Activated charcoal has a multitude of uses and benefits and has been around for some time. That said, you may not know much about it, and may be wondering how it can help you.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
It is important to know that activated charcoal and charcoal (from your BBQ) is not the same thing. Activated charcoal is an insoluble powder, which is produced using a carbon substance such as; coconut shells, wood, peat or coal. The carbon substance goes through a process of burning without oxygen, which then produces charcoal. The charcoal is then heated in steam or air to produce activated charcoal. (1)
Activation causes the charcoal to become very adsorptive, which means toxins bind to its surface. This adsorptive surface is a result of fine particles produced during the activation process. This surface makes activated charcoal a perfect medicine to treat toxic substance ingestion.(2)
In short, activated charcoal traps toxins in the body using its adsorptive surface. This stops toxins absorbing into the body, which would have caused harm.
How Long Has Activated Charcoal Been In Use?
It is surprising to learn that it has been in use for over 200 years. Most commonly it is used in preventing the effects of poison in humans and animals.
In 1831 Tovery (a researcher) illustrated the effectiveness of charcoal. Tovery ingested a lethal dose of strychnine mixed with charcoal. The result was he suffered no adverse effects. (3) This demonstration really shows how amazing charcoal is!
Since this time activated charcoal production has been further refined and purified. This has enabled activated charcoal to become more adsorptive and powerful for toxin removal in the body.
Uses of Activated Charcoal
The most common use is in treating toxic substance ingestion. That said, there are many other ways it can be used;
- Reduces bloating & intestinal gas. Taking charcoal after a gas producing meal will reduce intestinal gas.(4) This is great news for anyone that suffers IBS symptoms after or between eating.
- May Reduce Hangovers. Taking charcoal before drinking alcohol reduces alcohol levels in the blood. This meaning charcoal may reduce a hangover after alcohol consumption.
- Body wash & shampoo. Charcoal is a great addition to your body wash and shampoo. The charcoal binds to grease build up, leaving your hair and skin very clean.
- Whitens teeth. The charcoal binds to plaque and bacteria, removing any stains on the teeth. Simply dip your toothbrush into water and brush your teeth, then rinse your mouth with water to remove the charcoal.
- Skin care. Because of the adsorptive properties of charcoal, the face mask will clear any build up and bacteria on the skin. Add to coconut oil to create a face mask. Regular use may result in less acne and breakouts.
- Water filtration. Activated charcoal can remove impurities and odours from water using a filtration system. (6)
- Bug Bites. When mixed with coconut oil, apply a thin layer onto a bug bite and leave to dry. The charcoal binds to and removes the irritant left from the bugs bite. This will stop itching and possible infection.
- Toxic substance removal. Medical professionals still routinely use it for toxic substance overdose.
Activated charcoal has many benefits, but there are some precautions to be aware of;
- May decrease the effects of medication and supplements. Take activated charcoal, 2 hours before or after any other medications or supplements. Failure to do so may result in a reduced effect of medication/supplements.
- May bind to nutrients that your body needs. Avoid ingesting on a daily basis. Again due to charcoals adsorptive properties, it may bind to nutrients. Only ingest as and when you need it.
- May result in constipation. Drink plenty of water when taking charcoal to avoid constipation.
- It will stain fabrics and surfaces. Wear dark clothing and cover worktops when using as a face mask or teeth whitener.
- Consult your doctor before taking, if you have a medical issue. Problems can occur if you have any of the following. Intestinal blockages, slow digestion, intestinal bleeding, hole in intestine, had surgery or dehydration. (5)
Activated charcoal is safe
Reports show that there are no side effects. Of course, follow the precautions mentioned to assure safe use.
Where can I buy activated charcoal?
When buying activated charcoal, check that the charcoal is from a natural substance. Also make sure it has no artificial sweeteners, fillers or thickeners added to the product.
Wonderfoods’ Charcoal Max contains activated vegetable charcoal, peppermint oil, papaya, concentrated fennel and ginger. Every ingredient included will help gastrointestinal discomforts, such as bloating and cramps.
- Activated charcoal has many benefits and uses, and is safe for ingestion
- Studies show that activated charcoal is successful in treating toxic substance ingestion, reducing gas, bloating and flatulence
- Drink plenty of water and ingest 2 hours away from medication
- Always consult with a doctor before taking charcoal. Especially if you have any of the medical conditions mentioned above
- Cover surfaces and wear dark clothing, to avoid staining when using as a face mask or teeth whitener
- Only buy a charcoal that is free from artificial substances and 100% natural.
- Single-Dose Activated Charcoal. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. 2005.
- Single dose activated charcoal for gut decontamination: Application by medical non-professionals -a prospective study on availability and practicability. Pfab R, Schmoll S, Dostal G, Stenzel J,Hapfelmeier A, and Eyera F. 2016.
- Activated Charcoal- Past, Present and Future. DERLET R W, and ALBERTSON T E. 1986.
- Effects of orally administered activated charcoal on intestinal gas. Hall RG Jr, Thompson H, Strother A. 1981.
- Water Filtration. Jacobsen E K, 2004.