Natural Products That Help to Clot Blood and Stop Bleeding
Human Blood Cells
Our bodies have a wonderful ability to stop blood loss and heal wounds. Protective measures spring into action as soon as we’re injured. These measures clot blood, help to prevent infection, and repair damage to the body. Our bodies can’t repair large or serious wounds, such as those that occur in major accidents or in war zones, however. First aid followed by medical help is needed to treat these problems.
Researchers have discovered that the minerals kaolin and zeolite help to stop serious bleeding and stimulate the body's blood clotting process. Neither are harmful to the body when they're used in wound treatment. They've proven their effectiveness on the battlefield and are now available for the general public, as well as the military.
The minerals are sold in sterile packages and are a great addition to a first aid kit, especially for car drivers or people who participate in risky sports. They are also useful for people who hike or perform another activity which takes them to isolated areas. Someone with a serious wound must see a doctor as soon as possible. One of the clotting aids plus the traditional treatment of a bandage that puts pressure on a wound can help to prevent blood loss while the person is travelling to a hospital or waiting for medical treatment, however.
Blood Cells, or Formed Elements
Contents and Functions of Blood
Blood is a vital fluid in our bodies and performs essential jobs. The red blood cells are the most numerous type of cell in the blood. They transport inhaled oxygen around the body and deliver it to the tissue cells, which need the oxygen to produce energy. There are also several types of white blood cells In blood. These are part of the body's immune system and protect us from infection. The platelets are cell fragments that become activated when we're wounded, helping blood to clot and bleeding to stop. Activated platelets have a spiky appearance.
The blood cells are suspended in a fluid called plasma. The plasma transports nutrients, dissolved gases, salts, hormones, important proteins, and heat throughout the body. It also transports waste substances away from tissues to be excreted.
The pumping of the heart is the ultimate source of blood pressure. Severe bleeding decreases the amount of fluid for the heart to pump and lowers blood pressure. This can have very serious effects on the brain because its cells need a constant and adequate supply of oxygen from red blood cells.
Circulation Around the Body
Blood leaves the heart through arteries. The arteries branch into smaller arterioles which in turn branch into tiny capillaries. The capillaries travel through the tissues. Substances such as oxygen and nutrients leave the capillaries and enter the tissue cells. Substances such as carbon dioxide and other wastes move from the tissue cells into the capillaries. The wastes are then removed from the body via several mechanisms. Capillaries join together to form venules, which in turn join to form veins. The veins return the blood to the heart.
Capillaries have thin walls and are so narrow that red blood cells must pass through them in a single file. Our body can quickly repair a wound in a capillary and replace the lost blood. Blood loss from a bigger blood vessel is more serious, however. The most serious wounds of all are those in arteries, since the blood here is under high pressure created by the heartbeat and may spurt out of the wound. Wounds in veins are serious too, although the blood flows out of an injured vein steadily instead of leaving it in spurts.
A Capillary Bed
How Does Blood Clot?
Blood clotting, or hemostasis, is an essential body process that repairs wounds and stops bleeding. The overall steps in the blood clotting process are as follows.
- First, the broken blood vessel constricts, reducing blood loss from the vessel.
- Next, a platelet plug forms over the wound to temporarily stop blood loss. Platelets are continually circulating in our blood.
- The platelets become activated, attracting proteins called coagulation factors or clotting factors to the wound.
- The clotting factors cause a soluble blood protein called fibrinogen to be converted into insoluble fibrin threads. These threads form a mesh over the wound, trapping platelets and blood and forming a clot.
- Within the blood clot the damaged tissue is repaired.
- Chemicals in the blood stop the clot from becoming so big that it blocks the vessel and also break it down once the wound is sealed.
Although these steps may sound simple, blood clotting is actually a complex event. Many different chemicals and processes are involved in the steps described above.
Hemostasis or Blood Clotting Overview
What Is Kaolin?
Kaolin is a soft, white clay that is also known as China clay. It's named after the Kao-ling mountain in China, where the clay was mined for centuries. It consists chiefly of a mineral called kaolinite. Kaolinite is hydrated aluminum silicate. Kaolin also contains smaller quantities of other chemicals and sometimes has a yellow or red tinge due to the presence of iron oxide.
Kaolin is used in paper manufacture, ceramics, cosmetics, and toothpaste, as well as in wound treatment and many other applications. It's added to paints to flatten the colour and to act as an extender. It's also added to rubber in a very fine grained form in order to strengthen the rubber and to make it more resistant to abrasion.
Another use of kaolin is as a medication for upset stomachs and diarrhea. Kaolin helps these problems because it adsorbs materials in the gut, such as toxins and other substances. Adsorption is the adhesion or binding of particles (atoms, ions or molecules) to a surface. Kaolin may also adsorb some medications, reducing their absorption into the body throught the intestinal lining. This may be important information for people taking certain medications.
