I recently started taking activated charcoal. I can think of at least 500 perfectly valid reasons why I thought this was a good idea: White teeth, gut health, toxin absorption, better skin, and because it’s the cool thing to do to name a few. But really, it all came down to the fact that activated charcoal (AC) is a pretty potent natural remedy of the non-woo variety, and my never-ending need to step it up a notch thought taking a little AC was an excellent idea.
So, what is it and how does it work?
Activated charcoal is a fine black powder that can be derived from many substances, the most popular being coconut shells. (No … it’s nothing even remotely close to the charcoal bricks people cook with. Those are toxic. Don’t eat them. Ever.) This type of charcoal becomes “activated” when it is heated to high temperatures – a process that removes any previously adsorbed substances, reduces particle size, and turns it into a pourous final product that binds to toxins.
Once it has been “activated,” it has a negative charge that attracts positively charged toxins and gases so that these toxins can’t be absorbed by the gut. Since the charcoal isn’t absorbed either, it carries everything it binds to out of the body. Pretty simple, right?
What are the Benefits of Activated Charcoal?
I’m sure you’ve heard about using activated charcoal for poisoning or chelation, but you might be surprised to learn that there are a lot of other things AC can do too. Research and a few hundreds years of observational data show that it can …
- Improve your kidney function by binding to urinary toxins and slowing the progression of kidney disease.
- Remove heavy metals from water (lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium and zinc), protects against toxic environmental vapors, and “adsorbs” heavy metals and toxins inside the body.
- Whiten teeth by gently removing stains caused by coffee, tea, and wine.
- Improve gums by targeting toxins and plaque.
- Alleviate bad breath and body odor.
- Manage overdoses and poisoning.
- Reduce bloating and gas by attaching to the substances in the intestine that produce it.
- Lower cholesterol by adsorbing bile acids and cholesterol and preventing their absorption by the intestine.
- Alleviate digestive upset and can prevent stomach bugs, food poisoning, and diarrhea.
- Improve skin by removing impurities, toxins, and dead skin.
- Reduce dandruff and remove impurities and toxins from the scalp.
- Is an effective alternative for toxic deodorants.
- Cleanse the entire digestive system.
- Protective against harmful pathogens.
- May ease heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux.
- May reduce inflammation by adsorbing pro-inflammatory cytokines.
‘This agent, presently somewhat neglected, has a wide spectrum of activity and when properly used is probably the most valuable single agent we possess. – Journal of Pediatrics
How Should You Use Activated Charcoal?
There are many ways you can use activate charcoal and how you use it depends on what you’re using it for. If you’re whitening your teeth, you’re going to want activated coconut charcoal tooth powder. If you’re taking it while traveling, you might want an encapsulated version (less mess, more expensive, but travels better).
If you’re taking it for the purpose of detoxing, removing toxins, stomach upset, or for gut health, you might want to keep a big bag of activated charcoal powder on hand so that you can mix it up whenever you need to. And of course … there are soaps, scrubs, and endless array of skin products too.
Here’s a list of High quality activated charcoal supplements, how to use them, and what you’d use them for:
- (My FAVORITE) Ultrafine Coconut Activated Charcoal Powder is the type of activated charcoal featured in this post, and my preferred method of taking AC for any and all reasons. If you’re an adult, simply mix 1 teaspoon with a glass of water and take on an empty stomach. For children, reduce the amount to 1/8-1/4 teaspoon.
- Teeth Whitening Charcoal Powder – To use AC to whiten your teeth, wet a soft toothbrush and dip it in the powder. Gently brush teeth for one to two minutes. Rinse thoroughly and use 1-2x per day. I use this brand HERE (that also contains bentonite, orange seed oil, baking soda, coconut oil, and mint), or you can use a less expensive/non-abrasive alternative like this one.
- Charcoal Face Masks, Soap, and Body Scrubs – Activated charcoal products are an amazing way to scrub up, exfoliate, improve your complexion and boost skin health. I love this exfoliating detox scrub by Seaweed Bath Co, this soap (made with Dead Sea mud, AC, and essential oils) or activated charcoal with volcanic ash, and this charcoal face mask (with hyalauronic acid). Combine it with dry brushing to improve your results.
- Activated Charcoal Detox Bath – Add activated charcoal to your normal detox or epsom salt bath to improve your skin and enhance the results of a detox. (And yes, toxins are removed via the skin when you sweat and hang out there unless you rinse and scrub them off. This is fact.)
- Activated Charcoal Tablets – For people who want something easily portable that travels well (without the mess) activated charcoal tablets are a great alternative. You can carry them with you, keep them at the office, or in your car for the just in case. There is also a brand that combines activated charcoal, coconut oil, and peppermint oil in liquid capsule form – an ideal alternative for someone taking this for digestion.
- Activated Charcoal Deodorant – Healthy deodorant that supposedly works better than the toxic aluminum stuff? Sold.
- For Children – When using activated charcoal for children, I prefer powdered activated charcoal because it is less expensive and I can alter the amount for each child. If you have a child who suffers from food allergies or digestive issues, you might also keep charcoal tablets in the car that can be broken open and given immediately as needed.
Does Activated Charcoal Bind to Nutrients or Strip the Body of Minerals?
People disagree on whether activated charcoal binds to nutrients like it does toxins. Some people think that it does, but newer research suggests that this isn’t the case (because of the negative charge of many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals). To be safe, I would take it on an empty stomach, in between meals, or 30 minutes before taking your evening supplements. Avoid taking AC with any other medications as it does prohibit the body from absorbing many medications. (Toxins, remember?)
Could Activated Charcoal Cause Negative Side-Effects?
Activated charcoal is pretty safe when used properly (even for pregnant women); however, it has an insane capacity to adsorb (think about the size of a football field), so you’ll want to drink a lot of water while you’re taking it to avoid constipation and dehydration. You should expect that if using internally, your poo will be black, and for children, you would want to reduce the dosage – utilizing the smallest amount possible to achieve your goals. Infants should not take activated charcoal and it goes without saying that … you should not inhale this.
Activated charcoal is a natural remedy, withstanding hundreds of years of use, and appears to be all sorts of amazing. If you haven’t used it, you probably should. If you don’t have any on hand, you should probably get some, and if you wanted to know more about activated charcoal … now you do.