Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is a common ingredient in a wide variety of foodstuffs, household, and personal care products.
Diatomaceous earth helps prevent insect infestation, in grains, pet foods, and a wide range of dry goods.
This all-natural, white powder is safe and even beneficial for consumption. It is also extremely handy for use to repel and kill pests like bed bugs and roaches in the home, agricultural and industrial settings.
In this article, we will introduce and discuss versatile, useful DE and provide some good advice on how you can use this fabulous, affordable product in your home and garden. Read on to learn more.[toc]
What Is Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth?
Food-grade diatomaceous earth powder is very absorbent and slightly abrasive. It makes an excellent dietary supplement because it consists mostly of silica, which is the main component of human and animal musculature, ligaments and cartilage.
This all natural, sedimentary mineral is made up of the remains of ocean dwelling, one-celled plants called diatoms, which are sometimes called the “ocean’s spiny honeycombs.”
You may also hear DE referred to by different names such as:
- Ancient Treasure
- Miracle Mineral
- Dinosaur Dust
- Fossil Shell
Living diatoms (single-celled algae) emit silica and produce lime-carbonate. Diatomaceous Earth is what’s left of them after centuries of being compounded into the surface of the earth as chalky, clay-like skeletal remains.
This substance is called diatomite. It is present beneath the surface of the earth as thick, white, silica-filled powder and found in abundance all over the world, and anywhere you find mining in action.
How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work?
Silica works as an antioxidant in your body by fighting damage caused by free radicals. It is broken down to become a colloidal form in your system and detoxifies your blood because it carries an electrical charge capable of attaching to harmful toxins and free radicals. Particles of silica neutralize free radicals’ electrical charge and whisk them out of the body through normal elimination processes.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, silica works to eliminate aluminum and other heavy metals from your system. This is important as it helps to reduce aluminum availability in the gastrointestinal tract, making it possible for you to absorb valuable nutrients more efficiently.
“The oligomeric, high-aluminum-affinity form of soluble silica reduces aluminum availability from the human gastrointestinal tract. [source]”
Silica (orthosilicic acid to be precise) is found throughout the human body. It should be abundant in the:
Studies have shown, and common sense indicates that an abundance of silica in the diet adds up to a wealth of good health. The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging published a study suggesting that a deficiency of silica could cause myriad problems for human health, including:
- Low collagen production
- Mineral unbalance
- Reduced cartilage
- Vertebral damage
- Abnormal growth
- Skull deformities
- Bone deformity
- Joint pain
The body also uses silica for storing calcium and other minerals in the soft tissues, organs, and joints. This helps ward off:
- Brittle nails
- Bone spurs
- Weak hair
… and other problems caused by calcium deficiency.
How To Use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth?
This substance has many different applications. In a coarse form, DE is used in water filtration. In its fine, food grade form it can be used in food manufacturing and cosmetic products.
It is also an excellent supplement that strengthens bones and helps fight off free radicals. Additionally, it makes an effective natural pesticide and pest repellent because its extreme drying properties which dry out the fats and collagen in insect bodies and kill them off quite efficiently.
You’ll find DE commonly used in thousands of everyday health, nutrition, personal care, pet care, lawn, garden and home care products. Some common uses of diatomaceous earth include:
- In prescription and OTC medicines and supplements
- In building materials, paint, and rubber products
- As a preservative and anti-caking agent in foods.
- As a mild abrasive in cleaning products
- Bedbug and general pest control
- Water filtration and purification
- Pet Health, Care & Nutrition
- Foods & Beverages
- Rodent Repellent
- Dental care
- Skin Care
Forms of DE include:
Granulated diatomaceous earth: A raw material made by crushing silica. This food grade powder is safe for human consumption.
Micronized/Milled diatomaceous earth dust: This very fine form finds use in manufactured pesticides and insecticides.
Calcined diatomaceous earth: This heat-treated and activated type of DE is used in explosives and also in water filtration.
What Is In Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth?
The breakdown of high-quality food grade DE is as follows:
- 3% magnesium
- 19% calcium
- 5% sodium
- 33% silica
- 2% iron
Trace minerals include:
Using Diatomaceous Earth As A Nutritional Supplement
The food grade diatomaceous earth health benefits are mostly attributable to the fact that it consists of about 85% amorphous silica.
