Benefits of activated charcoal

Contents

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

  • Anon. Position paper: Ipecac syrup. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2004;42:133-43. View abstract.
  • Anon. Position statement and practice guidelines on the use of multi-dose activated charcoal in the treatment of acute poisoning. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology; European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1999;37:731-51. View abstract.
  • Bond GR. The role of activated charcoal and gastric emptying in gastrointestinal decontamination: a state-of-the-art review. Ann Emerg Med 2002;39:273-86. View abstract.
  • Brahmi N, Kouraichi N, Thabet H, Amamou M. Influence of activated charcoal on the pharmacokinetics and the clinical features of carbamazepine poisoning. Am J Emerg Med 2006;24(4):440-3. View abstract.
  • Chiew AL, Gluud C, Brok J, Buckley NA. Interventions for paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018;2:CD003328. View abstract.
  • Chyka PA, Seger D, Krenzelok EP, et al. Position paper: single-dose activated charcoal. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2005;43(2):61-87. View abstract.
  • Coffin B, Bortolloti C, Bourgeouis O, Denicourt L. Efficacy of a simethicone, activated charcoal and magnesium oxide combination (Carbosymag) in functional dyspepsia: results of a general practice-based randomized trial. Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol 2011;35(6-7):494-9.View abstract.
  • Cooper GM, Le Couteur DG, Richardson D, Buckley NA. A randomized clinical trial of activated charcoal for the routine management of oral drug overdose. QJM 2005;98(9):655-60. View abstract.
  • Eddleston M, Juszczak E, Buckley NA, et al. Multiple-dose activated charcoal in acute self-poisoning: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2008;371(9612):579-87. View abstract.
  • Gude AB, Hoegberg LC, Angelo HR, Christensen HR. Dose-dependent adsorptive capacity of activated charcoal for gastrointestinal decontamination of a simulated paracetamol overdose in human volunteers. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2010;106(5)406-10. View abstract.
  • Hall RG Jr, Thompson H, Strother A. Effects of orally administered activated charcoal on intestinal gas. Am J Gastroenterol 1981;75:192-6. View abstract.
  • Hoegberg LC, Angelo HR, Christophersen AB, Christensen HR. Effect of ethanol and pH on the adsorption of acetaminophen (paracetamol) to high surface activated charcoal, in vitro studies. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2002;40:59-67. View abstract.
  • Hoekstra JB, Erkelens DW. No effect of activated charcoal on hyperlipidaemia. A double-blind prospective trial. Neth J Med 1988;33:209-16.
  • Kaaja RJ, Kontula KK, Raiha A, Laatikainen T. Treatment of cholestasis of pregnancy with peroral activated charcoal. A preliminary study. Scand J Gastroenterol 1994;29:178-81. View abstract.
  • Kerihuel JC. Charcoal combined with silver for the treatment of chronic wounds. Wounds UK 2009;5(3):87-93.
  • Kerihuel JC. Effect of activated charcoal dressings on healing outcomes of chronic wounds. J Wound Care. 2010;19(5):208,210-2,214-5. View abstract.
  • Lecuyer M, Cousin T, Monnot MN, Coffin B. Efficacy of an activated charcoal-simethicone combination in dyspeptic syndrome: results of a randomized prospective study in general practice. Gastroenterol Clin Biol 2009;33(6-7):478-84. View abstract.
  • Mulligan CM, Bragg AJ, O’Toole OB. A controlled comparative trial of Actisorb activated charcoal cloth dressings in the community. Br J Clin Pract 1986;40(4):145-8. View abstract.
  • Mullins M, Froelke BR, Rivera MR. Effect of delayed activated charcoal on acetaminophen concentration after simulated overdose of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2009;47(2):112-5. View abstract.
  • Neuvonen PJ, Kuusisto P, Vapaatalo H, Manninen V. Activated charcoal in the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia: dose-response relationships and comparison with cholestyramine. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1989;37:225-30. View abstract.
  • Park GD, Spector R, Kitt TM. Superactivated charcoal versus cholestyramine for cholesterol lowering: a randomized cross-over trial. J Clin Pharmacol 1988;28:416-9. View abstract.
  • Rehman H, Begum W, Anjum F, Tabasum H, Zahid S. Effect of rhubarb (Rheum emodi) in primary dysmenorrhoea: a single-blind randomized controlled trial. J Complement Integr Med. 2015 Mar;12(1):61-9. View abstract.
  • Roberts DM, Southcott E, Potter JM, et al. Pharmacokinetics of digoxin cross-reacting substances in patients with acute yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana) poisoning, including the effect of activated charcoal. Ther Drug Monit 2006;28(6):784-92. View abstract.
  • Sergio GC, Felix GM, Luis JV. Activated charcoal to prevent irinotecan-induced diarrhea in children. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2008;51(1):49-52. View abstract.
  • Skinner CG, Chang AS, Matthews AS, Reedy SJ, Morgan BW. Randomized controlled study on the use of multiple-dose activated charcoal in patients with supratherapeutic phenytoin levels. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2012;50(8):764-9. View abstract.
  • Suarez FL, Furne J, Springfield J, Levitt MD. Failure of activated charcoal to reduce the release of gases produced by the colonic flora. Am J Gastroenterol 1999;94:208-12. View abstract.
  • Wananukul W, Klaikleun S, Sriapha C, Tongpoo A. Effect of activated charcoal in reducing paracetamol absorption at supra-therapeutic dose. J Med Assoc Thai 2010;93(10):1145-9. View abstract.
  • Wang X, Mondal S, Wang J, et al. Effect of activated charcoal on apixaban pharmacokinetics in healthy subjects. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs 2014;14(2):147-54. View abstract.
  • Wang Z, Cui M, Tang L, et al. Oral activated charcoal suppresses hyperphosphataemia in haemodialysis patients. Nephrology (Carlton) 2012;17(7):616-20. View abstract.

Activated charcoal can be found almost everywhere: in toothpaste, skin care products, baked goods, beverages and water filtration systems. Here’s what you need to know about this seemingly ubiquitous ingredient.

What makes it activated?

Activated charcoal is created from carbon-rich materials burned at high temperatures, according to the National Capital Poison Center (Poison Control). For example, carbon-rich materials such as wood, coconut shells or coal, are burned at a high temperature (between 600 and 900 degrees Celsius or 1,110 and 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit) to create a charcoal powder.

The charcoal powder is then typically charred with some additional material, such as chloride salts, to help create the porous structure, according David O. Cooney’s book “Activated Charcoal: Antidote, Remedy and Health Aid” (TEACH Services, Inc., 2016). The excess material is then washed away with a dilute acid solution to leave the pure carbon. The charcoal can further be treated to create a finer network of pores, and therefore additional surface area, by exposing it to an oxidizing gas, such as steam or carbon dioxide.

So much additional surface area is created during the activation process that 50 grams of activated charcoal (which is about the weight of 20 U.S. pennies) has 17.5 times more surface area than a full-size football field, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

What is activated charcoal good for?

Health professionals administer activated charcoal to patients who have overdosed with certain drugs or have been poisoned, according to Poison Control. The fine powder is often mixed with water or other liquid and drunk by the patient or given via a feeding tube to clean out the gastrointestinal tract as an alternative to stomach pumping.

The activated charcoal acts like a sponge: Toxin particles bind to the surface of the activated charcoal so that the toxin is less likely to be absorbed into the body. This works best with toxins that contain organic particles (which are compounds that contain carbon and are usually bonded with oxygen, hydrogen or nitrogen). Depending on the type of overdose or toxin, a single dose of activated charcoal can be a very effective treatment if given quickly enough.

Poison Control recommends that people don’t try to use activated charcoal at home to treat a potential overdose or toxin ingestion. Most activated charcoal available over the counter is not as “activated” as what would be given in the emergency room, and it may not be the best solution for your ailment.

Related: The 5 Most Poisonous Substances: From Polonium to Mercury

There is very little scientific evidence showing that activated charcoal is effective for things like high cholesterol, diarrhea or constipation, gas or indigestion, or that it prevents hangovers (activated charcoal does not bind with alcohol) or promotes wound healing, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

There’s no research to suggest that activated charcoal should be consumed as part of a so-called “detox” diet, or that it’s healthy to consume activated charcoal at all if you’re not poisoned. In fact, it’s probably unhealthy to consume it if you don’t need it. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Food Quality found that activated charcoal eliminated the healthy vitamins found in apple juice.

Activated charcoal is also commonly found in water filtration systems, respiratory masks and air filters. Just as it removes toxins from our body, the activated charcoal attracts and binds to contaminants in water and air including radon, fuels, solvents and many industrial and radioactive chemicals, and protects us against breathing or ingesting them, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Activated charcoal can be an effective emergency treatment for people who have been poisoned or overdosed on drugs. But there’s no scientific data to suggest that it’s beneficial to consume activated charcoal in something like lemonade, or any other food or beverage product that’s part of a normal diet. (Image credit: )

What is activated charcoal not good for?

Activated charcoal can now readily be found in many over-the-counter health and beauty products, including toothpaste. Most charcoal-containing toothpastes are incredibly abrasive to tooth enamel and can lead to highly sensitive teeth, which are yellowed due to stripped enamel and more prone to dental decay, according to Benjamin Schwartz, a doctor of dental surgery and a clinical assistant professor at Touro College of Dental Medicine at New York Medical College.

“There are very few clinical studies that outline long-term benefits of charcoal toothpastes. Instead, many of those studies show long-term risks with prolonged use of charcoal toothpaste,” Shwartz said.

In addition, most activated charcoal toothpastes do not contain fluoride and may even reverse the benefits of fluoride, which is a key ingredient for preventing dental cavities.

Related: Chew on This: 8 Foods for Healthy Teeth

Activated charcoal can be found in everything from shampoos and conditioners to facial washes and masks, with claims that it can soak up excess oils and other impurities. While activated charcoal may be relatively safe when used topically, there is no clinical evidence to support the claim that activated charcoal does anything to eliminate cosmetic imperfections, according to a 2019 study in the journal Clinics in Dermatology.

Many companies advertise the presence of activated charcoal in their product and claim that their offering is therefore antiviral, antibacterial or antifungal. But there is scant scientific evidence that these products provide any health benefits, Schwartz said.

“The charcoal does absorb other minerals, so theoretically it can absorb and inactivate bacterial or viral cells, but to what extent is anyone’s guess,” he said. “And what is stopping the charcoal from then inactivating the healthy bacteria that reside in the oral cavity?”

If the claims promoting activated charcoal in toothpaste as well as other health and beauty products could somehow magically become substantiated by science, it would be a really big deal, Schwartz said. “If we could use a toothpaste that would selectively attack the microscopic offender, then the fight against dental disease would be much easier to win!”

Additional resources:

  • Learn more about the administration of activated charcoal for medical conditions from the Mayo Clinic.
  • Here’s a summary of a variety of previous and ongoing studies on the health effects of activated charcoal from Healthy but Smart.
  • Watch: “Is Eating Activated Charcoal Safe?” from UW Medicine.

5 Impressive Charcoal Uses That May Just Change Your Life

4 / 6 photo credit:

Say buh-bye to teeth stains

Buying activated charcoal powder is probably the most economical way to do it. Because it weighs very little and goes a long way, buying it once should have you covered for quite a stretch. You can use the activated charcoal powder to remove plaque, whitening teeth in the process. It’s not pretty while you’re using it, but once the treatment is done, you’ll be glad you tried it.

To use activated charcoal for whiter teeth, you don’t need a special toothbrush, a regular one will do just fine. You might want to have a second toothbrush for this purpose, though, only because the activated charcoal may discolour the bristles on the brush.

Mix activated charcoal powder with water until it is a thick enough consistency that it will stay on your toothbrush (1 or 2 emptied capsules is likely what you’re looking at). Brush your teeth gently or even just dab the mixture onto your teeth. Wait 3 minutes before rinsing.

For a quicker route, add an emptied capsule of activated charcoal to a natural toothpaste of your choice and brush as usual. Rinse well after brushing.

An option that works without a toothbrush is to use equal parts water and powdered charcoal (about a teaspoon should do it) and mix. Swish the mixture in your mouth for a minute, then hold it in your mouth for about five more.

The activated charcoal is odourless and has almost no taste, but is gritty, so may be a bit of an adjustment to get used to. You can use this method daily to remove stains from teeth – but note that natural discolourations won’t go away with activated charcoal.

Authorities have only approved activated charcoal for the emergency treatment of overdoses or poisonings.

But due to its powerful toxin-clearing properties, some advocates have proposed activated charcoal as a treatment for an ever-growing list of conditions.

There is not sufficiently conclusive, large-scale research to establish what the benefits are of activated charcoal. Many over-the-counter (OTC) products also rely on the basic chemical principles of activated charcoal to defend their benefit claims.

A few of the uses of activated charcoal with some evidence include the following:

1. Kidney health

Activated charcoal may be able to assist kidney function by filtering out undigested toxins and drugs.

Activated charcoal seems to be especially effective at removing toxins derived from urea, the main byproduct of protein digestion.

More research is needed, but some animal studies show that activated charcoal may help improve kidney function and reduce gastrointestinal damage and inflammation in those with chronic kidney disease.

A 2014 study saw rats with induced, chronic kidney disease given 4 grams (g) per kilogram per day of an oral activated charcoal preparation. The researchers found that the animals had significant reductions in intestinal inflammation and damage.

In another 2014 study, rats with induced chronic renal failure were fed mixtures containing 20 percent activated charcoal, and they also experienced improved kidney function, and a reduced rate of kidney inflammation and damage.

2. Intestinal gas

Activated charcoal powder is thought to be able to disrupt intestinal gas, although researchers still do not understand how.

Liquids and gases trapped in the intestine can easily pass through the millions of tiny holes in activated charcoal, and this process may neutralize them.

In a 2012 study, a small sample of people with a history of excessive gas in their intestines took 448 milligrams (mg) of activated charcoal three times a day for 2 days before having intestinal ultrasound examinations. They also took another 672 mg on the morning of the exam.

The study showed that medical examiners were better able to see certain parts of some of the organs they intended to identify with the ultrasound whereas intestinal gas would have obscured these before the treatment.

