Health Care Professional Information
Hydrated alkali aluminum silicate
Clinoptilolite, Erionite, Phillipsite, and Mordenite
As used in dietary supplements: Natural Cellular Defense (Waiora), ZETOX (Global Health Products), and Vulkansandkuren
Zeolites are a group of chemically related mineral substances that contain mainly hydrated aluminum and silicon compounds. They occur naturally in volcanic rock and ashes. Synthetic forms are available for industrial uses. They are also used as additives in animal feed. Zeolites have a fine porous cage-like structure and are often used as adsorbents, desiccants, detergents, and as water and air purifiers. They are used in medicine as an external hemostatic dressing (2) (3), for diarrhea (4), diabetes (5) and as suspending agents (6). The effect of zeolites on autism is under investigation (7). Zeolites have been marketed as dietary supplements for hangover (8) and as adjuvant therapy for cancers (9).
It is unclear if they are absorbed in the intestine or have any systemic effects. Since zeolites have chelating properties and may increase the pH in the gastrointestinal tract, they can potentially interact with many prescription drugs when consumed together. Exposure to airborne zeolite dust has been associated with high incidence of malignant mesothelioma (10) (11). Due to lack of data supporting efficacy and safety of zeolites, their use as antitumor supplements is not recommended.
Special Point: A company has filed a U.S. patent application on using a form of synthesized zeolite as a cancer drug (21). Data submitted were based on in vitro, plant, and animal studies. The patent specified that the substance must be injected directly into the tumor. This rules out any benefits by oral route. The company cited financial reasons and decided to market the product as a dietary supplement. Zeolites have not been studied as cancer drugs in humans.
- Anticancer therapy
Natural or synthetic microporous crystals of hydrated aluminum, silicon, and sodium compounds. Some zeolites also contain calcium and magnesium (1).
Mechanism of Action
Zeolites have ion-exchanging and adsorption properties. Zeolite granules, when used externally on wounds, can stop bleeding and promote clotting through the absorption of water (2) (3). Zeolites are thought to adsorb pathogenic microbials, glucose, and alcohol in the stomach and intestine and have been proposed for use in diarrhea (4), diabetes (5), and hangover (8) . Due to their alkaline nature, zeolites have pH buffering effects. They can adsorb nitrosamines in acidic solution (12) leading to claims that they can also be used as anticancer treatment by removing carcinogenic substances in the stomach. However, such effects have not been substantiated in humans. A few in vitro studies indicate that micronized zeolite inhibited protein kinase B; and induced expression of tumor suppressor proteins (9). In animal studies, micronized zeolite product was shown to reduce metastasis and increase the effect of doxorubicin due to its antioxidant property (13). It also increased peritoneal macrophages after intraperitoneal application and stimulate graft-versus-host reaction (14). Precise mechanisms of action remain largely unknown. Micronized zeolite can affect brain serotonergic receptors activities of mammary carcinoma bearing mice (15). However, the clinical implication of this effect in humans is unclear. Zeolite supplementation did not prolong survival in tumor-bearing animals (16). Zeolites may have both immunosuppressing and immunostimulating effects. In animal studies, they caused decline of GM-CFU in the bone marrow (16) but increase graft-versus-host (GvH) reaction (14). Zeolite products have other benefits when used in animal feed: they increase mineral utilization (17), reduce heavy metals induced anemia (18) and reduce aflatoxin toxicity (19). None of these benefits are applicable to humans.
Zeolites have stable structures and are not broken down in the gastrointestinal tract when taken orally. In animal studies using silicon and aluminum as markers, zeolites were shown to be poorly absorbed following oral administration. The amount of aluminum detected in the plasma was less than 0.1% of IV infusion(1). It is unclear if the dosage used in zeolite supplements would have any systemic effects.
- Zeolites are carcinogenic when inhaled.
- Vulkansandkuren, a zeolite product marketed in Europe, was found to contain high levels of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, copper, and chromium (20).
- Do not apply liquid zeolite directly into eyes or ears.
- Pulmonary Fibrosis (22)
- Mesothelioma - a high incidence has been demonstrated in humans exposed to zeolite dust (23).
- Zeolite particles produced statistically significant increases in percentage of aberrant metaphase in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and in cells collected by peritoneal lavage from exposed mice (1).
- In animal studies, zeolites were shown to cause leukocytosis and a decline in GM-CFU in bone marrow and inhibit myelopoiesis (16). Zeolites also provoke graft-versus-host (GvH) reaction in mice (14).
- Because zeolites have chelating and ion-exchanging effects, they can potentially bind to tetracycline derivatives, quinolones, and iron resulting in decreased bioavailability.
- Zeolites have also been shown to adsorb aspirin, theophylline, propanolol, and phenobarbital in vitro (4).
- Zeolites may have antioxidant effects and can potentially interfere with the actions of some chemotherapy drugs.
- Zeolites may also provoke graft versus host reaction (14) therefore, they should not be used with other immunosuppressant drugs or in transplant patients.
- Because zeolites have buffering effect and can increase the pH of the stomach, premature disintegration of enteric coated medications may occur when used concomitantly.
Herb Lab Interactions
In animal studies, oral supplementation of zeolites increased serum potassium level by 20% (16).
Literature Summary and Critique
There are no published studies investigating the purported antitumor effect of zeolites in humans. Large prospective studies have demonstrated that exposure to zeolite via inhalation is carcinogenic, and responsible for a well-described epidemic of malignant mesothelioma in Turkey.
The epidemic of mesothelioma (50% of deaths caused by malignant mesothelioma) in the Cappadocian (Turkey) villages of Tuzkoy, Karain, and Sarihidir, has been attributed to erionite exposure, a type of fibrous zeolite mineral commonly found in this area of Turkey. A prospective case-control study of residents of two villages that were exposed and a nearby control village conducted from 1979-2003 involving 891 men and women showed that 44.5% of all deaths (372) in the exposed villages were due to mesothelioma; only 2 cases of mesothelioma occurred in the control village (11).
Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
This field is only visible to only Inside MSKCC users.
- Elmore AR. Final report on the safety assessment of aluminum silicate, calcium silicate, magnesium aluminum silicate, magnesium silicate, magnesium trisilicate, sodium magnesium silicate, zirconium silicate, attapulgite, bentonite, Fuller's earth, hectorite, kaolin, lithium magnesium silicate, lithium magnesium sodium silicate, montmorillonite, pyrophyllite, and zeolite. Int J Toxicol 2003; 22 Suppl 1:37-102.
- Ahuja N, Ostomel TA, Rhee P, et al. Testing of modified zeolite hemostatic dressings in a large animal model of lethal groin injury. The Journal of trauma 2006; 61(6):1312-20.
- Alam HB, Chen Z, Jaskille A, et al. Application of a zeolite hemostatic agent achieves 100% survival in a lethal model of complex groin injury in Swine. The Journal of trauma 2004; 56(5):974-83.
- G. Rodriguez-Fuentes MM, A. Iraizoz, I, Perdomo, B. Cedre. Enterex: Anti-diarrheic drug based on purified natural clinoptilolite. Zeolites 1997;19:441-8.
- Concepcion-Rosebal B, Rodriges-Fluentes, G., Simon-Carballo, R. Development and featuring of the zeolitic active principle FZ: a glucose adsorbent. Zeolites 1997;19(1):47.
- Young SW, Qing F, Rubin D, et al. Gadolinium zeolite as an oral contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging. J Magn Reson Imaging 1995; 5(5):499-508.
- Zeolite Austism Study 2007 http://www.cellularzeolitecenter.com/ZeoliteAutism.php. Accessed September 26, 2012.
- Reuters. A New Cure for Hangover. CBS News 2002. Accessed September 26, 2012.
- Pavelic K, Hadzija M, Bedrica L, et al. Natural zeolite clinoptilolite: new adjuvant in anticancer therapy. J Mol Med 2001; 78(12):708-20.
- Sahin AA, Coplu L, Selcuk ZT, et al. Malignant pleural mesothelioma caused by environmental exposure to asbestos or erionite in rural Turkey: CT findings in 84 patients. Am J Roentgenol 1993; 161(3):533-7.
- Baris YI, Grandjean P. Prospective study of mesothelioma mortality in Turkish villages with exposure to fibrous zeolite. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006; 98(6):414-7.
- Zhou CF, Zhu JH. Adsorption of nitrosamines in acidic solution by zeolites. Chemosphere 2005 58(1):109-14.
- Zarkovic N, Zarkovic K, Kralj M, et al. Anticancer and antioxidative effects of micronized zeolite clinoptilolite. Anticancer Res 2003 23(2B):1589-95.