Using a kaolin or zeolite dressing doesn't negate the need for the traditional first aid treatment of applying pressure to a wound or the need for medical treatment. Both substances can aid the blood clotting process, however.
Kaolin and Blood Clotting
Hemostasis is the process of stopping bleeding. Kaolin is a hemostatic agent. It activates the body's blood clotting system soon after being applied to a wound, thereby helping to stop bleeding.
Once a platelet plug has formed over a wound, a series of chemical reactions called the coagulation cascade takes place. At the end of the cascade, fibrinogen is converted into fibrin threads.
Many different proteins, or clotting factors, are involved in the coagulation cascade. The clotting factors are identified by Roman numerals. They are present in our blood in an inactive form and are activated when our blood vessels are injured and we need to make a blood clot. Kaolin activates Factor Xll in the coagulation cascade. Once this substance is activated the cascade occurs rapidly.
Applying a pressure bandage to a wound can fight the blood pressure that forces blood out of the body and allow time for the coagulation cascade to begin naturally. Adding kaolin to the wound speeds up the cascade, however.
The Z-Medica company makes a dressing called QuikClot combat gauze that is impregnated with kaolin. The company's website says that blood loss usually stops in 3 to 5 minutes when a QuikClot kaolin dressing is used. Independent scientists at the University of Milan have found evidence supporting this claim. They studied 200 patients with wounds from the same hospital procedure. The procedure involved making an opening in the femoral artery that triggered heavy bleeding. Bleeding stopped in 5.4 minutes +/- 1.5 minutes with a kaolin bandage and in 25 minutes +/- 15 minutes when a bandage without kaolin was used.
Hemostasis and the Coagulation Cascade in More Detail
What Are Zeolites?
Although "zeolite" is often used in the singular form by the public, in science it's generally used in the plural form because it refers to a group of minerals. Zeolites are very porous minerals that contain aluminum and silicate and adsorb other materials. Their pores give them a high surface area for adsorbing substances. Despite containing the same chemicals as kaolin, zeolites have a different structure.
Zeolites are used for water purification and are often present in detergents. They are used to slowly deliver nutrients to soil and to adsorb dangerous chemicals from aquariums. They are also used in some non-clumping cat litters.
Zeolite and Hemostasis
Like kaolin, zeolite activates blood clotting and helps to stops bleeding quickly. The Z-Medica company sells zeolite products as well as kaolin products. Their early zeolite products were sold as a fine grain product that resembled sand. There was a serious drawback when this product was placed on wounds. As the zeolite became hydrated it produced heat and caused burns. Experiencing a burn is better than bleeding to death, but it isn't acceptable in a first aid treatment.
There are additional problems with applying a sandy or granular first aid treatment to a wound. It's hard to remove a sand from a wound. In addition, the act of trying to remove the sand may disturb a blood clot and cause bleeding again.
Z-Medica's zeolite products are now provided as beads in a mesh bag instead of as a powder that is poured into a wound. The beads contain zeolite in a different format from the original product and no longer produce excess heat.
Zeolite works in several ways. It provides calcium ions to the wound. These ions are one of the clotting factors and are required for several steps in the coagulation cascade. Researchers have found that providing calcium ions shortens the clotting time. It's also thought that the negative charge on the surface of zeolite particles initiates one pathway in the coagulation cascade. In addition, the Naval Blood Research Laboratory (NBRL) has found that in lab equipment zeolite activates platelets, enabling them to form a platelet plug over the wound. The lab has also found that zeolite reduces blood loss and increases survival time in rodents.
Potentially Useful Additions to a First Aid Kit
We all hope that we will never experience a serious injury, but accidents do happen. A first aid kit is important in our home and in our vehicles to help ourselves and other people.
Sterile dressings and bandages are used to put pressure on a wound (unless organs are protruding) in order to stop bleeding. They are standard first aid materials and should be present in every first aid kit. A mineral product containing kaolin or zeolite could be a good addition to the kit, since the products help blood to clot. They also have a good safety record when they're used to treat wounds.
- A Kaolin Bandage Versus a Regular Bandage from the NIH (National Institutes of Health)
- A United States Army report describes the successful use of Combat Gauze (which contains kaolin). Note that the other product mentioned in this article (WoundStat, which contains smectite minerals instead of kaolin) is no longer used by the army because it's been discovered that while it does stop bleeding it also causes inflammation and damages healthy cells.
- Zeolite and Calcium ions in Wounds (Article abstract from nature.com)
- The Naval Blood Research Laboratory describes the effect of zeolite on platelet activation. (Scroll down the page to see the information about zeolite and platelet activation.)
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Linda Crampton