Also, some 34 percent of the participants who were given the activated charcoal to reduce their gas had improved symptoms.

In a 2017 study, people who took 45 mg of simethicone and 140 mg of activated charcoal three times daily for 10 days, all reported a significant reduction in abdominal pain with no side effects.

The research is still limited, but a panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports that there is enough evidence to support the use of activated charcoal to reduce excessive gas accumulation.

There is no set way to use activated charcoal for intestinal gas, but the EFSA recommend taking at least 1 g at 30 minutes before and after each meal.

3. Water filtration

People have long used activated charcoal as a natural water filter. Just as it does in the intestines and stomach, activated charcoal can interact with and absorb a range of toxins, drugs, viruses, bacteria, fungus, and chemicals found in water.

In commercial settings, such as waste-management centers, operators often use activated carbon granules for one part of the filtration process. Dozens of water filtration products are also designed for at-home use, using carbon cartridges to purify water of toxins and impurities.

A 2015 study found that water filtration systems that used carbon removed as much as 100 percent of the fluoride in 32 unfiltered water samples after 6 months of installation.

4. Diarrhea

Share on PinterestActivated charcoal may treat diarrhea.

Given its use as a gastrointestinal absorbent in overdoses and poisonings, it follows that some people might propose activated charcoal as a treatment for diarrhea.

In a 2017 review of recent studies on the use of activated charcoal for diarrhea, researchers concluded that it might be able to prevent bacteria and drugs that can cause diarrhea from being absorbed into the body by trapping them on its porous, textured surface.

While noting it as a suitable treatment for diarrhea, the researchers also pointed out that activated charcoal had few side effects, especially in comparison with common antidiarrheal medications.

5. Teeth whitening and oral health

Dozens of teeth-whitening products contain activated charcoal.

Many oral health products that contain activated charcoal claim to have various benefits, such as being:

  • antiviral
  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • detoxifying

Activated charcoal’s toxin-absorbing properties may be important here, but there is no significant research to support its use for teeth whitening or oral health.

In a 2017 review, researchers concluded there was not enough laboratory or clinical data to determine the safety or effectiveness of activated charcoal for teeth whitening or oral health.

6. Skin care

Researchers have reported that activated charcoal can help draw microparticles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, to the surface of the skin, to make removing them easier.

7. Deodorant

Various activated charcoal deodorants are widely available. Charcoal may absorb smells and harmful gases, making it ideal as an underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant.

Activated charcoal is also reported to be able to absorb excess moisture and control humidity levels at a micro level.

8. Skin infection

Around the world, many different traditional medicine practitioners use activated charcoal powder made from coconut shells to treat soft tissue conditions, such as skin infections.

Activated charcoal may have an antibacterial effect by absorbing harmful microbes from wounds. Several are available commercially.

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How to Make Activated Charcoal at Home

We are often asked, “Please explain to me how to make activated charcoal at home.” To make activated carbon, you first need to understand that there are two basic methods of activation – steam activation and chemical activation. Chemical activation should not be confused with acid-washed or chemical impregnation. A reasonably good activated charcoal (such as the powder at the top of this page) with a surface area of 1,000 m2/g would have 125 acres of surface area per pound.

Making Steam-Activated Charcoal

Steam-activation is primarily used for coconut charcoal and coal.
In the production of steam-activated charcoal, first the coconut shell or coal is heated to create a char. This char is then “activated” in a furnace at high temperatures of 1,700° to 1,800°F with steam in the absence of oxygen. In the steam-activation process, all volatile compounds are removed, and at the same time layer after layer of carbon atoms are pealed off, enlarging the existing internal pores, and leaving behind a carbon skeleton. The carbon + steam reaction results in producing hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide (C+H2O=H2 +CO). As the carbon monoxide gases off it takes carbon atoms with it. Typically 3 pounds of raw charcoal will produce 1 pound of activated charcoal. This is a perfect example of the saying “Less is More”. Less carbon atoms yields More internal space.
Once the activated charcoal is cooled off, to remove the soluble ash content, it may be either “water-washed”* (which requires a lot of water) or it is “acid-washed” (to remove the acid-soluble ash content) and then repeatedly “water-washed” to remove any trace of the acid solution.
(*Not to let anything go to waste, the charcoal “vinegar” is sometimes collected and sold as commercial ascetic acid or processed into table vinegar.)
Because of the very high temperatures required for steam activation (600 – 1,200 °C), temperatures you cannot achieve in a conventional oven (260 °C), this method is all but limited to industrial technology.
Another huge limiting factor is the cost of production. The world uses a tremendous amount of Activated Charcoal annually and so production needs to be on an industrial scale that can produce millions of tons of AC at a very low price. This is typically done in large rotating steel cylinder kilns (up to 180ft long producing up to 12.5 metric tonnes/hour) with a sophisticated delivery system of heat and steam. If money were not an issue, then individuals would need to first design an even more sophisticated miniature version. There would be the issue of washing/rinsing, the disposal of waste ash from the pyrolysis, managing the exhaust gasses, and other challenges. The net product would far exceed the cost of the mass-produced product, and quality would likely also be an issue, since cooking temperatures and times are quite critical. Aside form the fascination of building one’s own, it seems the cost would be prohibitive to make steam-activated charcoal “at home”.
So, how can you make steam activated charcoal? It should be obvious that, for small personal quantities, you are not set up for the technical challenges or the financial outlay. Well then, how can you make chemically activated charcoal? Is it less expensive and easier?

