Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a soft, silica-based rock powder made from fossilised marine algae known as diatoms, and contains a number of beneficial trace minerals. It has a long list of wonderful uses for people, livestock and pets alike.
It has been used for various purposes for many decades. In the ‘60s, for example, it was used as a filter medium in a tube-type swimming pool filter, where a coarse form of the powder was used to line a mesh bag, the dirty pool water passing through the medium in the bag.
For human use, pets and livestock food grade DE should be used. This form will have been milled until it is almost completely amorphous. This means it has no crystalline (<0.5%) form left to cause damage to larger organisms. Instead it has small sharp edges which can damage tiny parasites, insects and larvae found on stored grain, in animal manure, on infected plants and in the stomachs of livestock and humans. It is advisable to wear a mask when working with DE, as it must not be inhaled. In the June edition of the Gauteng Smallholder, we described how DE can be used to get rid of bird mites and lice, but DE is also used for human and animal consumption, household pest control, as tick and flea powder and in grain storage. Diatomaceous (pronounced: di-a-tom-aye-shus) Earth is effective in eradicating pests because the diatoms are essentially very fine, sharp and abrasive particles that eliminate parasites by drying out the natural oils and fats on their exoskeletons, which causes them to shrivel up and perish relatively quickly. DE particles also stick to an insect and get stuck between its exoskeletal joints. As the insect moves, it is physically cut up. Diatomaceous Earth will kill all insects, including beneficial ones, so it should be used in a targeted manner. DE food grade is a natural pesticide that can be used safely in the garden. It works on insects such as beetles, mites, spiders, flying insects and ants. However, it will kill bees, so should not be used near flowers rich in pollen or nectar. DE can be mixed in poultry and bird feed to remove internal parasites. Livestock owner report good results when adding DE to their animals’ feed. It saves albumen, destroys harmful acids and safeguards the stomach. It improves the health and growth of young animals and improves digestion, allowing animals to absorb a higher percentage of protein from their regular diet. DE is a bio-available silica and trace element supplement in feed. It also improves milk production and absorbs methyl mercury, e coli, endotoxins and even some viruses. It increases appetite and helps to prevent scours. DE provides a broad-spectrum of naturally occurring chelated minerals that include calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphate, sodium, titanium, potassium and others. Another benefit of adding DE to livestock feed is that it acts as a natural preservative. Its porous nature allows it to absorb moisture that would otherwise cause feed to mould or rot, helping the feed to last longer than it would otherwise. Some livestock owners spread it in bedding for odour and moisture control. An added bonus is that reduced fly hatching is usually observed in manure from livestock fed DE. Its presence in the faeces prohibits larvae and development of adult flies and thereby reduced fly problems. Diatomaceous earth for pets acts as a non-toxic tick and flea remedy for dogs and cats. Simply brush the powder into your pet’s hair and sprinkle it over their bedding. It can also be added to pets’ food as a safe natural deworming treatment. It is a good idea to sprinkle DE in rubbish bins. It helps to absorb unpleasant odours and will discourage maggots. DE can also be used as a soil amendment, where it enhances the effectiveness of fertilisers and prevents leaching. It also assists in water retention of the soil. Apparently DE it doesn’t harm most beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. Worms, for example, are not affected by the microscopic edges in diatomaceous earth particles. In human consumption, some of the benefits of using DE internally are said to include reducing odours, helping to curb flatulence, cleansing the digestive tract, boosting liver function and absorbing harmful toxins within the blood. DE acts as a natural chelating product used for pulling heavy metals from the bloodstream. Other alleged benefits include lower cholesterol, lowering of blood pressure, relief from arthritis pain, increased energy, more regular bowel movements, smoother complexion and cough relief.

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