Bentonite Clay: Sodium vs Calcium – Dispelling the Myths
When I first started looking into Bentonite clay and using it, I like many others, had been led to believe by information that I’d read online that calcium bentonite clay was the only clay that should be used internally and that sodium bentonite clay was only suitable for external use.
However I have since learned the truth, and that is that all bentonite clay is suitable for internal use provided it is clean, pure clay with NO fillers and has been approved for internal use (this should always be stated on the packaging). Food grade bentonite clay, whether calcium or sodium, is the ONLY clay that should be used internally.
Now, if that answers your question and you’re in a hurry you can:
But if you need more info read on!
The article below has been written for me by Mathew Mason from Australian Healing Clay to clarify the whole calcium vs sodium bentonite clay issue.
Thanks Matt! 🙂
Understanding Bentonite Clay
Bentonite Clay is classed as a smectite – swelling clay that has powerful drawing and absorptive properties. There are four types of Bentonite Clay, also referred to as Montmorillonite. They are:
They are identified according to the higher amount of one of these exchangeable ions ie. sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium.
The most widely marketed are sodium and calcium. This is probably only due to availability. All types are used in a variety of industries unrelated to health and beauty ie industrial, agricultural, oil drilling (as a lubricant) and for road base.
Does it matter which type of Bentonite clay I use?
No! It makes no difference which type of Bentonite you use. Because it’s all about the IONS!
What are IONS?
IONS are atoms that have gained or lost one or more electrons. A common atom has no electrical charge, but ions have a positive or negative charge.
So ions are attracted to each other by their opposite charge. An exchange takes place that is purely electrical. It does not discriminate, so it does not matter if the ions are sodium, calcium, magnesium or potassium.
For example Arsenic has a positive charge and is looking for a negative charge to balance its electrons. Because all types of Bentonite have negatively charged ions they will bond with arsenic or any other positively charged particle.
This is how clay can be used as an effective cleansing or detoxing agent if you like. It binds to positively charged heavy metals or toxins & locks them away.
This is called adsorbing while absorbing does the locking away part.
Furthermore, sodium Bentonite clay contains calcium as an exchangeable ion and calcium Bentonite contains sodium as an exchangeable ion.
To convert Calcium Bentonite to Sodium Bentonite just add a small amount of salt to a cup of clay and it will have more sodium exchangeable ions and therefore sodium Bentonite.
One factor that could make a difference is the conductivity of the substance. For example sodium is a better electrical conductor than calcium so there may be an advantage is this regard.
In any case all types of Bentonite are considered to be abundant with exchangeable negative ions and that’s positive for us!
What about the minerals in clay?
The lists of minerals that make up the different types of Bentonite are very similar. However, given they are natural substances, each varies in colour and texture and each deposit of clay has its own unique mix.
For the purposes of using clay as a cleansing agent, knowing the mineral analysis is of no practical advantage as there is no way of utilising this information.
Conversely in agriculture knowing the mineral make up of clay deposits in a field helps the farmer prepare the soil for crops. Clayey soil is poor forgrowing things and needs to be broken down or dissolved using a clay breaker such as gypsum or lime.
This breaks the clay down into its individual minerals which then become part of the growing soil. It is important to know which minerals are present in the soil and which are deficient so as to produce healthy crops.
There is growing interest in the idea that Bentonite clay has merit as a mineral supplement and the notion is increasingly being included in marketing.
However the test results for bio-availability we have had done confirm that the minerals are not bio-available.
They are not able to be absorbed through the skin when applied topically. Nor is our digestive system capable of breaking clay down into individual minerals that can be absorbed.
It has no value as a mineral supplement.
Which makes sense because if we could in fact digest it, we would forfeit its cleansing capabilities.
The benefit lies in clay remaining intact as it passes through our system attracting and absorbing toxins and locking them away.
Consequently, if our digestive system is clean and functioning optimally then it follows that more efficient nutrient uptake will occur.
The first thing to know is that the clay you purchase is Bentonite clay because these are classed as smectites – swelling clay – and have the ability to absorb toxins and pollutants at a high rate.
70 -90 cation exchange is ample.
It is important to choose volcanic clay and of course it must be pure/clean clay with nothing added.
Some clays can have buffers and fillers.
