It's fun stumbling upon things unexpectedly that fall right in line with what I'm researching. I'm reading a fascinating book called Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medicinal Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales by Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein. I came across this quote, which of course piqued my interest:
"Clays are still being used as medicines today. The Toba-Batak of Sunatra claim that eating clay stops the vomiting associated with morning sickness in pregnant women. Many Nigerian tribes prescribe local clays for morning sickness..." (pg 66)
Naturally, I had to follow this rabbit trail. I have taken clay before to resolve some stomach issues in college (not sure if it helped or not, but I did have zero body odor when regularly ingesting it, both in the pits and bowels), so I was not repulsed at the thought of taking clay for nausea and inclined to find out more.
I found another book called Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives: How Evolution Has Shaped Women's Health by Wenda Trevathan which mentions the valid use of ingesting clay in some 60 societies for pregnancy sickness.
"A phenomenon some what related to food aversion is the craving for clays (geophagy) reported by pregnant women in a number of societies. In medical literature, this craving is often reported as pathological, but its existence is so widespread that scholars of evolutionary medicine search for adaptive explanations. Worldwide, clays are used to relieve diarrhea (the original kaopectate, after all, was mostly kaolin, a clay), detoxify compounds, and provide minerals that are insufficient in the diet. In Africa, this practice is also employed by women seeking to relieve nausea of pregnancy and it can serve to bind toxins that would harm the fetus at this stage.
When geophagy continues beyond the early stages of pregnancy, it probably adds important nutrients to the diet, especially calcium, essential for fetal skeletal development and maintenance of blood pressure in pregnancy. Anthropologists Andrea Wiley and Sol Katz propose that clay as a source of calcium helps to explain the distribution of geophagy in African populations. Their survey of 60 societies confirms that where dairying is practiced and calcium is available in the diets of pregnant women, geophagy is less common than where dairy foods are not available. This work confirms that what may be seen as pathological or abnormal by clinicians may make sense from an evolutionary perspective because in many cases geophagy serves to reduce the negative aspects of morning sickness, detoxify agents early in pregnancy, and provide calcium and other minerals." (Pgs 80-81)
I further found a couple of other mama bloggers mentioning their use of clay for pregnancy sickness. Each site mentions the high mineral content in clay, as well as its alkalinizing affects. Hello! It all just keeps coming full circle!
This is not a popular remedy, but I did read a couple of testimonials here and there. The most specific saying that she took 1 tsp in water before bed and it made a significant difference. This was her third HG pregnancy.
This overview on HG contains a warning by the FDA about not ingesting particular clays (of African origin) due to being high in lead and arsenic. So it would seem that enough women have taken clay as a remedy to alleviate HG that it's on their radar. I also saw warnings about being careful when to ingest the clay - such as not within an hour of eating and not within two hours of taking medication, otherwise the clay itself will absorb the nutrients and/or medicines, depriving the body of it. If this is something you might choose to do, only use a food-grade bentonite clay, talk with your practitioner, and do your own research.