In recent years, activated charcoal has gained a ton of traction. But did you know it’s actually been used all over the world for centuries?
From treating overdoses to curing hangovers and even promoting clearer skin, this liquid (or powder) gold has been touted as a solution for just about everything.
I have always been a huge fan of this natural substance for its incredible detoxifying properties.
If you haven't already tried my Activated Charcoal Smoothie, it's a great (and delicious) way to try the substance out for the first time without being overwhelmed by the taste of charcoal.
In this complete guide to activated charcoal, I’ll cover everything you need to know about nature's detoxifier.
You will learn all about what it is, how and when to take it, and the many amazing benefits of activated charcoal. Let’s get into it!
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is a fine black powder made from carbon-based substances like sawdust, coconut shells, and coal.
To be made into activated carbon (or charcoal), these substances must be “activated” by heating them at high temperatures.
The activation process makes the substance much more porous and, thus, activated charcoal is born.
In recent years, this substance has topped the charts in the health and wellness world.
Now that the world is beginning to understand just how spectacular this stuff is, it’s quickly becoming a global obsession.
Activated carbon is being added to all sorts of products—skincare, beverages, toothpaste, and even ice cream.
Benefits of Activated Charcoal
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering, what is activated charcoal good for? Trust me, I was right there with you at one point.
How can odorless black powder made from coconuts and sawdust help me? You would be surprised.
Activated carbon has a negative electrical charge, which allows it to trap positively charged chemicals (like harmful toxins) in the gut.
Because it's not absorbed by the body, the charcoal carries the positively charged chemicals right out of your body along with it. Sayonara, toxins!
Now, let’s discuss some of the most impressive benefits of activated charcoal.
1. It can be used to whiten teeth.
While there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to back this up yet, many people swear by using activated carbon to whiten teeth.
It’s become a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash products for this very reason.
Many people also buy activated charcoal in its pure form and scrub it directly onto their teeth with a toothbrush.
Between the absorption abilities and abrasive texture of this product, it’s widely believed to be an effective method of removing surface stains and whitening teeth.
2. You can use it to prevent hangovers.
As a product touted for its miracle detox powers, it’s no surprise that activated charcoal has made its way into the nightlife arena.
Tons of wellness companies have begun making hangover pills with this supposed hangover cure.
If you’ve never heard of hangover pills before, they are exactly what you think. Or at least, they promise to be.
Because activated charcoal cannot absorb toxins once they’ve made their way into your bloodstream, it’s likely only effective if consumed immediately after drinking.
3. It's been known to promote clearer skin.
There’s a reason so many facial cleanses, masks, and soaps feature activated charcoal as a key ingredient.
The substance has been proven to cleanse the skin, remove impurities, and unclog pores.
What’s amazing about activated carbon for skincare is that it removes all the bad stuff (toxins, dirt, bacteria) and leaves behind the good stuff, like vitamins and nutrients.
The result? Smoother, clearer, and more evenly-toned skin.
4. It may improve kidney function.
Many people believe that activated charcoal can be influential in removing waste from the kidneys.
This is especially beneficial for people whose kidneys can’t properly remove waste on their own, like those with kidney disease.
There have been small-scale studies that have proven activated charcoal to decrease blood urea levels in the kidney.
However, more concrete evidence is needed before doctors can recommend the substance as a treatment for improved kidney function.
5. You can use it to filter water.
Activated charcoal is commonly used in water filters. In fact, charcoal filters are actually the most common type of water filters used in homes.
This is because the substance is great at removing toxins like heavy metals and chlorine from water, without stripping it of beneficial minerals.
However, scientists have found that charcoal is not effective at removing viruses and bacteria from water.
Basically, it can be used to filter light toxins from water, but should not be relied on for cleaning heavily damaged water.
6. It can be used as a poison treatment.
Thanks to its incredible absorption powers, activated charcoal is often used as an effective treatment for poisonings and drug overdoses.
Many toxins are absorbed slowly by the body, so if activated charcoal is consumed within a few hours, it can dramatically reduce the amount of toxins absorbed.
It’s important to note that activated charcoal is not effective in treating poisonings involving strong acids, alcohol, and petroleum.
In the event of an emergency, you should always contact poison control and call 911 right away.
7. You can use it to treat wounds.
When I say activated charcoal has some insane absorbing abilities, I mean it. Studies have shown that activated charcoal can be effective in purging harmful fluids from open wounds on the body.
This can help the wounds heal more quickly than they otherwise would.
In the studies that have proven activated carbon to be effective in healing wounds, the substance has been applied directly on the wound dressing.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that taking it in other ways wouldn’t be effective for wounds, we just don’t have the scientific evidence to back that up yet.
How to Take Activated Charcoal
This natural substance can be consumed in pill, powder, or liquid form.
The method you choose should depend on what you’re hoping to gain from the use of the substance.
Let’s go over the different ways to take activated charcoal so you can choose which one sounds right for you.
Activated charcoal pills are commonly used for improving kidney function, preventing hangovers, and relieving digestive issues like gas and bloating.
Pills are easy ways of regulating your intake of the substance and can be consumed like any other supplement, after consulting with a healthcare professional.
The most common reason for using activated charcoal in its powder form is teeth whitening.
People typically place a tiny amount on the bristles of a toothbrush, then scrub the charcoal onto their teeth.
A little goes a long way, so you could easily make a small container last for up to a year.
Some people also use charcoal powder for creating their own DIY beauty and skincare products.
There's a reason we call this stuff liquid gold! Activated carbon is commonly mixed into mouthwashes and beverages like lemonade or water to promote teeth whitening, detoxification, and purification in the body.
The powder form is also often mixed into water or syrup and used by emergency departments to fight off the effects of drug overdoses and poisonings.
When to Take Activated Charcoal
If you’ve been experiencing digestive issues, want whiter teeth or clearer skin, or want to try out a new hangover cure, you may want to consider taking the substance.
According to GoodRx, activated carbon should be consumed at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking any meals or medications.
As with any new medication or supplement, you should always consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating charcoal into your regimen.
Should I Take Activated Charcoal?
If you want to try using activated carbon, consider the reason why you want to use it. Are you hoping for whiter teeth? Clearer skin? Better digestive health? Kidney support?
Once you’ve identified the reason you’re seeking it out, it’s time to choose the method.
Whether you want to try charcoal pills, powder, or liquid of some kind, make sure you purchase it from a trusted and reliable source.
If you aren’t sure how to choose the right one, a healthcare professional should be able to help you.
The idea of detoxing has become more and more popular as the world has shifted towards adopting a healthier lifestyle.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder why activated charcoal has skyrocketed in popularity as a detox tool.
It’s important to remember that while it can be beneficial in a ton of ways, charcoal is not a miracle worker and will not solve all of your problems. If only!
Now that you know all about activated charcoal, you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you.
This natural detoxifier is considered to be safe for most people, with rare and typically mild cases of adverse reactions.
The most common side effects include constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
If you’re looking to try out charcoal for its detoxifying benefits, I recommend consulting with your primary care physician first.
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