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Chemical and Mineralogical Characteristics of French Green Clays Used for Healing

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The worldwide emergence of infectious diseases, together with the increasing incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, elevate the need to properly detect, prevent, and effectively treat these infections. The overuse and misuse of common antibiotics in recent decades stimulates the need to identify new inhibitory agents. Therefore, natural products like clays, that display antibacterial properties, are of particular interest.

The absorptive properties of clay minerals are well documented for healing skin and gastrointestinal ailments. However, the antibacterial properties of clays have received less scientific attention. French green clays have recently been shown to heal Buruli ulcer, a necrotic or 'flesh-eating' infection caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Assessing the antibacterial properties of these clays could provide an inexpensive treatment for Buruli ulcer and other skin infections.

Antimicrobial testing of the two clays on a broad-spectrum of bacterial pathogens showed that one clay promotes bacterial growth (possibly provoking a response from the natural immune system), while another kills bacteria or significantly inhibits bacterial growth. This paper compares the mineralogy and chemical composition of the two French green clays used in the treatment of Buruli ulcer.

Mineralogically, the two clays are dominated by 1Md illite and Fe-smectite. Comparing the chemistry of the clay minerals and exchangeable ions, we conclude that the chemistry of the clay, and the surface properties that affect pH and oxidation state, control the chemistry of the water used to moisten the clay poultices and contribute the critical antibacterial agent(s) that ultimately debilitate the bacteria.
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Keywords: ANTIBACTERIAL; GREEN CLAY; HEALING; ILLITE; MINERAL CHEMISTRY; SMECTITE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2008

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  • The JOURNAL publishes articles of interest to the international community of clay scientists, including but not limited to areas in mineralogy, crystallography, geology, geochemistry, sedimentology, soil science, agronomy, physical chemistry, colloid chemistry, ceramics, petroleum engineering, foundry engineering, and soil mechanics. Clays and Clay Minerals exists to disseminate to its worldwide readership the most recent developments in all of these aspects of clay materials. Manuscripts are welcome from all countries.

    Clays and Clay Minerals is the official publication of The Clay Minerals Society.

    The Editor-in-Chief is Professor Joseph W. Stucki [email protected]

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