Anyone who is searching for how to improve their overall health and well-being will likely stumble across trace minerals at some point, as they are essential for us to function at our best. However, searching the internet for information on minerals (especially fulvic minerals) can be confusing, due to the complexity of the subject.
Much of the terminology applied to specific minerals, like fulvic ionic minerals, is used vaguely without a clear distinction between different types of minerals or how each type could be applied practically to enhance our lives. Moreover, important topics related to minerals are not discussed in enough depth; such as how we absorb minerals, what prevents mineral absorption and why trace mineral bioavailability is so important.
In order to do away with some of the confusion and build a complete picture, we have compiled this guide which focuses particularly on different types and forms of minerals, definitions for them, their benefits, recipes and more!
Where Do Minerals Come From?
Minerals are inorganic elements that make up all matter, from the largest planets to the smallest molecules.
On Earth, the crust contains the most abundant sources of minerals in the form of rocks and soils. However, of all the hundreds of minerals that make up the Earth's crust, 8 specific minerals account for ±98.59%1 of the mass:
The remaining ±1.41% consists of more than 200 trace minerals and elements in micro proportions.
For all living organisms including us, essential minerals come from food, water, as well as the air. In our food, they come in the form of organic minerals; i.e. inorganic minerals bound to organic acids or salts. Roughly 8% of all minerals on Earth are in an organic form.
For plants, they are available as a result of soil bacteria which break the bonds between inorganic mineral rocks and organic matter to form fulvic ionic minerals and other nutrients.
Once a plant takes up fulvic minerals by its roots, it stores and uses the minerals to produce enzymes and other beneficial substances, such as vitamins and antioxidants. We also use organic minerals to the same effect when we consume food; especially uncooked, fresh produce that still has all of it's organic enzymes in tact.
Different Types of Minerals & How They Compare
Since all minerals are inorganic ions, different types and mineral definitions are distinguished by the structure of minerals that are chemically bound together, what substances are binding them, whether they have an electrical charge, as well as the size of the mineral particles.
Ionic Minerals & Ionized Minerals
When looking at natural trace mineral supplements, the terms ionic trace minerals and ionized minerals are used frequently to describe a more desirable trace minerals supplement than other varieties.
This can seem rather confusing, as minerals themselves are by definition inorganic ions or particles of any given element - so what are ionic trace minerals and what is the difference between ionic and ionized trace minerals?
- A mineral ion is an electrically charged mineral particle, such as Ca2+, which could be either an atom or a molecule (a group of atoms).
- Ionic trace minerals are trace mineral particles that have retained their intrinsic electrical charge and are often bound together to form ionic trace mineral complexes.
- An ionic trace minerals complex consists of two or more trace mineral ions that are bound together while still retaining a charge.
- Ionized trace minerals are trace minerals which have been converted into charged or ionic trace minerals.
There is no strict difference between mineral ions, ionic trace minerals and ionized trace minerals. All of these terms could refer to free floating ions or ions bound together within an ionic trace minerals complex, depending on the context.
The size of mineral ions vary, yet they are typically smaller in size than colloidal minerals, averaging a diameter of <1nm. Their electrical charge and small size sets ionic trace minerals apart from other mineral types.
Ionic trace minerals may be synthetically ionized in a laboratory or ionized in nature through natural processes.
Likewise, an ionic trace minerals complex may be lab made or found in nature.
Why are ionic trace minerals better for you?
Ionic trace minerals are the only trace minerals that are readily absorbed by all living organisms, including us. Our cells can only truly make use of minerals in an ionic form, requiring charged mineral ions for all chemical reactions, nutrient delivery and most other processes that occur in the body.
Larger mineral particles need to be broken down and ionized before they can be absorbed into our cells, thus requiring more energy and bodily resources to absorb. Larger mineral particles are usually only partially absorbed after being broken down through digestion, unlike ionic trace minerals which are efficiently absorbed.
The term fulvic minerals is used vaguely to describe all kinds of fulvic humic minerals, fulvic acid in general, plant-based minerals or any soil-based minerals including clay minerals; however, it is technically none of these interpretations.
- Fulvic minerals are ionic trace minerals that are bound to fulvic acid and typically part of a fulvic mineral complex.
Fulvic minerals are also sometimes redundantly referred to as fulvic ionic minerals to emphasize that the mineral particles are charged and of a small size convenient enough for cellular absorption.
What is a fulvic mineral complex?
A mineral complex is a substance that comprises of multiple minerals which are chemically bound to one another. In the case of a fulvic mineral complex, fulvic minerals are bound together via fulvic acid.
A fulvic mineral complex is not the same as rock or clay minerals, which have a vastly different structure and are not bound to fulvic acid.
However, the mineral ions inside a fulvic mineral complex were once part of sediment, rock or clay mineral structures, as well as organic matter. Over time, erosion, heat, pressure and organic acids produced by soil organisms all break these structures down into bare mineral ions.
