You might have only heard of activated charcoal if you’ve ever considered buying a water filtration system, but this same stuff is now used widely for all number of health purposes. Activated charcoal was once used as a natural remedy to treat poisonings and overdoses, but it turns out there’s far more to this powder than we first thought.
Many people now use activated charcoal as a herbal supplement for detoxification purposes. It’s also thought to treat a wide range of common health problems, from digestive troubles and hangovers to yellowed teeth and kidney issues.
The reason why activated charcoal is so appealing is that it’s cheap and easy to buy in supplement form. You don’t need a prescription to get your hands on it, making it an option for those of us who are simply looking to improve our overall health. In fact, activated charcoal has become so popular nowadays that you might find it in your toothpaste, skincare products, and even ice cream.
It’s clear to see that there’s a growing hype around activated charcoal – but is it worth it? what exactly can you expect from the stuff? Here’s everything you need to know to help you make up your mind whether activated charcoal is for you.
How does activated charcoal work?
To understand the benefits of activated charcoal, we first need to look at what it is and how it works. Composed of carbon-based compounds, activated charcoal is an odourless black powder that is usually ingested for supplementary purposes. When it gets into the gut, activated charcoal can prevent toxic substances from passing into the body. These toxins are then eliminated from the body naturally as waste.
Uses and benefits of activated charcoal
There are many benefits of activated charcoal, and, in fact, we’re still learning about some of them today. The most well-known benefits of activated charcoal include the following:
1. Treating poisoning and overdose
As we’ve already mentioned, the initial purpose of activated charcoal was to treat patients who had been poisoned or experienced an overdose in a clinical setting. It’s especially useful in emergency situations, as the activated charcoal acts fast to remove the poison when administered immediately.
Activated charcoal prevents swallowed drugs and poisons from being absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. This stops the poisons from doing any damage to our body, which could quite easily occur if they were able to travel through the blood to various organs. It is still used today as a treatment for poisoning, and works best when ingested as soon as possible by a patient.
2. Healing cuts and wounds
If you live with an accident-prone member of your household, you may want to purchase some activated charcoal to naturally treat cuts and wounds whenever a situation arises. A recent study has found that activated charcoal has the potential to be useful in treating chronic wounds when applied to a dressing. It’s thought that the powder may remove fluids and toxins that slow down the healing process.
Activated charcoal can also be used to minimize any nasty odours associated with wounds. The charcoal layer of a wound dressing can absorb the bacteria and other wound toxins, as well as odour causing microorganisms found inside the wound.
3. Supporting kidney function
Thanks to its ability to remove toxins, activated charcoal is thought to be effective at minimizing waste products like in from the kidneys, helping to support healthy kidney function. People with chronic kidney disease may especially benefit from activated charcoal, as their kidneys struggle to remove these waste products as efficiently.
Recent research has also found that activated charcoal may offer a natural approach for reducing the high rate of heart disease in patients with advanced kidney disease. At the moment, there is no effective treatment for patients with kidney disease at a high risk of heart disease, and evidence suggests that activated charcoal may be the answer.
4. Reducing excessive gas and bloating
A number of studies have looked at short-term solutions for gas and bloating, and have found that activated charcoal supplements may be effective. Activated charcoal is created by heating common charcoal to make it more porous. The extra spaces in the charcoal trap gas molecules, which, when ingested, can reduce the gas that causes bloating.
In particular, activated charcoal combined with an anti-foaming agent called simethicone is even more effective at reducing bloating. This is because Simethicone breaks down gas bubbles, making them smaller and easier to absorb or pass.
5. Treating and preventing diarrhea
It seems there’s no end to the digestive benefits of activated charcoal, as it’s also proven efficacious in treating and preventing diarrhea. Diarrhea is usually caused by diet, food intolerances, stress and anxiety, and gastrointestinal disease. It’s normally only a temporary condition, but if you want to get rid of it quickly, activated charcoal is a natural solution.
When you ingest activated charcoal to treat diarrhea, the charcoal traps any harmful bacteria and other microorganisms in its pores, preventing the bacteria from being absorbed by the body. You may also find that activated charcoal soothes symptoms of stomach pain and discomfort, and helps things get settled.
Unlike other diarrhea treatments, activated charcoal has virtually no side effects, making it a more popular herbal supplement to treat the issue.
6. Whitening teeth
Activated charcoal for whiter teeth isn’t just a marketing fad – toothpastes made using activated charcoal ingredients are now widely recommended by dentists and experts in oral health. For even more effective results, you can buy activated charcoal powder, which you mix with water to produce a paste. When applied to your teeth, the charcoal can remove surface stains as effectively as a powerful toothpaste.
You shouldn’t expect activated charcoal to perform teeth whitening on the same level as professional treatment. Rather than brighten and whiten teeth, activated charcoal removes surface stains that may cause teeth to take on a yellowish tinge. The underlying colour of your tooth shouldn’t be affected by activated charcoal.
- ACTIVATED CHARCOAL CAPSULES: Charcoal powder is used for health, beauty & oral care & has traditionally been used to adsorb toxins(1); Our Activated Charcoal capsules contain 260 mg of activated charcoal /2 capsules & can be taken after meals as needed.
- DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: Activated Charcoal is a naturally sourced health and dietary supplement that's been used to support healthy lifestyles for generations; Plant and herbal based supplements from Nature's Bounty meet high quality standards and testing.
- HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS FROM NATURE'S BOUNTY: Whether you're looking for a single herbal supplement, overall wellness support, or specific benefits we're here to help support your health goals(1); Our herbal supplements & extracts come in a variety of forms.
- NATURE'S BOUNTY FOR A HEALTHY LIFE: At Nature's Bounty, we want to help you maintain wellness at every stage of life, & carry a range of vitamins & supplements including prenatal vitamins, mood support, joint support, & supplements for healthy aging.(1)
- Detox Support*
- Alleviates Gas and Bloating*
- Made from Coconut Shells. Made without gluten
- GMP Quality Assured: NPA A-rated GMP certification means that every aspect of the NOW manufacturing process has been examined, including our laboratory/testing methods (for stability, potency, and product formulation).
- This product is Kosher
- This product is Halal.
- Complies with requirements for Activated Carbon under Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) and Drinking Water (NSF)
- Approved as an ingredient in or on processed products labeled as "organic" (restrictions apply)
7. Water filtration
We mentioned earlier that you might have heard of activated charcoal if you were considering water filtration, as it’s commonly found in filters for removing contaminants like chlorine, lead and other sediment from water. You can buy these filters for use in your own home if you’re concerned about the traces of a certain chemical, metal or microorganism in your drinking water.
Just as activated charcoal absorbs the bad toxins in the gut, it can absorb certain contaminants, reducing them greatly from water. The large surface area of an activated charcoal filter makes it greatly efficient at removing the widest spread of contaminants from water.
Once these filters become full of contaminants, they’re changed out for new ones, ensuring they perform most effectively at producing cleaner, safer drinking water.
8. Natural deodorant
With the majority of shop-bought deodorants containing harmful chemicals that are bad for skin and the environment, many of us are looking for a natural solution. The problem is, finding something that actually works is harder than it seems.
Luckily, unlike other natural deodorants, activated charcoal is carbon-rich which means that in can extract oil, dirt, and other stuff from clogged pores. It’s also been proven to absorb 1,000 times its own weight in moisture, so can remove the dampness associated with sweat.
Body odour isn’t caused specifically by sweating, but rather by a certain type of bacteria on your skin, which breaks down acid in your sweat. It’s the bacteria that smells – not your sweat, and activated using charcoal is one of the most effective methods of eliminating the source of the sweat, not just its odour.
9. Skincare treatment
Let’s look again at how activated charcoal can remove toxins in our gut. Well, it can perform the same function elsewhere too – including on the skin.
Activated charcoal has been found to effectively cleanse the skin, unclog pores, and remove dead skin cells. It’s thought to help you achieve smooth, supple, and even-toned skin. Dirt, toxins, heavy metals, chemicals, and other poisons are attracted to the charcoal molecules and washed away during cleansing.
There are a wide range of activated charcoal skincare products available, each with their own specific purposes. You can use charcoal as a sunscreen to protect your skin from UV rays, as a gentle exfoliator for your face, as a cleanser and a moisturiser.
Some people swear by activated charcoal as an acne treatment, as it removes the dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria which often lead to breakouts.
10. Treating skin infections
In the same way that activated charcoal is effective in treating wounds, it can also soothe the symptoms of common skin infections. Because activated charcoal draws out toxins extremely well and has been proven to eliminate harmful bacteria, applying activated charcoal to a skin infection site regularly can naturally speed up the healing process.
A simple at-home remedy to try yourself is an activated charcoal, honey and tea tree oil paste. You’ll need to combine equal parts powder and honey to make a paste, then add tea tree oil for its antiseptic and antiviral properties.
Apply the paste to a gauze pad and leave it on the area for several hours at a time. You should notice a reduction in inflammation in a day or two, and the infection will fully disappear within two to three weeks.
While activated charcoal clearly has its uses and benefits, keep in mind that it has one or two risks and side effects to be aware of too. Make sure to use activated charcoal carefully, and not as an everyday solution to all of your health problems. Remember also that while activated charcoal may work effectively for one person, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work for you. You can purchase activated here
One risk of activated charcoal is that as well as removing toxins from the gut, it may also eliminate important nutrients before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. This could affect your balance of healthy gut bacteria, which has the potential to negatively impact everything from your metabolism to your mental health.
If you’re using activated charcoal for teeth whitening, you should keep in mind the reported negative outcomes of doing so. Some people have experienced enamel abrasion as a result of applying activated charcoal powder to their teeth, which can contribute to cavities. Be very careful to only lightly graze your teeth when applying the activated charcoal to them, so that no scratching, chipping, or other damage occurs.
Finally, more common side effects of activated charcoal include constipation or mild stomach pain. Long-term use of activated charcoal can result in more serious side effects like slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract, regurgitation into the lungs, and dehydration. If you have a condition that slows the passage of food through your intestines, you shouldn’t use activated charcoal except with your doctor’s consent.Always speak to your doctor before taking activated charcoal as a daily supplement. This powder might not look like anything special, but when used correctly, it has the ability to treat a wide range of health ailments safely and naturally. There’s no shortage of activated charcoal products online, so do your research and find the best solution from a trusted seller.