Minerals are the main source of life on our planet, and are imperative to our survival. Minerals are necessary for all processes in the body, including the assimilation of vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbs as well as biochemical functions that occur. Minerals help with everything from muscle contractions to the production of hormones. A natural source of all the minerals used and consumed by humans, for a variety of purposes, is clay.
There are indications that homo erectus and homo neanderthalensis used ochres mixed with water and different types of mud to cure wounds, to soothe irritations, as a method of skin cleaning, etc. This might be due to their mimicking animals, many of which instinctively use minerals for such purposes.
The first written reference known to exist upon the use of ‘‘stones,” and a description of their mineral benefits, dates to Rome, 60 BC. Throughout ancient history, clay has been used topically for soothing the skin, as well as internally for gastrointestinal issues. Aristotle (384–322 BC) made the first reference to the deliberate eating of earth, soil, or clay by humans (for therapeutic and religious purposes). Later, Marco Polo described how in his travels he saw Muslim pilgrims cure fevers by ingesting ‘‘pink earth’’. This practice is still followed in certain countries and communities for therapeutic purposes, or even to relieve famine.
What Exactly is Clay?
Clays are soft mineral substances; a product of weathered volcanic ash. Clay is formed as a result of volcanic activity subjected to environmental influences (physical and chemical) over a period of time. Clays differ in structure and composition depending upon the source. Just like there are no two identical fingerprints, it is impossible to find two identical clays. They come from different sources, each source with its own unique mineral compositions. Clays consist of tiny particles that can absorb large amounts of water. As a result, many clays can expand immensely upon hydration. Clays can absorb minerals and organic substances, such as metals.
Modern Uses for Clay
Clays have a well-deserved place in health and beauty routines. Widely used in spas, clays are mixed with water (geotherapy), mixed with sea or salt lake water, or minero-medicinal water, and then matured (pelotherapy), or mixed with paraffin (para- muds).