relate these things when you talk about crystals or anything that is working with a crystalline structure. You start talking about sound healing, vibrational healing, etc. If you search for clay as a transducer, it is this idea of clay converting one form of energy to another. This is related to crystals.
We can go in a lot of different directions here. I mentioned topically, but also internally, clay will help to detox radiation. It will shield you; it will grab radioactive cesium in your body and shield you from it until it carries it out of your body. There’s a lot going on. It’s very complex.
HG: You said there are different types. I was surprised when you said you’ll take three different types sometimes. What are you doing and why?
Bentonite clay detox
VC: I mentioned the bentonite clay. Bentonite clay is probably the most common in the world. One way of looking at it technically is it’s a triple-layer clay. Clay forms layers. When I drink it internally, let’s say I have a half teaspoon of clay in a glass of water and drink that. That clay is going to spread out and coat most of my intestines. It’s going to help protect my intestines, help them to heal and absorb all of the different things that are going on.
The two most common types of clay within bentonite are calcium bentonite clay and sodium bentonite clay. This has to do with the ratio of calcium and sodium that are in the clay. There are still many other things. There’s going to be magnesium, potassium, many other elements there. But in this case, when they’re using this nomenclature, they’re talking about when that clay was formed—formed by volcanoes, eons and eons ago—the calcium or sodium became a large component of its structure. For internal use, we usually use a calcium-based clay. It tends to be a little gentler because it doesn’t swell. You may hear this idea of swelling or expanding in size; a sodium bentonite clay will expand or swell in size.
This is just the bentonite. There are other clays, like illite clay—a dual-layer clay. There are many other types. Even if you’re just talking about bentonite clay, it’s going to be a little bit different all over the world because there were different volcanic activities that incorporated some different minerals. Those different clays will have different affinities for different toxins. One clay might grab lead more aggressively, and another clay might grab mercury more aggressively. That’s where the differences come in. They’ll also get rid of parasites and mycotoxins. If you’re familiar with the huge broad spectrum of toxins that unfortunately we are ingesting through the air and our food, clay will grab onto a lot of them. The difference in the various clays is what their preferred “diet” is or what their affinity is for the different toxins.
You want a fine clay so that it hydrates easily. I don’t have any very specific recommendations because there’s great clay all over the world, but I usually tell my clients, “You can get it pretty cheap.” Redmond Clay has been used for a long time. It’s a very nice clay. It’s in the middle, an almost fifty-fifty sodium and calcium “blend.” I don’t want to use the word “blend,” though, because it sounds like it was manufactured, and it was not.
HG: I remember when I traveled to Israel, I purchased some clay from the Dead Sea. I imagine what the earth has to offer us is so healing. Even if we’re not quite sure which toxins we’re trying to extricate or necessarily what we’re trying to resolve in terms of a skin problem, it seems like the earth would know what we need.
VC: I try to tell my clients to use their intuition. Experiment a little. See how things feel. Adjust dosages. Adjust even the types of clay that you use. The earth provides so much. It’s amazing.
HG: For any skeptics out there, think about the health of the kid who is putting his hand in his mouth or crawling in the dirt. The kids on farms are often healthier than kids in cities, and it may have to do with their very contact with the earth.
VC: Absolutely. I believe that 100 percent. The more dirt the kids get in their mouths and the more they have their hands and feet in the dirt, the healthier they’re going to be. There are so many benefits. There are many experts on clay around the world, but even they cannot say that they understand clay 100 percent. This is something that all of us often forget. We want to imagine that we understand very deeply—like it is going to give us comfort—but we’re still woefully ignorant. We’re still infants. We’re going to continue to learn so much, but our ancestors for thousands of years and the creatures around us have been showing us how magnificent clay is. You mentioned earlier how pregnant women will crave clay sometimes. This shows you the power of intuition or instinct.
HG: I am trying to earth more. By that, I mean I’m putting my bare feet on the ground because I know, like the clay, the earth has negative ions that my body needs to absorb. I can offload the positive charge my body has from all of the EMFs and other toxins in my body. I’m giving it what’s a burden to me, and I’m taking on the good stuff it has to offer.
VC: Our bodies are a battery. The clay is also helping with the electrical health of our body. It works synergistically with all of that. It’s so true. We have to take a holistic perspective. The more holistic we are, the better understanding we have. Instead of viewing the clay as this mechanical thing that is just grabbing toxins, when we take a more holistic perspective, we realize, “The clay is also helping me hydrate. It’s nourishing me, absorbing radiation and giving me a type of electromagnetic shield in my gut.” The more we learn, the more holistic we become. The more we open our minds, the more we are able to understand and appreciate what all of these different things do for us.
HG: You’ve made clay sound so wonderful. It must have some drawbacks. Does it?
VC: The biggest drawback is understanding how to use it, and this applies to a lot of things. People abuse things. Let me give an example of activated charcoal, which is another wonderful thing from the earth. That’s great for food poisoning. You can carry capsules of activated charcoal in your bag. It’s very convenient; if you get food poisoning, you swallow that. Clay is not to be used that way. Clay really needs to be hydrated because it has a very important relationship with water. For example, I tell my clients, “Take a teaspoon of clay and put it in two cups of water in a glass jar”—you don’t put it in metal or plastic where it’s going to absorb toxins. You put it in a glass jar and shake that up really well. You let that sit overnight or at least let it hydrate for a few hours, so you avoid any potentially negative things. You want the clay to be good and hydrated, and then you can drink it.
