Diatomaceous earth or as some people call it DE, is a naturally occurring sediment of the siliceous mineral compound. These are the remains of algae-like sea plants called diatoms.
Diatomaceous earth has been mined for a very long time and is associated with lots of industrial uses. With recent revolutionized research, diatomaceous earth can be found in the market as dietary supplements which are linked to numerous health benefits.
Apart from being used as a supplement, DE can also be used in the garden in a range of ways. It is a unique product that will help in various ways. However, DE is also thought to have a few negative effects on the body especially, in the lungs. Keep reading to find out more about diatomaceous earth.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is manufactured from fossilized sea plants that look like algae, DE is extracted from the earth. It is majorly composed of skeletons of algae which are microscopic and have been fossilized for millions of years. These algae water plants are known as diatoms which gives the product its name.
There are two major divisions of diatomaceous earth. The first is called food grade which has been specifically made for human consumption. The other type is called filter grade which is not meant for human consumption but used for industrial purposes.
The component of diatomaceous earth, diatoms are mainly composed of a chemical compound known as silica. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, silica is a natural component of many things in the environment. These include all kinds of sand, rocks, plants, and even humans. Nevertheless, diatomaceous earth can be used as a major source of silica.
According to published studies, the average content of diatomaceous earth in commercial products containing it, ranges between 80% and 90% including iron oxide in small amounts and several trace minerals.
Food-Grade DE and Filter-Grade DE
Silica which is the main mineral component of diatomaceous earth is found naturally in two forms. That is, crystalline and non-crystalline or amorphous.
The sharp crystalline form, when viewed under a microscope looks like glass. Hence other properties, it can be applied in the industry in various ways. The concentrations of crystalline silica vary in both types of diatomaceous earth, that is food grade DE and filter grade DE.
Food grade diatomaceous earth contains about 0.5-2% of crystalline silica. Food industries use it as an anti-caking agent while agricultural industries use it as an insecticide. Several regulators had approved its use including the Food and Drug Association (FDA), United Department of Agriculture (USDA), and EPA.
Filter grade diatomaceous earth is also called non-food grade. Concentrations of crystalline silica in it are up to 60%. This type has been found to be toxic to mammals. However, in the industries it serves many purposes including the production of dynamite and water filtration.
When Diatomaceous Earth Is Used As an Insecticide
As had been mentioned earlier, food-grade diatomaceous earth is mostly used as an insecticide. It works effectively in the killing of insects. Once it lands on an insect, the silica in DE kills the insect by removing its outer waxy layer (coating)from its exoskeleton.
According to the research findings by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, when the coating is removed from the insect, it simply dies of dehydration as it can’t retain water anymore.Additionally, some farmers use diatomaceous earth to kill intestinal worms by adding it directly to livestock feeds. It is worth noting that this use is not proven.
What Are The Health Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth?
Recently, many supplement brands have started using food-grade diatomaceous earth as a dietary supplement because of its health benefits. These include supporting healthy digestion, purifying the digestive tract, reducing cholesterol, improving heart health, promoting the growth of hair, boosting the body with trace minerals, improving the health of skin, promoting strong nails, and improving bone health.
It is worth noting that most of these claims are not theoretical and are only based on anecdotal evidence. Therefore, added human studies need to be done to prove.
1. Improve Bone Health
Your body stores many minerals including silicon which is a non-oxidized form of silica. Researchers have not yet fully come up with the exact role of silicon, but to some extent, it is believed to strengthen bones and improve the structure of hair, nails, and skin.
It is also said that, since diatomaceous earth contains lots of silica, it can effectively increase the levels of silicon in your body. However, the type of silica found in DE is largely insoluble, therefore, not well absorbed in the body. Similarly, according to researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, only a small amount of silicon is released from silica and which the body can absorb.Therefore, the consumption of diatomaceous earth cannot be of any meaningful benefit to the bones.
2. May Help Purify the Digestive Tract
Manufacturers of diatomaceous earth have highly proposed that it can help cleanse the digestive tract. According to published studies, it is believed that DE performs this function by removing heavy metals from water the same way industrial-grade DE does.
However,there is no quality human study to verify that this action can be applied in the digestive tract of a human. Furthermore, there is no proof or study to show that the human body contains toxins that must be removed.The human body can perfectly detoxify itself without being supplemented with any drug.
Side Effects of Diatomaceous Earth
Studies have shown that consuming food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe. It is not changed in the digestive system and neither does it enter the bloodstream. Noteworthy, inhaling diatomaceous earth can be unsafe. This is because it will irritate the lungs.
What’s more, inhaling crystalline silica can lead to silicosis – a condition characterized by inflammation and scarring of the lungs.
Diatomaceous earth is a type of sand obtained from fossilized sea algae. Two types of DE include food-grade and filter grade and are used for human consumption and industrial use respectively. Inhaling crystalline silica in DE can cause silicosis.