Activated charcoal is another historically used substance that has been making its way back into the spotlight. We may have seen it being used in the form of toothpaste, skin care masks, and of course as an emergency detoxification method for those who have consumed too much alcohol. Activated charcoal is not to be confused with the charcoal we use for grilling! It is formed through controlled decomposition of carbon based compounds like coconut shells and peat that are “activated” through the exposure to high temperature gases. The final product is a porous, negatively charged substance that is able to bind positively charged toxins and gases. Once bound, activated charcoal requires adequate amounts of water to flush through our system and out of our bodies.
Ingesting activated charcoal isn’t only for cases of alcohol poisoning, it can greatly benefit our bodies in other ways as well. It can be used to soothe an upset stomach, binding the gases produced by negative food reactions. It can help lessen our “toxin load” when it comes to environmental toxins like pesticides, chemicals, metals and molds. By removing toxins, activated charcoal use can improve the function of major organs like our liver, kidneys and adrenal glands. As our overall health is a reflection of the internal function of our body systems, it would seem that using activated charcoal is a no-brainer!
While there are plenty of benefits of using activated charcoal, there are also some potential side effects we should also consider. As charcoal is a porous substance, it can bind to substances like vitamins, minerals and medications, therefore interfering with their absorption. If we are going to try out this substance, it’s best to take 90-120 minutes before consuming a meal, supplement or medication. Activated charcoal may also cause constipation if too much is consumed, and should be avoided by people with chronic dehydration or severe intestinal damage. In cases of alcohol poisoning or drug overdose, activated charcoal has been effective in doses of 50-100 grams. For reducing and preventing digestive symptoms like gas and bloating, charcoal may be used in doses of 500-1,000 milligrams per day. Finally, 4-32 grams daily has been used to lower cholesterol levels.
If we choose to utilize activated charcoal, making sure we are using it properly is key. It can be a great supplement to help us detoxify from over consumption of alcohol, or from the toxins acquired throughout the day. Making sure to stay hydrated while taking charcoal will ensure we are moving the toxin-containing charcoal through our bodies efficiently. It’s best to keep activated charcoal use short term due to its ability to affect nutrient absorption. Therefore, activated charcoal can be a great addition to a weekly self-care routine in the form of a face mask or digestive toxin cleanse!
- Axe, Josh. “Activated Charcoal Removes Toxins, Whitens Teeth and More!” Dr. Axe, 5 July 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/supplements/activated-charcoal-uses/.
- Derlet, R W, and T E Albertson. “Activated Charcoal–Past, Present and Future.” The Western Journal of Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 1986, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1306980/.