In the past, it was possible to consume plenty of silica in the everyday diet; however, with today’s hybrid and genetically modified foods and the fact that a great deal of growing land has been overused and/or become toxic, this is no longer possible.
This is quite unfortunate because ample silica consumption is essential for the proper care of bones, cartilage, tendons, teeth, nails, skin and even the bloodstream. The body’s vital organs (e.g. lungs, liver and heart) need lots of silica to perform correctly.
Taking diatomaceous earth as a supplement improves the body’s ability to process and use calcium. It also helps improve mineralization of the bones. It helps with cartilage development to help protect joints and slow and prevent the aging process.
Get Stronger Teeth, Bones, and Joints
The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging published a study in 2007 stating that silicon in the diet is essential for healthy bones and connective tissue. This 30-year study found that adding silicon (such as that found in DE) to the diet has positive, measurable effects on bone mineral density and the strength of connective tissues.
Although the results of the study were not entirely conclusive, it seems clear that adding diatomaceous earth to the regular diet can have substantial, positive effects on skeletal strength and function. In fact, use of DE may even be helpful in prevention and treatment of bone problems such as osteoporosis.
Detoxify & Strengthen Your Gastrointestinal System
Diatomaceous earth can be a critical part of an intestinal cleanse. It is very useful in soaking up and sweeping away heavy metals and other toxins. Consuming DE regularly can help eliminate intestinal worms, intestinal parasites and dangerous microorganisms. It also helps improve digestion, sweeps toxins from the digestive tract and improves elimination.
Silica naturally increases your body’s ability to absorb minerals. Because silica is a water soluble substance, it moves through your system quickly to eliminate toxins while improving the absorption of vital minerals.
DE not only helps remove poisons from the system but because it stimulates collagen production it helps heal the gut by supporting tissues and cells in replication and rebuilding.
How To Use Diatomaceous Earth
Adding just a small amount of DE to your daily diet can reap big benefits regarding detoxification, regular elimination, bone and joint support and noticeable improvements in the health of your hair, skin, and nails.
How Much Diatomaceous Earth Should I Take?
Begin with just a little. Try adding a half teaspoon of DE to your 12 ounces of water, juice or other liquid. Mix it in vigorously and drink it down quickly before it has a chance to absorb very much liquid.
After a week or two, you can increase the amount you are consuming if you wish. Work your way up to three level teaspoonsful gradually in half-teaspoon increments.
DE is not tasty. It is gritty and chalky and doesn’t have a flavor. This is why it’s smart to take it with lots of water, juice or a soft food that will disguise its texture and flavorlessness. If you don’t like taking DE in liquids, you can also mix it in with:
It’s best to take your DE with lots of liquid at least an hour before or after a meal. It’s alright to consume small amounts of soft food with your DE, but don’t take it with a lot of different foods. Remember to drink at least 12 ounces of liquid with each teaspoon of DE you consume.
Don’t exceed a tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of DE per day. It’s best to divide this dose in half. Take one and a half teaspoons morning and night.
When consuming diatomaceous earth, be sure to stay well hydrated. Remember that it is a very drying product and can have some uncomfortable effects if you are not drinking enough pure, filtered water.
When taken with ample liquids, DE can act like fiber in the digestive tract. It absorbs toxins and passes through the system, toning as it goes.
Very little DE stays in the body. It improves overall nutrition by improving the health of the gut and improving the body’s ability to make proper use of nutrients. Our gut holds 85% of the immune system; a healthy gut adds up to a healthier immune system and greater resistance to viruses, bacteria, parasites and other natural threats to health and well-being.
Follow these steps to safely use DE to supplement your nutritional program, boost your immune system, heal your gut and provide effective detoxification.
12 Health Benefits Of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Although you may experience some short-term negative effects when you add DE to your health routine, if you keep at it, you will enjoy some very positive long-term effects. Among them are:
1. Great hair: Silica is a common ingredient in high priced hair care products. Supplementing your diet with silica will help improve the condition of your current hair and may even help grow new hair if hair loss plagues you.
