Image by Azzaryiatul Amar from Pixabay

Diatomaceous earth is sand containing the fossilized remains of a type of algae known as diatoms. It’s mostly comprised of silica, as well as other trace elements.

There are two forms used commercially: industrial and food grade. The former is used in pest control and for filtration purposes, and can be toxic to humans when inhaled. The latter, however, are approved for dietary supplementation use. 

Here’s what it’s used for. 

Diatomaceous Earth for Detoxification of Mycotoxins and Heavy Metals

Most commonly, diatomaceous earth is used for detoxification purposes. It has been shown to be an efficient binder for certain mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, zearalenone, and ochratoxin. 

If it works for these, my suspicion is it likely works well for other mycotoxins that haven’t yet been studied, as well. This may be why diatomaceous earth has been used for food storage, mixing it in particularly with grains and legumes. This is said to protect them from both mold and also from insects, as it is a natural insecticide (see below). 

Diatomaceous earth is also used industrially to remove heavy metals from liquids. This study shows that it at least decreases bioavailability of aluminum in the human GI tract. The same is probably true for other metals, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that it would help with removal of metals already in long-term storage in the body. It might; we just don’t have the studies to prove it.  

Diatomaceous Earth for Viral Detoxification (and possibly parasites)

Diatomaceous earth also helps to neutralize viruses in liquids by adsorption as well. This study shows that diatomaceous earth bound and eliminated up to 80% of viruses left over in liquid after filtration. 

Diatomaceous earth also binds to the lipids (fats) on the exoskeletons of insects. Lipids help trap liquid inside, so removing them causes the insects to die of desiccation. This is also the theory behind why diatomaceous earth may also be effective against parasites.

Diatomaceous Earth for Bones, Skin, Hair, and Nails

Silica seems to be necessary structural components of the body involving collagen, even though the mechanism for its role remains unclear. Nevertheless, low levels of silica are associated with deficiencies in bone, joint, cartilage, and collagen structure and quantity. Conversely, increased silica intake seems to increase bone density.

Diatomaceous earth is one possible source of silica, though certain foods are also high in silica, including grains such as wheat, rice, and oats, legumes including beans, nuts, and seeds, and bananas. 

Diatomaceous Earth Dosing

While diatomaceous earth works as a binder, because of the possible desiccation mechanism by which diatomaceous earth may kill organisms, there is still a chance of a herxheimer (“die-off”) effect. This is why it’s a good idea to start low in terms of dosing and then taper up. For most people, a good starting dose is 1 tsp daily, with plenty of liquid (as binders tend to be constipating if you don’t take them with enough liquid).