Making Chemical-Activated Charcoal

Chemical-activation produces the same end result – a much increased internal surface area – but uses a chemical solution to chew away the internal structure. Typically wood-based activated charcoals are commercially made using heat (450–900 °C) and phosphoric acid. This “activation” process results in the creation of an enormous surface area — on the order of 600 to 1,200 square meters per gram (m2/g), depending upon the raw material used and the process. Once again the industrial model is a large steel rotisserie. The wood may be first pyrolized, then the char is saturated with phosphoric acid, followed by controlled reheating to enhance the chemical erosion of carbon atoms, and then an elaborate washing cycle to remove the acid. This process is sometimes preferred because it requires less heat and time.

Making Activated Charcoal Yourself

Once again, some will want to see if they can make chemically activated charcoal on a backyard scale. You will find some serious entrepreneurs on YouTube.com. While their methods appear simple enough, the use of different chemicals seems an invitation for accidents. Some of their suggestions for chemicals include “battery acid” (sulphuric acid), hydrochloric acid (aka muriatic acid sold in hardware stores for eating concrete off bricks), nitric acid, potassium or sodium hydroxide (highly caustic), calcium or zinc chloride (more stable salts)… Then there is the tedious combination of treating, heating, and extensive washing to remove any remaining chemicals. The required heat (450–900 °C), though much less than for steam-activation (600 – 1,200 °C), is still much higher than a conventional oven can achieve.
But, back to the chemicals. The chemical of choice is phosphoric acid (a rather weak acid). Even so, considering the high temperatures required to drive the activation process, (temperatures much higher than you can achieve in a home oven) the erosion effect produced by any of the different chemicals would be greatly reduced, and the end product would be only marginally better than raw charcoal. But there could be potential for serious harm. For example, the possible results of reacting hydrochloric acid with carbon include:

  • Carbon tetrachloride (Freon) – it can more than take your breath away
  • Trichloromethane (Chloroform) – CNS depressant, converts to phosgene (a chemical weapon used during World War I) in the presence of oxygen and heat
  • Chlorohydrocarbons – some are highly toxic and/or flammable.
  • Various hydrocarbons – toxic, flammable, and potent greenhouse gasses
  • Chlorine gas – toxic
  • Hydrogen gas – flammable

For these and other reasons we do not at all recommend you attempt to make chemically activated charcoal as a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project.

However, if this project is directed at ultimately making a cheap water or air filter for primitive circumstances, it should be noted that plain charcoal has a long history (3,000+ years) of use in odor control and water purification. As far back as 1500 B.C. down to hospitals in the 1800s, plain charcoal powder was used to control the stench of rotting flesh. Ancient sea explorers scortched the inside of wooden water barrels to preserve drinking water during long voyages. In their campaigns to help tame the wild West, the American Calvary used plain lump charcoal in the last compartment of a 3-compartment box (1. gravel 2. washed sand 3. charcoal) to filter swamp water for drinking water. It has been found that even the lowly plain wood charcoal has fragments of the super molecule Buckmisterfullerene (C60) that has phenomenal adsorptive capacities. So, if it is for some rough or makeshift circumstances, just your regular charcoal will work effectively enough as both a water and air filter, without the potential mishaps of trying to activate it with some potentially corrosive chemicals.
If the DIY is to produce an activated charcoal for medicinal use, it is highly questionable how much is to be gained; certainly not in activity levels or in money savings, while safety remains a real concern. On the other hand a one-gallon container of food grade charcoal powder costs as little as $37, without all the equipment, labor, and expense. A typical family will not use that amount in a year for common ailments. Stored with a tight lid it can last indefinitely.
If the DIY is thinking ahead to some Survival scenario, then we can tell you from very real firsthand experience; you are not going to have access to any of the chemicals suggested above, and, more importantly, the effectiveness of plain charcoal will compare favorably with any activated charcoal in whatever emergency should come your way, as long as the final powder is sterile. See CharcoalTimes newsletter June 2012 (Uganda 2012 Adventure) In the meantime, save yourself a lot of unnecessary grief, and don’t let your good intentions turn some would-be charcoal enthusiast against this most benign of natural remedies, with some reckless chemistry gone wrong.
Are you thinking of making activated charcoal? In review, whether steam activated or chemical activated, it is best not to try. How can you make regular charcoal? That is a much more simple procedure. Click HERE to watch a step by step video.

