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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Walters

Activated Charcoal and Body Wellness

I know what you're thinking. "Charcoal for body wellness? C'mon." Well, let me tell you! Coal isn't reserved just for Santa's naughty list. Everyone can benefit from coal -or rather, charcoal. Let's unearth these aspects together!


First, let's clarify that we are specifically talking about activated charcoal, not the charcoal used for barbeques or that you dig out of a campfire. Charcoal for grills are combined with other chemicals to make it flamable as per its purpose, while charcoal from a fire contains various aspects from the wood and environment used.


We are delving into activated charcoal due to its measurable and its specific qualities.


Limited Research

As with most alternative or homeopathic methods, research backing the validity of activated charcoal in body wellness is limited. While research is growing, the findings are limited in that the activated charcoal is often paired with another medicinal component which also gave the desired effects being researched (Milhone). Research on activated charcoal as the sole test factor is not as common, and when it is, it's usually in small test groups, making data averages limited and difficult to translate to a larger population.


What is Activated Charcoal? Activated charcoal is often created in a manufacturing facility under extreme heat to "activate" the charcoal. "This “activation” process strips the charcoal of previously absorbed molecules and frees up bonding sites again. This process also reduces the size of the pores in the charcoal and makes more holes in each molecule, increasing its overall surface area." (Huizen). Its traits include antibacterial and purifying. It possesses a negative electrical charge which binds with positive charges, which define many toxins and pollutants whether on the surface, skin (free radicals), in the stomach, air, or water.

Benefits

Areas that activated charcoal assist to relive and other benefits include:

  • Flatulence

  • Bloating

  • Detoxing

  • Binding with certain poisons (alcohol, some drug overdoses, mold)

  • Food Poisoning

  • Easing Hangovers

  • Teeth Whitening

  • Skincare

  • Grounding and Centering

  • Water Filtering

  • Air Purifier


Science to Back it Up

When taken orally, the porous texture of activated charcoal help it bind with substances that are not meant to be in the stomach such as chemicals and toxins. In this way, activated charcoal not only stops a drug from being absorbed into the body, but also helps to eliminate drugs and toxins that have already been absorbed into the body. Since the gut cannot absorb activated charcoal, the harmful substances that have bonded with it, then pass through the body as stool.


Due to this purifying and antibacterial aspect, activated charcoal may be used as an ingredient in detoxing or in skincare, similar to bentonite clay which also extracts toxins from the body. Studies indicate that activated charcoal seems to be the more potent of the two with its purifying traits. Its air purifying ability is due to the activated charcoal's construction. Buddhist monks once used charcoal to cleanse their monastaries. Similarly, you can scatter activated charcoal around your home or office to purify the space (Finnerty). Having a negative electrical charge, the charcoal attracts positively charged molecules in the air, aka dust, allergens, mold spores, smells, ect, trapping them within its net-like structure. This method essentially filters your space and cleanses any airborne impurities.


Potential Side Effects Since the body cannot absorb activated charcoal, there is no toxic level of consumption. However ingesting large quantities can cause discomfort such as the following:

  • Black Stools

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Bowl Obstruction (rare)


Cautions

Since activated charcoal is an abrassive, using it in toothpaste regularly can potentially break down tooth enamel, and using it on sensitive skin could potentially cause skin irritation or peeling. Additionally it could interfere with the absorption of some medications including acedametaphin and birth control among others. For this reason, it's recommended to consult your healthcare provider about whether this supplement is beneficial to you and if so, the ideal time to take it.


While it absorbs many chemicals, it's important to note that it does not work on all toxin types including lithium (metals), corrosive substances, and others. It is also important to note that most activated charcoal available over the counter are not medical grade. In the event of alcohol poisoning or an overdose, it remains essential to call emergency medical personell for assistance.

Conclusion

Charcoal is a mineral that my body loves to come into contact with, almost craving it, especially during stressful seasons. From wood burning scents, its grounding effect, and purifying properties, this often overlooked product is truly valuable to the renewal of both our bodies and the earth. While its a strong support for our overall wellness, it, nor any one mineral is a be-all end-all, solution. Every body holds differing sensitivities and nutritional needs. It's important to assess which are beneficial to your own.





References:

Dr. Eric Berg DC (2018, June 8). What Is Activated Charcoal and How To Use it? – Dr. Berg [Video]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF1Cnb_VZ2g

Finnerty, B. (2023, November 29). Scatter Charcoal Throughout Your Home And Watch What Happens Overnight [blog post]. Retrieved from https://naturefreshpurifier.com/blog/charcoal.php?affId=FAA74003&c1=us&c2=charcoal_kwintent&fid=4&gclid=CjwKCAiA2L-dBhACEiwAu8Q9YERkLwDeDl0KjjtF4B8jMla2dhKyD-LUvUlm7dN3VX5cYi1YRBNV6xoCgTsQAvD_BwE

Huizen, J. (2023, December 7). What are the benefits of activated charcoal? [blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322609

Petre, A. (2023, February 23). Benefits and uses of activated charcoal [blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/activated-charcoal#benefits

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Additional Reading:

Moosavi M. (2017). Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review. Iranian journal of public health, 46(9), 1176–1183.


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