What is activated charcoal?
Today, activated charcoal is “trendy” and can be found highlighted in health and beauty products from toothpaste to body wash. It can also be purchased in capsule or powder form that can now be found in many retail stores as well as online. It’s a form of carbon that is porous that allows for chemical reactions and has most commonly been used for water filtration and as a treatment for poisoning. This week we’ll look at how it works, if it’s safe, and more!
Is It Safe?
You might think to yourself, “is it carcinogenic?” No.
This is different than burned food type charcoal or the charcoal lumps you use in your grill (above). Activated charcoal is created from a variety of wood, bamboo and/or coconut shells; which is burned anaerobically; without oxygen. Hot gas is used to convert it into charcoal. Hot air/oxygen is then used to blow out the gases and leave a porous charcoal.
How Does It Work?
Charcoal becomes “Activated” when steam or hot air is used to erode its internal surface. This increases its ability to bind to other things.
Vocab Word! Adsorption – This is when toxins/elements bind to the surface of the charcoal. Activated charcoal has a porous surface that is negatively charged. Positively charged toxins bond to it and it aids them in safely leaving the body. It’s been said that charcoal can attract 100 times its weight in actual toxic material! (according to www.beatcancer.org).
What Are The PROs & CONs?
Activated charcoal has been used for years to absorb toxins from drug overdoses and poison ingestion. Some suggest activated charcoal can ease digestion, reduce gas (like beano before a gassy meal), lower cholesterol, prevent/treat stomach bugs and eliminate diarrhea. They have also long been used as water filters. The “extras” in water attach to the porous surface of the charcoal to clean up your water. Just be sure to replace your filters…it’s not just a suggestion! Once the porous surface is filled with toxins, it can’t hold any more and the filter is no longer working.
Just like activated charcoal can absorb toxins, it can also absorb other things you may not be aware of, like medication. It has been seen to limit the effectiveness of birth control, and some other vitamins/nutrients. In the pros, it was mentioned that activated charcoal can ease diarrhea, but it can also possibly cause vomiting and constipation at high doses.
No matter the dose, be sure to consume plenty of water if you choose to supplement with activated charcoal, and as always – solicit an opinion from your Primary Care Physician!
Like anything, do your homework and make an informed choice. Science hasn’t had a chance to dive deep into activated charcoal yet to prove its pros and cons outside of poison treatment.
Want to try it out? You can try to using it to whiten your teeth! Check out this link below to learn how to use an old toothbrush and a capsule of activated charcoal – which will absorbs the plaque! Just keep in mind – charcoal is black, so it looks a little funny at first!