Soil organisms have an especially interesting role to play in the formation of fulvic minerals2.
When organic matter decomposes in the soil, trillions of bacteria are continuously producing enzymes and organic acids which polymerize or cut through mineral bonds as well as breaking down other organic substances.
Eventually a humus or compost is formed, which is the organic component of soil. Inside this humus is a rich source of humic substances; particularly humic acid and fulvic acid, which are organic acids that bind to inorganic mineral particles. Humic and fulvic acids accumulate in soil and water, leading to the formation of natural mineral deposits such as peat and shilajit.
While both humic and fulvic acids can form trace mineral complexes, they each have unique properties.
- Humic acid consists of heavier particles with a bigger mass than those found in fulvic acid. As a result, humic minerals consist of larger mineral particles than those that make up fulvic minerals. Humic acid also comprises of more nitrogen and less oxygen than fulvic acid. It is soluble in water and other liquids with a pH of 2 or higher and is formed by soil microbes at slightly higher temperatures than fulvic acid.
- Fulvic acid is a fraction of humic acid that consists of much smaller particles of low molecular weight, which bind to ionic trace minerals and other tiny nutrient particles. Fulvic acid is soluble in liquids of any pH and is formed by soil microbes at lower temperatures and in wetter conditions than humic acid.
It is these incredibly small ionic mineral particles bound to fulvic acid that constitute fulvic minerals.
While scientists can selectively extract fulvic acid from humic acid, they cannot synthesize fulvic acid from scratch in a laboratory!
In fact, the molecular structure of fulvic acid has been a scientific enigma since it's discovery, as it changes depending on what minerals or other particles it is exposed to and interacting with.
What Do Fulvic Minerals Do?
All living organisms need trace minerals to function, as mineral ions play a leading role in all chemical reactions and biological processes, including nutrient absorption. However, at the cellular level, it is not easy to absorb large, uncharged or free-floating mineral particles without potentially damaging cellular structures or thwarting the absorption of other nutrients.
Fulvic minerals are both ionic and bound to fulvic acid. Fulvic acid in itself has many additional benefits (e.g. boosting immune function3 and speeding wound repair) and is known to greatly enhance nutritional absorption of minerals and other nutrients4.
Why Take Fulvic Minerals?
In the past, our ancestors would ingest decent amounts of fulvic acid from whole food crops grown on soil rich in fulvic minerals, which greatly aided with absorbing other nutrients too. Due to modern farming methods, the soils are depleted of both fulvic minerals and fulvic acid, making it important to opt for a trace minerals supplement alongside a balanced diet.
Compared to other types of minerals, fulvic minerals are one of the best for all living organisms to ingest, provided they are extracted from a pure source.
Colloidal minerals are another source of confusion for many people on the quest to find out more about minerals. To understand what colloidal minerals are, lets first define what a colloid is.
- A Colloid is one of the main types of mixture alongside a suspension and a solution. In a colloid, one substance is evenly dispersed through another, forming orderly particle arrangements throughout a medium. The dispersed substance consists of particles ranging between 1-1000 nanometers in diameter, which cannot be seen with the naked eye4.
The difference between a colloid and another type of mixture is straight-forward.
If the molecules dispersed in the medium were larger than 1000nm, the mixture would be classified a suspension, and if the molecules were smaller than 1nm, then it would be classified a solution.
The Tyndall Effect
A quick way to tell the difference between a true solution and a colloidal solution is to shine a light through the liquid in which the particles are dispersed. The light will shine through a true solution with ease, while in a colloid, it is unable to do so, reflecting off the larger particles in all different directions. This is known as the Tyndall Effect.
Colloids are unique in that the dispersed particles in the medium cannot be centrifuged or filtered out through a semipermeable membrane.
In a stable colloid, particles are evenly dispersed through the medium; yet in an unstable colloid, particles that are heavier than the medium will settle at the bottom while the remaining particles may aggregate (clump together) to form evenly dispersed particle clusters.
Gels, emulsions, aerosols, foams, sols (solid particles of a colloidal size dispersed in water) and even unseen dust particles in the air are all examples of colloids.
- Colloidal Minerals are mineral particles that are between 1-1000 nm in size which are evenly dispersed through a medium.
Unlike other varieties of mineral, colloidal minerals are unable to pass through cell walls or any other semipermeable membrane.
Many people are confused when it comes to colloidal and ionic trace minerals, claiming that the main difference is the fact that ionic minerals have a charge while colloidal minerals do not. However, colloidal minerals may or may not have a charge, depending on the circumstances6.
What is the difference between colloidal and ionic trace minerals?
