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What You Need to Know About Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is also known as activated carbon, and it is a simple substance with powerful properties. The basis of activated charcoal’s power is the fact that it has been processed to have innumerable tiny, low-volume pores. These pores greatly increase the substance’s surface area, which is the area available for chemical reactions. 

Simple, humble activated charcoal has many uses for health and home. 

A single gram has some 3,000 square meters of surface area due to all of its tiny pores. It’s not a medicine or a drug, but is more like a multipurpose tool, one that has been used in industry, medicine, chemistry, and agriculture for a long time. You should know that activated charcoal may have a place in your medicine cabinet and first aid kit.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

It is a non-graphite form of carbon, and it can be produced from many kinds of carbon materials, including wood and coconut shells. The form made from coconut shells, for instance, has macropore structures that make it especially effective for removal of color and odor from various compounds. 

It is made by first carbonizing (burning) the coconut shells, and then activating the charcoal with high-temperature steam. When the steam reacts with the charcoal, the internal surface area undergoes a reaction that creates more surface area, which is what gives activated charcoal its amazing properties. 

How Has Activated Charcoal Been Used Historically?

Aside from its uses in industry and agriculture, activated charcoal has long been used for many medical applications. It is often used by hospitals to treat overdoses and poisoning, but it is also available in over-the-counter capsules for use at home. While it doesn’t deactivate every type of poison, it has been used since ancient times for this purpose, and the World Health Organization considers activated charcoal one of its Essential Medicines because of its safety, effectiveness, and low cost. It also has more mundane uses. The type you can buy for home use has long been used as a treatment for indigestion, diarrhea, and gas. 

Activated Charcoal and Detoxifying Benefits

While activated charcoal cannot treat alcohol poisoning, it can remove other toxins from the body that make intoxication and hangovers worse. In addition to helping detoxify the human body, it can detoxify water as well, trapping impurities and removing pesticides, industrial wastes, solvents, and other chemicals. That’s why so many water filtration systems use activated carbon filters. It does not, however, trap viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing microbes. Yet, in adults with food poisoning accompanied by nausea and diarrhea, taking activated charcoal at the onset of symptoms, along with copious water, can mitigate some of the misery. 

Activated charcoal can mitigate symptoms of food poisoning and stomach bugs. 

Other Health-Promoting Benefits of Activated Charcoal

Believe it or not, it also can be used to whiten your teeth by changing the pH balance in the mouth, and adsorbing both dental plaque and tiny bits of food that stain teeth. Pore treatments and exfoliating scrubs made with powdered activated charcoal can improve skin health and offer deeper cleaning than normal skincare products. It can also be used in shampoo to deep clean hair, though people with light-colored hair should rinse more than normal to remove any residual discoloration from the charcoal. 

It can also help you have a healthier home by safely removing odors from musty closets, refrigerators, and litter box areas without adding additional chemicals to the air in the form of air fresheners. You just place it in a small bowl, open coffee can, or box and leave it where bad smells linger.

Though activated charcoal is a remarkably versatile substance, and has countless health and home uses, it can slow down movement of food through the digestive tract, causing constipation. So be sure to consume sufficient amounts of water when taking it. Additionally, if you take it with medications, it can decrease how much medication your body can access, making it less effective. So be sure to take it at least 1 hour before or after taking any medications or vitamin supplements.

Overall, having activated charcoal on hand in your household can prepare you for a number of maladies, and can help you keep your home smelling clean and fresh without the need for harsh chemicals. If you’re interested in learning more about keeping your body and your home healthy, we invite you to contact us at any time

About the Author: Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee is a New York State Certified Dietician-Nutritionist, who has been counseling individuals on sustainable weight management and disease prevention for over 20 years. Her mission is to empower individuals to obtain healthy food relationships and to clearly understand the concept of food as medicine. Lisa chose to create a functional nutrition practice where what, why and how we eat are all part of the conversation. There is no One-Size-Fits-All dietary approach, but Ms Jubilee has experienced great success utilizing specific dietary protocols such as intermittent fasting, time restricted eating, low carb/ketogenic dietary regimens and AIP (autoimmune protocol) in her practice. In 2006, Lisa co-founded Living Proof Nutrition Strength Pilates, a private nutrition, HIST (high intensity strength training) and Pilates studio, located in midtown Manhattan.

As of March 2020, in order to continue to service her clients and the public at large during the Covid-19 pandemic, Lisa has begun offering all of her nutrition counseling and support services remotely. Feel free to contact Lisa with any questions: Lisa@livingproofnyc.com