Geophagy - Eating Earth and soil like substances

"Earth-eating, or geophagy, is a well-documented phenomenon. Many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and even insects, in all parts of the world, eat dirt. In the animal world, parrots seek out particular clays and deer lick hollows into patches of soil, traveling long distances to reach these tasty spots. Cattle will chew on clods of particular earths; in South Africa, cattle will often be found meditatively licking away at termite nests, hollowing out polished scoops in any weak spots. Termite nests are rich in trace elements, as these "white ants" carry up fragments from as much as a hundred feet down." 

Geophagy (earth-eating) has long been assumed to be an attempt to rectify mineral deficiencies in an animal or person's diet. However new evidence suggests that this cannot always be the case. It has become apparent that the clay content is often the most important ingredient of selected soils. Clay is an effective binding agent as its chemical structure allows other chemicals to bond with it and so lose their reactivity. Clay is therefore an effective deactivator of toxins from diet or pathogens. Clay is the primary ingredient of kaolin and kaopectate that we use when suffering from gastrointestinal malaise.

A very interesting report done by Discover magazine on Geophagy, or eating dirt. "Since most humans consume more plant food than meat, it should come as no surprise that geophagy (from the Greek roots geo for 'earth' and phagein for 'eat') is also widespread in peasant communities on all continents, with descriptions going back to Roman times. In such communities, pregnant and lactating women especially crave soil, typically consuming one-and-a-half ounces or more per day."


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Birds eat soil to bind and deactivate plant toxins

"Deep in the rain forests of New Guinea, Jared Diamond was surprised to see parrots, pigeons and crows fly down to a new landslide of earth and eat the bare dirt. The birds flocked to this rare opportunity to access bare earth in an area densely covered with vegetation. Not all of the observed 140 bird species came down to eat earth. Only the eight herbivorous species that regularly ate fruit, seeds and flowers. Plants naturally contain numerous toxins that protect them from predators and pathogens. When the landslide soils were analysed they were found to contain less minerals than the surrounding top soil but again the clay content was high and, what is more, found to be more effective at binding alkaloids and tannins than pure pharmaceutical kaolinite. These birds were taking advantage of newly disturbed earth and selecting soil of just the right properties to bind and deactivate plant toxins." [Diamond,J 1998 Eat Dirt: in the competition between parrots and fruit trees, it's the winners who bite the dust. Discover. 19(2) pp70-76.]. 

Disclaimer: Please be advised that according to the EU regulations, clay and clay-like substances are not regarded by the EU authorities as food products, and we are not selling or marketing them as such, but simply as generic products. We provide general information about clays and minerals which we have collected online and from various publications. Clays or minerals are not being sold by us as medicines or food supplements. We do not provide diagnosis or advice. If you have any medical problem, please consult your medical practitioner. Do not resort to self-treatment.