While both colloidal and ionic minerals are microscopic in size, colloidal minerals are much larger in size than ionic minerals and unlike ionic minerals, they are unable to pass through cell walls. Once ingested, colloidal minerals need to be broken down into ionic minerals before the body can absorb them, making them inefficient as a nutritional supplement.
It is possible for oppositely charged colloidal minerals to form ionic colloidal crystals and for colloidal particles with a strong charge to attract smaller ionic particles. This is the reason why the colloidal minerals in clay can still chelate, adsorb or bind to ionic particles in the soil (read the section Chelation, Adsorption, Trace Minerals Complexes & Toxic Minerals for more).
Fulvic Minerals vs Colloidal Minerals
Naturally, fulvic minerals are ionic and are therefore instantly absorbed with a high bioavailability, making them ideal in trace mineral supplements. Additionally, fulvic acid further encourages mineral uptake into cells by increasing cell wall permeability, as well as touting extra benefits, such as potentially helping to facilitate detox by being able to bind to heavy metals.
If they have a charge, colloidal minerals may help with chelation in the digestive tract, but need to be broken down before they can be absorbed by our cells. They are generally regarded as better for external use due to their large size and that they may interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
Clay constitutes any sediment with particles smaller than silt, roughly less than 0.002mm or 2000 nm in size. All clays typically consist of crystalline mineral structures that occur in uniform layers or sheets, found in soils, sediments and deep sea deposits7.
Clay Mineral Structure | JPL - NASA
- Clay Minerals are defined as any group of colloidal mineral crystals that occur in clay. These minerals are arranged in sheets or layers of specific geometric patterns - octahedrons or tetrahedrons8 - which are used to categorize the type of clay.
The majority of clay minerals comprise of aluminum silicates (aluminum bound to silicon), occasionally with significant amounts of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and other alkali metals.
Most clay minerals are colloidal, meaning that they are dispersed evenly and range between 1-1000 nm in size; however, some clay minerals are larger or smaller sizes ranging up to 2000 nm.
The geometric crystalline structure of clay minerals tends to be built of negatively charged ions on the inside and positively charged ions on the outside, creating a stable mineral complex with a very low to neutral charge9.
Ionic minerals can be found trapped in between these colloidal particles or found on the edges of broken clay mineral crystals, giving clay minerals a stronger electrical charge. Usually, any electrical charge found in clay is neutralized via ionic exchange, which is also precisely how clays are able to bind around metal ions. The ability of a clay to exchange ions will vary depending on the environmental conditions, as well as the type of clay.
Clay minerals are typically found in soil alongside fulvic humic minerals10, often forming strange mixtures of the two. Even though there are similarities between them - such as being able to bind to metals - they each have unique properties.
The difference between clay minerals and fulvic minerals would be their size, structure and ability for ionic exchange.
Fulvic Minerals vs Clay Minerals
Fulvic minerals are much smaller in size than clay minerals, are not bound in a rigid geometric structure and have a far larger capacity for ionic exchange with a much stronger electrical charge. In most cases, ionic exchange in soil occurs as a result of the fulvic humic mineral portion rather than the clay mineral portion11. Clay minerals are largely colloidal and therefore take more effort to digest than fulvic minerals, making them more ideal for external use.
Clay minerals can easily be synthesized in a laboratory through mimicking natural processes involving heat, pressure and chemical reactions. In nature, clay minerals are not only found in all types of soil and sediment, but also in volcanic, deep sea, hot spring and geyser deposits.
Chelation, Adsorption, Trace Mineral Complexes & Toxic Minerals
When doing trace minerals research, one is bound to come across heavy metals at some point.
Minerals such as aluminum, mercury and lead are toxic to us and often found within natural trace mineral complexes, giving trace minerals a bad rap. However, these minerals are only truly toxic when unbound, in a chemically active form with a strong electrical charge or when taken in unnaturally large amounts.
As previously stated, 98.59% of all minerals on Earth are comprised of 8 main minerals, of which only aluminum is regarded a heavy metal. The remaining 1.41% contains all the other 200+ minerals, an even smaller portion of which are harmful to us when not bound.
Fortunately, the vast majority of these minerals are chemically bound and neutralized, rendering them inert - otherwise we would not be able to walk the planet without suffering from severe metal toxicity!
Nature in all its complexity appears to have developed sophisticated systems to render heavy metals inert - namely chelation and adsorption.
- Chelation is the process in which chemical bonds are formed using multiple binding sites between a single metal atom and an ion or molecule within a complex12. A substance in which chelation takes place is known as a chelate.
Any particles that have been chelated are usually rendered chemically inert until the bonds around it are broken. A good example of this is seen with aluminum atoms in clay mineral structures.
- Adsorption refers to the process in which molecules, ions or atoms attract and adhere to a surface they are in contact with13.
Unlike chelation, where molecules are essentially plugging up the binding sites around a metal atom to neutralize it; molecules that are adsorbed to the surface of a solid make a thin film around the solid, often preventing it from interacting with the environment.