- Pavelic K, Katic M, Sverko V, et al. Immunostimulatory effect of natural clinoptilolite as a possible mechanism of its antimetastatic ability. Journal of cancer research and clinical oncology 2002;128(1):37-44.
- Muck-Seler D, Pivac N. The effect of natural clinoptilolite on the serotonergic receptors in the brain of mice with mammary carcinoma. Life sciences 2003 Sep 5;73(16):2059-69.
- Martin-Kleiner I, Flegar-Mestric Z, et al. The effect of the zeolite clinoptilolite on serum chemistry and hematopoiesis in mice. Food Chem Toxicol 2001; 39(7):717-27.
- Watkins KL, Southern LL. Effect of dietary sodium zeolite A on zinc utilization by chicks. Poultry science 1993; 72(2):296-305.
- Pond WG, Yen JT. Protection by clinoptilolite or zeolite NaA against cadmium-induced anemia in growing swine. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1983; 173(3):332-7.
- Kubena LF, Harvey RB, Huff WE, et al. Efficacy of a hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate to reduce the toxicity of aflatoxin and diacetoxyscirpenol. Poultry science 1993; 72(1):51-9.
- Eriksson I. Body Detox of Volcanic Ash Cause Cancer. Medical News Today 2004. Accessed September 26, 2012.
- Kaufman H, inventor; Lifelink Pharmaceuticals Inc, assignee. Epithelial Cell Cancer Drug. US Patent 6,288,045. September 11, 2001. Accessed September 26, 2012.
- Kliment CR, Clemens K, Oury TD. North american erionite-associated mesothelioma with pleural plaques and pulmonary fibrosis: a case report. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2009;2(4):407-10.
- Metintas M, Hillerdal G, Metintas S, Dumortier P. Endemic malignant mesothelioma: exposure to erionite is more important than genetic factors. Arch Environ Occup Health. 2010 Apr-Jun;65(2):86-93.
How It Works
Bottom Line: Zeolites have not been shown to treat cancer in humans.
Zeolites are minerals that contain mainly aluminum and silicon compounds combined with water molecules. They are used as drying agents, detergents, and as water and air purifiers. Zeolites have been marketed as dietary supplements for hangover and for cancer treatment. Because zeolites bind with other substances and may neutralize stomach acid, they can interfere with many drugs when used together. When inhaled, zeolite dust can cause certain type of lung cancer. There are no published human data to support the use of zeolites for cancer treatment.
- Treatment of diarrhea
A drug containing zeolite was developed to treat diarrhea in Cuba.
- Anticancer therapy
In vitro and animal studies suggest anticancer properties, but there are no clinical data to validate use of zeolites for cancer.
Animal studies showed that zeolites may have antioxidant properties.
Data from animal studies demonstrate that zeolites can both stimulate and suppress the immune system.
This study was done between 1979-2003 and involved 891 men and women from three villages in Turkey, two of which had high levels of erionite, a type of zolite. Data showed that during this period, 372 individuals from the two villages died due to mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to zeolites and related substances. Only two cases of mesothelioma were reported from the third village.
- When inhaled, natural zeolites can cause cancer. There is no evidence that other forms of zeolite cause cancer.
- Vulkansandkuren, a zeolite product marketed in Europe, was found to contain high levels of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, copper, and chromium.
- Do not apply liquid zeolite directly into eyes or ears.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking tetracycline, quinolones, iron, aspirin, theophylline, propanolol, and phenobarbital because zeolites can bind to them and decrease their absorption, making them less effective.
- You are a transplant patient and/or taking immunesuppressant drugs, as zeolites may cause rejection.
- You are using chemotherapy drugs, because zeolites have antioxidant effects and may interfere with the actions of chemo drugs.
- Fibrosis (increase in fibrous tissue)
- Pneumoconiosis (respiratory disease)
- Mesothelioma (Exposure to zeolite dust is associated with high incidence of mesothelioma, a tumor that affects the lining of the chest or abdomen).
A company filed a U.S. patent application on using a form of man-made zeolite as a cancer drug. Data submitted were based on lab, plant, and animal studies. According to the patent, the substance must be injected directly into the tumor. This means it has no benefits if taken by mouth. Because developing this product into a drug involves too much money, the company decided to sell it as a dietary supplement. Zeolites have not been studied as a cancer drug in human clinical trials.
Last updated: September 26, 2012