Is healing clay a reasonable treatment option for modern-day ills?
It may become one.
As we move closer and closer towards a public health crisis due to antibiotic resistance, scientists are revisiting traditional healing methods.
Some, like glacial clay, have yielded surprising results.
Canadian Healing Clay
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, it was discovered that clay from Kisameet Bay, British Columbia could kill antibiotic resistant bacteria (1).
The clay originates from Heiltsuk First Nation’s traditional territory, 400 kilometers north of Vancouver, Canada. The 400-million kilogram deposit formed nearly 10,000 years ago lies in a shallow five-acre granite basin (2).
In the study, which was published in the American Society for Microbiology’s mBio journal, researchers found that 16 strains of superbugs died when incubated in water combined with the clay (3).
The clay even killed Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species. These bacteria, known collectively as ESKAPE, are responsible for the majority of hospital infections in the US (4).
“I’ve worked on antibiotic resistance for a long time, and the ESKAPE pathogens have become more and more serious, and they’re a major threat in all hospitals, in all surgical wards, and also in outpatients… Infections caused by ESKAPE bacteria are essentially untreatable and contribute to increasing mortality in hospitals” said co-author Julian Davies in a written statement. “It’s clear that they’ve been identified by regulatory agencies like the FDA and people like this as a major problem in infectious disease.” (5)
“After 50 years of overusing and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinals and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multi drug-resistant pathogens.”
The Heiltsuk First Nation people have used the grayish green clay to treat conditions like ulcerative colitis, duodenal ulcer, arthritis, neuritis, phlebitis, skin irritation, and burns. Plus, the mud was also used in Vancouver hospitals during World War II to treat burns. Other clay and mud-based products, like dead sea mud, have also gained medical attention for their healing abilities.
The Future of Glacial Clay
While researchers do find these results promising, more research will be needed before the treatment can be approved for medical use. For one, researchers aren’t quite sure how the clay works to destroy bacteria (6).
“The clay really did a good job of killing them all. It’s not a cure at the moment, it’s not a treatment, because the clay hasn’t been approved or anything like this, but I suppose in last-resort situations it could be used,” he says (7).
“Clays, and things like this, they are the products of health food stores and naturopathic stores, and things like this. This is why I was so surprised at the way in which it works.”
No toxic side effects have been reported, but the clay will have to undergo more research before being backed by the medical community.
“We think it’s a very fascinating topic. It’s so complex, the clay. It’s not like a compound or a bacteria that you can isolate a compound from, it’s really a complex mixture. It’s going to take more work from not just microbiologists but physicists and chemists and mineralogists and people like this who have real expertise in looking at the structure and function of these things.”