Clay, fulvic acid and other humic substances are all able to chelate heavy metals, as well as adsorb around them.
This can seem problematic when it comes to digesting fulvic minerals, however fulvic acid has been shown to promote heavy metal removal from living organisms and systems, as well as selectively providing cells with the trace minerals they need for balance.
Not to mention the interactions between minerals and different types of minerals inside the body are more or less poorly understood. At this point we know that mineral concentration is one of the most important factors alongside chemical bonds and certain other nutrients that aid or detract from absorption.
Ingesting safe quantities of natural fulvic minerals should not cause heavy metal toxicity, as the amounts of these metals are far too low, depending on the source and method of extraction. There are probably larger amounts of unbound heavy metals in the air than one would find occurring in a natural trace minerals complex, especially in a city or near an industrial area.
What is the difference between ionic minerals and chelated minerals?
An ionic mineral is of a small size and has an electric charge, while a chelated mineral is bound within a complex, typically with a negligible to neutral charge.
Plant-Based Minerals Vs Synthetic Minerals
To put it simply, plant-based minerals are any minerals derived from plants while synthetic minerals are their artificial counterparts, generated in a laboratory.
Of course, minerals in their basic state can't be created from scratch in a lab, but are usually extracted out of rock or clay minerals and then artificially bound to organic acids or salts to form mineral salts, which are then further processed into mineral supplements, such as magnesium citrate.
Plants also create mineral salts by taking up fulvic minerals from the soil as well as using mineral ions in all chemical reactions and biological processes. When we consume plant-based minerals in the form of wholefoods, we are ingesting a mixture of ionic minerals and natural mineral salts in an optimal form14.
What is the difference between ionic minerals and plant-based minerals?
Plant-based minerals refer to minerals derived from any plant matter, while ionic minerals are any minerals that have an electrical charge and are very small in size. Plant-based minerals tend to contain a mixture of ionic minerals and mineral salts, depending on if and how they are processed.
Plant-based minerals also apply to fulvic humic minerals that have accumulated as a result of decomposing plant matter.
In terms of which is best, plant-based minerals tend to beat synthetic minerals hands down, as our bodies are designed to absorb them.
The main differences between synthetic minerals and plant-based minerals are as follows:
1. Size & Charge
Plant-based minerals tend to consist of some ionic minerals that have a very small size and an electrical charge, greatly enhancing their absorption by cells. These ions also help to break down any plant-based mineral salts that typically accompany them. Synthetic minerals are larger in size with a neutral charge and are bound in the form of salts without extra ions, requiring more energy to digest them.
2. Enzymes & Extra Nutrients
Plant-based whole food is rich in additional nutrients which are required for mineral uptake. Depending on processing methods, many plant-based mineral complexes (like Shilajit) also contain some extra nutrients that aid absorption, such as enzymes. Synthetic minerals lack these additional nutrients.
Chirality refers to the 3D shape of a molecule, where the mirror image of the molecule has a different orientation to the original molecule and thus cannot be superimposed. In nature, two forms of molecules exist when looking at chirality - "left-handed" and "right-handed" molecules, distinguished by placing the prefix L- and D- respectively15.
Amazingly, all living organisms and cells have adapted to only be able to absorb molecules that are of a specific shape, namely L-organic acids and D-sugars16. Similar to how your left hand will not fit in a right-handed glove, receptor sites on cells can only accept molecules that will fit. In the last decade or so, mineral ions were also shown to have unique chirality, only binding onto molecules where the "hand fits the glove," so to speak17.
In a lab, mineral salts of both types are generated from organic acids, producing 50-50 mixtures referred to with a DL- prefix. However, in nature and our bodies, L-organic acids dominate and are readily accepted as well as manufactured by cells18.
DL-molecules can also be absorbed, but are later converted inside our cells into L-molecules so that the cell may actually utilize them, requiring more bodily energy and resources19. This conversion is not 100% efficient either, resulting in relatively less absorption of the nutrient20.
What is the difference between plant-based minerals and minerals in clay?
Clay minerals typically consist of colloidal minerals that are much larger in size with a low to neutral charge, whereas plant-based minerals constitute of much smaller sized particles, some of which are ionic with a charge. Plant-based minerals are in the correct form for optimal mineral absorption.
Mineral Bioavailability & Taking Minerals Internally
Minerals are indispensable to the functioning of our bodies and taking them internally has many benefits, particularly if we are deficient.
Yet as you can gather from all the different mineral types above, not all types of minerals are made equal! This is very important to consider when ingesting trace minerals, whether as a supplement or through our diets.
Certain types of minerals are better absorbed than others, as explained under each mineral type above. When one is looking at nutrient absorption in this way, one is looking at mineral bioavailability.
