The healing method of taking clay internally has been utilized for thousands of years, and devotees say that the clay is alkaline- and acid-reducing, making it beneficial for those suffering from digestive ailments like acid reflux. So what's it like?
WHAT IS IT: A safe-to-consume, powdered clay mixed with water
WHO TRIED IT: Catherine Kast, PEOPLE writer/reporter
WHY SHE DID IT: Shailene Woodley drinks it, so it must make you look and feel amazing, right?
I am no stranger to drinking things that don’t seem drinkable (chlorophyll smoothie, anyone?), so when I was asked if I could try consuming clay, one of the many holistic detox and healing regimens of Shailene Woodley, I was game.
Last month, Woodley told David Letterman, “Clay binds to other materials in your body and helps your body excrete those materials that aren’t necessarily the best for you.” On a beauty blog this year, The Fault in Our Stars actress also said that clay “also helps clean heavy metals out of your body.” I’m not entirely aware how much heavy metal I have inside me, or what harm it’s doing, but I figure that if I’m not getting my water from natural springs or taking my makeup off with sea buckthorn like Woodley, there must be more than I think.
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Also, Woodley’s not alone: The healing method of taking clay internally and externally has been utilized for thousands of years, and devotees say that the clay is alkaline- and acid-reducing, making it beneficial for those suffering from digestive ailments like acid reflux. And this study from Arizona State University touts bentonite clay’s ability to fight harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.
THE PROCESS: So, I set out on a search to find ingestible clay. (The stuff you made mugs out of in art class back in elementary school just won’t fly. Also, remember that before experimenting with a new dietary regimen, you should talk to your doctor.) After a brief online search and a few phone calls — including one to Woodley’s supplier, Mountain Rose Herbs in Colorado — I found Redmond, a California clay which is labeled as an “all natural dietary supplement.” It costs around $11 for a 10 oz. tub, and you can get it at Walmart. Plus, the company’s site provides easy how-to videos and client testimonials. Sold.
The videos taught me how to take the clay from powder form to a drinkable substance. They suggest mixing a little more than a teaspoon of clay into a big glass of water. The water and clay don’t combine on contact, so you need to stir quickly for a full minute if you want a smooth sip. As you stir, you’ll be able to carefully break up the chunks against the side of your glass or pitcher, which is really satisfying and not gross at all. It’s also suggested to use non-reactive containers and spoons when mixing your clay — I kept my clay in a glass pitcher and used a 16-oz. glass water bottle for transport.
Once the clay water is combined to your liking, you can go ahead and drink it. It really doesn’t taste bad. Honestly. If you let it linger in your mouth before swallowing, it does taste a little bit chalky (think more like baking soda than dirt), but it’s not at all unpleasant. After the full glass I felt satisfied, and there was no aftertaste.
I could actually hear the clay glugging along through my stomach, and that wasn’t too horrible either. It was probably battling with the cupcake I’d eaten just minutes before (it’s also suggested to wait a while after eating or taking supplements before drinking clay water).
THE VERDICT: For the past five days, I’ve drank a glass of clay water midway through breakfast and lunch. I noticed that after drinking the clay water I wasn’t as ravenous at subsequent meals, and perhaps the idea that I was doing something detoxing for my body made me choose healthier options.
Woodley has also said that a friend who started the clay kick noticed her ahem, excrements, started smelling like metal. That’s not a side effect I’ve noticed in just five days of use, but if I get entirely enamored with the earthly substance and that does start to happen, I’ll report back.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE Great Ideas.