What is Diatomaceous Earth? Benefits and Uses

Diatomaceous earth is a common ingredient in many household products, personal care products, and foodstuff. This white powder, which is made from the sediments of fossilized algae found in water, is beneficial for health.

It has been used for decades in farming to remove insects and parasites, water filtering, skin products and in pressurized liquids.


People have recently started using diatomaceous earth as a dietary supplement. Let us learn more about the benefits associated with this mineral rock.

What is diatomaceous earth?

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally-formed siliceous sedimentary mineral rock. It is derived from the microscopic skeletons of diatoms, oceanic unicellular algae (1).

Diatomaceous earth is also known as dinosaur dust, miracle mineral, fossil shell, and ancient treasure.

The diatoms in the diatomaceous earth are over 30 million years old and are made up of silica. There are various types of natural silica including sand, emerald, quartz, feldspar, mica, clay, asbestos and glass.

Diatomaceous earth is unique because it is a concentrated source of silica (2). It is available in two different grades as food grade (which we can ingest) and non-food grade (for industrial use).

Food grade DE

This type of diatomaceous earth contains 0.5 to 2 percent crystalline silica and is used as an insecticide in the food and agricultural industries. EPA, USDA, and FDA have approved it for use (3).

Non-food grade DE

Non-food grade or filter grade DE contains more than 60 percent crystalline silica. It has many industrial uses, including water filtration and production of dynamite.

Silica, which is the critical component of DE is found in the Earth’s sand, rock and clay. It is also an essential component of bones, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles.

It is a crucial mineral for healthy bones, teeth, and nails and is also needed to carry calcium to various parts of the body (4).

Benefits of diatomaceous earth

1. Detoxifies the body

Diatomaceous earth is a popular natural way to cleanse heavy metals from the body. It works as a detoxifying agent by cleaning the blood and killing viruses and parasites. It cleanses the digestive tract, helps curb gas and boosts liver function.

The silica particles in this mineral rock neutralize the charge of the free radicals and eliminate them from the body. This process helps slow down the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, silica reduces aluminum availability in the human gastrointestinal tract. So, it has a vital role in the amelioration of aluminum toxicity (5).

Diatomaceous Earth benefits infographic

2. Improves bone health

Silicon, the oxidized form of silica, is water soluble, absorbable and bioavailable to humans. Silicon plays a vital role in the bone mineralization, collagen synthesis and structural integrity of nails, hair, and skin (6).

According to a report published in the Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging, low bone mass or osteoporosis is the silent epidemic of the 21st century. Evidence of over 30 years suggests that dietary silicon is beneficial to bone and connective tissue health (7).

Due to its silica content, it can help increase silicon levels in the body. Though we need more research on this topic, the silica content in diatomaceous earth can improve bone and joint health.

3. May lower cholesterol levels

According to a study published in the European Journal of Medical Research, diatomaceous earth may play an essential role in reducing blood cholesterol levels.

During the investigation, 19 subjects with a history of high cholesterol, were given 250 mg of the diatomaceous earth thrice a day for eight weeks.

The study found that the serum cholesterol levels of all the subjects went down by an average of 13.2 percent as compared to the start of the study.

Four weeks after the subjects stopped diatomaceous earth intake, their serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides continued to stay low, and HDL became more significant.

These findings lead the researchers to conclude that diatomaceous earth is helpful in reducing blood cholesterol and positively influencing lipid metabolism in humans (8).

However, more placebo-based studies are needed to confirm these findings.

4. Helps protect skin, nails, and teeth

Diatomaceous earth is often used in toothpaste, exfoliators, polishes and skin scrubs, thanks to its naturally abrasive qualities. It contains silica, which is known to promote stronger hair, nails, and teeth.

Silica is vital for many functions in the body. Silica deficiency can slacken your skin, weaken nails, and make hair brittle.

It also has anti-aging effects as it helps with the use of calcium in forming healthy bones, nails, and teeth (9).