- Bioavailability is the amount of a nutrient that is absorbed by the body, entering the bloodstream and thus the amount of the nutrient that has an active effect.
Digestion is a very complicated process and there are many factors that enhance or detract from a mineral's bioavailability. The main factors currently understood are discussed below.
Main Factors That Affect Internal Mineral Absorption
Aside from the type or form of mineral being absorbed, there are certain nutrients that will detract from absorption. These are known as anti-nutrients.
- Caffeine found in coffee.
- Phytates found in grains.
- Oxalic Acid found in spinach and other leafy green vegetables.
- Lectins found in seeds, grains and certain fruit and vegetable skins, such as tomatoes and aubergines.
Lifestyle factors are also known to reduce nutrient absorption or create nutrient depletion in the body, such as:
- Poor gut health
- A diet high in processed foods
- Constant Immune Activation
- Poor sleep quality or lack of sleep
Keeping the above factors in check will greatly help you to absorb more minerals and other nutrients, naturally optimizing your health and well-being!
Over and above this, each mineral is absorbed through the gut wall at different parts of the digestive tract and via different digestive processes. As a result, some minerals will compete with others for absorption, such as sodium and potassium, copper and zinc, calcium and magnesium, etc. (Click here for more information on specific trace minerals and their interactions).
On the other side of the spectrum, vitamins, enzymes and organic acids like fulvic acid are known to greatly enhance mineral absorption.
Lastly there are a few factors out of our control that also come into play, such as: our age, sex, metabolism, gender, as well as pregnancy.
Natural Occurrences of Minerals, Their Uses & Benefits
At the end of the day, everyone metabolizes nutrients differently and has different requirements for optimal health.
As a rule of thumb, natural ionic trace minerals (plant-based minerals, fulvic minerals, etc) are better absorbed internally than synthetic versions which take more resources to process. Clay minerals and other types of colloidal minerals are better used externally on the skin, as the larger particles make for excellent exfoliates.
Can trace minerals be absorbed through the skin?
If the trace minerals are small enough particles, then the answer is absolutely! Dissolved mineral salts, fulvic minerals and ionic trace minerals in a solution will all be absorbed through the skin in small quantities. Non-comedogenic oils are more effective carriers for crossing the skin than liquid carriers, yet liquid minerals are still absorbed through hair follicles.
Fine clay minerals have also been shown to pass into skin. However, there are not enough studies to confirm that any minerals make it past the base layers of skin into the bloodstream, therefore taking a trace minerals supplement is likely more effective for rest of the body.
Now that you are acquainted with different types of minerals and the factors that affect mineral absorption, let's take a look at minerals in nature, their benefits and how you can use them!
Natural Minerals Salts & Hot Springs
Mineral salts are found everywhere throughout nature, especially in salt mines and hot springs. Of the hundreds of different kinds, there are a couple of well known mineral salts that are used medicinally for beauty and overall well-being.
Epsom salt or magnesium sulfate is a mineral salt made primarily out of magnesium. It is a naturally occurring salt that was first discovered at a bitter spring in Epsom, Surrey, England, hence the name.
The salt is traditionally used in bath salts or added straight to a bath, allowing the user to soak it up through their skin. The main benefits of Epsom salts are attributable to magnesium. Many people believe that bathing in it allows it to pass directly through the skin and into the body, yet more research is required to prove this theory21.
Nonetheless, people report multiple anecdotal benefits from bathing in magnesium salts. Benefits may include:
- Pain relief, especially in joints and muscles
- Soothes cramps
- Uplifts mood
- Reduces anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Helps digestion
- Alleviates constipation22
- Keeps skin soft and smooth
- Draws out splinters
- Decreases skin redness and swelling
- Enhances breathing and opens the airways
Medical grade magnesium sulfate is also used in IV therapy for those who are severely deficient in magnesium. IV therapy with magnesium sulfate may also provide support for those being treated for eclampsia-related seizures23. It can also be taken internally as a natural laxative or purgative, however it is better used externally.
Epsom salt is cheap and can be found at pharmacies or your local grocery store.
How to make an epsom salt bath?
For a relaxing soak in the tub, add ±1 cup of Epsom salts to your bath water, letting it dissolve fully before getting in. Wait at least 20 mins before getting out the bath for the best results.
Dead Sea Salt
Swimming in the ocean is known to have a therapeutic effect, thanks to all the hundreds of mineral ions floating around in it.
The Dead Sea in particular is a concentrated natural source of mineral salts, especially magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium. Tourists make their way from all around the globe to swim in the Dead Sea and benefit from the high concentrations of these minerals.
