Sodium Bentonite & Montmorillonite:
Hydrated Clay For Internal Use
The Value of Bentonite for Diarrhea*
Fredic Damrau, M.D.
New York City
In a group of 35 cases of acute diarrhea of diverse etiology,
the use of a special preparation of bentonite** provided
substantial relief in 34 cases ( 97 percent ). The causative
factors included virus infections, food allergy, spastic
colitis, mucous colitis, and food poisoning.
Bentonite is a native, colloidal, hydrated aluminum silicate.
It occurs as a very fine, odorless, pale buff or cream-colored
powder, free from grit, and has a slightly earthy taste.
Although it is insoluble in water, it swells to approximately
12 times its volume when added to water. Bentonite magma
is prepared by adding 50 gm. of bentonite to a sufficient
quantity of purified water to make 1 liter.1
Geologically, bentonite is a rock composed of clay minerals
formed by the alteration of minute glass particles that
once composed volcanic ash. The name was derived from the
Fort Benton series of cretaceous rocks in Wyoming, where
it was first found.2
Bentonite has been used extensively, in the form of a
gel, as a bulk laxative and also as a base in many dermatological
formulations.3 The desirable property of bentonite is its
avid adsorption of other substances, both organic and inorganic.4
History of Medical Uses
Hydrated aluminum silicate was used for centuries in China
for summer diarrheas and cholera.5 In 1712 Father Deutrecolle,
a Jesuit missionary, described the clay works in China
and mentioned that the clay was used in treating diarrhea.6
The use of hydrated aluminum silicate with other medications
during the Balkan war of 1910 reduced the mortality from
cholera among the soldiers from 60 to 3 percent, and it
also proved valuable in the 1919 epidemic of cholera in
China.7 In India, hydrated aluminum silicate was found
useful in the treatment of acute bacterial food poisoning
encountered in the British Army.8
Hydrated aluminum silicate has been used as an adsorptive
in the symptomatic treatment of various forms of enteritis9
including ulcerative colitis.10
Gastrointestinal adsorbents including hydrated aluminum
silicate are presently recommended in acute diarrhea and
bacillary dysentery to adsorb the toxins which produce
the diarrhea.11 Hydrated aluminum silicate has been used
in the treatment of abnormal intestinal fermentation to
adsorb gases, toxins and bacteria.12 In a fluid medium
it carries down large numbers of bacteria and adsorbs the
toxins of cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and apparently of
the putrefactive and proteolytic bacteria.13
In vitro studies suggest that the beneficial action of
hydrated aluminum silicate in cholera depends on the adsorption
of the cholera toxins and inclusion of the bacteria. Later
investigations indicate that bentonite adsorbs certain
viruses including those of intestinal influenza, as suggested
by my successful results in that disease. Bacteriologically,
bentonite is used for purification of viruses.14, 15
The specific properties of bentonite have been shown to
have an important bearing on its therapeutic uses. 16 A
paste made from hydrated aluminum silicate is recommended
by Russian radiologist to deactivate hands contaminated
by radium salts.17 In Russia, bentonite has been used in
the therapy of peptic ulcer.18
Since bentonite has such strong adsorptive powers, its
consumption in excessive amounts over a considerable period
of time could render vitamin A and other necessary nutrients
unavailable by adsorbing them from the alimentary canal.
Independent experiments purposely designed to determine
how much this adsorption would adversely affect the growth
and health of experimental animals indicated no ill effects
when the intake of bentonite did not exceed 25 percent
of the total diet.19
The therapeutic efficacy of bentonite for acute diarrhea
of diverse etiology was evaluated in a group of 35 cases.
The causative factor was virus infection in 18 cases, food
allergy in 8, spastic colitis in 4, mucous colitis in 3,
and food poisoning in 2.
The symptoms were diarrhea in 35 cases ( watery stools
in 29, soft stools in 6 ), abdominal cramps in 30, anorexia
in 18, malaise in 15, headache in 14, nausea in 13, and
weakness in 7.
