Most of us are familiar with charcoal. It’s the stuff that helps you have a killer barbecue, or the black stick you might have drawn with in art class when you were young. But more recently, people are consuming activated charcoal (which is quite different) as a supplement. But what are the benefits? And is it actually safe?
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal can be made by burning a source of carbon such as wood or coconut shells. The material is then placed in a furnace and activated with oxygen or steam. What is left is a highly absorbent material – the expanded surface area of activated charcoal has millions of tiny pores which bind with toxins and chemicals. This porous surface has a negative charge, which attracts positively charged gas and toxins. Once bound to the charcoal, these undesirable substances can be transported out of the body through your stool.
Health Benefits of Charcoal
- Acts as an emergency detoxification supplement – activated charcoal has been medically proven to remove toxins from the body in emergency situations such as alcohol or drug overdoses. It’s estimated that activated charcoal can reduce absorption of toxins by up to 60%! However, in the case of such an overdose, we recommend you ALWAYS seek professional help immediately and let them know what has been swallowed.
- Reduces intestinal gas – some studies show that charcoal binds to gas within the intestines and helps to transfer it out of the body. This may be a good supplement for those who suffer from stomach pain created by gas, bloating or even food intolerances/sensitivities.
- Prevents hangovers – activated charcoal may help trap the toxins that your body produces when drinking alcohol. You can take activated charcoal with plenty of water after a night drinking, just before you go to sleep, and it should help you feel more refreshed the next day.
- Whitens teeth and reduces bad breath – activated charcoal can naturally whiten and brighten teeth and reduce bad breath. Lots of different companies are now adding charcoal to their toothpaste products because of these benefits.
- Lowers cholesterol levels – in one study, patients with high cholesterol who took activated charcoal 3 times per day had a 25% reduction in total cholesterol.
- Reduces body odour – activated charcoal is often used in soaps and other personal skin care products. Body odour can be the result of toxins leaving the body and adding charcoal to these products aids detox and reduces body odour.
- Aids skin ailments – activated charcoal is a handy remedy to have in your first aid kit for insect bites as well as skin rashes. Mix one capsule of activated charcoal with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and apply to the affected area. Place a bandage over the treated area and reapply the remedy every 30 minutes until symptoms are relieved.
- Acts as an internal cleansing agent – activated charcoal can help support a healthy digestive tract. It helps remove environmental toxins that can cause allergic reactions and have an adverse impact on immune system function. Activated charcoal can also be helpful in binding and eliminating heavy metals like lead and mercury.
- Can be used for water filtration – activated charcoal water filters can be used to filter carbon-based impurities such as pesticides, industrial waste, chlorine and other chemicals from your drinking water. These filters will not, however, trap bacteria, minerals, viruses, nitrates, and other substances not attracted to carbon. If you use activated charcoal filters in your home, it’s best to replace them regularly.
But, for all these benefits, you should be mindful when you take charcoal…
When to Take Charcoal
Charcoal is not choosy when it comes to absorbing things. Some studies have shown that while charcoal absorbs toxins, it can also absorb vital minerals in your body and disrupt important medications or supplements. Make sure you ingest charcoal 2-3 hours after taking any kind of medicine, supplements or food, so that the charcoal doesn’t interfere with them.
Drink Plenty of Water
Be sure to drink enough water when taking activated charcoal to prevent dehydration.
Everyone is an Individual
Everyone responds differently to different doses. To avoid potential undesirable effects, such as constipation, please consult your chosen health care practitioner before using activated charcoal and use only as suggested.
Have you consumed charcoal as a supplement before, and did you notice any benefits?
- Kuusisto, et al. “Effect of activated charcoal on hypercholesterolemia.” Lancet 16: pp. 366-67