Dead Sea Salt can be purchased from Spas to recreate the Dead Sea experience at home and many Spas offer it as a therapy. Just like Epsom salts, Dead Sea Salts offer many of the same benefits due to its high magnesium content. Scientifically it has been proven that Dead Sea Salts are potentially excellent for skin health and may:
- Promote better skin regeneration24
- Improve skin barrier function
- Enhance skin rehydration
The additional potassium, sodium, calcium and trace amounts of other minerals will add to these effects, helping to exfoliate the skin as well as nourish it. Those with skin breakouts and conditions may also benefit from using Dead Sea bath salts as a supportive beauty therapy25.
To make a Dead Sea Salt bath, follow the instructions on the package. Be wary of counterfeits and only source your Dead Sea Salt from a reputable company.
Dead Sea Salt is not a food-grade salt and should not be ingested. Ingesting Dead Sea water has been linked to severe health concerns.
Hot springs have been revered by many ancient cultures for their healing mineral properties26.
Natural hot springs tend to be loaded with multiple minerals, all of which are dissolved in solution. Every hot spring has a different mineral makeup and many contain ionic trace minerals with electrolyte properties, such as the Rio Hondo Hot Springs in Argentina.
Although there is not enough scientific research to prove it, many people experience benefits from bathing at hot springs, such as:
- Enhanced wound healing27
- Easier respiration
- Decreased muscle and joint stiffness
- Relaxation and decreased anxiety
- Immune support
- Pain relief, especially due to muscle stiffness
- Exfoliation and radiant skin
Specifically in sulfur-rich hot springs, experimental research is beginning to show that these hot springs may also be able to improve the quality of life for those with health concerns, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, injury from stroke, heart failure, peptic ulcers and chronic inflammation28.
Furthermore, sulfurous spring water may promote skin elasticity, disinfect and enhance immune function in the skin.
While hot springs and hydrotherapies are a priceless treatment option for some, other people also report that the effects are only temporary.
There are also a few reports of ill health induced from bathing in hot springs, as some hot springs are home to radioactive minerals and bacteria that live in high temperatures. In this respect, it's important to choose the hot spring you visit wisely!
Peloids, Peat & Healing Muds
Peloids are healing muds or clays that are used by Spas as a part of balneotherapy (therapeutic bathing) alongside soaking in mineral salts and hot springs.
These healing muds are often mixtures of fulvic humic substances, ionic trace minerals, and clay minerals and are loaded with multiple benefits for skin; aiding repair and replenishing it with all the nutrients it needs. Often Spas will prepare peloid mud baths by mixing a variety of healing clays with hot spring water or sea water, combining the benefits.
Mud baths are also employed by some to treat a wide variety of afflictions, from heart disease to sciatica, although scientific evidence is lacking as to whether peloids can cure any chronic disease29.
Currently there is evidence to show that balneotherapy, mud baths and peloid use - in combination with heat (such as from a hot spring) - may improve the functioning of the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, which in turn has shown to possibly exhibit the following benefits30:
- Sped up wound healing and regeneration
- Enhanced antioxidant status
- Better mood
- Improved metabolism
Peat is a good example of a natural peloid which has been used for centuries to promote wound healing in those with skin troubles. Today peat is still used for mud baths and in over-the-counter mud masks. Unlike other peloids, peat contains small portions of fulvic acid with larger portions of humic acid and is similar to shilajit in composition (more on that below)
Aside from the clays available at Spas in the form of mud baths, there are other therapeutic clays that can be purchased over-the-counter at reasonable prices and used to make your own mud masks at home!
Each clay has its own unique properties, yet they all have a few properties in common which lend themselves to enhancing skin function and vitality.
Here are a few known scientific benefits common to all therapeutic clays:
- Bacterial growth inhibition31
- Binding of toxins and heavy metals
- Quicker wound healing
Clays have the tendency to soak up water and create a barrier, ultimately starving any bacteria or fungi on the skin, as well as causing the bacteria to soak up selective minerals that are lethal to them yet beneficial to us, like iron32. Clays also change the pH of the skin, helping to destroy any pathogens there33.
When a water-clay paste is applied and left to dry on the skin, it serves to rehydrate the skin while simultaneously toning and exfoliating the skin.
The best clays for a gorgeous complexion include bentonite, kaolin and french green clays (illite) as they are all made up of incredibly fine particles and are known to have a relatively high capacity for ionic exchange. This means that these clays are able to attract toxins from deeper layers of the skin and that some of their ionic minerals will penetrate the skin, helping to support skin function34.
In some cases, such as in Bentonite, clay has been shown to improve sunscreen formulas and help to protect skin from UV radiation35.
In history, clay has been used as an antiseptic material, able to speed up wound healing and was even used at one time to draw the venom from snake bites36. Since the dawn of the Renaissance in the 1600s, clays were medically classified as drugs.
Not just used externally, humans have ingested clay minerals to help deal with all sorts of digestive problems, especially diarrhea, parasites, digestive issues and metal toxicity. Although for reasons explained above, eating clay is not the best idea and that’s why it is no longer a common practise.
