Diatomaceous Earth... What?

Diatomaceous earth is a sedimentary deposit formed from fossil remains of diatoms (single-celled algae that have cell walls of silica), a common type of phytoplankton.

Diatomaceous earth is used in metal polishes, water filters and pest control. The DE used in those applications would not be safe for human consumption. Food-grade DE is widely available now and can be safely ingested and is considered by many as a health aid. You can use food-grade DE to control pests but you must not ingest DE that is made strictly for industrial purposes.

When an insect comes into contact with DE, the DE absorbs moisture from the bug, which dies of dehydration. DE can be very fine and it is unwise to inhale the dust, which may be an irritant to humans and pets. The claim has been made that it takes less than 2 days to kill bed bugs. It will work on cockroaches, beetles, silverfish, ants, mites, spiders and other insects.

It’s a relatively inexpensive product, especially if you buy it in large quantities, so why not use food-grade DE in your home and even in your garden if you have pets roaming freely? It does not work once it is wet, so if you are applying outside, do it when no rain is expected for a while. Sorry, Seattle.

Killing bugs is important if you live in a region where it never freezes.  Bugs often carry disease, they bite (bites can become infected), and they cause stress for the faint hearted (which is bad for health), so just getting rid of bugs around one’s living area contributes to health. But that’s not the only way of gaining benefit from DE, according the plethora of testimonials and to those who sell it.

For human consumption, always use food-grade earth that has no additives of any kind. Always. DE can be a little dehydrating for humans, too, so if you are going to supplement with it, be sure to drink extra water to avoid constipation and dehydration.

Before reading a list of all the purported benefits, it’s important to note that it’s difficult to find any scientific studies that support the claims, except that it may help bone density. It’s not regulated by the FDA as a food supplement (not that the FDA is the last word on anything; just sayin’). Personally, I do not use it as a daily supplement. I take it when I have stomach issues (which is often enough considering the areas of the world where I spend a lot of my time). For that—for me—it works brilliantly. I take a teaspoon of DE in a glass of water, following up over the next hours with a little more water than usual. A couple of doses (spread apart by at least several hours) almost always do the trick for me. It’s unlikely that anyone needs more than a couple teaspoons a day but do your research and decide for yourself.

Having no studies to support the claims does not mean that the claims are bogus, just that they haven’t been proved or disproved. We can know if it might work for us only if we try, and judge by the results.

The list of claimed benefits is lengthy. The following list includes things DE is said to do, help, treat or enhance:

  • Aids blood circulation
  • Alleviates back discomfort
  • Can be added to grains to prevent spoilage
  • Can be used as a facial scrub and mask
  • Can be used as a flea powder for your pets
  • Decreases symptoms of menopause
  • Decreases vertigo
  • Diminishes abscesses
  • Eases coughs
  • Eases headaches
  • Eases infections of the urinary tract
  • Helpful for mastitis
  • Increases energy
  • Makes a good deodorant
  • May absorb toxins and expel them from the body
  • May provide some help for diabetes
  • Normalizes hemorrhoid tissue
  • Prevents constipation (note: it can also cause it if you don’t drink enough water along with the DE)
  • Prevents diarrhea
  • Promotes hair health
  • Promotes joint and ligament health
  • Promotes stronger teeth, gums and nails
  • Protective against arterial disease
  • Protective against dementia
  • Protective against heart disease
  • Provides lung support
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Reduces hair loss
  • Reduces inflammation in the digestive tract
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Relieves insomnia
  • Relieves tinnitus
  • Safeguards against radiation
  • Slows down skin aging
  • Stimulates cell metabolism
  • Stimulates collagen production