This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
At one time, activated charcoal was considered a universal antidote for a wide range of conditions. With the advent of modern medicine, the popularity of activated charcoal declined. However, in recent years it has seen a bit of a resurgence, especially among the alternative medicine community.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what activated charcoal is, the many things that it can be used for, and how you can make your own activated charcoal at home.
What is Activated Charcoal?
Though made from many of the same ingredients, activated charcoal is quite different from the charcoal used to barbecue meats.
Activated charcoal purchased from a store is most often comprised of coconut shells, bone char, coal, petroleum coke, and sawdust, though there are plenty of variations to this formula. What makes activated charcoal special, though, is the fact that it is “activated” at high temperatures.
These high temperatures work to alter the internal structure of the activated charcoal, increasing its surface area and decreasing the size of the pores in the charcoal.
The result is a fine, black powder that is safe for human consumption and comes with a wide range of medical benefits.
Uses for Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is a very versatile substance with a wide range of uses, both as a medicinal treatment as well as a functional material that can be used for tasks such as water filtration. Some of the uses for activated charcoal include:
1. Emergency Poison Treatment
Since the 1800s, activated charcoal has been used to treat patients who have consumed a range of poisonous substances. Activated charcoal is able to treat poisoned patients thanks to its toxin-binding properties. When activated charcoal is consumed, it absorbs any toxic substances that may be present in the stomach, preventing them from entering the bloodstream.
In fact, studies have shown that a single dose of activated charcoal – which is between 50-100 grams – is able to reduce the absorption of toxins by up to 74%.
2. Reduce the Effects of Kidney Disease
The kidneys are the organs responsible for filtering toxins out of the body. However, if a person’s kidneys are not functioning as they should, these toxins may not be adequately removed from the body. In the same way that activated charcoal is able to absorb poison, it is also able to absorb many of the toxins that would normally be filtered out by the kidneys.
For someone suffering from kidney disease, regular doses of activated charcoal can be used to help eliminate toxins before they ever reach the kidneys. With less work to do, kidney function can then be improved.
3. Lower Cholesterol
In addition to binding to toxins, activated charcoal is able to bind to LDL cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol – as well. By binding to LDL cholesterol in the gut, activated charcoal is able to prevent it from entering the bloodstream. One study showed that taking 24 grams of activated charcoal each day for a total of four weeks was able to reduce both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by 25%.
4. Teeth Whitening
Brushing your teeth with activated charcoal may be able to whiten them, as activated charcoal is able to absorb plaque and other compounds that lead to stained teeth. Some companies are even starting to produce teeth-whitening toothpastes that contain activated charcoal as one of the main active ingredients.
5. Alleviate Gas
One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that taking 500 milligrams of activated charcoal one hour before consuming a heavy meal is able to drastically reduce gas and bloating. Activated charcoal is thought to bind to the gas-producing byproducts found in certain foods and prevent them from causing discomfort.
6. Combat Aging
Aging may be an inevitable process, but there are factors that can slow down as well as speed up the aging process in our bodies. One of the factors that contribute to accelerated aging is the presence of toxins in the body. By helping eliminate these toxins, activated charcoal can actually slow down the effects of aging.
7. Treat Snake and Spider Bites
Activated charcoal alone isn’t normally enough to treat bites from venomous snakes and spiders. However, it can be used in an emergency situation to reduce the amount of toxin in your body while you seek further medical treatment.
To treat a venomous bite with activated charcoal, you will need to make a poultice using gauze, activated charcoal, and coconut oil and tightly wrap the bite so that the coconut oil-soaked activated charcoal is in direct contact with the bite.
8. Treat Poison Ivy and Poison Oak Rashes
Poison ivy and poison oak rashes are caused by a toxin that the plant excretes when you come into contact with it. Like other toxins, though, the toxins secreted by these plants are no match for the toxin-binding properties of activated charcoal. To treat a poison ivy or poison oak rash using activated charcoal, make a paste by combining activated charcoal with coconut oil and apply it to the rash.
9. Treat Acne
Acne is caused by dirt and bacteria entering the pores in the skin, and activated charcoal can be used to help eliminate this dirt and bacteria. To treat acne with activated charcoal, make a paste out of activated charcoal and aloe vera gel and apply it to the affected area. This paste can be applied to your entire face to treat and prevent outbreaks, or it can be used as a spot treatment to eliminate individual blemishes.
10. Filter Water
Activated charcoal is used in water filtration systems around the world to help eliminate fluoride and heavy metals from drinking water. All you have to do to reduce these toxins in your water is create a system that filters the water through tightly packed activated charcoal.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that while activated charcoal has been shown to eliminate fluoride and heavy metals from drinking water, its ability to eliminate bacteria and viruses from drinking water is less conclusive, so you may not want to rely on an activated charcoal water filter alone if you are drinking water from a source that may contain bacteria and viruses.