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Diatomaceous Earth – The Crazy Useful Powder

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an amazing substance. It is composed of the fossilized shells of “diatoms” which are one-celled algae. They are a still a major source of food for marine life and have not changed a lot since dinosaurs walked the earth.

Diatoms are made of silica (sand) which makes up their exoskeletons or shells. As the diatoms die, they fall to the bottom of the sea or lakes that they live in. Today, we have deposits of diatoms that died 30 million years ago when the earth was mostly covered by water. These deposits are known as diatomaceous earth.

Where Can I Get It?

Like most things, you can get it at Amazon. Here is the one I recommend.

Diatomaceous earth can be used for a crazy number of things – from insecticides to filters to cleaning agents to health products, the list is amazing.

Insecticide – non-toxic for you but killer for them

Diatomaceous earth is virtually (don't breathe in the powder) non-toxic to humans and animals but it sure can get rid of bugs. Diatomaceous earth works to get rid of insects and other bugs because it is comprised of silica – the same thing that makes up glass.

The tiny edges in each bit of diatomaceous earth powder makes microscopic slices into a bug’s exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is what holds all the bug’s insides “inside” – including the moisture. When the tiny little glass edges cut into the exoskeleton – the bug dries out.

​You can dust inside and outside of your house to get rid of roaches, fleas, spiders, ants and other bugs that “bug” you.

Kill roaches using diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth even works on something as insidious as fire ants – case studies show that it may take a while as it isn’t really “poison” but once they are dead, they probably won’t come back. Diatomaceous earth works faster for insect control in a hot, dry environment but it will work even in a humid area.

To apply diatomaceous earth, use a rolling seed fertilizer or just poke some holes into the top of a coffee can and sprinkle around wherever you need it. You may need to reapply it a couple of times a season if it rains a lot but it isn’t biodegradable so it could work for a long time.

It is safe enough to use around pets and kids but you should avoid inhaling it. If you use diatomaceous earth outside around your lawn and garden, remember that you will be killing beneficial insects as well – but it may be worth it to you if you have ever had a flea infestation or stepped in a fire-ant mound. Most gardeners would say to keep it out of the actual garden – just on the lawn and around the house – inside and out. Lastly, it's important to use food grade diatomaceous earth for killing insects because chemical grade DE won't work for that purpose at all.

Health benefits – what and why?

Inside the body

Diatomaceous earth has been shown to have health benefits when taken internally. As mentioned above, there are two types of diatomaceous earth – chemical grade and food grade. Food grade diatomaceous earth can be taken internally and can treat a number of disorders – likely because of its silica content.

Recent studies show that diatomaceous earth taken internally can help to strengthen bones and joints, helping to prevent osteoarthritis and possibly even restoring some bone health. It may help to prevent premature aging and wrinkling of the skin, ward off Alzheimer’s disease, and maintain heart health. This is in part due to a possible lack of silica in some people but also because it may help to “scour” the body of bad fats. Eliminating or reducing bad cholesterol and triglycerides can help prevent risks associated with high cholesterol such as heart attacks and stroke.

It may also be effective as an anti-inflammatory and helps to remove intestinal bacteria and other overgrowth in the GI system. The GI system is the first line in the immune defense – so improving GI health boosts the immune system and helps the body ward off illnesses and eliminate toxins.

Diatomaceous earth skin treatment

The major component of diatoms exoskeletons is silica – made from solubilized sand. It is abundant on the earth but usually not absorbable by humans – and we need it. It is only present in a few foods – mostly foods that have a lot of “structure” like beets, bell peppers, jicama (Jerusalem artichoke), grain husks, asparagus – and some leafy greens like collard greens, turnip greens and mustard greens.

Unfortunately – a lot of our soil today is depleted and we don’t get enough silica. As we age, our bodies use up the silica we have and don’t absorb enough to keep up. Diatomaceous earth provides a whopping dose of silica – with few, if any negative effects. Don’t inhale it though –as it can irritate the lungs.

You can get diatomaceous earth in capsules or make your own but you can also mix a spoonful right in a glass of water or other liquid – or even add it to food. Be sure that you use ONLY food grade DE and follow up with a second glass of water.

Diatomaceous earth is good for pets and livestock too – basically doing the same thing in them that it does for humans. Add some to their food or feed and you could see some health improvements in the coats, GI system – and improved general health.

Use diatomaceous earth for stinky feet
Outside the body
  • Face Mask and Cleanser - DE mixes with water to make a soft facial scrub. Make a paste and use it to gently scrub in a circular motion until the face is covered. Leave for a couple of minutes and wash off. It exfoliates the face - and absorbs the extra oil. It can also be mixed with your regular cleanser if you desire. 
  • Teeth Cleaner - Add a bit of DE onto your toothpaste after you have applied it to your tooth brush. Brush your teeth just like you always do - but notice that your teeth feel extra smooth. DE removes plaque, polishes teeth, helps prevent tartar buildup - and can even whiten your smile by removing surface stains. 
  • Shoe Deodorizer - If your feet smell less-than-desirable, sprinkle some DE into your shoes. If you don't want to put the powder directly into your footwear - fill up a couple of old socks or stockings and tie knots at the top. Then place them inside your shoes or boots overnight until you use them again. 
How can it help around the house?

Because diatomaceous earth is a very mild abrasive, it can be used for a number of things in and around the house. It also acts as an absorbent for moisture and odors.

  • Metal Cleaner - DE mixed with a small bit of water to form a paste makes a great metal polisher. It also makes a great soft scrub for showers and sinks - and won't scratch your faucets.
  • Carpet Cleaning - DE works great for carpet stains. Just cover the stain with the powder and lightly scrub or brush into the carpet. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight and then vacuum it up. Works like a "dry" stain remover. 
  • Oil Stains - For oil stains on the driveway, garage floor or any other outdoor surface, make sure the area is dry and then cover the stain with the DE. Let the powder sit for at least a day and then scrape off with a shovel or paint scraper and toss it all into the trash.
  • Refrigerator and Freezer Odor - DE works as well as baking soda to get rid of odors in the freezer or fridge. Just treat it the same as you would baking soda - leave an open container in the fridge and replace it every month or more as needed. 
  • Stinky Garbage Cans - The stank in your garbage can is probably a combination of moisture, oils and other liquids. DE works to absorb the oils and liquids - and the odors. Sprinkle it in the can and let it sit for a while. Once it has absorbed the liquid, shake it out - or add more if it is too sticky. Once you have shaken most of it out - you can hose out the can and let it dry.
Why does it work?

Diatomaceous earth has all of these benefits because of the silica – that’s it. The silica.

About the author

    Melissa Lind

    Melissa Lind holds a degree from the University Of Texas College Of Pharmacy and has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare field including pharmacy practice, clinical research and community college instruction. Melissa has been freelance writer and health-blogger, specializing in health and lifestyle topics since 2006 and has been published on sites such as eHow.com, Livestrong.com and Livewell.com.

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