What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is created by burning any carbon source like wood, coal, or coconut husks (the best source!), then the charred ash is “activated” by heating in a furnace between 1,700º and 1,800º Fahrenheit, and steamed without oxygen to remove all the volatile compounds.
This process removes layer after layer of carbon atoms, which enlarges the existing internal pores making the finished product incredibly absorbent that 1 gram of powder equals a surface area of 5,400 sq ft!
Note: Don’t confuse activated charcoal with the ashes left over from the coals in your barbecue or fireplace, those are not the same and can be very toxic if you try to use them. Activated charcoal goes through a very industrial chemical process to purify and remove the toxins, which is not something you can do at home.
Uses For Activated Charcoal
For centuries, regular charcoal was used by physicians to treat all sorts of ailments, but in the 20th century, the charcoal activation process gained a lot of attention from the medical community for its potential to treat accidental poisonings and gastrointestinal issues.
Due to activated charcoal’s incredibly high porosity and negative electric charge, it has the ability to seek out and bind to positively charged toxins in the body, removing them from your system. This process of binding to toxins is called “adsorption”, which is different from “absorption”.
Activated charcoal works so well at removing toxins that it’s heavily used in all types of industrial applications, and can be found in water filters to purify and cleanse your drinking water.
11 Health Benefits Of Activated Charcoal
1. Emergency Toxin & Poison Removal
Activated charcoal has been used primarily for treating accidental poisonings from overdosing on drugs, or ingesting chemicals like bleach, pesticides, lead, mercury, or any other toxin.
Obviously, if you ever do end up ingesting a poison, you’ll want to call 911 immediately and go to a hospital for treatment, but taking a large single dose of activated charcoal can start binding to the toxins and help prevent serious damage to your body.
The University of Michigan Health System recommends taking 50-100 grams (not milligrams), for adults, and 10 to 25 grams for children in the case of accidental poisoning.
Activated charcoal is also helpful in treating nausea and diarrhea cause by food poisoning. Adults can take 25 grams during the onset of symptoms, and children can be given 10 grams. Whenever taking activated charcoal internally, be sure to drink plenty of water to help flush out the toxins.
2. Reduces Hangovers & Treats Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning is a very serious, and potentially deadly result of consuming too much alcohol within a short amount of time, which doesn’t allow your liver enough time to filter out all the toxins from your body.
To help alleviate the effects of alcohol poisoning, activated charcoal has been used to bind to and remove the chemicals and toxins from your body. While it doesn’t actually absorb the alcohol itself, it can definitely help flush out the toxins and keep you from getting severely ill. You should absolutely call 911 if you suspect anyone may have alcohol poisoning.
In addition, studies have shown that taking activated charcoal during the consumption of alcohol can reduce the effect of alcohol on the blood. This may result in reduced hangover symptoms from alcohol consumption, but it’s definitely not something that should be used in place of drinking responsibly.
3. Treat Mold Symptoms
When we think of mold, we typically think of it sitting around damp and dark areas of our home, but not really inside our bodies. If there is any type of mold in your home, your bodies can absorb it and cause significant health issues like depression, decreased brain function, memory loss, kidney and liver failure, severe respiratory issues, heart disease, eye irritation, headaches, vomiting, and weakened immune function.
It is imperative that you check for mold within your home, as it can hide in bathrooms, basements, garages, or anywhere that may have poor ventilation and damp conditions. While wearing gloves, mask, and protective eye gear, use baking soda, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and borax to clean mold off hard surfaces.
If you suspect that you and your family have been exposed to mold in your home, and you show signs of some of the associated symptoms, it’s very important that you call in a professional to evaluate the mold situation in your home. Taking activated charcoal can help remove the toxin buildup in your body cause by mold, but again, you should always seek out a physician’s assistance if you have any symptoms.
4. Reduces Or Eliminates Gas & Bloating
Everyone experiences gas and bloating from time to time, but for some people who have IBS, it can be a daily occurrence. A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that taking activated charcoal before consuming a typical gas-inducing meal can prevent intestinal gas from following.
Activated charcoal works by binding to the gas-causing byproducts in food that lead to bloating and discomfort. The recommended dosage before a meal is about 500 milligrams, followed immediately by a large glass of water to get the activated charcoal started.
5. Acne Treatment
Since activated charcoal can bind to and remove impurities, it makes a great acne and skin treatment mask! To use as a face mask, mix one capsule of charcoal powder with a teaspoon or more of aloe vera gel in a small non-metal bowl. Apply to skin and let dry before rinsing off with warm water. You face will be black from the powder, but it won’t stain your skin.
Warning: Activated charcoal WILL stain your clothes and tile grout, so be very careful when using the black powder as it can be quite messy. Put a dark towel down, and wear an old dark-colored shirt you don’t care about that much, or place newspapers around your sink area before applying the mask. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did!
