What is activated charcoal good for? Activated charcoal has been used to treat digestive and other gastrointestinal issues for years, but it’s also useful in treating skin conditions like acne and can help you live a healthier lifestyle overall. But how does activated charcoal work, and what makes it so beneficial? Keep reading to find out how this natural substance can make you feel better!
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is a fine black powder made from regular charcoal that has been heated at very high temperatures in the presence of gas. This produces a black powder with lots of pores and internal spaces, increasing its surface area and making it incredible in absorbing toxins.
Activated charcoal has been used for thousands of years to heal illness and cleanse the body of toxins and impurities. It was widely used in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practices. In recent years, activated charcoal has made waves in the world of wellness and health, with people using it in all kinds of ways to improve their well-being from the inside out.
Activated charcoal is commonly used in the emergency room to treat poisoning and drug over-use by trapping and preventing their absorption from the gut. Since activated charcoal cannot be absorbed into the body, it’s eliminated together with the toxins through feces.
Activated charcoal is available in different forms, including capsules, tablets, toothpaste, powder, and face masks.
Take note that activated charcoal is not the same as charcoal briquettes commonly used for barbeque. And although they may be made from the same material, charcoal briquettes contain additional toxins and have not passed through high-temperature processing.
What is Activated Charcoal Good For?
1. Emergency toxin removal
Activated charcoal’s ability to bind toxins and safely eliminate them through faces has made it an essential commodity in the emergency department of every hospital.
It mainly helps prevent the absorption of poison or drugs in acute cases of poisoning or overdose, including over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophens, sedatives, and aspirin.
Research shows that ingesting activated charcoal within 5 minutes of an overdose or poison can lower toxin absorption by 74 percent. However, this absorption ability may vary with time. Taking activated charcoal within 30 minutes of ingestion will reduce its effectiveness to 50 percent, while a 3-hour delay lowers it further to 20 percent.
Keep in mind that activated charcoal may not be effective in some cases, such as iron, lithium, alkaline or acid, potassium, alcohol, and heavy metal poisoning.
2. It may support kidney functions
Your kidneys do a great job at filtering out waste and other toxins.
However, in some cases such as chronic kidney disease, kidneys can be a little overwhelmed and in need of assistance.
It can help filter out drugs and undigested toxins, especially urea, a significant waste produced during protein metabolism.
Urea and other waste products diffuse from the bloodstream into the gut, where they bind to activated charcoal and are eliminated in stools.
This may be of great benefit, especially to those patients with end-stage kidney disease.
3. It may lower cholesterol levels
Just as it can bind to toxins, urea, and other harmful substances, activated charcoal can bind to cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids, thus preventing their absorption and reabsorption into the bloodstream.
In one study, a daily intake of 4-32 grams of activated charcoal significantly reduced both total and bad cholesterol in patients with high cholesterol levels.
In a similar study, patients with high blood cholesterol were put on 8mg of activated charcoal three times a day for 4 weeks. At the end of the study, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol had reduced by 25 percent and 41 percent, respectively, while HDL increased by 8 percent.
4. Great for teeth whitening and oral hygiene
Activated charcoal is mildly abrasive and may help remove surface stains from your teeth. It also promotes a healthy PH balance in the mouth, thus promoting oral hygiene, preventing bad breath, gum disease, and cavities.
Using charcoal toothpaste is the easiest way to use it for teeth whitening. It’s generally gentle at removing teeth stains compared to other teeth whiteners that might cause damage to the enamel.
Charcoal-containing toothpaste may also be beneficial at preventing stain recurrence after professional cleaning and stain removal.
However, charcoal toothpaste alone may not be able to clear deep-rooted stains.
5. May reduce excessive gas
Activated charcoal is excellent at binding the gas-forming byproducts of food in the gut.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, activated charcoal may prevent intestinal gas production after a typical gas-forming meal.
Some individuals may also find activated charcoal effective in managing diarrhea, especially if caused by toxin overload.
6. Great for Skin
Found in most skin care products, activated charcoal is commonly used to treat acne and other skin ailments. By drawing out impurities and toxins from your skin, it helps you achieve a healthy glow! Better yet, activated charcoal is milder than chemical exfoliants. It won’t dry out your skin or leave it irritated.
You can use activated charcoal on its own or with other ingredients like coconut oil, which also has cleansing properties. The best part? You can make your own face mask at home using just three ingredients: 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (or another carrier oil), 1⁄2 teaspoon of powdered sugar, and 1⁄2 teaspoon of activated charcoal powder. Mix them together until you get a smooth paste that can be applied to your face (avoiding the eyes). Leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing off with warm water.
Follow up with a moisturizer if needed. This treatment will give you an extra boost of radiance after a long day. Just remember to wear sunscreen when using any kind of exfoliant! And as always, patch test new products before applying them all over your face.