2. Glowing skin: DE helps promote collagen production to give you a clear, smooth, healthy complexion.
3. Strong, healthy nails: Your nails need silica content to stay strong and flexible. If you have been bothered by weak, brittle nails, adding DE to your daily supplement routine can help resolve this problem.
4. Better nutrition: DE helps flush toxins out of your system. Furthermore, increased production of collagen helps your gut lining stay healthy and strong, improving your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients for overall glowing good health.
5. Improved metabolism: Healthy collagen production also supports efficient metabolism. When your body makes good use of the foods you eat by converting them efficiently into energy, you will find attaining and maintaining a healthy weight easier.
6. Flexible, pain-free joints: Silica and collagen help promote the production of cartilage to pad your joints and make moving easy and pain-free.
7. Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels: Taking DE on a regular basis helps sweep away bad cholesterol and lowers hypertension.
8. Enjoy a resurgence of energy: Although you may feel a bit down initially when you first start taking DE, once your detoxification is complete, you’ll experience more energy and enthusiasm for life than you have in the past.
9. Regularity: DE improves digestion and bowel movements. It is an excellent, natural laxative you can use on a regular basis.
10. Stronger bones and quicker healing: Fight osteoporosis and avoid and treat bone fractures. Taking DE can help your bones heal faster and better after injury.
11. Fight infection: Consuming DE can be helpful when fighting off intestinal infections such as those caused by E-Coli and other bacteria. It can also help fight off systemic yeast infections. DE absorbs and sweeps away all of these noxious intruders.
12. Super Detox: DE is superb for regular, overall detoxification. It contains a very powerful chelation agent that sucks up a wide variety of chemical toxins and improves liver and colon function.
Listen To Your Body
The FDA recognizes diatomaceous earth as safe. Silica is a mineral naturally found throughout the body, so adding it to your diet and daily health care routine should produce few, if any, adverse side effects and a wealth of benefits.
When you first begin taking it, you may notice some unusual side effects. The reason – because DE promotes positive changes in your gut health. When you take DE, any yeast in your gut will die off.
Toxins swept up and eliminated. Although these are good things, you may experience flu-like symptoms, headache, and fatigue while this detoxification process is underway. Be kind to yourself.
- Incorporate DE gradually.
- Eat a balanced, whole foods diet.
- Drink LOTS of pure, filtered water.
- Get plenty of sleep and manage stress well.
- Practice deep breathing to help facilitate relaxation and detoxification.
Pay close attention to your body’s response to DE. You may not wish to take it every, single day. Many people find a ten days on/ten days off schedule effective. It’s good to give your body a break from the drying effects of DE.
Using Diatomaceous Earth As A Personal Care Product
DE is not only an excellent substance for use as a supplement, but it is also a great addition to cosmetic and personal care products. It has mildly abrasive qualities and can impart some strengthening and nourishing values when used as a tooth powder or a component of toothpaste. It also makes a good facial scrub when combined with water and essential oils.
You’ll find DE often used in commercial personal care products such as facial scrubs, toothpaste, body powders and more. You can use DE, essential oils, and other natural ingredients to make your own safe, effective, affordable personal care products. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Brushing Teeth With Diatomaceous Earth
DE Toothpaste Recipe
- 4 tbsp food grade DE
- 2 tbsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp Bentonite clay
- 1/4 tsp green Stevia powder
- 6 tbsp coconut oil, softened
- 15 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil
1. Shake all dry ingredients together in a glass or plastic container. Do not use metal containers or implements because the Bentonite clay will absorb traces of the metal.
2. Gradually add the melted coconut oil and essential oils. Use a plastic fork to stir them together until smooth.
3. Store the mixture in a non-metal tub with a tightly fitting lid in a cool, dark place.
4. Apply a small amount to your toothbrush using a plastic applicator (e.g. the handle of a plastic spoon). Brush teeth as usual.
Whiten Your Teeth
If all this sounds like too much work for you, know that you can also just use a combination of DE and baking soda in equal amounts as a weekly teeth whitener if you wish.
