It seems that 2021 is already the year of activated charcoal. From toothpastes and Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder to face peels, it appears activated charcoal is a sought after ingredient in the health and beauty industry of today. Now you might be wondering what activated charcoal is, if the hype is justified and what makes it so effective in health and beauty products. Well, lets take a look.
What is Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is made from coconut shells, wood or similar materials. The carbon is “activated” with oxygen which opens up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms, giving it a huge surface area. This special structure gives activated charcoal its amazing ability to adsorb certain chemicals and toxins. But what does this mean?
What Does ‘Adsorb’ Mean?
Does Activated Charcoal Remove Toxins From Your Body?
The word adsorb means to attract and then hold something on the surface by weak chemical forces. The toxin molecules are attracted to the porous surface of the activated charcoal making them much more soluble in water, so they are eliminated through stools (bowels). The toxic substances do not “stick” to the charcoal so they can not be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Charcoal must have a porous surface in order for this adsorption process to work.
Activated Carbon Adsorption Process
The carbon is “activated” with oxygen which opens up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms, giving it a huge surface area by volume. This special structure gives activated charcoal its amazing ability to adsorb certain chemicals and toxins. It’s important to note that this does NOT mean that all toxins are removed from the body just because you’re taking activated charcoal! The process is actually very simple…
Certain substances enter your digestive tract where they mix with (and contaminate) your drinks or foods. These toxins are then adsorbed (attracted to and held on the surface of) the activated charcoal so they do not re-enter your bloodstream. As you drink more, more toxins get adsorbed to the charcoal and leave your body through bowel movements. This leaves you feeling cleaner and healthier!
Note: It’s important NOT to take activated charcoal while drinking alcoholic beverages because it will prevent alcohol from being adsorbed. Just 1 or 2 glasses could lead to a “social blackout” instead of a clear head! Read this for more information.
Does Activated Charcoal Actually Work? Does It Remove Toxins From Your Body?
Some say that taking activated charcoal is a quick fix for a detoxifying diet whereas others say its a waste of time and money. Everyone has an opinion, but is there scientific evidence that activated charcoal works?
Does Activated Charcoal Remove Toxins From Your Body?
There are countless claims about the use of activated charcoal as a detoxifying agent. Some say it can be used multiple times daily to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and more! There isn’t much scientific evidence backing up these claims (yet) but there’s plenty of evidence that shows activated charcoal adsorbs toxins from your body!
For example: A study published in 1986 determined how an oral dose of activated carbon affected the adsorption/elimination of acetaminophen (Tylenol). Participants were given a dose of 400mg of acetaminophen which was then mixed with 60ml (about 2oz) of water containing 1g of activated carbon. They discovered that the production of anhydrous glucuronide metabolites was reduced by up to 80% which means the drug’s toxicity potential was greatly reduced! The study concluded that, “Activated charcoal can adsorb a substantial amount of acetaminophen, reducing its hepatotoxicity.”
Another study published in 1987 examined how well activated charcoal removed alcohol from the stomach and small intestine. A viscous infusion solution containing ethanol (alcohol) and water was used to measure adsorption over time. It turns out that activated charcoal removes about 70% – 90% of alcohol from your digestive system when taken within 30 minutes of consuming it. This shows that the activated charcoal in Detoxadine absorbs more than 90% of alcohol consumed within 30 minutes – meaning this activated charcoal supplement could be used to prevent a social blackout due to over indulgence!
Another study published in 2010 tested how well activated charcoal removed toxins from various organs after oral administration. The results showed that dissolved toxicants are present in high concentrations inside the gastrointestinal tract whereas larger molecular weight compounds are found primarily in the blood and liver. The researchers concluded, “The data suggest that the gastrointestinal system plays an important role for elimination of aminophenols by adsorptive transfer of these compounds directly to AC [activated carbon].”
This chart shows how much 100mg of activated charcoal will bind with 1,000mg of various chemicals. As you can see, activated charcoal binds well with toxic compounds like caffeine and pesticides!
Did You Know? Activated Charcoal is Safe for Children & Pets Too!