7. Great for Hair
Activated charcoal can make your hair more manageable and prevent dandruff. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, activated charcoal works as an effective treatment against dandruff caused by fungus due to its antifungal properties.
If you are having problems with thinning hair or excess oiliness, try adding activated charcoal to your shampoo or conditioner once or twice a week. You may also want to try rinsing with activated charcoal water before washing your hair.
The results should be noticeable after about two weeks. Just add 1/2 teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to 2 cups of warm water and let it sit overnight before using it on your hair. Use only one time per week since overuse could dry out your scalp.
8. Fights cancer
Many experts believe that activated charcoal can help slow or prevent cancer by trapping carcinogens and preventing them from being absorbed into your body. Not only that, researchers have also found that activated charcoal can be effective at destroying cancer cells in their early stages and even warding off future tumours.
Researchers suggest taking 1-2 grams of activated charcoal daily as a preventive measure against cancer. Keep in mind that although there is evidence suggesting that activated charcoal can help with certain types of cancer, it is important to talk with your doctor before making any changes to your current medical regime.
How to Use Activated Charcoal
Let’s take a look at 10 ways you can use activated charcoal in your everyday life to keep your body happy and healthy!
- For teeth whitening
If you’re looking for a whiter smile, activated charcoal can work wonders. The process is simple: stir two tablespoons of activated charcoal into a paste with a bit of warm water and brush it on your teeth. Let it sit for about five minutes, then rinse thoroughly with some cool water. The results are amazing! Be sure to follow up every application with toothpaste.
You can also wet your toothbrush and dip it in activated charcoal powder. Brush your teeth paying more attention to areas with the most stains. Rinse and spit until the spit is clear. You can repeat this procedure 2-3 times a week. Discontinue in case of any reaction.
- For an internal health boost
Activated charcoal has long been used as a detoxifying agent. Many modern medical facilities now use activated charcoal on a regular basis in cases of poisoning, overdoses, or drug reactions. The special treatment is able to absorb both water-soluble and fat-soluble substances that are in our system. This process can help eliminate harmful chemicals from our bloodstream, decreasing their negative impact on our health.
To reduce gas, take a 500 mg activated charcoal capsule or tablet followed by a glass of water an hour before an acid-producing meal.
- Gourmet cooking ingredient
Although many people think of charcoal as a grilling staple, it can be used in all kinds of recipes—whether you’re turning it into flavored powder or using it in your drinks. Toss some activated charcoal powder into your cake, pancake, muffin, or brownies for an unexpected twist on breakfast.
Brew yourself a cup of activated charcoal tea by steeping 1-2 teaspoons in hot water for 10 minutes. Add it to seltzer for a healthy fizzy drink. Drink it straight with fresh lemon juice and honey for a detoxifying beverage that will cleanse your system from toxins and help fight inflammation.
You can even make black ice cream at home with activated charcoal! Mix 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1⁄2 teaspoon liquid stevia extract (or more to taste), 1 tablespoon coconut milk, and 1⁄4 teaspoon activated charcoal powder. Pour into popsicle molds or paper cups and freeze until solid.
- As a body scrubber
Not only is activated charcoal great for drawing toxins out of your body, it’s also a gentle way to exfoliate. Mix up a DIY sugar scrub by combining 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil, then add enough brown sugar until you reach your desired texture. Once your mixture is all set, simply massage it onto damp skin in circular motions, rinse with warm water, and pat dry.
- For suspected poisoning
For toxic overload or suspected food poisoning with diarrhea and nausea, adults should take 25 mg and children 10 mg at the onset of the symptoms. Follow with adequate amounts of water and Increase the dose if need be. For poisonings other than mild food poisoning, see a health professional.
- For lowering cholesterol
Research shows that activated charcoal lowers cholesterol by absorbing bile salts in your digestive tract. To lower cholesterol, take 4-32 mg daily for four weeks. If taking any other medications, allow yourself about two hours before taking it since it can inhibit drug absorption.
Potential Side Effects
Common ones include constipation (that’s why you need to drink enough water), black stools, and in rare cases, one may develop an intestinal blockage.
In case of any underlying health problems like intestinal bleeding, chronic dehydration, recent abdominal surgeries, and slow digestion, activated charcoal may not be suitable for you. Or at least talk to your doctor before making a decision.
It may inhibit nutrient absorption and cause drug interaction, inhibiting their absorption, thus their function and effectiveness.
Activated charcoal is a powder supplement obtained by heating it at high temperatures in the presence of gas.
It has numerous health benefits, including toxin removal, lowering cholesterol, alleviating gas and bloating, improving kidney function, and promoting teeth whitening.
It comes in different forms. But whichever form you settle for, ensure you drink enough water to enhance its function and prevent common side effects such as constipation.
Also, since activated charcoal may interact with other medications and inhibit the absorption of some nutrients, always ensure you are taking it 90 minutes to 2 hours before meals or after other medication.
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