Medical clays may bind to toxins in the stomach before they reach the gut, preventing their absorption and moving them right out the body. Kaolin especially is able to bind to proteins and fats, which also extends to the membranes of bacteria and viruses, drawing them out the body - for obvious reasons however, kaolin should not be consumed regularly as we need to absorb proteins and fats for optimal health too!
It is also known that many of these clays cause mineral deficiencies in zinc, potassium and iron when taken over long periods of time, however bentonite clay appears to be an exception.
How to make a bentonite clay mud mask?
Bentonite clay mud masks feel cool on the skin and are able to give you a tighter, more radiant compexion!
- - 1/2-1 tsp Bentonite Clay
- - 1-2 tsp Filtered or Distilled Water
- 1. Mix the clay with the water until a smooth paste forms (add more water if needed).
- 2. Apply the paste to your face, smoothing it over with your fingers until an even layer forms, avoiding your eyes. Apply more to inflamed areas or areas with acne.
- 3. Let sit for ±20 mins until the clay is dry. As the clay dries, you may feel your skin pull tighter or itch - this is normal.
- 4. Rinse the clay gently off your face with some warm water (a shower is the best for this!).
- 5. Repeat every day until symptoms subside or use as needed.
Bentonite clay tends to improve blood flow in the skin dramatically, so if your face is a bit red afterwards, don't worry - that is a sign the clay is working and should subside within a few minutes.
Humanity has an age-old track record of using fulvic minerals for skin as well as taking them internally as a nutritional supplement.
As explained above, fulvic minerals contain fulvic acid which forms trace mineral complexes with sometimes as many as 80 or more ionic trace minerals, all in an optimal form for all living organisms. Fulvic acid acts as both a nutrient transport device as well as a refuse removal service, delivering fulvic ionic minerals into cells while supporting cells to “take out the trash”at the same time!
A few more fulvic acid benefits may include:
- Boosting energy and immune function
- Improving gut health
- Enhancing bodily antioxidants that protect us against free radical damage
- Supporting metabolism
- Speeding up wound and post-operative recovery
While fulvic acid is an amazing substance, not all fulvic minerals are the same in terms of quality. The two most common fulvic mineral supplements are fulvic mineral extracts and shilajit.
Fulvic Mineral Extracts
Fulvic mineral extracts are typically fulvic minerals that have been removed from organic deposits or bodies of water. The majority of them are not pure extracts of fulvic minerals, but rather incorporate extracted fulvic acid that is later mixed with trace minerals to form a fulvic mineral supplement.
The problem with these kinds of "fulvic mineral extracts" is that the minerals used could be synthetic, the wrong chirality or colloidal in size. Furthermore, there are over 50 ways to extract fulvic acid and all of them require chemical processing. There is also a point at which too much fulvic acid can be a problem, causing cells to allow too many nutrients in and inciting drastic detox symptoms.
The only true and pure fulvic mineral extracts are those taken from shilajit, which is a natural deposit of fulvic minerals and other humic substances.
Fulvic Minerals vs Shilajit
Shilajit extracts are typically not as potent as Shilajit itself, containing more fulvic acid than minerals; yet they exhibit many of the same benefits as fulvic acid, such as supporting immune function37. Fulvic mineral extracts will greatly aid in the absorption of trace minerals from your food too and are seen as more convenient to ingest than Shilajit.
Shilajit is a natural substance produced over millions of years from decaying plant matter that consists largely of fulvic humic minerals, plus many other beneficial compounds such as amino acids, dibenzo-alpha-pyrones, live enzymes and more.
What sets Shilajit apart from other fulvic humic mineral preparations is that is contains more than 80 ionic trace minerals and is only processed using water and gentle evaporation, keeping as many of the nutrients intact as possible. All the components of Shilajit are in natural, balanced ratios that are conducive for optimizing body function.
Unlike fulvic mineral extracts or preparations, Shilajit is rich in multiple other nutrients that when combined with fulvic acid, make it directly into the cells and work to speed up cellular energy production in the mitochondria.
Based on optimizing mitochondria alone, Shilajit possibly aids in:
- Boosting immune function
- Enhancing tissue repair
- Supporting cells faced with free radicals and stress
- Promoting longer cellular lifespans
- Facilitating the regeneration of all cells, tissues and organs
- Encouraging the production of bodily antioxidants like SOD and Glutathione
- Boosting metabolism
- Supporting muscle gain
- Discouraging swelling38
The list goes on! Shilajit works towards enhancing the function of every cell when it enters the body.
Shilajit can also be applied topically with wonderful results, soothing skin and making it feel very soft and smooth. In some studies, Fulvic minerals have been shown to stimulate smooth muscle contractions, toning skin and promoting a youthful appearance39.