To do this, just shake equal quantities of the two powders into the palm of your hand. Add 3-6 drops of oil of peppermint or spearmint if you wish.
Rinse your toothbrush with warm water and dip it into the DE/baking soda mixture.
Brush your teeth as usual. Rinse thoroughly.
Don’t do this treatment more than once a week as baking soda and DE are both abrasive. Using them undiluted can be damaging to your tooth enamel if you overdo it.
Diatomaceous Earth For Skin Care
Your imagination is your only limitation when it comes to using DE for health and beauty. You can combine it with almost any skin care product or mask for added benefits.
You can use pure DE as a facial exfoliator on a weekly basis. To do this, just wash your face as usual, but add a few shakes of DE to your regular cleansing product. Mix in the palm of your hand and wash as usual.
You can also add DE to any face mask recipe for added detoxifying and oil reducing benefits. Just add between 1/2 to 1 level teaspoon to the mix when you prepare your mask.
DE is also a great addition to any standard soap recipe. It adds exfoliating and detoxifying properties to your homemade soap.
DE For Pet and Livestock Care
The mildly abrasive qualities of DE also make it valuable as a natural de-worming product for pets and livestock. Animals who receive regular doses of DE in their feed have stronger teeth and bones and healthier, more attractive skin and coat.
To use as a de-wormer, add a small amount to your pets’ food on 10 days on ten days off schedule. Determine the amount you use by weight and type of pet. When starting out, build up the dose in increments just as you would for yourself.
CATS: For cats ½ teaspoon of DE daily should be an adequate dose. You can mix this into canned or wet food in individual servings, or you can add it to a full bag of dry kibble by determining the number of servings per bag and then doing the math. Naturally, you’ll need to transfer the bag of food to a covered tub or tote so that you can mix the kibble and DE powder evenly.
DOGS: For dogs, the amount of DE you use will vary depending on the size of the dog. Small dogs and puppies over three months of age are fine with a half teaspoon. You should increase this amount by half teaspoon per 50 pounds for larger dogs. Add DE to canned/wet food or dry food as described for cats.
FLEAS: Use DE as a flea powder for cats and dogs. Sprinkle it over your pet’s body and around his or her bed to desiccate fleas in their tracks. Add it to cat litter to increase absorbency and reduce odors.
LIVESTOCK: In livestock, DE can be a definite boon in terms nutritional supplementation and pest and parasite management. One study conducted by the Oxford Journal of Poultry Science with laying hens found that those receiving a supplement of DE experienced increased egg production and effective parasite control.
- Hens fed DE experienced fewer infections and less parasite infestation. They put on weight and laid more eggs with harder shells and larger, more nutrient rich yolks.
- DE can be used as a dust bath for chickens and other poultry. Chickens and birds, in general, like to take dust baths to help cool the body and deter lice and other external parasites. Providing fowl with DE as a dust bath helps reduce external parasites and gives the birds more opportunity to ingest Diatomaceous Earth during regular grooming.
- Feed stores stock burlap sacks of DE for purchase. Hang the bags in the barn for horses, cattle and other livestock to bump up against naturally. Doing so releases a fine mist of DE over the animal’s back, head and neck. Animals quickly learn to self-treat with DE to keep flies away.
- Adding DE to livestock feed kills internal parasites and makes manure less attractive to flies. For livestock recommended dosage varies greatly from species to species. Consult your veterinarian for the exact dosage for your animal.
Industrial Uses of Diatomaceous Earth
FILTRATION: DE is an excellent water purifier and it is used in a number of different water filtration products. It can filter even the very finest particles of contaminants which might pass right through paper filters. For this reason, It is often used in tap water and pool filters and in filtration products for aquariums.
The Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology published a study reporting that DE is effective in absorbing approximately 80% of viruses, bacteria, algae and heavy metals commonly found in tap water. Using DE for filtration results in pure, clear, sparkling water, and it purifies water and kills viruses, bacteria, and algae that may be lurking.
DE is also used to filter ingredients for commercial products such as:
AGRICULTURAL: A broad range of garden products incorporate DE because of its ability to fight pests and enrich the soil. DE adds to the overall quality of the soil and helps prevent soil nutrient depletion. It makes an excellent soil additive that helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients and improves oxygenation of the soil.
