By Chris DePaulo
A naturally occurring “rock” mechanically broken up into tiny, microscopic pieces, called diatomaceous earth (DE), has been used by health practitioners, farmers and gardeners for well over a century. But now there is a renewed interest in DE, with farmers, gardeners, homesteaders and health-conscious people using it in various ways from internal cleansing to an outdoor bug repellant.
Technically, DE is neither a rock nor dirt. It is actually fossilized remains of a specific type of alga. It was originally discovered in the 1830s by a German merchant, who at first mistook it for limestone, a popular mineral used on farmers’ fields and in construction. But over the years, the ways in which it was used grew considerably. Once it is broken up into tiny pieces, DE can be used in all kinds of applications, including water filtration, a stabilizer in dynamite, cat litter and as an industrial abrasive. DE is also great for insect control in and around houses and gardens.
According to online sources, DE consists of “microscopic, jagged edges that will make tiny cuts on the outside of insects that crawl over it. . . . [eventually] they dehydrate and die.”
It is also safe to take DE internally to clean out your body in a healthy, nontoxic way, which does not involve dieting or nasty-tasting drinks. Just one tablespoon of DE mixed in juice or tea every day can detoxify your body inexpensively, safely and naturally. The best part of DE is that no matter what you do with it, because it is nontoxic, there is never any risk of contaminating wells or organic crops.
This writer has read about DE for many years, but it was only after hearing well-known apiarist John Seaborn recommend it that its benefits hit home.
Seaborn recommends applying DE on the ground around beehives to kill off the incredibly destructive small hive beetle before they can devastate the honeybees’ comb and contaminate honey supplies. I also add DE to my chicken feed. It is especially good for poultry. DE, added to feed, acts as an internal cleanser that kills off the parasites in a turkey’s body. For added protection, a pile of DE dumped near or in the coop allows birds to give themselves dust baths, killing off mites and other parasites without the use of toxic chemicals or pesticides.
One important thing to remember when seeking out a DE source: Make sure you purchase food-grade or pharmaceutical-grade DE.Many of DE’s cheaper forms are reportedly not broken down enough, which renders them ineffective in combating bugs. A 50-pound bag of DE costs about $20 to $25, but it can be purchased in much smaller quantities. Look on the Internet or speak with your local health food store or farm and garden supplier for food-grade DE.