Discovered 250 years ago, zeolites are microporous, aluminosilicate minerals. Natural zeolites form where layers of volcanic rock and ash have reacted with alkaline groundwater. They can also deposit over periods of thousands to millions of years in shallow marine basins. The major sources of zeolites are Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the US.
What makes zeolites unique is their regular geometric structure that forms a framework containing cavities and channels. The zeolite framework carries a negative charge that attracts cations including sodium (Na+), calcium (Ca2+) and metal ions such as mercury (Hg2+) and lead (Pb2+).
Nearly 200 unique zeolite frameworks have been identified, of which 40 are naturally occurring. The size of the channels determines the size of the molecule the framework can accept although these spaces can be distorted by various factors. The zeolite can then yield or exchange these molecules in a contact solution. For this reason zeolites are known as molecular sieves because they can be used to selectively sort molecules based on size.
Zeolites are widely used in industry for cleaning water and air supplies, as catalysts especially in petrochemical refining, and in nuclear reprocessing. One of the biggest uses is in the production of laundry detergents, although they have many other applications including odour control in cat litter, haemostatic dressings in medicine, and various agricultural uses in addition to their use as a dietary supplement.
Naturally occurring zeolites are usually contaminated to varying degrees by other minerals, metals, zeolites or quartz. Whereas synthetic zeolites can be manufactured in the laboratory and this can be used to generate uniform structures and also to create zeolites that do not occur in nature.
When it comes to manufacture of zeolites, the raw components - silica and alumina - are cheap and abundant and analogues can be created quickly rather than taking potentially tens of thousands of years to form. Also, the channel size can be engineered by exchanging sodium ions for the larger potassium ions thus reducing channel size.
The therapeutic properties of zeolite
When taken as a supplement the negatively charged zeolite framework attracts and traps positively charged ions including radioactive and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, aluminium, strontium and excess iron.
However, the great advantage over some other chelating products is that it is selective and does not bind and remove essential minerals like some detoxifying agents such as bentonite clay or EDTA which are indiscriminate in their actions. It also binds preferentially with mercury first and lead second, and then a variety of positively charged toxins including pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and radioactive particles.
Zeolite is a safe supplement to take and is eliminated in the urine between 5 and 7 hours later. Once a toxin has been captured in its cages it is effectively deactivated so that there are no toxic side-effects from the toxins captured either in circulation or damage to the delicate structures of the kidney.
When taken as a supplement, zeolite may also exhibit the following therapeutic properties:
It acts as a non-specific antimicrobial agent by binding and excreting viral sub-particles thus preventing viral replication and also by inhibiting viral and bacterial proliferation by modulating T cells.
It captures and aids elimination of the nitrosamines found in processed meats that have particularly been linked with cancers of the digestive system.
It is alkaline and acts as a pH buffer helping to prevent the acidic conditions in the blood and cellular fluids that encourage low immunity and diseases.
It adsorbs sugar helping to modulate blood sugar spikes.
It helps to prevent diarrhoea and is now included in some anti-diarrhoea drugs.
It acts as a powerful antioxidant by trapping and aiding elimination of free radical molecules rather than by donating an electron as with most antioxidants.
It can capture some of the antigens that cause allergies thus reducing symptoms.
It can have anti-ageing properties as normal repair and regeneration mechanisms are restored as the toxin burden is removed.
It promotes healthy digestion and encourages nutrient absorption.
Only clinoptilolite zeolite has been subject to fairly extensive research when used as a supplement. Zeolite is stable and is not broken down by the digestive processes when taken orally.
Zeolite powders mainly work in the intestines being poorly absorbed, whereas liquid zeolite enters the circulation and is transported to all the body's cells. However, some liquid zeolites have been exposed to extensive chemical processing, and extreme heat that can destroy the essential honeycomb structure.
The smaller the zeolite particles are, the more relative framework surface is exposed for adsorption of heavy metals and toxins. Such products are referred to as micronised if their particles can be measured in millionths of a metre, and nanotised if they can be measured in billionths of a metre.
Nanotised zeolite has been shown to be up to 1,000X more effective in absorbing toxic elements from the body because for the same volume it can contain 1,000 times more molecules. Some such liquid zeolite products are also available for use under the tongue as sprays.
It is important to drink between 8 to 10 glasses of water a day while taking zeolite to help flush the zeolite and the toxins it binds out through the kidneys.
Side-effects and drug interactions of zeolite
Zeolite tends not to affect or interact with pharmaceutical drugs which are mostly negatively charged. However zeolite may:
Bind tetracycline derivatives, quinolones, aspirin, theophylline, propanolol, and phenobarbital and iron resulting in decreased bioavailability.
Interfere with the actions of some chemotherapy drugs.
Enhance the immune response so should not be used with other immunosuppressant drugs or in transplant patients.
Promote the premature disintegration of enteric coated medications if taken concomitantly.