The sheer amount of medicine provided to us from nature is astonishing, and we are only at the tip of the iceberg on understanding how various plants and earth based substances can contribute to disease reversal and a healthy lifestyle.
Fortunately, there is more than enough research and empirical evidence out there to verify the legitimacy of many of these natural remedies, and the hunt to discover more applications in the natural health industry is reaching a fever pitch.
Luckily for you, it provides more options to naturally heal your own maladies, and in the case of activated charcoal, it turns out there are quite a few health benefits to taking it appropriately.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a powerful natural treatment that attracts toxins and chemicals in the body to it’s surface so they can be trapped and flushed out of the body without being reabsorbed. It can be made from a variety of sources, but activated charcoal made from coconut shells is one of the safest bets.
Activated charcoal is a fine black powder that is odourless, tasteless, and non-toxic. It should go without saying, but to be clear, this is NOT the same charcoal that is used for barbecue grills. You will want to source your activated charcoal from a health food store, not a home and garden shop.
What does activated charcoal do for the body?
Activated charcoal can be a very effective method of removing certain noxious chemicals and microbes out of the body, without any harsh or negative side effects. It doesn’t do this through absorption, but rather, through adsorption, which is the chemical reaction where elements bind to a surface.
Since activated charcoal has a porous surface and has a negative electric charge, it attracts positively charged toxins and gas to it’s surface. It is often used in emergency situations to prevent absorption of toxic chemicals into the bloodstream, since it is estimated to reduce the absorption of these poisonous substances up to 60%! It is considered the most effective agent available for this purpose, and can be used after someone overdoses on drugs or medication or ingests certain toxic chemicals.
Keeping this powerful adsorption action in mind, here are six core health benefits to using activated charcoal.
1. Acute toxin removal
The most prominent way activated charcoal has been used is for poisonings or other acute situations that require immediate action. Situations that activated charcoal can help remediate include ingestion of organic compounds, pesticides, mercury, fertilizer, and bleach. It can also be used in the case of accidental overdose of pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, opium, cocaine, morphine, and acetaminophen.
In the event of poisoning, call 911 right away. According to the University of Michigan Health System, 50 to 100 grams (not milligrams) is used in poisoning cases with adults and 25 grams for children.
Activated charcoal can also be used in cases of food poisoning when symptoms of nausea and diarrhea are present. Adults can take 25 grams at onset of symptoms, and children can take 10 grams. Always remember to consume adequate amounts of water when consuming activated charcoal to help flush the system and not leave you dehydrated.
Activated charcoal can also be used in the case of bee stings, insect bites, spider bites, and snake bites. It also relieves rashes from poison ivy and poison oak.
In the case of a mosquito bite or bee sting, mix one capsule of activated charcoal with 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil and put on affected area. Apply every 30 minutes until itching and discomfort are gone.
For snake and spider bites, including the Brown Recluse or Black Widow, cover a larger area than just the infected area with a bandage, as the bacteria and viruses that lead to tissue damage need to be mitigated quickly. Create a wrap that can go around the affected area twice, dab the coconut oil and activated charcoal onto the fabric, and wrap. Secure with bandages and reapply every 2 to three hours with a clean bandage.
2. Improves skin complexion
Since activated charcoal binds with environmental toxins and dirt that can create acne, and is proven to adsorb thousands of times its own mass in harmful substances, it can be a great find for acne sufferers.
To treat acne, mix one capsule of activated charcoal with two teaspoons of aloe vera gel, and put on the face and affected areas. Let it dry then rinse off.
3. Cleanses your digestive system
Activated charcoal can help create a healthy digestive tract by removing toxins that can cause allergic reactions and poor immune system function. Toxins that your digestive system may be harbouring include pesticides, chemicals in drinking water, and mold.
To do a digestive cleanse with activated charcoal, take 10 grams, 90 minutes before each meal, for two days. Eat only organic fruits and vegetables for best results. If you become constipated, you need to drink more water.
4. Whitens your teeth
If your teeth have become stained or yellow from coffee, tea, or wine, activated charcoal can help whiten them by adsorbing plaque and other microscopic tidbits that stain teeth.
To use it, wet a toothbrush and dip into activated charcoal. Brush your teeth as you normally would with extra attention given to the stained areas. Swish mouth thoroughly after with water, and spit. Do this 2-3 times a week for best results.
Note: Undiluted activated charcoal can and will stain grout and fabrics so use carefully. It is also possible it will stain crowns, caps, or porcelain veneers. If your teeth become sensitive while using it, discontinue use.
5. Diminishes gas and bloating
Another great use for activated charcoal is to alleviate gas and bloating, by binding to the gas-causing byproducts in foods that cause the discomfort. In fact, a study in the Journal of Gastroenterology found that activated charcoal prevents intestinal gas following a typical gas-producing meal.
Take 500 milligrams an hour before the meal with a full glass of water. Immediately following the meal, take another full glass of water to help get the charcoal into your system so it can bind with gas-producing elements.
6. Filters out chemicals from tap water
Activated charcoal binds to and helps remove impurities in water including solvents, pesticides, industrial waste, and other chemicals. Keep in mind it doesn’t work for viruses, bacteria, and hard water minerals.
This is why many water filtration systems use activated charcoal. In addition to the impurities noted above, activated charcoal carbon filters have also been documented to remove some fluoride, according to a study done by the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association. This makes activated charcoal a must with contaminated and treated public water sources.
Other things activated charcoal can be used for include mold cleansing, alcohol poisoning and hangovers, anti-aging, and reducing high cholesterol.
Precautions and directions with activated charcoal
Although activated charcoal is deemed relatively safe, it’s good to be aware of medical issues like intestinal bleeding and blockages, holes in intestines, chronic dehydration, slow digestion or recent abdominal surgery as they can all affect how activated charcoal is absorbed in the body. If you are on any medications, please consult with your doctor to see if activated charcoal is good for you.
Also, make sure to take activated charcoal 90 minutes to two hours prior to meals, supplements and prescription medications.
Sources for this article include: