Silica is the most common mineral on earth. It is known for its hardness and is therefore commonly used in the production of glass products and it is a common additive in food production for use as a flow agent and to absorb water.
Silica is a very important micro mineral for both humans and animals. It contributes to the health of many parts of the body including tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, bones, skin, teeth, nails, the heart and lungs. Silica also aids the body in absorbing other important minerals.
Silica is a chemical compound composed of silicon and oxygen atoms. Silica is a very common and naturally occurring compound due to the fact that oxygen and silicon are the two most plentiful elements found in the earth’s crust.
There are two forms of silica, crystalline silica and amorphous silica (also known as noncrystalline or silicon dioxide). Both are chemically identical however the way in which they have been produced provides each with a unique physical form and therefore different qualities and functions.
Crystalline silica is naturally occurring silica that had been exposed to extreme heat. This type of silica can be dangerous when inhaled or ingested. It is not biodegradable and is most commonly used for filtration for example in swimming pools and fish tanks. It occurs most commonly in nature as quartz.
Amorphous or noncrystalline silica also occurs in nature however it is produced as the result of a biological function. This process is carried out by many organisms including diatoms. The organisms absorb silica from the water around them and use it to build their cell walls. The silica in the water has dissolved from rocks and is very important to the survival of these organisms.
It is the cell walls of the diatoms that provide the silica in diatomaceous earth. In fact, amorphous or noncrystalline silica is the main component in food grade diatomaceous earth. Crystalline silica also exists in trace amounts (less than 1%) however this is not enough to be harmful to humans or animals.
While the presence of amorphous silica is important in diatomaceous earth in order to provide health benefits, it is not necessary for food grade diatomaceous earth to be made from 100% amorphous silica. In fact, beyond a certain point, this extra silica only functions as a filler and does not provide any added benefit. This is why you will find other substances such as montmorillonite and calcium bentonite in diatomaceous earth. These substances provide the extra benefit of micro and macro minerals that are important to maintain healthy, functioning bodies.