5 reasons you should be using activated charcoal

If you have avoided the online chatter or missed the regular TV features, you might be wondering why we’re talking about activated charcoal, or whether it’s the same as the charcoal you use on your BBQ.

Wonder no more, as it’s actually quite different. Here, we look at an array of activated charcoal benefits, from how it can help with everything from teeth whitening to flatulence, giving you a much-needed confidence boost.

Handpicked article: Activated charcoal: Stop body odour in its tracks

Shop Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a fine black powder. It’s made when charcoal is heated to a high temperature and then activated by heating it with an oxidising gas or another chemical. This increases its surface area, creating pores that are able to absorb toxins and other substances.

Handpicked article: Charcoal: A trending ingredient

What is activated charcoal used for?

1. Teeth whitening

When activated charcoal is brushed onto the teeth it absorbs plaque, bacteria and stains from the teeth and gums. It can help combat cavities, bad breath and gum disease, and bring about a nice sparkling smile; perfect for those insta-worthy moments. .

2. For its anti-aging properties

Activated charcoal absorbs the toxins in the skin, which helps to prevent premature ageing. Charcoal skincare is popular with people wanting to maintain a youthful glow.

3. To clean wounds and reduce itchiness from bites and stings

Activated charcoal is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which means it can reduce the pain and swelling of bites and stings. Applied topically, its porous properties allow it to absorb toxins from below the skin’s surface. You can either you an activated charcoal facewipe or mix a little charcoal powder with water and apply as a paste, before removing with a damp, clean cloth.

4. For banishing oily skin

If you have oily skin, activated charcoal might just be the thing you’re looking for. Either used in an activated charcoal face mask or cleanser, the charcoal absorbs the unwanted excess oils and leaves the skin feeling smooth.

5. Preventing bloating and alleviate gas

When consumed in tablet or capsule form, activated charcoal absorbs the bacteria in the intestines and can relieve bloating, discomfort and flatulence. It works by binding with by-products within the intestines that cause the discomfort and is best taken two hours before a meal or one hour after.

Handpicked article: Activated charcoal: Stop body odour in its tracks

Activated charcoal, the natural choice

Whether you’re looking for a supplement to help ease flatulence and a bloated stomach, or simply seeking a natural beauty product to clear up your skin, activated charcoal products could be just the thing you need.

Share your activated charcoal stories on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter with #MyHB and #ChangeToCharcoal.

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Making Activated Charcoal Part of Your Routine

Activated charcoal differs from the charcoal you might find in your outdoor grill or on burned pieces of food. It’s manufactured to be extremely absorbent, making it effective at removing toxins from the body by preventing them from being absorbed by the stomach. These toxins bind to the activated charcoal and removed from the body during its natural elimination process.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a powdered material that’s made of extremely absorbent activated carbon. Its absorbency comes from tiny holes that are present in the charcoal. Today, activated charcoal — which you might also hear being referred to as activated carbon — is becoming increasingly popular for a number of uses. Read on to learn more about the benefits of adding activated charcoal to your daily routine and easy ways to do so.

How to Incorporate Activated Charcoal into Your Daily Life

Activated charcoal is nothing new to the medical field. It has been used by hospital emergency rooms and other medically-supervised locations as a method of treating overdoses and poisonings for centuries. It effectively removes the toxins from a person’s body, allowing them to recover from the incident if treatment is started in time.

Today, the popularity of activated charcoal is increasing as a natural remedy for various everyday issues. Many products and supplements contain activated charcoal as a main ingredient. Below you’ll find ways in which activated carbon can act as a natural alternative to some of today’s other treatment options.

1. Filter Water with Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has long been used by residents in developing countries as a method of cleaning water. It’s also been used in large-scale commercial operations such as municipal water treatment facilities. Today, this technology is commonly used at home — whether it’s a method used throughout the entire house or via countertop or pitcher filters. At-home water filtration products use carbon cartridges to purify the water of many toxins and chemicals. Studies show that filtration systems containing carbon produce much cleaner water than those without it.

2. Activated Charcoal Can Provide Gastrointestinal Relief

Given its successful history with poisonings and overdoses, it makes sense that activated charcoal can also be used to relieve the most troublesome gastrointestinal issues, like diarrhea, gas and bloating. When used for diarrhea, activated charcoal traps the condition-causing bacteria and drugs in its pores, preventing the bacteria from being absorbed by the body. When compared to common over-the-counter medications used to treat diarrhea, activated charcoal has far fewer side effects.

There have also been studies which show activated charcoal’s positive benefits for people who suffer from intestinal gas. A 2017 study followed participants who took 140 mg of activated charcoal for 10 days, and they reported a reduction in abdominal pain as well as no side effects.

3. Activated Charcoal Can Whiten Your Teeth

Activated charcoal is becoming increasingly popular as a natural alternative to traditional toothpaste for those who prefer other options. In addition to teeth whitening, toothpaste with activated charcoal can also remove toxins from the mouth and act as an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent. While more research is needed, scientists have indicated that brushing your teeth with activated charcoal power can improve your overall oral health.

When activated charcoal isn’t enough to alleviate your symptoms, visit your local MedPost Urgent Care for a consultation with a healthcare professional.

From purifying charcoal masks to hangover-free cocktails and tooth-whitening toothpastes, activated charcoal is leaving its carbon “footprint” just about everywhere. But does activated charcoal work — and is it safe?

Unlike regular charcoal, which is a known carcinogen, activated charcoal is medicinal. It’s the byproduct of slowly burnt wood, peat, or coconut shells that is treated with oxygen, a process which renders it highly porous and nonpolar, allowing it to absorb (that is, bind to, as opposed to absorb) hydrophobic toxins and odors from gases or liquids up to 1,000 times its weight.

Activated charcoal comes in many forms: powder and pills for ingesting, granules and cubes for purifying the environment, and sponges and fabrics for cleansing and wearing. This “it” ingredient – used for millennia in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine – has recently even shot to superfood status thanks to activated charcoal’s potent alkalizing detoxification properties and purported health benefits.

But the jury is still out on many of the supposed health benefits of activated charcoal. Very few studies have been done on its effects, particularly when it comes to your skin, teeth, and stomach. Here are eight safe ways to use it — and three to skip.

Skip It: Activated Charcoal Cocktails

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Enjoy a charcoal detox cocktail tonight – guilt free 😉 #palindromestudio #cocktails #activatedcharcoal #detox

A post shared by Palindrome 💕 (@palindromeofficial) on Nov 25, 2016 at 9:38pm PST

The intense pigmentation and subtle smoky flavor of activated charcoal have inspired bartenders to create a slew of highly instagrammable cocktails. While these activated charcoal cocktails are delicious, the claims that they are “hangover-free” is probably too good to be true. Though activated charcoal is detoxifying, there is little evidence that it makes you less drunk — and there’s at least one study that found activated charcoal wasn’t effective at absorbing alcohol.

Instead, try this: While activated charcoal might not help prevent hangovers, plenty of other foods may help: eating asparagus, in particular, can help the body break down down alcohol.

Skip It: Activated Charcoal Cleansing Detox Drinks

Without a doubt, the detox ingredient of the moment is charcoal, You’ll find it sold as activated charcoal lemonade, in fresh concoctions at juice bars, and for order online.

Our advice? Give them a pass: activated charcoal can bind to vitamins and nutrients — meaning you’ll rob your beverage of some of its nutritional value. More alarmingly, activated charcoal binds to medications, including birth control pills, so you risk rendering them ineffective.

Skip It: Activated Charcoal in Food

Many restaurants are incorporating activated charcoal in their foods. Burger King in Japan even released a Kuro Burger (kuro means “black”) featuring a squid-ink patty on a bamboo-charcoal bun. In the U.S., I’ve seen restaurants serving charcoal waffles for brunch, and scoop shops hawking charcoal ice cream for dessert. Again, because of its potential to irritate the stomach and bind to medications, we’d take a pass on this particular flavor fad.

Try It — Maybe: Activated Charcoal for Teeth Whitening

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There’s nothing new about charcoal being used to clean teeth. In fact, charcoal powder is an indigenous tooth cleaning method in rural Tanzania, among other parts of Africa and South Asia.

What is new, however, is the influx of activated charcoal toothpastes claiming to whiten teeth naturally when there’s actually little research to back it up. According to Victoria Veytsman, DDS, “While there is some anecdotal evidence that it may help brighten teeth, there is no scientific evidence. I don’t recommend it as a primary way to whiten teeth and would use it cautiously and in moderation due to its abrasive quality and potential to damage enamel and gums.”

Try this instead: It does appear that when applied to your teeth, activated charcoal teeth can lift surface stains, binding with coffee and wine. However, because its abrasiveness can damage enamel, dentists warn that you shouldn’t use activated charcoal every day, and you shouldn’t brush with it.

Try It: Activated Charcoal Masks

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Activated charcoal is also popping up in all kinds of skincare products, from beauty bars to activated charcoal Konjac sponges for cleansing the skin.

For the best results, try a mask, says dermatologic surgeon Dr. Sejal Shah. “Adsorption basically acts like a magnet for dirt, oil, and other impurities — but it depends on physical contact so it needs to sit on the skin to be effective.”