The group included 25 females and 10 males. The average
person was 51.8, with a range from 23 to 76 years. The
average weight was 153.2 lbs., with a range from 92 to
A complete physical and routine urinalysis were made in
every case to eliminate concomitant diseases which might
affect their course of the diarrhea. Where indicated, laboratory
and X-ray examinations were performed as part of the diagnostic
procedure. Every effort was made to obtain a homogeneous
group of patients so as to eliminate variables from the
The standard treatment employees was 2 tablespoonfuls
of bentonite in distilled water as a vehicle 3 times daily.
In cases of food allergy the dosage was increased above
6 tablespoonfuls daily.
Acute diarrhea was relieved by bentonite in 34 of the
35 cases ( 97 percent ) in an average period of 3.8 days,
ranging from 1 to 4 days. Following treatment the number
of bowel movements per diem was reduced from an average
4.0 ( range 2 to 6 ) to an average of 1.8 ( range 1 to
In the 18 cases of diarrhea due to virus infection the
therapeutic response was unusually prompt. Hence in this
group the average duration of treatment was 2.2 days with
a range of 1 to 3 days. In the 8 cases due to food allergy
the diarrhea persisted longer and on many occasions returned
if the same allergenic food was eaten again.
The concomitant symptoms were relieved in the following
case percentages: Abdominal cramps in 24 of 30 cases (
80 percent ), anorexia in 14 of the 18 cases ( 78 percent
), malaise in 12 of the 15 cases ( 80 percent ), nausea
in 11 of the 13 cases ( 85 percent ), and weakness in all
of the 7 cases ( 100 percent ).
No side-effects attributable to the medication were observed
in any case. Routine chemical and microscopic examination
of the urine was negative in all 35 cases.
A preparation of bentonite with distilled water s a vehicle
was found to be safe and highly effective in the treatment
of acute diarrhea. The diarrhea was relieved in an average
of 3.8 days in the 34 out of 35 cases ( 97 percent ) of
diverse etiology. The number of bowel movements per diem
was reduced from an average of 4.0 to an average of 1.8.
The concomitant symptoms were also effectively relieved
in most cases, namely, abdominal cramps ( 80 percent ),
anorexia ( 78 percent ), malaise ( 80 percent ), headache
( 71 percent ), nausea ( 85 percent ), and weakness ( 100
Fastest results were observed in intestinal influenza,
in which the diarrhea was controlled in an average of 2.2
Bentonite is a native, colloidal, hydrated aluminum silicate.
A survey of medical literature disclosed that hydrated
aluminum silicate was used for centuries in China for summer
diarrheas and cholera. Favorable results have been reported
in cholera, bacillary dysentery, acute bacterial food poisonings,
ulcerative colitis, and various form of enteritis.
It has been established in vitro and in vivo that hydrated
aluminum silicate adsorbs toxins, bacteria and viruses.
This property helps to explain its therapeutic usefulness
in acute diarrhea of diverse etiology.
By virtue of its physical action bentonite serves as an
adsorbent aid in detoxification of the intestinal canal.
Did You Know...?
"What is the evolutionary significance of plant toxins and animal anti-toxin behaviour? From a plant's evolutionary perspective, a seed should be high in nutrients to support germination and seedling growth; the ripe fruit around the seed should also be nutrient-rich and attractive to animals, encouraging them to pluck and eat the fruit and disperse the seed. On the other hand, the seed itself should be repulsive to animal consumers, inducing them to regurgitate or defaecate it, and the unripe fruit should be repulsive, lest animals harvest it before the seed is viable. From an animal's evolutionary perspective, an ability to defeat the plant's toxin defences would enable it to obtain the nutrients in the seed as well as those in the ripe fruit, and to outcompete other animal consumers by harvesting the fruit while it is unripe and still unpalatable to them.
"Any textbook of animal biology describes the resulting evolutionary arms race, in which plants evolve increasingly potent toxins (such as strychnine and quinine), and animals evolve increasingly potent means of detoxification. While enzymatic detoxification has previously received the most attention, the work of Gilardi et al.10 and the wide distribution of geophagy among animal herbivores suggest an additional important means of detoxification by adsorption on ingested soil minerals."
- Jared M. Diamond, Department of Physiology, University of California Medical School, Los Angeles
Read more about indigenous habits and instinctual use of edible clay minerals in our bentonite articles section.