Healing and edible clays: a review of basic concepts, benefits and risks

Environ Geochem Health. 2018 Oct;40(5):1739-1765. doi: 10.1007/s10653-016-9903-4. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


The use of clay by humans for medicinal and wellness purposes is most probably as old as mankind. Within minerals, due to its ubiquitous occurrence in nature and easy availability, clay was the first to be used and is still used worldwide. Healing clays have been traditionally used by man for therapeutic, nutritional and skin care purposes, but they could impart some important health and skin care risks. For instance, clay particles could adsorb and make available for elimination or excretion any potential toxic elements or toxins being ingested or produced, but they could adsorb and make available for incorporation, through ingestion or through dermal absorption, toxic elements, e.g. heavy metals. Edible clays, a particular case of healing clays, have been traditionally used by man for nutritional and therapeutic purposes. Geophagy, the deliberate soil eating, earth eating, clay eating and pica (medical condition or eating disorder shown by individuals addicted to eat earth substances), has been observed in all parts of the world since antiquity, reflecting cultural practice, religious belief and physiological needs, be they nutritional (dietary supplementation) or as a remedy for disease. This paper pretends to review historical data, basic concepts and functions, as well as benefits and risks of the use of healing clays, in general, for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes, and of edible clays, in particular, for therapeutic purposes.

Keywords: Edible clay; Healing clay; Health benefits and risks; Mud therapy; Peloid therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum Silicates
  • Clay*
  • Eating*
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Minerals
  • Mud Therapy
  • Pica*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Absorption
  • Soil*


  • Aluminum Silicates
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Minerals
  • Soil
  • Clay