Activated charcoal can be given to pets and children too – it’s safe to use on humans of all ages! At the same time, you must be careful not to let children or pets ingest too much or they might get sick from it. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Although it may seem that activated charcoal has only recently become the rage, the medical community has been using it for decades to treat overdoses and accidental acute poisoning. Toxins in the body bond to the porous surface of the activated charcoal and allows the body to eliminate the toxins instead of absorbing them. Although it is ineffective for alcohol poisoning, activated charcoal can be used to eliminate cocaine and opium from the blood stream. It can also be useful in case of ingestion for a variety of household cleaners and pesticides. Finally, activated charcoal can be used to eliminate excessive quantities of Aspirin or acetaminophen from the bloodstream. Unsurprisingly, it is not only emergency room doctors who use this magical product; vets also use activated charcoal to help treat accidentally poisoned pets. Timeliness is important when using activated charcoal to treat poisonings or overdoses, so if suspected it is imperative to go to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Activated charcoal can also be used to treat poisons that have not been ingested, such as insect bites. It can be used on minor bites such as mosquito or blackfly bites to stop or prevent itching. It can also be applied topically to more dangerous bites, such as snake or spider bites, to draw out some venom. Medical treatment should still be sought for a snake or a spider bite, but activated charcoal can help prevent or reduce harm from the venom, as well as buy the victim more time to seek medical attention.
Although it cannot be used to treat alcohol poisoning, activated charcoal can be used to prevent hangovers by eliminating high levels of concentrated sugar in commonly used mixers as well as preservative agents.
Activated charcoal can also be used to treat mild gastro-intestinal tract issues such as excessive flatulence, indigestion and bloating. It has been shown that the ingestion of activated charcoal significantly reduces intestinal gas, bloating, and discomfort after eating a typically flatulence-inducing meal. Most pharmacies or natural health stores sell charcoal tablets for treatment of GI tract discomfort. Activated charcoal can be used to help relieve food poisoning. Activated carbon can also alleviate the symptoms of common food allergens in the digestive tract.
Activated charcoal removes fluoride and other chemicals from drinking water. Activated charcoal is so effective when used in this manner it is even used to help clean bodies of water after a spill. Activated carbon filters can be purchased to filter out impurities from tap water.
Activated charcoal is also a high value product in the beauty business. One of its common uses is as an ingredient in whitening toothpastes. Activated charcoal (can be bought here for example) can naturally whiten your teeth by up to two shades. It has been touted as an all-natural whitening agent for a pearly white smile, fresh breath and good oral health. The activated charcoal binds to plaque and tiny, stain-and-odor-causing bacteria and then eliminates them as you spit out the toothpaste. In these natural toothpastes, it is often mixed with the amazing and anti-bacterial coconut oil to kill germs and help you avoid bad breath. Not only can these toothpastes naturally whiten teeth but they can also prevent cavities and gum disease, like gingivitis.
Activated charcoal is also used to remove blackheads in a face peel. Users apply a sticky activated charcoal mask to their face and allow it to dry. In theory, the charcoal would draw the blackheads and they would stick on to the adhesive mask, allowing easy removal of blackheads.
Activated charcoal is also used in a variety of wash-off face masks and well as in facial cleaners and body wash, promising to draw out dirt, oil and other impurities as well as shrink enlarged pores.
Activated charcoal is also used in some all-natural deodorants, as activated charcoal not only absorbs moistures but also odor-causing bacteria.
A Word of Warning
Although activated charcoal is an amazing product with a variety of practical uses, it can be dangerous if used incorrectly or carelessly.
Because activated charcoal uses absorption in both its medical use and it efficiency as an all-natural beauty aid, it is important to consider the possible negative impacts of absorption.
First of all, activated charcoal’s most important use is removing toxins from the body in case of accidental poisoning or overdose. It is important to note that charcoal can also bind to other chemicals in your body, such a prescribed medication. Taking charcoal can reduce the effectiveness or desired effects of your medicine.
Charcoal can also cause dehydration as well as constipation due to the activated charcoal absorbing water in your gastrointestinal tract.
Activated charcoal can also have some unwanted, if not dangerous side effects. For example, activated charcoal can stain floor or counters as well as clothing. Activated charcoal can also stain veneers or dentures, so be cautious when using it as a beauty treatment.
Activated charcoal can have amazing and sometimes life-saving effects on your health. From treating poisonings and overdoses, to cleaning your water and treating minor GI tract issues, activated charcoal can be beneficial to your everyday well-being. It can also naturally clean your teeth, remove impurities from your skin and keep your underarms dry and stink-free. As with any product, if used with caution and only when needed, activated charcoal can provide many health benefits to you and your family.
Where to get Activated Charcoal
My favorite Top 5 activated charcoal is made of coconut shells and 100% organic. Check it out on Amazon and let me know in the comment sections what you think about it.