What is Clay?

FYLGDU MÉR offers a specially-formulated bath clay and a facial cleanser made with clay mined in the volcanic zone in Auvergne, south-central France, that is also used in treatments at our salon, ORKA. A pioneer in contemporary clay therapy Dominique Maehara is the founder of AromaFrance, which imports the clay. Dominique talks about this core material of our treatments: where it is mined and what supports its quality.

Science Discovers the Benefits of Clay

What is clay? Upon looking up the word, you will discover its definition differs between fields and that there is no single set one. “Nendo” is the Japanese word for clay. Clay is used not only for crafts, such as in pottery, but also in a wide range of fields: pigments in fresco paintings, construction and building materials in civil engineering and architecture, and soil improvement materials in agriculture and feed in dairy farming.
You may think it is only in recent years that clay has been gaining attention as something beneficial for beauty and health. However, treatments using clay already existed in the Egyptian civilization in 3000 BC, and practitioners have been performing it ever since then. In France, Dominique’s home county, the oldest record mentioning clay was written by the famous seer Nostradamus (1503-1566). Until the Middle Ages, along with medicinal plants, herb water, and minerals, clay was prescribed as a cure for various ailments. Then, after the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century, medical treatments gradually shifted from natural remedies of medieval ages to favor cause and effect proof between the components and efficacy. As a result, because clay therapy was based only on practical experience, medicine and different therapies soon abandoned it as mere “folk remedy.”
The invention of the electron microscope in the 20th century encouraged the scientific study on clay. It was found that clay possesses a negative charge and absorbs harmful substances with a positive charge, such as heavy metal and waste products, improving our well-being. In our contemporary lifestyles, habits, and environmental pollution, the mild and gentle benefits of clay help and heal many of us of harmful substances that accumulate in us and cause us to fall ill or feel out of sorts. Due to contemporary lifestyle, habits, and environmental pollution, harmful substances accumulate within us. Clay has a gentle and beneficial effect on such disorders and heals many of us.

Clay Opens Paths

When Dominique was still in France, she struggled with various disorders caused by a type of rheumatoid arthritis. She relied on modern medicine but was not able to find a fundamental cure. Then, her friend’s father happed to be a doctor and homeopath, who prescribed fasts and clay therapy to his patients. He treated Dominique with clay and herb to achieve remission. This amazing experience involving natural remedies led Dominique to study clay therapy and phytotherapy.
After Dominique arrived in Japan, she eagerly studied Noguchi Taiso and Keiraku, an eastern medicine therapy, which she realized could work well with clay therapy. Clay cleanses where blood, lymph fluid, or the flow of water and qi is stagnant and improves the circulation. For this reason, Dominique describes clay as “something that opens paths.” Later, to promote natural remedies as well as quality essential oils, herbs, and clay used for therapy, Dominique founded a school and a shop. Besides drawing on the experience gained in the long history of clay therapy, she has a passion for elucidating the efficacy of the therapy scientifically, in collaboration with producers and research institutes.
Dominique continually searched for a producer that allowed her to observe the clay pits and processing plants so that she could find the best French clay available. A friend introduced her to a clay pit owner, and he let her visit and observe his clay pit. Dominique currently buys clay from him now.

“Clay is very delicate. That clay is absorptive means it is affected by the diverse, microscopic substances in nature. It is essential to ensure that mined clay is dried sufficiently so that unwanted bacteria do not multiply, and that clay is stored carefully. The surrounding environment should be free of air and soil pollution. The clay pits we buy our clay from is located in an area full of volcanoes and natural hot springs; A brand of mineral water bottled in this area is well-known in Japan. The clay pits are in the mountains in the middle of lush nature. Like other clay producers, our producer prepares both clay for industrial use and clay for therapeutic use. What is remarkable about our producer is that they thoroughly dry clay with a roller oven, meticulously check the particle size and the composition of the clay minerals, and carefully analyze the components. These procedures enable our producer to provide us with quality clay that satisfies our requirements.”

Clay Minerals Ratio Determines the Quality of Clay

Only a small portion of the clay produced in the world is exploited for our mind and body, such as for therapy use. So, what are the characteristics of this type of clay? Soil mechanics, geology, and mineralogy all have a different definition for clay, and clay particle size is different in each. Clay minerals that can be effectively used in clay therapy are various particles with a size of 2 micrometers or less, as defined in mineralogy. Minerals inside volcanic rocks, such as basalt and granite, come into contact with water, slowly ionize, melt, crystallize, and finally become the clay minerals. These clay minerals are indeed gifts from the Earth, a planet of water.
Examples of absorptive clay minerals that can be effectively used in clay therapy are montmorillonite, kaolinite, illite, and saponite. The more amounts the mined clay contains these clay minerals, the more the minerals can enter our body and absorb the substances with a positive charge. FYLGDU MÉR buys its clay from a producer of green clay containing illite and montmorillonite, and these clay minerals comprise almost 100% of the clay. Considering clay minerals constitute 20 to 80% of all components in typical in the market, it is clear that the clay FYLGDU MÉR uses has exceptional quality and is therefore extremely valuable.

Clay is mined around the world, but every clay has unique components and a ratio of clay minerals. The types of minerals contained in volcanic rocks, crustal movements, and weathering caused by water and oxygen—clay holds in itself tens of thousands of years’ worth of memories about the geological activities of the Earth. Each clay is a crystal that is endemic to the land.

Text: Aya Ogawa