What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen at very high temperatures to make it more porous. This treatment changes its internal structure, reducing the size of its pores and increasing its surface area.
The resulting fine black powder is either sold as is or encapsulated as supplements. Activated charcoal is also added to various food and non-food products, from ice cream to toothpaste.
How does activated charcoal work?
Activating charcoal with gas at high temperatures causes it to develop microscopic holes, which increase its surface area.
Activated charcoal doesn’t get absorbed by your gut. Thus, after you swallow it, it reaches your gut in its unchanged form.
The charcoal’s porous texture has a negative electrical charge, which causes it to attract positively charged molecules, such as toxins and gases. When liquids or gases pass through this activated charcoal, they bind to it through a process known as adsorption.
These toxins and chemicals get trapped in your gut and eliminated through stool instead of being absorbed into your body.
Benefits and uses of activated charcoal
Emergency poison treatment
Activated charcoal has been used as an emergency anti-poison treatment since the early 1800s. That’s because it can bind to a wide variety of drugs, reducing their effects.
This substance may be used to treat overdoses from both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, and sedatives
May promote kidney function
Activated charcoal may promote kidney function by reducing the number of waste products that your kidneys have to filter.
This may be particularly beneficial for people with chronic kidney disease. Healthy kidneys are normally very well equipped to filter your blood, but this condition inhibits your kidneys’ ability to remove urea and other toxins.
May reduce symptoms of fish odor syndrome
Activated charcoal may help reduce unpleasant odors in individuals suffering from trimethylaminuria (TMAU), also known as fish odor syndrome.
May reduce cholesterol levels
Activated charcoal may help reduce cholesterol levels.
Older research suggests that activated charcoal may bind to cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids in your gut, preventing them from being absorbed.
Household, cosmetic and other potential uses
Activated charcoal is a popular home remedy for several other ailments — and it’s sometimes used for other household and cosmetic purposes. However, most of these purported benefits aren’t backed by science.
- Gas reduction. One recent study reports that taking activated charcoal 8 hours before an abdominal ultrasound significantly reduces the amount of gas in your gut, making it easier to get a clear ultrasound image. Still, more research is needed.
- Diarrhea aid. One case study indicates that activated charcoal may help treat diarrhea, but higher quality studies are necessary.
- Water filtration. Activated charcoal may help filter water by removing contaminants, suspended solids, and microorganisms like bacteria — all without affecting the water’s pH or taste.
- Tooth whitening. This substance is anecdotally said to whiten teeth when used as a mouth rinse or in toothpaste. It’s said to do so by absorbing plaque and other teeth-staining compounds. However, no studies support this claim.
- Hangover prevention. Activated charcoal is sometimes touted as a hangover cure. However, this substance doesn’t effectively absorb alcohol, so this benefit is very unlikely.
- Skin treatment. Applying this substance to your skin is said to treat acne, dandruff, and insect or snake bites. Yet, almost no evidence supports these claims.
Is activated charcoal safe?
Activated charcoal is considered safe in most cases, and adverse reactions are infrequent.
That said, it may cause some unpleasant side effects, the most common of which are vomiting, especially if sorbitol is also used as an ingredient.
In very rare cases, activated charcoal has been linked to bowel blockages. You might be at a greater risk if you have gut motility disorders, take opioid or antimuscarinic medications, or are taking MDAC.
The American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT) further warns against activated charcoal in cases of bleeding, blockage, or holes in your gut.
Moreover, when activated charcoal is used as an emergency poison antidote, there’s a risk that it can enter your lungs rather than your stomach. This is especially true if you vomit or are drowsy or semiconscious.
As such, this substance should only be given to those who are fully conscious.
Keep in mind that activated charcoal may also reduce the absorption of certain medications. If you’re currently taking other medications, it’s best to consult your doctor before taking this substance.
|Supplement FactsServing Size: 2 Capsules
||Amount Per Serving
|*Daily Value not established.
|Other Ingredients: Gelatin (capsule).
Take 2 capsules two to three times daily, 3-4 hours before/after meals or as recommended by your healthcare practitioner.