Throughout the ages and continents, clay seems to have had an impact on all mankind, whether for medicinal purposes or for other everyday achievements, constructions, decorative objects, pottery or writing materials... They have clearly accompanied the development of human societies. They were unanimous until the arrival of the imposing pharmaceutical industries between the 19th and 20th centuries. It is with happiness that we are witnessing an authentic return to our roots, if one can say so! Clays, these natural products that Mother Nature offers us, have so much to offer. And moreover, by chance, they are found almost everywhere on the planet...
The use of clay for medicinal purposes dates back to the time of Antiquity... So much for having nothing left to prove!
In ancient Egypt, the use of clay was already a custom. Because of its purifying, absorbing and cleansing properties, the Egyptians used it for the momification of the bodies. The famous "Nile mud" was a widely used material during this practice. Before the Egyptians, it seems that the first known mummies were the "chinchorros" from Chile. About 7000 years before Christ, the Chilean mummification consisted in eviscerating the body of the deceased and emptying its skull before coating its bones with clay. This reconstitution of the initial morphology is one of the first prints of the clays in History!
From that time, clay was also present in the pharmacopoeia as evidenced by the papyri recounting stories of humanity and remedies oh so natural! Burns, wounds, stomach aches, diarrhea, clay, among so many other remedies, knew how to make its place to relieve many ailments.
In ancient Greek and Roman times, Hippocrates the Great (460 to 370 BC), the father of medicine, mentions the use of the land of Lemnos, an island located in eastern Greece in the heart of the Aegean Sea. This particular soil turned out to be composed of clays... And its conquest of fame was far from over...
In the 1st century AD, our famous clay was mentioned again as Lemnos clay, by Pliny the Elder (23 to 79 AD), a Roman naturalist and writer, in his famous encyclopedia "Natural History". Then after numerous appearances in medical and pharmacological treatises, between the 10th and 13th centuries, it was great German naturopaths who participated, much later, in a real renaissance of clay for medicinal purposes! In the 19th century, Sebastian Kneipp (1821 to 1897) a German priest became known for his natural therapies. Today, the Kneipp method, which is based on 5 main pillars: hydrotherapy, phytotherapy, physical activity, a healthy diet and the restoration of balance, is widely used in wellness and health establishments. Other German naturopaths, such as Louis Kuhne (1835-1901) and Pastor Emanuel Felke (1856-1926), have continued to use natural remedies such as clay over the years. Moreover, another German, Julius Strumpf, a Berlin physician, successfully used white clay to treat a form of Asian cholera.
So many uses perpetuated through time testifying to an undeniable effectiveness...
Closer to us, during the wars of the previous century, various and varied uses followed... To fight against another infectious disease affecting the digestive system such as dysentery or to help our animal friends to heal their wounds: mud baths they know and they instinctively practice! Clay has had, has and will continue to have many uses, both for humans and animals... And how can we talk about clay without mentioning Raymond Dextreit (1908-2001), a naturopathic doctor who was a pioneer in the use and promotion of clay in the last century through numerous works published since the 1950s? His general commitment to various health issues even earned him the honor of being awarded the Peace Prize in 1989 for natural medicines by the Diplomatic Academy of Peace in Brussels. According to him, "All the possibilities of healing, prevention and maintenance of health are to be found in nature" and in the Company we all agree that Nature is full of treasures...
And finally, did you know that Gandhi (1869 to 1948), the great spiritual leader of India, was a supporter and enthusiast of so-called natural medicines? And among them clay had its place!
Today, after years put aside, clays are resurfacing! This is the case for countries like France practicing the so-called modern medicine because for other countries the use of clay has never disappeared... Indeed, in Madagascar for example, (yes it is an example that is dear to us) traditional medicine is still practiced and the Malagasy markets are full of remedies that we could call "local". In other countries like Morocco, it is the Rhassoul, a clay mostly used for beauty care, that is an integral part of the culture. More widely, it is traditionally used in North Africa during the hammam ritual.
If we look at modern medicine, in France clay has soberly made its place. Yes, the famous Smecta®, for example, is nothing other than a medication made of a type of clay: diosmectite. Also, a very recent way of using clay has (re)emerged. It is called fangotherapy, in other words, treatment with mud.
Definitely, clay has a lot to offer and is gaining in popularity...
The therapeutic virtues are not the only benefits brought by clays... Pottery, painting, sculpture, construction, clay has many strings to its bow!
Through time but also through cultures, clay and its unique properties have also marked the world of materials. Its mixture with water giving an elastic paste and its firing making it a resistant material, have allowed a multiplied use!
For example, it was used for its degreasing and absorbing properties several centuries before our era, by laundrymen. Today, it is useful for example in a litter box for its more absorbent action. This property is also exploited nowadays during treatments and purifications of petroleum products.
In addition, the flexible and moldable characteristics of clay have allowed it to be the basis of many fabrications. Terracotta, ceramics, and even porcelain are none other than differently worked clays. In a more ancestral way, clays served as writing materials to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia but also served as the basis for the manufacture of kitchen utensils, objects and still today the famous pottery.
Clay deposits can be found all over the world, in the United States, the first producer country, but also in Brazil, China and in our beloved country France where quarries still exist today. It is not for nothing that porcelain was developed in Limoges. The discovery of a deposit of white kaolin clay in Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche in 1766, about ten kilometers from the porcelain capital, is at the origin.
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