Just don’t imagine that your facial is also detoxing anything beneath the surface: Dermatologist Dr. Janet Prystowsky, MD, says “While it won’t harm your skin, it’s not terribly effective at removing toxins because charcoal isn’t fat-soluble. In the stomach, toxins have a water-soluble environment for binding to the charcoal.” On the skin, on the other hand, the bacteria are in a slick of oil. “You’re better off using a beauty bar or Pond’s cream,” she says.

Try It: Activated Charcoal Shampoo

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal Shampoo sephora.com $11.00

Plagued by an itchy, oily, and or flaky scalp? Activated charcoal can help, says Briogeo founder Nancy Twine. Inspired to break the stigma surrounding scalp issues, Nancy worked with a chemist to develop a soothing solution. The entire three-part collection — a gentle exfoliating shampoo, scalp treatment, and dry shampoo — is infused with binchotan, a hyper-porous activated charcoal from Japan.

You can check it out at Sephora.

Try It: Activated Charcoal Underwear

Adept at adsorbing foul and toxic smells from gases and liquids, activated charcoal has some applications for reducing body odor.

A surprising amount of research demonstrates that it effectively reduces the stink of flatulence: Underwear made from activated carbon fiber has been proven to remove odor from smelly farts. (One Danish study even recommended embedding activated charcoal in airplane seat cushions, so passengers could pass gas without “social complications.”)

Try it: If you’d like to get your hands on a pair of activated charcoal underwear, check out Shreddies’ flatulence-filtering underwear. One study found carbon fiber briefs much more effective than a pad or a cushion for removing the odor from farts. (Just remember, it won’t mute the noise).

Try It: Activated Charcoal Deodorant

PiperWai Natural Deodorant amazon.com $16.00 $11.99 (25% off)

Much less research has been done regarding its efficacy as a deodorant, but if you want to give it a try, there’s no harm — charcoal is inert and likely won’t irritate your skin. A number of new natural deodorants and underarm care systems featuring activated charcoal have come onto the market, and they sound promising — or at least, worth trying.

PiperWai (as seen on Shark Tank!) makes an aluminum-free, natural cream deodorant using activated charcoal and essential oils to absorb sweat and odor. And natural deodorant company Rustic MAKA has developed a three-part underarm care system (soap and konjac sponge, exfoliating mask, and antioxidant serum).

Try It: Activated Charcoal Water Purifier

Kishu Activated Charcoal Water Filter amazon.com $18.99

You probably already own one, but if you don’t, you should: carbon filters such as those in Brita filters — possibly the most ubiquitous form of activated charcoal out there — remove most contaminants and odors in water, such as pesticides and chlorine, and reduce heavy metals like lead.

But activated charcoal can also be used in its unprocessed form to purify water: just drop an entire stick into a pitcher or your water bottle. Each stick purifies water for four months — and after that, you can put it in your refrigerator to deodorize the air. Try Kishu activated charcoal sticks, which can be slipped into a water bottle or pitcher — no plastic necessary.

Try It: Activated Charcoal Air Purifier

Activated charcoal is proven to clear out odors and toxins from the air. Consider getting an activated charcoal air filter for neutralizing the stinkiest parts of your home, be it your garbage, fridge, or bathroom, or for when you’re repainting a room or polishing silverware.

Try It — With Caution: Activated Charcoal Pills for Poisoning

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Thanks to its super-powerful ability to adsorb toxins, activated charcoal is proven to be an effective remedy in many (though not all) types of poisonings and is even administered in emergency rooms.

Activated charcoal pills can also be used to treat stomach pain caused by excess gas, diarrhea, or indigestion. Cheap and available over the counter, the pills are great if you’re traveling and happen to get food poisoning (as I learned on a trip to Uzbekistan several years ago, which is where I was first introduced to activated charcoal).

Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal amazon.com $10.99 $8.99 (18% off)

Be sure to look for activated charcoal pills free of sorbitol, which is a laxative. It’s included in some activated charcoal pills, like those used in hospitals, to help swiftly remove poisons from the body. Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal Capsules contain no sorbitol.

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before consuming activated charcoal pills, especially if you are on any medications or expecting. Remember that activated charcoal can bind to vitamins, nutrients, and medications, so take it on an empty stomach and allow two to three hours before eating. And if believe you’ve been poisoned or are seriously ill, go to the ER immediately, or call your doctor.

Keep In Mind

  • Seek activated charcoal made from a sustainable source like coconut shells or identified wood species. Binchotan, made purely from Japanese Ubame oak, is the crème de la crème. And remember, activated charcoal powder is dangerous to inhale — it can result in a condition like black lung — so be careful if you decide to take on any DIY projects with it.
  • Keep it in a sealed container as activated charcoal can easily absorb the impurities in the air.
  • Beware of fillers: try and make sure that products made with activated charcoal has no fillers or artificial sweeteners added.

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