NOTE: Neem Oil and Diatomaceous Earth Best Control Of Aphids
From the Archives of Phytopathology and Plant Protection “Neem in combination with diatomaceous earth ranked ﬁrst to alleviate the adverse effects of aphids on artichoke plants and to improve the vegetative growth and bud yield, followed by neem alone, while diatomaceous earth alone came almost at the end.”
CLEANING: Because of its mild abrasive properties, it is used in pressurized liquids designed for power washing the exterior of buildings. In the home, it makes a safe soft-scrubbing product for delicate surfaces.
Using Diatomaceous Earth For Home Pest Control
DE is considered a safe household product for use against insects and rodents in the home. It’s drying properties and sharp edges cause insects to dry up and die of dehydration. It is effective insect control against a broad spectrum of household pests including:
DE used as an insect control agent is a tried and true practice. Professional pest control companies have been using silica gel to eliminate and repel pests for more than 50 years. Silica gel and DE work in the same way. The sharp edge desiccates insects by removing the thin, waxy coating that protects the insect exoskeleton and helps preserve moisture.
RODENTS: Although DE does not kill rodents, but when combined with powerful essential oils they work to repel them. Soaking cotton balls in essential oils such as peppermint and lemon is an ages old method of discouraging incursion by rats and mice.
If you use DE instead of cotton balls, the scent will last longer, and you can “recharge” your mixture with plain water when it begins to lose its smell.
To make your rodent repellent, simply combine:
- 1/8 cup of very warm water
- 6 drops of essential oil
- 1 cup of diatomaceous earth food grade
In a 16 ounce tub or jar with a tightly fitting lid, mix the warm water and the essential oils. Gradually stir in the DE to make a thick paste.
Dole out your mixture a teaspoonful at a time in empty jar lids placed strategically in areas where rodents are known to travel.
The scent should deter any passing rats or mice. If you begin to see signs of them again, perk up your mixture with a little water and a few more drops of essential oil.
INSECT CONTROL: Drive fleas, bedbugs (Cimex lectularius), and other pests from your carpet. Use the powder as a carpet freshening powder before vacuuming. Sprinkle it over your carpet and brush it in with a broom. Allow it to sit for several hours before vacuuming up with a shop vac. Do this once a week to discourage pest invasion.
GARDEN PESTS: Sprinkle DE powder around your yard and garden to deter pests. It also has antifungal and anti-parasitic properties that are helpful to plants.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe?
Silica is found throughout the environment and life on earth. As such, DE is entirely innocuous in environmental terms. It is non-toxic to humans and mammals, aquatic invertebrates and fish. It is also safe for birds of all sorts.
When consumed and handled properly, DE has shown no adverse side effects even in long term use; however, you should avoid inhaling it or having it come in contact with your eyes.
Do not allow children or pets free access to DE as it can be irritating to eyes, nose and throat. According to the National Pesticide Information Center avoid inhaling even small amounts of DE as it might exacerbate or cause respiratory problems.
Replace Dozens Of Products In Your Home
Where to Buy Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
- Home Depot
You can buy Diatomaceous Earth food grade online, at your local health food store or animal feed store. Just be sure to get food grade DE, and you will be perfectly safe to use it for yourself, around the house and garden and for your pets.
Diatomaceous Earth is inexpensive and can help with a wide variety of problems from killing and repelling pests and parasite control to detoxifying your bloodstream and intestinal system. DE is effective against negative agents such as:
It is safe and easy to use, and when you supplement your nutritional routine with DE, you can improve your digestion, reduce gas, odor and bloating, improve liver function and absorb harmful toxins.
Perma-guard diatomaceous earth is the largest supplier of food grade DE or fossil shell flour. You can get your diatomaceous earth products from them or from your local garden center.
Clearly, when it comes to usefulness, Food grade diatomaceous earth is simply tops. It is a natural, safe, affordable, readily available substance that can meet a wide variety of health and wellness, household, gardening, pet care and pest control needs. Using diatomaceous earth is a smart way to save money, improve your health and live well!