Compared with clay minerals, Shilajit is a lot gentler and more potent with similar benefits - working to rehydrate the skin, facilitate wound healing, and discourage pathogens; ideal as a beauty treatment that also offers nutritional support.
More of the minerals present in Shilajit are likely to make it through the skin barrier due to the small proportion of fat, the ionic mineral size and the perfect chirality.
Fulvic chai spice latte recipe
It's best to take fulvic minerals in water, yet they don't always taste so good on their own. Complete your Shilajit experience by enjoying it inside a culturally appropriate drink from the East while simultaneously indulging in a good helping of antioxidant spices!
This classic Indian chai spice latte makes for an ultimate fulvic minerals recipe, to be enjoyed year round either hot or cold.
Chai Tea Ingredients:
- - 2 cups water
- - 2 black tea bags
- - 2 whole cloves
- - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- - 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- - 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- - 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- - 2 tbsp honey or organic maple syrup
- - 1/2 cup chai tea (either store-bought or from this recipe)
- - 3/4 cup whole milk or almond milk
- - 1 tbsp honey or organic maple syrup
- - Pinch of ground cinnamon
- - 1 dose fulvic minerals or Shilajit
To Make Chai Tea (skip this step if using store-bought Chai Tea):
- 1. Bring the water and spices to the boil in a medium sized saucepan on a medium heat, whisking until ready. Take off heat for 5mins to allow spices to steep. Then add the honey and tea bags, bringing it back to the boil again. Leave aside once more for 5mins before straining through a fine mesh strainer or cloth. Leave to cool and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
To make the Latte:
- 2. Heat the milk, cinnamon and honey at a medium heat in a saucepan till bubbles form. Take off heat and froth with a stick blender, milk frother or pour into a sealed container and shake for 2-3mins (you may need to wait for it to cool slightly). Frothing the milk is optional, yet the only way to make a professional looking latte!
- 3. Stir the fulvic minerals or shilajit into the chai tea before slowly pouring the frothed milk mixture into it - if the tea is hot, wait for it to cool slightly before adding your minerals. Alternatively, enjoy cold by pouring your mineral-infused tea over crushed ice before adding the milk.
- 4. Enjoy!
When to take fulvic minerals?
Fulvic minerals can be taken anytime as a well-rounded nutritional supplement, however they will enhance the absorption of anything you've had within 2 hours of taking them. Do not take them within 2 hours before or after having other medications or alcohol!
Fulvic Mineral Side Effects. Are fulvic minerals safe?
For the majority of the time - yes.
It's best to stick to the regular dosage as indicated on your fulvic mineral supplement. If you take too large a dose of fulvic minerals, they can cause rapid detox symptoms that may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, irregular heartbeats, migraines, fevers, etc.
Never mix fulvic minerals with tap water or any liquid that contains halogens such as fluorine, chlorine or bromine. The fulvic acid will react with them causing unstable particles that can cause harm.
If all the above precautions are followed, then fulvic minerals only yield positive side effects!
Mineral Oil for Skin
Mineral oil is another commonly adopted mineral product used for skin, cosmetics, baby products and as a laxative. Unlike fulvic minerals, clay minerals or natural mineral salts, mineral oil is extracted from petroleum.
There is a lot of contradictory research on mineral oils and other petroleum products, most of which points to the fact that they are carcinogenic or cancer-causing40, as well as possibly contributing to baldness and hyperkeratosis41(a skin condition where the skin does not stop growing, hardening over, causing severe inflammation and may eventually lead to skin tumors).
While this is certainly a cause for alarm, it ought to be noted that there are different grades of the substance and that mineral oil for skin is the most refined grade of mineral oil.
Unlike crude or unrefined mineral oil which is classified as a group 1 carcinogen by the WHO, refined mineral oil and baby oil (perfumed mineral oil) are classified under group 3, meaning that there is inadequate research to prove that it is carcinogenic to humans.
In mineral oil, there are three main components: polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), napthenic compounds and paraffins. The PAH portion is known to be the most carcinogenic and is removed in all refined mineral oil products.
However, in a long-term experiment done on mice using 12 different mineral oils for skin, it was shown that napthenic compounds may also induce tumors in the long run and - depending on the way in which the mineral oil is refined - the paraffin portion may as well42.
Furthermore, in workers handling even refined mineral oils, there is a high incidence of pneumonia due to inhaling mineral oil molecules in the air.
When taken internally as a laxative, mineral oil coats the lining of the intestine and helps soften stools, yet it also prevents nutritional absorption, particularly of vitamins. Long-term ingestion of mineral oil may cause nutrient deficiencies43.
In spite of this, mineral oil for skin may have some proven benefits, such as making skin softer, preventing moisture loss and improving skin barrier function44. This is why it has been used in cosmetic products since the early 1800s.
Due to the dubious nature of petroleum compounds, we do not recommend using mineral oil for skin or for taking it internally.