In addition, understand where to get good clay. Most of it is good. The animals are out there running around in the world, but we do need to be more careful because we are in an ever-increasingly toxic world, unfortunately. You want to make sure you’ve got a good clean clay, something that’s reputable, and then you want to make sure you’re not putting it in plastic containers, metal containers, or even using metal spoons. You’re going to use glass, wood, or things that are inert.
So, you want to make sure it’s hydrated and then, when taking it, don’t just jump in and guzzle two glasses at once. Drink a little bit and see how you feel. Work with your body. Learn to listen to your own body. Yes, there are pitfalls like anything else; you could die from water poisoning if you drink too much water. It’s a matter of having the knowledge. I have a one-page guide that lays it out to make it easy for people.
HG: You’ve given us a lot of information about what clay can do for us, how to get started with it, and the pitfalls if we don’t take it carefully— in other words, finding a good source of clay and knowing how to take it—but is there anyone for whom clay might not be beneficial?
VC: There is something that you have to be a little careful with. If you are taking a lot of medication, you’ve got to keep clay away from the medication time because it can interfere with certain medications. Most medication is highly toxic, and the clay is going to grab that. It does not happen with all medications, but if you are dependent on certain things, you’re going to want to make sure that the clay is not interfering.
Usually, this is very easy because in most cases, keeping things a couple of hours apart makes it no problem, but it is something that you’re going to want to look into. You’re going to want to speak to your doctor or whoever your health care practitioner is. You can also do your own research. That’s the biggest thing. I work with people that have had parts of their digestive system removed, and they’re using clay. If you’ve had kidney failure, for example, you might want to be careful before you jump into clay. There are certain extreme conditions. If you’ve got extreme dependencies on medication, you want to be careful. Don’t just dive in blindly.
HG: That’s a good point. It surprised me when you said to wait a couple of hours and then you might be okay from when you take your pharmaceutical drug to when you take the clay because I thought clay could grab anything. In other words, it doesn’t have to be something new in the bloodstream or in your system. I was hoping it could grab toxins that have “settled” in different parts of the body. Do you think it will go that far?
VC: Yes. You lead to another very cool insight. The reason why two hours is usually okay is that the drugs will get in and will have gotten to where they need to go. They are doing their thing and they’re out of the bloodstream. While the clay does not go into your bloodstream, it will do some detoxification of your blood. The intestines are extremely thin. They’re being nourished by blood. The clay can pull some toxins through the walls, so to speak. It does not work for everything—that’s why we use other detox agents—but it can pull some things out of the blood. The idea is to take your meds and make sure your meds have already gotten to where they need to go. If you’ve consumed the medications internally, they’ve gotten absorbed into the bloodstream and been delivered to wherever they’re supposed to be delivered to, and then you’re okay to take your clay.
HG: Is clay recommended as a long-term protocol? Are you going to take clay for the rest of your life?
VC: This is the beauty of clay. It’s one of the things that you can use forever, but there’s not a set thing. For example, you have a serious issue and then you start taking clay. You could go up to taking three tablespoons a day if you’re using this as a heavy-duty protocol for some specific issue, but you wouldn’t stay on such protocol. There are some protocols that are short-term.
For myself, I will prepare my clay and take maybe two or three sips of clay in the morning or at night, depending on what’s going on. If I had a crazy meal and then I want to make sure I’m going to be okay and give myself a little protection, I’ll take a few sips of the clay. I can do that forever. I can do it every day if I want; I can keep it as a shield. Just monitor yourself. See how your bowel movement is. If your bowel movement remains perfect, there’s no need to stop. If you feel good, keep doing what you’re doing. Also trust your intuition.
HG: Dr. Tommy John says “N equals one.” In other words, study how things work for you. Observe how your body is reacting to things and what it wants. You are unique, and you know your body better than anyone else. It is good to turn to folks for some guidance, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t listen to see what the body might be trying to tell you and how it’s responding.
VC: I like to tell my clients, “Let’s assume I’m the smartest guy on the planet and I have all knowledge that’s ever been available to humans. I still can’t give you better answers than your intuition can because I’m not you.” If we learn to tap into that, intuition is beyond any intellectual power because we change day by day. I agree with you completely. We have to learn about our own bodies. We have to be willing to listen to them and then work, adjust and adapt. We’re not the same person from one moment to the next. For example, if we had an ailment one moment and then it’s not there anymore, then we adjust.
Clay is nice because it is something that you can keep in your system, in your routine—or at least keep it in your medicine cabinet. I always have it on hand.
HG: I bet our ancestors who lived this Wise Traditions lifestyle might not have even needed as much clay because they were in contact with the earth. We are living in such sterile environments, in these little boxes, so we need to reconnect with the earth, one way or another.
VC: I’ve got clients who had more specific needs for clay topically and internally because of concerns about heavy metal toxicity from various sources and other toxicity.
You’re right. The whole idea of using it is that it connects you more to the earth. You feel more self-empowered when you use these natural things. Clay is cheap. This is another good benefit. It’s probably one of the most cost-effective things that we can add to our diet.
HG: I appreciate this. This “Clay 101” class has blessed me, and I’m sure it’s going to bless the reader. I do want to ask you one last question, the one I like to pose at the end. If the reader could only do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
VC: Since this interview is about clay, I would have to say to start experimenting with clay. Get it into your routine or at least get it into your medicine cabinet. Get a little bottle of Redmond Clay. Start playing with it topically or internally and see how you feel. Allow yourself to get comfortable with the idea because it’s such a powerful, flexible thing. You can use it for bug bites, wounds and so many different things. It’s pretty fun to play with, but I mean, play with it for your health.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2022🖨️ Print post