Properties of Attapulgite

attapulgite clay powder

A magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate that occurs in a type of clay soil common to the Southeastern US. It is one of the types of fuller’s earth. Some smaller deposits of this mineral can be found in Mexico, where its use is tied to the manufacture of Maya blue in pre-Columbian times.

Attapulgite is widely used in medicine, when taken orally it physically binds to acids and toxic substances in the stomach and digestive tract. It can also be used, as an antidiarrheal, and was believed to work by adsorbing the bacteria or germ that may be causing the diarrhea. It has been used for decades to treat diarrhea in medications including Diar-Aid, Diarrest, Diasorb, Diatabs, Diatrol, Donnagel, Kaopek, K-Pek, Parepectolin, and Rheaban. (Until 2003, Kaopectate marketed in the US also contained attapulgite. However, at that time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration retroactively rejected medical studies showing its efficacy, calling them insufficient. Kaopectate’s U.S. formula was changed to bismuth subsalicylate (pink bismuth). Nevertheless, Kaopectate with attapulgite is still available in Canada and elsewhere.

Palygorskite can be added to lime mortar with metakaolin for period-correct restoration of mortar at cultural heritage sites.

Known to have been a key constituent of the pigment called Maya blue, which was used notably by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica on ceramics, sculptures, murals, and (most probably) Maya textiles. The clay mineral was also used by the Maya as a curative for certain illnesses, and evidence shows it was also added to pottery temper. The Maya blue synthetic pigment was also manufactured in other Mesoamerican regions and used by other Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Aztecs of central Mexico. The blue coloration seen on Maya and Aztec codices, and early colonial-era manuscripts and maps, is largely produced by the organic-inorganic mixture of añil leaves and palygorskite, with smaller amounts of other mineral additives.