Diatomaceous Earth Beginner’s Guide – Versatile Universal Substance?


Diatomaceous earth offers many different applications, properties and health benefits. The sheer amount of information available can sometimes be confusing, making it difficult to understand the potential benefits of diatomaceous earth.

In this article we’ll cover the fundamentals of DE, from its origins and grades to uses and health applications.

What is D.E. and Where Does it Come From?

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring mineral. Composed from the fossilized remains of million year old aquatic plant life called diatoms, diatomaceous earth is mined from mineral deposits formed from millennia-old lakes and streams.

Diatomaceous earth is primarily made up of silica– over 85% of most DE is silica, with trace amounts of calcium, magnesium and other elements making up the rest.

The molecular composition of diatomaceous earth is what makes it such a valuable and mutable element. Under a microscope, DE is composed from fine particulates that have sharp, rough edges.

Although these edges are not sharp enough to damage the cells within the human body, they are able to scrape away toxins and pathogens that build up in the digestive system.

Diatomaceous earth is also extremely absorbent, which makes it ideal for either absorbing unwanted smells and essential oils, or for dehydrating and destroying parasites such as bedbugs or fleas. Diatomaceous earth can be broken up into several different categories, called grades, which dictate what it can be used for.

The Diatomaceous Earth Grading System

The first step in understanding the potential applications of DE is getting to know the grading system used to classify it. DE is available in multiple different grades that sort the different types of DE according to the treatments raw, unaltered deposits have undergone before sale.

The most common forms of diatomaceous earth that are commercially available can be broken up into four different grades.

Pure Food Grade diatomaceous earth is the most natural and organic grade of DE. Mined from the ground and packaged without any chemical treatments, food grade is 100% natural and completely inert, generally regarded as safe for consumption. Food grade DE is used for health treatments, DE detoxification, and as a dietary aid.

The second most popular grade of diatomaceous earth is Crawling Insect Control diatomaceous earth. Insect control grade DE is essentially the same product as food grade DE, but is subject to different regulatory control bodies and therefore requires separate classification and packaging.

While insect control is similar to food grade DE in that it’s untreated and raw, it’s not necessarily safe to assume that insect control DE is safe for human consumption.

The FDA regulates dietary supplements and has classified food grade DE as “GRAS”, or generally regarded as safe, while the EPA- the governing body for pesticides- manages the classification of insect control DE.

Pool Grade DE is the third most popular grade of diatomaceous earth. Pool grade DE is unsafe for human consumption as it is subjected to extremely high temperatures of over 1000°C. This process removes all impurities apart from pure crystalline silica, creating a highly effective pool filter substance. There are no applications for pool grade DE outside of pool maintenance uses.

Alternative DE blends make up the final element of the DE grading and classification spectrum. This grade can cover diatomaceous earth blends that use food grade DE as part of their formula, or other blends such as Red diatomaceous earth.

Applications of Diatomaceous Earth

While diatomaceous earth has an extremely diverse range of applications from stabilizing explosives to filling out livestock feed, the most popular uses are either as a dietary supplement or health aid or a pest control tool.

Using diatomaceous earth as a dietary supplement generally involves the use of DE as a detoxificant, while pest control applications are usually aimed at removing parasite infestations from the home and garden.

Diatomaceous Earth as a Health Supplement

There are a number of compelling reasons to use diatomaceous earth as a health supplement. Offering both internal and external uses, the practical applications of DE are limited only by the imagination of the user.

DE can be used as a face or body scrub, as a desiccant to treat foot fungus or even mixed in with toothpaste in small amounts to deliver an abrasive teeth whitening effect. One of the most popular uses of DE in promoting health, however, is as a dietary supplement.

DE contains a high amount of silica, which is an essential element used by the body in the creation of keratin and collagen. Keratin is what makes up the nails and skin of the body, so supplementing the diet with high amounts of silica is associated with better, shinier and healthier hair and even promotes hair growth in individuals suffering from baldness.

Increased silica intake is also linked to heightened collagen production. Increasing the amount of essential minerals required to synthesize collagen results in improved ligament and joint health, reduces inflammation and has even been shown to reduce the symptoms is arthritis. Diatomaceous earth has been shown in a conclusive clinical trial to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Another promising application of diatomaceous earth is as a detox supplement. The molecular structure of diatomaceous earth consists of tiny particles with sharp, rough edges.

These edges aren’t sharp enough to damage the digestive tract, but are able to scrape away built up toxins, pathogens, heavy metals and other unwanted detritus.

Detoxifying the digestive tract in this manner has been linked to better digestive health, increased immune function, and heightened energy levels.

Introducing Diatomaceous Earth to Your Diet

The best method of testing the health benefits of diatomaceous earth for yourself is by slowly introducing it into your diet. By beginning with one teaspoon of DE taken in water every morning, you’ll be able to effectively gauge the effect of DE on your health.

Some individuals find the gritty texture of DE unpalatable, so you may want to mix your DE dose in with a smoothie, fruit juice of healthy milkshake.

It’s best to take DE on an empty stomach so it can’t bond with the ingredients of a meal. This allows the DE to clean the digestive system and delivers the highest possible nutritional content.

Consuming DE separately from food also ensures that the DE will absorb the toxins from your body instead of the nutrients in your food. As with adding any supplement to your diet it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you’re on any medications or pharmaceutical treatments.

Diatomaceous Earth as a Pest Control Tool

Diatomaceous earth is an extremely effective pest control tool. The powdery silicate nature of DE causes it to bond to the exoskeleton of insects and dehydrate them, drawing the lipid oils out of their bodies and killing them in a short amount of time.

De is an effective pesticide that can be used against all manner of creepy crawlies, from bedbugs and fleas to aphids, lice, cockroaches and spiders.

DE offers a number of unique advantages over traditional chemical pesticides. Completely toxin and poison free, DE is able to remove pest infestations without presenting a risk to your family or pets and can be used in food preparation areas such as the kitchen or pantry.

Insects are unable to build up a resistance to diatomaceous earth in the way that they can with chemical pesticides, so it’s always guaranteed to work.

Finally, DE remains effective for far longer than any other pest control tool available. As long as the DE you use to remove pest infestations remains dry, it will remain effective. While DE isn’t dangerous or toxic, it can create a mess when used as a pest control agent, coating your home in a fine white powder.

Always be sure to gear up with a dust mask, protective goggles and gloves when handling DE to minimize health risks. Cleaning up DE can also be slightly frustrating as the fine particulate composition can damage or even burn out smaller home vacuum motors. When cleaning up diatomaceous earth, you may want to consider hiring a shop vac or industrial vacuum.

Where to Start

Getting started with DE is as easy as ordering some food grade diatomaceous earth for yourself and getting started. For a first time foray into the world of DE, it’s best to purchase food grade DE as it can be used as both a health supplement and a pest control agent. If you’d like further information on the specifics of various diatomaceous earth applications or more detailed information, feel free to check out some of the other articles in our knowledge base.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9533930

Diatomaceous Earth Information Guide:

We have a wide variety of food grade diatomaceous earth resources for you look through to make your life a little easier and chemical-free. Please check out the other valuable resources and versatile application uses for silica-rich diatomaceous earth below:

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