Clay has long been recognized by many ancient civilizations not just for its usefulness in pottery and ceramics, but also for its healing and restorative powers. The material derived from earth is made of inorganic and organic microscopic particles that impart its variable properties, usually making clay an essential medical and beauty tool. Nowadays, clay masks are popular in the cosmetic industry for its beauty enhancing properties.
There are many types of clay beneficial to human health. A popular example of healing clay is Bentonite (Montmorillonite) which comes from volcanic ash and is ingested to prevent absorption of toxins in the alimentary tract, such as in cases of mercury poisoning. Bentonite is also said to contain over 70 trace minerals, making it a dietary supplement for people with mineral deficiency. It is also used to treat diarrhea, hemorrhoids, anemia, and other intestinal problems. French Green Clay or Illite is another example of clay used for its medicinal and skin rejuvenating properties.
Like Bentonite, Illite contains many trace minerals in addition to organic matter. Trace minerals include calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, zinc, selenium, aluminium, magnesium, silicon, manganese, and copper among others; illite's organic composition is phytonutrients from kelp and microscopic algae. Illite is used for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic value, treating muscle aches and rheumatism; aesthetically, French Green Clay is a popular clay mask, known for its ability to absorb toxins from the skin and improve circulation.
Aside from those mentioned above, clays are known to have the following properties that deem them useful in maintaining a healthy, as well as beautiful, well-being:
Cleanses and detoxifies – a certain study found that French Green Clay is not only a valuable revitalizing beauty mask, but is also an effective and cheap wastewater cleaner. Similarly, this can be ingested, like Bentonite, to rid the body of heavy metal and other toxins. Just mix the clay powder with about 8 ounces of water and drink in an empty stomach. For a beautifying treatment, clay has a negative electrical charge that allows prodigious absorption of toxins from the skin. Fuller's Earth Clay and Rhassoul clay are used as clay masks to absorb excess oil from the skin.
Exfoliates – Clay masks like those made from French Green Clay, Kaolin (White Cosmetic Clay), Rhassoul, and Fuller's Earth Clay are naturally grainy, thus allowing them to gently slough away the upper layer of dead skin cells. Exfoliation is an important step in skin care regimens as it removes dead skin that can potentially clog the pores, while revealing the smooth, healthy layer. This is recommended once or twice a week.
Improves Circulation – clays are known to draw out toxins from the bloodstream, thus improving circulation. Bentonite, Kaolin, and Green clays are used as beauty masks to tone and smoothen the skin as well as improve circulation. Some recommend calcium Bentonite for treating spider veins and varicose veins.
Provides essential trace minerals – as mentioned earlier, clays have variable mineral content, and many types have been found to provide the adequate amount of trace minerals needed by the body. Green clay and Bentonite may be ingested to supply the body of its copper and manganese requirement, minerals that are scarce in food but are needed by the body in small amounts.