Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before using any of the herbs and/or remedies mentioned in this article.
Have you ever heard of diatomaceous earth? Most people haven’t, but it’s an incredibly useful mineral. It occurs naturally when algae are fossilized into sedimentary rock that crumbles into a fine white powder.
So what’s so interesting about it? Well, it has many health benefits and everyday uses, it kills critters in your food and around the house, it’s very affordable, and it’s 100% natural. If you’re a prepper or a homesteader and you aren’t using diatomaceous earth, you’re missing out.
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What It Is
Every large body of water contains a type of algae known as diatoms. They are unicellular organisms enclosed in silica. When they die, their skeletal remains sink to the bottom and become fossilized. Over time, these fossils accumulate and form a sedimentary layer known as diatomaceous earth (hereafter referred to as DE).
DE is gathered and sold in two forms: industrial grade and food grade. Industrial grade DE has many uses, but it is mainly used in filtration systems such as pool filters. It is not considered safe to consume or spread around your property.
Food grade DE, on the other hand, is perfectly safe to consume and use on pets, plants, carpets, and anywhere else.
How It Works
Fossilized diatoms have many sharp points and edges, so when they come in contact with insects, they scratch up the waxy coating on their exoskeletons. This causes insects to dry out and die, usually within an hour. Diatomaceous earth kills ants, aphids, beetles, fleas, flies, lice mealworms, mites, slugs, snails, ticks, weevils, and all sorts of other insects.
Not only is it safe and non-toxic, bugs can never develop an immunity to it. And because it absorbs moisture, it keeps foods from clumping, germinating, or growing moldy. As long as you keep DE dry, it has an unlimited shelf life.
How To Use It
Food grade diatomaceous earth is mainly used in wheat and flour, but it can also be mixed with beans, corn, legumes, oats, rice, and any other dry food that bugs might contaminate. There’s no wrong way to apply DE, as long as it’s thoroughly mixed into your food.
You’ll need 1-2 cups of DE per 50 pounds of food (or 1-2 teaspoons of DE per 1 pound of food). If you’re planning on storing food for more than just a few years, the upper limit is probably better. 1 cup of DE weighs 2.25 ounces, so you should get at least 70 cups out of a 10 pound bag.
To mix in the DE, I recommend using a 5 gallon bucket and gamma seal lid. Pour in a pound of food and a teaspoon of DE, screw on the lid, and roll the bucket around or shake it up until the food and DE are mixed together.
Then add another pound of food and another teaspoon of DE and repeat. If you don’t have a bucket and lid, just stir it up with a large stick or utensil. When you’re done, pour your food into mylar bags and start sealing them.
Although food grade DE is safe, be aware that it can severely dry out your skin, eyes, throat, and sinuses. DE is abrasive and it absorbs moisture, so avoid getting it anywhere on your body and be careful not to inhale the dust as it’s bad for your lungs (according to this).
Before I continue, I must point out that the following claims about diatomaceous earth have not been evaluated by the FDA and should not substitute for advice from your doctor or pharmacist. This information is based on reviews by people who have used diatomaceous earth to improve their health.
Thousands of people have reported all sorts of health benefits from adding DE to their diets. This is probably because DE is a great source of silica, an important part of the human diet. Silica is good for you because it:
- Improves skin. (Here’s how to make a facial exfoliator.)
- Strengthens nails.
- Make your hair shiny.
- Strengthens your immune system.
- Is good for your teeth. (Here’s how to make toothpaste with DE.)
- Strengthens your bones.
- Improves joints (according to this study).
It is also good for vital organs such as:
- The liver.
- The lungs.
- The heart.
- The brain.
Unfortunately, people no longer consume as much silica as they used to, mainly because of modern agricultural practices. Pesticides and certain fertilizers along with the invention of hybrid foods have significantly reduced the amount of silica in our diets.
To make up for this deficiency, some people take 1-2 tablespoons of diatomaceous earth every day. It can be mixed with applesauce, yogurt, juice, protein shakes, soda, or plain water. People who do this have reported:
- Less joint pain.
- Lower cholesterol (according to this study).
- Lower blood pressure.
- Stable blood sugar.
- More energy.
- More restful sleep.
- Faster weight loss.
DE has also been known to take care of other health problems. For example, it can:
- Absorb endotoxins.
- Eliminate parasites.
- Regulate digestion.
- Stop urinary tract infections.
- Help the body absorb nutrients (by cleansing the intestinal lining).
Some people add a bit to their toothpaste and face wash to give their teeth and skin a better scrub. There haven’t been many long-term studies of the effects of DE on human health, but it is definitely safe to consume. And based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews, it is probably worth a try.
Diatomaceous earth isn’t just good for killing critters in food. It can also:
- Kill bugs everywhere. Just sprinkle it on carpets and bedding, spread it on the floors of closets and pantries, make a border around the outside of your house, spread it around your yard, and pour it on anthills.
- Kill fleas and parasites. Sprinkle DE on your pet’s fur, and add it to your pet’s food for worm and parasite control.
The absorbent qualities of DE also make it good for:
- Deodorizing. You can sprinkle DE in garbage cans and litter boxes, or you can set an open jar in your refrigerator. For drawers and boxes, some people put DE in a matchstick box, poke holes in it, and place it in the back.
- Deodorant. It can deodorize your home, but it can also deodorize you. Here’s how to make deodorant with DE.
- Soaking up spills (oil, juice, milk, or anything liquid) on concrete, wood, tile, and carpet.
- Removing stains. Work some DE into oil stains on your clothes, then wait for a while and let it absorb the oil. You can also remove carpet stains. Rub a lot of DE into the stain, wait a few hours, and vacuum it up.
- Cleaning. When mixed with water or lemon juice, DE can be used to polish metals, sinks, and bathroom surfaces. (Here’s how to make an all-purpose cleaner with DE.)
DE is also useful if you’re living a self-sufficient lifestyle and have a garden and/or farm animals. Use it to:
- Kill garden pests. Apply a light dusting to your plants if pests are becoming a problem.
- Improve chicken health. Add a small amount of DE to their food in order to help chickens produce eggs with stronger shells.
- Improve your farm animals’ health. A little bit of DE in their food will kill parasites and remove toxins.
- Help compost piles. It stops odors and kills pests without affecting beneficial organisms.
- Improve garden soil. DE helps soil to hold water without affecting natural drainage.
Diatomaceous earth is a great investment for any prepper or homesteader. And at $2 a pound, it is very cost-effective. Again, make sure it is food grade before you purchase it. I myself purchased this 10-pound bag and am very happy with it.
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