5. Purifies water

The chemical composition of diatomaceous earth makes it highly useful for filtration of water, and this is the reason it is used in many filtration products.

It is also used for filtration and purification of fish tanks. Diatomaceous earth is also commonly used during the manufacture of sugar, honey, beer, and wine, without altering their nutritional properties.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, diatomaceous earth is extremely useful in the removal of viruses in water.

The researchers used a filter with diatomaceous earth to purify tap water that contained heavy metal and various viruses. The results showed that filters with diatomaceous earth helped remove 80 percent of enteroviruses including poliovirus 1, echovirus 5, coxsackievirus B5 and coliphage MS2 (10).

6. Effective treatment against parasites

Parasitic infestations are an epidemic in the US. Parasites can cause significant harm as many of them can travel in the bloodstream.

They obtain sustenance by robbing the body of nutrients. Roundworm, heartworm, tapeworm, pinworm, and threadworm are some of the most common parasites.

We can avoid most of these parasites by cooking our food thoroughly and drinking only filtered water.

Diatomaceous earth is among the best natural anti-parasitic medications. This natural pesticide does not cause any harm to humans or pets. It kills parasites by dehydrating them. Diatomaceous earth is also helpful in killing blood-borne parasites.

According to the Journal of Poultry Science, diatomaceous earth is an effective treatment for controlling parasites in organically raised free-range hens (11).

The study found that diatomaceous earth has the potential to be an effective treatment to help control parasites and improve production of these hens.

7. Is an effective insecticide

Food grade DE is also used as an insecticide. When an insect comes in contact with diatomaceous earth, the silica removes the out wax coating from the insect’s exoskeleton, and this dehydrates and kills the insect (12).

This quality of DE makes it useful as an insecticide in homes. It is an effective chemical-free way to get rid of cockroaches, ants, bed bugs, dust mites and fleas from homes.

How to use diatomaceous earth?

Diatomaceous earth is a unique substance that has a variety of uses. Here is a brief overview of the different applications –

1. At home

DE works well to treat bug infestation at home. Just spread diatomaceous earth on the area that needs cleaning. Let it stay for a little while and vacuum it after some time.

It can also be used to deodorize bad smells from garbage, the refrigerator, shoes, and socks.

2. In your garden

Diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide which is very effective against anthills and other pests in the garden. Spray your plants with water and apply DE as this will help it stick to the plants.

3. For your pets

If your pet has picked up pests or ticks, diatomaceous earth is an effective natural remedy. Vacuum the kennel, rug, and pillow of your dog to get rid of any flea eggs.

Dust the area with diatomaceous earth and leave it for as long as possible. Let your dog lounge around on DE for a few days and then bath your dog.

4. Have it with tea

We have already discussed the various health benefits of consuming the diatomaceous earth. From stronger hair and nails to relief from joint pains, it treats multiple illnesses.

You can take one teaspoon a day with some juice or tea in the morning. It’s best to have DE on an empty stomach. Have additional water every time you have DE to stay hydrated.

5. For livestock

Farmers can use DE for keeping the living quarters of their livestock free from any insects and parasites. It can also deodorize smells.

Side effects

Food grade diatomaceous earth is generally considered safe. However, some people may experience breathing difficulty and sneezing, coughing, eye, nose, and throat irritation if the inhale DE. Smokers, people with asthma and children may be more sensitive to DE.


No adverse health effects have been observed in animals even after the diatomaceous earth has been applied to their skin five times a week.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, inhaling tiny amounts of crystalline silicon over time can lead to silicosis and chronic bronchitis.

However, this risk is very low as the diatomaceous earth used for human consumption is amorphous and not crystalline.

Final thoughts

Diatomaceous earth is a chalky natural powder that is made from microscopic single-celled algae that live in oceans, lakes, and marshes.

It is widely used as a filtering agent and for parasite control. Food grade diatomaceous earth can also be consumed, and its benefits include detoxification of the body, improved bone health, lower cholesterol levels, and healthier skin, nails, and teeth.


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