Activated charcoal has been used as a powerful natural medicine for centuries, mostly as a potent detoxifier. More recent evidence has found that it can also support oral, digestive, heart, and skin health, and may even be an effective aid to cancer treatment.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
No, this isn’t the same type of charcoal for grilling burgers, so don’t go digging into your backyard barbecue! Activated charcoal is made by heating common charcoal, typically made from coal, coconut shells, bamboo, and other woods. This increase in temperature expands its surface area and creates small pores. When ingested, these pores help trap toxins and chemicals and flush them out of the body to prevent reabsorption. Activated charcoal can be found in the form of tablets, capsules, or fine powder at most natural food markets and drug stores. There are even some newer juice brands that use activated charcoal as a detoxifying ingredient.
7 Health Benefits Of Activated Charcoal
1. Promotes Oral Health
Activated charcoal can actually change the pH balance in the mouth to help prevent cavities and kill bad bacteria associated with tooth decay and gum disease. Sufferers of bad breath will also find it to be an effective deodorizer. And for those working on their shiniest smiles, activated charcoal can help make your teeth pearly white by pulling out toxins from the mouth and removing stains.
You can simply dip a clean, wet toothbrush into powdered charcoal and brush, or add it your oil-pulling routine. Don’t be alarmed by the scary black color that will form on your teeth upon initial exposure — this will go away quickly and you will be left with nothing but white teeth! However, the charcoal can stain pretty much anything else it touches, so be careful not to spill.
2. Reduces Intestinal Gas And Bloating
Activated charcoal can be used as an effective digestive aid by soaking up toxins and impurities in the gastrointestinal tract.1
It will soak up trapped intestinal gas, such as hydrogen sulfide, to help diminish painful (and let’s face it, embarrassing) gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps.2 It can even help treat patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea.3
3. Treats Hangovers And Alcohol Poisoning
While activated charcoal does not adsorb alcohol, it does help remove toxins and impurities in the alcohol that may contribute to poisoning in the body.4 Because of this, it’s also been promoted as a natural hangover cure.5 Of course, plenty of water should be consumed as well to avoid dehydration.
4. Quickly Removes Dangerous Toxins And Chemicals
Activated charcoal is somewhat of a miracle remedy in emergency situations when a person has ingested or overdosed on substances including: 6
- Pharmaceutical drugs, such as acetaminophen or aspirin, opium, cocaine, and morphine
- Toxins from pesticides (including DDT)
- Mercury, lead, and other chemicals
Not only that, it can even help treat food poisoning when symptoms of nausea and diarrhea are present. Do note that activated charcoal is most effective if it is administered within the first hour of ingestion of the toxin.7 Another great reason to always have some on hand.
5. Lowers Cholesterol
Some studies have found that activated charcoal can lower the concentration of total lipids, cholesterol, and triglycerides in the body. Overall, this helps support the cardiovascular system, which can help in the prevention of heart disease. 8
6. Aids In Cancer Treatment
Early research suggests that activated charcoal may help increase survival rates after stomach cancer surgery.9 Some patients have also found that taking activated charcoal can help reduce the side effects after chemotherapy sessions.
7. Beautifies The Skin
You’ve already applied it to your teeth, so how about your whole entire face next? Just as it does when ingested, activated charcoal will bind with environmental toxins and dirt on the skin, particularly those that cause acne. When used in a cleanser or mask, activated charcoal can pull excess oils from your skin, leaving it smooth.10 It also relieves discomfort from insect and snake bites, as well as rashes from poison ivy or poison oak.
|↑1||Jain, Naresh K., VIJAY P. PATEL, and C. S. Pitchumoni. “Activated charcoal, simethicone, and intestinal gas: a double-blind study.” Annals of internal medicine 105.1 (1986): 61-62.|
|↑2||Jain, N. K., V. P. Patel, and C. S. Pitchumoni. “Efficacy of Activated Charcoal in Reducing Intestinal Gas: A Double–Blind Clinical Trial.” American Journal of Gastroenterology 81.7 (1986).|
|↑3||Activated Charcoal Uses For Bloating and Gas,Stomach Bloating|
|↑4||The Best Hangover Treatment: What Is It?, Vanderbilt University, Psychology Department|
|↑5||Hangover cure, M. Ather Mirza, Romi Mirza, US20010043956 A1, Nov 22, 2001.|
|↑6||Neuvonen, Pertti J., and Klaus T. Olkkola. “Oral activated charcoal in the treatment of intoxications.” Medical toxicology and adverse drug experience 3.1 (1988): 33-58.|
|↑7||Shannon, Michael. “Ingestion of toxic substances by children.” New England Journal of Medicine 342.3 (2000): 186-191.|
|↑8||Neuvonen, P. J., et al. “Activated charcoal in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: dose-response relationships and comparison with cholestyramine.” European journal of clinical pharmacology 37.3 (1989): 225-230.|
|↑9||Research And Thoughts On Activated Charcoal, American Cancer Society, Inc. [US]|
|↑10||Air-Pollution Filter And Face Mask, Charles L. Mulchi, US 4141703 A, Feb 27, 1979.|