Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 1739–1765 | Cite as

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

  • Celso de Sousa Figueiredo GomesEmail author
Original Paper


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.


Healing clay Edible clay Mud therapy Peloid therapy Health benefits and risks 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit “GeoBioTec” of FCT (Foundation for Science and Technology)University of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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