6. Purifies & Filters Water
Activated charcoal is one of the most used ingredients in water filtration systems, whether industrial or at home. It works by trapping impurities in the water such as pesticides, solvents, industrial waste, and other harmful chemicals. It has also been shown to remove some fluoride from the water, which is dangerous to our health.
When drinking water at home, invest in a good water filtration system to help remove impurities from your tap water. I personally use several different water filters at home including a shower filter, under the sink filter system, and water pitcher. These are the ones I recommend and use at home:
- Brita Water Filter Pitcher
- APEC Reverse Osmosis Under-The-Sink Filtration System
- Sprite Shower Filter & Shower Head
7. Relieves Insect Bites & Stings
Activated charcoal is extremely effective in removing toxins caused by bee stings or insect bites, especially from spider bites like the Brown Recluse, or Black Widow. It can also treat poison ivy rashes, snake bites, and other poisoning bites from insects or animals.
To use, mix some activate charcoal with water, or cornstarch, until you get a paste-like consistency, then apply directly to the bite area as soon as possible. This will help draw out any of the poison that has entered the body from the bite, while giving you ample time to call a doctor for proper treatment.
8. Digestive Tract Cleanse
Our gut is responsible for about 80% of our immune system, which means that a healthy gut is a healthy body. By keeping our digestive tract clean, healthy, and full of beneficial bacteria, we can ensure that our immune system is functioning properly.
Because we are exposed to so many different chemicals throughout our lives, whether in our food, water, or the air, it’s important to regularly detox our bodies from time to time. Not only will this boost our immune system, but it will allow our bodies to properly absorb key nutrients and vitamins from whole organic foods.
To perform a digestive cleanse, take 10 grams of activated charcoal approximately 90 minutes before each meal for two days straight. Follow each dose of activated charcoal with a full glass of water, and eat only organic fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, and wild-caught fish during your cleanse.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, or you may experience some constipation during your cleanse. This is just a sign that you’re not getting enough water, so add a few fresh slices of lemon to your water to help with the detox process.
9. Improves Cholesterol & Heart Health
Studies have shown that taking activated charcoal has a significant impact on overall cholesterol levels and heart health. In one study, taking activated charcoal decreased LDL (the bad) by 25% to 41%, while increasing HDL (the good) by 8%, with no side effects noted.
Some studies have also shown that taking a daily dose of activated charcoal can help prevent abnormal hardening in the heart, and coronary blood vessels, which leads to a healthier heart overall.
10. Anti-Aging Properties
Aging is an inevitable part of life, but there are ways we can slow down the effects of aging in our bodies and skin. Activated charcoal can help prevent cellular damage to our kidneys and liver, and also support healthy adrenal glands.
By using activated charcoal to routinely cleanse our bodies of chemicals, it allows the organs to function better and help the body flush out toxins from our system. This helps keep our body functioning properly, and slows down the aging process.
11. Whitens Teeth
I saved my favorite for last! While it’s not as important to our health than many of the others listed above, having white teeth is a struggle for many people, including myself.
Over the years, our teeth can become yellow and stained from coffee, tea, wine, or just through aging. There are many whitening products on the market, but most of them use chemicals to bleach teeth, which can subsequently weaken the enamel. Activated charcoal can also weaken your enamel if over used, but it is still a much safer alternative than conventional whitening products.
To use, dip an old toothbrush into a small amount of activated charcoal and carefully brush your teeth with the powder. This will be very messy, so make sure your bathroom is well protected. Your teeth will be completely black, which can be a little bizarre to look at, but I assure you it won’t stain your teeth.
Luckily, activated charcoal has no odor or taste, so aside from having black teeth, you won’t know it’s in your mouth! After brushing for a minute or so with the activated charcoal, rinse your mouth out with warm water, and follow by brushing your teeth like normal. You’ll be rewarded with visibly brighter and whiter teeth, if used once or twice a week.
Where To Buy
There are many brands out there that sell activated charcoal in all different forms like hardwoods, but the best source that I have found is going to be from coconut husks. Here are the ones I personally use:
Do not take activated charcoal if you’re currently taking any prescription medications, as it has the potential to render your medication useless.
Some people choose to take activated charcoal on a daily basis, which I think is fine in very small doses, but because of its adsorption properties, it can prevent your body from properly absorbing nutrients or vitamins from food and supplements.
Never use charcoal briquettes from your barbecue as a substitute for activated charcoal. These are not the same! Charcoal used for the grill are made with many chemicals that are very dangerous to you if ingested. You must purchase medical grade, high-quality activated charcoal that has gone through the proper activation process to purify and make safe for internal consumption.
Have you tried activated charcoal before? What are your thoughts on it?