Activated charcoal is a natural potent treatment used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body cannot reabsorb them.

It is a fine black, odourless powder made from wood, coal or other materials such as nut shells that has been exposed to very high temperatures in an airless environment.

The product is then reheated or activated with oxidized gas creating a very fine powder increasing its ability to absorb various substances. Due to its incredibly large surface area, a small bit of charcoal can bind a tremendous amount. It is important to select activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources when considering uses as a natural skincare ingredient.

The healing effects of activated charcoal have been documented since as early as 1550 BC by the Egyptians, In World War 1, activated charcoal was used in gas marks to prevent soldiers from being poisoned by chemical exposure only rediscovered in the last 15 years for overdose treatments.

Activated carbon is used to purify liquids and gases including water, industrial pollution control and odour removal. The network of submicroscopic pores allows high absorption.

A broad range of pore sizes is required for different applications. Coconut shell is considered as a very high level of physical absorption and the large surface area of carbon per unit weight makes it an ideal substance to absorb contaminants. Coconut carbon is also slightly more abrasive in nature.

Besides physical adsorption, chemical reactions can occur on a carbon surface. One such reaction is chlorine removal from water involving the chemical reaction of chlorine with carbon to form chloride ions making carbon the ideal water filter to remove chlorine.

What it does and why you should try it?

  1. Relieve bloating and gas- Taken as a pill or added to your smoothie it can bind the gas-causing byproducts.  A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that activated charcoal prevents intestinal gas following a typically gas-producing meal.
  2.  Removing stains from your teeth – I like to use it in a ready-made tube to decrease the mess. It absorbs plaque and microscopic bits that stain the teeth.  It might however, not be advised for those with crowns, caps or porcelain veneers as it might stain them.
  3. Deep clean and purify your skin –For an at home acne treatment, try mixing one capsule of activated charcoal with 2 teaspoons of aloe vera gel and smooth all over required areas and a few drops of tea tree oil and a pinch of sea salt. Let dry and rinse off completely. Charcoal soaps are readily available and also worth considering.
  4. General detoxification- There is some scepticism with this one, potentially because experts say it could pull nutrients from your juice or digestive tract, many others say it is O.K.  Moderation is always the rule as well as drinking plenty of water. Medications can be affected so please seek the advice of your Doctor before you try this. Some have touted activated charcoal as being excellent for a hangover, however it is imperative to drink plenty of water as it can cause dehydration. It is important to note that it does not actually work on pure alcohol but all the additives within the mix. Internally it works through a chemical process of adsorption as opposed to absorption. The positively charged toxins bind to the negatively charged surface of the carbon. This makes it ideal for some toxins but not all. It has been suggested that the additives to the alcohol are the ones being removed by charcoal, not the pure alcohol itself. Some studies however, have shown that alcohol consumption with activated charcoal can significantly reduce blood alcohol concentrations.
  5. Water Filtration- Solvents, pesticides industrial wastes and chemicals are trapped by activated charcoal. Chloride and some fluoride is removed, but it does not trap bacteria and viruses. Further filtration systems are required.
  1. Bites and Bee Stings- Mixing a poultice of activated charcoal with a bit of water and corn starch or flax seed powder might be helpful. A study from Harvard Medical School mentions the effectiveness of a charcoal poultice for drawing out poisons from insects and spiders.

The Final Word

Be very selective in any activated charcoal purchases. Not all are made the same. Look for activated charcoal from coconut shell or wood species that have ultra-fine grains. Avoid those with artificial sweeteners. Barbeque charcoal is full of toxins and chemicals so please do not use this!

Please seek medical advice in case of emergency or if considering ingesting and you are on medication.

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Disclaimer The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes.