Natural Health Hack #11: Diatomaceous Earth

A heaping mound of DE
Street value: $2.00

What is it?

Diatomaceous earth is the powered, fossilized shell remains of a type of ancient marine algae.  The tiny shells are made of silicon dioxide, otherwise known as silica, a common ingredient in hair products and cosmetics.  Silicon dioxide is present in the earth's crust in large deposits all over the world where it  is then mined, processed, and put to use by humans in an impressive number of ways.

Food grade diatomaceous earth is silica powder with less than .5 percent crystalline silicon dioxide.  Crystalline particles are smaller than the amorphous particles in food grade DE and, in large quantities, can be dangerous when consumed or inhaled.   Food grade DE, however, is safe, dirt cheap (pun intended), and widely available.

Incredible, Edible

Silica is an important mineral that exists naturally in the soil and is present to some degree in any diet coming more-or-less directly from the earth.  The amount of silica one takes through their diet depends largely on how many fruits and vegetables one consumes, and on the quality of soil and agricultural practices with which the food was grown.

In the body, silica is used to make healthy skin, hair, bones, teeth, and nails.  Expensive silica supplements may be found in health food stores or even be prescribed by your doctor, but a spoonful of food grade DE in a glass of water once a day works just as well to ensure you are getting enough silica in your diet.

Food grade diatomaceous earth may also be taken to improve digestion and detoxification.  DE particles are highly absorbent with sharp edges and a net-like structure.  They move rapidly through the digestive tract, collecting junk in the intestines and sweeping the intestinal wall clean.  My dogs and I take DE regularly to support healthy tissue growth, clean the digestive tract, and keep internal parasites at bay.

Cosmetic Catch-All

Silica is a common ingredient in cosmetics, lotions, and hair products.  In its dry form, it is a remarkably absorbent fine powder; when wet, it has a smooth, almost slippery feel.  Food grade diatomaceous earth (a.k.a. silica powder) is a natural alternative that costs literally pennies on the dollar compared to specialty cosmetics.  It has fast become a staple in my personal beauty regimen.  These are a few ways I use it at home:
  • Dust into hair to add body and malleability.
    • Dust hair, shake in with fingers, shape as desired.
  • Dust face for a translucent matte cosmetic powder.
    • Dust on and blend with fingers or brush.
    • Note: This is the best shine-control powder I have ever used, but it may not work on all complexions.  If you are very dark skinned and try DE on your face, please let me know how it goes.
  • Dab blemishes with DE for both treatment and concealer.
    • Dip a fingertip in some DE and dab the spot to zap it dry.
    • Blend to conceal redness.
  • Apply to rashes and itchy skin for relief.
    • Yoga butt?  Bra-strap back?  DE is where it's at.
I keep my cosmetic DE in an old loose powder container and apply it with a make-up brush.  For hair and skin, I bought a travel-size bottle of baby powder for .99 cents, emptied it, cleaned it, and filled it with DE.  Both are working beautifully.

Bugs Beware

Diatomaceous earth is perhaps best known for its properties as an insecticide.  Understandably, this could cause one to be wary of eating DE or dusting it on the skin, but the reason food grade DE is not dangerous to humans is that DE kills insects physically, not chemically.  The sharp-edged, absorbent particles damage the waxy coating that covers the exoskeleton of most insects, exposing their soft, vulnerable insides which are rapidly dried out by the DE, killing them dead.  The fine particles, however, are safe for animals and humans.  Dust doorways, around the trash can, under the oven, and anywhere else bugs tend to congregate in your home to deal with unwanted insect populations.

DE can also be used as a safe, natural alternative to chemical flea and tick prevention for your pets.  Dust your pet's coat and bedding with DE to prevent flea infestation and kill ticks.  While you're at it, put some in your dog or cat's food to ensure your pet is not host to any gut-based parasites.

Final Thoughts

I am not a doctor.  I do not have medical training.  What I do have is an interest in living well and a thirst for information.  Many of my natural health endeavors have been and continue to be experimental.  That being said,  I have found diatomaceous earth to be safe, versatile and, given its myriad uses, absurdly affordable.  I encourage you to do your own research, and if you are going to try DE in any of the ways I've mentioned here,  I urge you to ensure that it is high quality food grade diatomaceous earth like the products I've linked to below.

Links to Purchase


  1. So glad I found this blog. Your posts are so informative and helpful. Happy to be a follower! Thank you.