If taking it internally it must be stated on the label that it is food quality/edible.
The Bentonite clay we offer at Australian Healing Clay is a unique sodium/ magnesium Bentonite that is volcanic clay having a cation exchange of 90/meq.
It occurs with high natural purity that satisfies food standards as safe to ingest.
It is BP grade – suitable for use with naturopathic and pharmaceutical medicines. Sun dried and dry milled into fine powder (45 microns).
No other processing or treatment is done.
It does not clump heavily like some Bentonite making it easy to work with.
When hydrated it has a soft velvety texture and produces a very smooth paste.
French Montmorillonite clay which is actually sodium Bentonite has been commonly used by Europeans for many decades. French naturopaths have written about it and recommend it for all
Screen mesh size
The screen mesh size refers to the milled or granular size of the finished product. It is a measurement of the fineness of the powder.
Usually the finer the powder the quicker it will hydrate.
The mesh size does not affect the performance of the clay. It is the fine particle size of
Bentonite, meaning molecular size that provides a large surface area for absorption and is what separates it from other clay.
Australian 45 micron mesh size = USA 325 screen mesh.
Summary: Important Points From Matt’s Article
- There are four types of Bentonite clay:
- Sodium bentonite
- Calcium bentonite
- Magnesium bentonite
- Potassium bentonite
- They can all be used both internally & externally provided they are Food Grade
- When it comes to clay quality it is all about the IONS – 70 -90 cation exchange is ample.
- Sodium bentonite may have an advantage for detoxing as it is a better electrical conductor. However calcium bentonite can be converted to sodium bentonite by adding a small amount of salt.
- The minerals in clay are NOT bio-available. We do no digest it. It passes through our digestive system undigested.
- The finer the molecular (micron mesh size) the more effect the clay (for detoxing).
- The finer the screen mesh size, the easier it will mix with water and hydrate. Clays are more effective when well hydrated. (Mix well and leave to sit for as long as possible for best results before drinking or using).
My Notes: Using Sodium Bentonite Clay Internally
I’ve been using bentonite clay for quite a few years now, and to be honest, I’d come across the article that misled the whole internet into believing that calcium bentonite was the only safe clay to ingest as well. I actually didn’t find out until quite some after I’d started using the brand of clay that I’ve always used, that it was in fact sodium bentonite clay!
I chose to use my clay in the first place because it was food grade, and it seems to me that many of the food grade clays available, are in fact sodium bentonite (even if they don’t specify that on the packaging).
I’ve seen discussions around the whole sodium vs calcium bentonite clay thing online and there is soooo much mis-information. Clearly there is a lot of confusion. I even saw someone telling others that there was no such thing as food grade clay! This is simply false.
The food grade sodium bentonite clay that I use has been thoroughly tested and approved for human consumption by Food Standards Australia & New Zealand. It is also approved for pharmaceutical use.
It is mined in Australia and after mining, it is sun dried and dry milled into a fine powder.
That is all that is done to it. It is pure earth.
It contains no fillers or anything else and some clays do. So beware!
My advise is simple. If you want to drink clay, eat clay or otherwise use bentonite clay internally, always make sure that what you’re buying is food grade clay, otherwise you really have no idea what you’re consuming.
Why I’m Such A Fan Of Bentonite Clay
I always have bentonite clay on hand these days. It’s great for detoxing – internally and/or by using it in the bath. It also makes a great face mask. But you know what? There’s a whole lot more to bentonite clay than that.
For example when I go on holiday, or even away for a weekend, I take some with me in a small container. Why? Because it can be a real life saver when [email protected] happens…
- On bites and stings (almost instant relief)
- On boils
- On injuries by making a poultice
- For diarrhea
- For stomach upsets
- When I’ve been a bit suspicious about what I’ve eaten (food poisoning risks)
- On splinters or any time a ‘drawing action’ is required
- On strange skin ‘things’ – lumps, bumps and things that look a bit ‘suss’
- On verrucas
- In my home made bentonite clay tooth powder
Bentonite clay has so many uses and it’s doesn’t ‘go off’. Keep some on hand and it’ll be there whenever you need it.
✅ Where To Buy Bentonite Clay?
Looking for a food grade bentonite clay to use internally? Try one of these (and note that they are ALL sodium bentonite!):