What is Activated Charcoal?

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Activated charcoal, Unsplash, by Adrian Olichon
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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Activated charcoal is all the rage these days. This intriguing ingredient has a rich history as a home remedy. Today, it finds itself firmly in the spotlight of the health and wellness world and is being heralded as a multi-purpose natural treatment. But what exactly is activated charcoal anyway? With so many claims and stories surrounding the black powder, it can be confusing figuring out fact from fiction. Let's find out together the uses and benefits of activated charcoal and if you should give it a go, too.

What is activated charcoal?

Although it shares a very similar name and appearance, activated charcoal is not the same thing as the charcoal you might use to light a barbecue.

First off, this fine black powder begins as coconut shells, peat, bone char, sawdust or olive pits. These carbon-rich sources are burnt at very high temperatures to obtain charcoal. The charcoal then goes through a series of chemical processes to "activate" it.

This activation process effectively strips it of all of its impurities, allowing it to absorb new particles again. This process also causes pores to form on the surface of the charcoal particles, thus increasing the overall surface area. Because of its highly absorbent nature paired with its voluminous and porous structure, activated charcoal is ideal for absorbing toxins and chemicals trapped inside the body.

Although this is the most common use, activated charcoal is an incredibly versatile product with many purposes.

Phuong Tran, Unsplash

The many uses of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal wears many hats in addition to being a popular health supplement. Below are a few of its applications.

Removal of toxins

Activated charcoal can bind to nasty substances inside the body, so it's commonly used to remove toxins. Because the body can't digest activated charcoal itself, the substances that it attracts are naturally flushed out with the charcoal--like magic!

Kidney and liver health

Activated charcoal can filter out nasty undigested toxins from your system. By reducing the number of waste products that go through your kidneys and liver, it can thus help prevent damage to the cells in these organs.

Gas relief

Excess wind can be uncomfortable. Studies suggest that activated charcoal can reduce flatulence. When digestion leads to gaseous by-products, ingesting activated charcoal can help absorb excess gas from within your gut and eliminate it from the body.

Teeth whitening

Activated charcoal can whiten teeth naturally and affordably. By adding powdered charcoal to your usual toothpaste, the charcoal binds to the plaque and lifts off coffee and wine stains, restoring whiteness and shine. Repeat this process 2-3 times a week for noticeable results. But whatever you do, try not to go overboard--activated charcoal's abrasive properties can damage your enamel if you use it too often.

Water filtering

Tap water sometimes contains impurities, toxins, and chemicals that we should avoid including traces of pesticides, industrial waste, and solvents. Activated charcoal can absorb some of these impurities and trap them, making it an ideal candidate for water purification systems.

Gut management

Because activated charcoal is a gastrointestinal absorbent, it can attract and expel toxins from the gut. Recent studies on the matter concluded that this ingredient was able to prevent bacteria and drugs that cause diarrhea from being absorbed into the body.

Wound treatment

Among activated charcoal's many uses is the treatment of skin wounds. Activated charcoal carries antibacterial and can absorb bacteria from skin wounds. Give it a try the next time you get a scratch -- of course, if you have a severe injury, head to the doctor and don't bother with the charcoal!

Deodorant

Activated charcoal can absorb moisture and can control humidity levels. It is also particularly good at getting rid of smells and stinky compounds. This makes for an effective natural deodorant. You can make your own or buy one of the many activated charcoal antiperspirants on the market to minimize any body odor you may experience.

Skincare

Activated charcoal can lift dirt, dust, and bacteria from your pores, making it easier to remove them with a simple wash. For a deeper clean, follow with a gentle exfoliating scrub. Oily complexions can also see an improvement by using activated charcoal face masks.

Haircare

Combine a small amount of powdered charcoal with your regular shampoo to create a cleansing shampoo that will give your hair a thorough clean by removing impurities and restoring softness and shine.

"Detox" drinks

Some people use activated charcoal as an ingredient in drinks and smoothies. These drinks promote the elimination of toxins and can be included in your nutrition plan if you are looking to support your body's internal functions. However, be warned about the label "detox"--your liver is the only thing that can detox your body!

green-smoothie-male-drinking

The benefits of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is tasteless, so you can easily add it to drinks and toothpaste without it interfering with your enjoyment of drinks or minty fresh breath.

If you struggle with indigestion following meals, activated charcoal will help calm and balance the chemical reactions in the stomach. Take a tablespoon of charcoal powder with a glass of water after your meal to prevent bloating and indigestion.

Charcoal can also limit the perceived effects of a hangover by clearing out any chemicals and toxins of your body. After a night of drinking, try adding a teaspoon of activated charcoal in a glass of water before bed and see if you can avoid that dreaded headache and nausea the next day. Better than a tablet.

The side effects of activated charcoal

Although the health benefits associated with activated charcoal are impressive, the use of activated charcoal can have some adverse side effects. This is why you should always seek advice from your GP or a medical practitioner before taking activated charcoal supplements or powder. Furthermore, Activated charcoal is still a largely misunderstood substance, and more evidence from studies is needed to confirm the science behind the claims. Two serious, albeit rare, side effects of activated charcoal are nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using activated charcoal immediately.

Because of how good activated charcoal is at trapping substances and flushing them out of the body, it can also end up removing things that the body actually needs. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can get lost through excessive use of activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal can also bind to prescription drugs which can cause them to be less effective. If you are going to take activated charcoal supplements, do so two hours before eating food or taking medication to allow proper absorption of the latter by the body.

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Activated charcoal: a magic ingredient?

With all of its use cases and benefits, it's no wonder that activated charcoal has become a go-to ingredient in many people's health regime. Thanks to its amazing properties, activated charcoal can be used for a variety of things. To stay on top of this new health trend, why not keep some at home that you can easily use when need be? Sign up with 8fit today to keep up with the latest wellness discoveries and explore new ways of taking care of your body.

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