Activated charcoal is one of those do-it-all natural ingredients that’s been touted as a quick fix for everything from blackheads to hangovers. But is all the attention warranted? Turns out, yes.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is odorless and flavorless and cannot be absorbed by the body. It has a long history in the medical world. A decontaminate for gastrointestinal problems, activated charcoal binds to toxins in the intestinal system to reduce their absorption. It has been used for a variety of digestive issues – even as an antidote for poison and has been prescribed instead of more invasive stomach pumping.
“Charcoal is effective in binding toxins, drugs, alcohol, and bacteria while in your system, before they reach your bloodstream. Removing sources that can lead to inflammation, dehydration, and aging affects your skin, and protects it from losing its healthy, clear glow.” – Dr. Neil Sadick
When most of us think of charcoal, we think of black coal – the combustible kind, or charcoal briquettes some people use when barbecuing. Yes, charcoal can come from coal as well as other harmful ingredients like petroleum. But activated charcoal can also be derived from healthy natural elements like coconut shells and bamboo. Sounds much better, doesn’t it?
The “activated” part of charcoal is created by processing at very high temperatures to increase its surface area, making it much more porous. It also gives charcoal a negative electrical charge. This allows it to easily bind with (not absorb) all kinds of compounds. Because it cannot be digested, the activated charcoal draws out and absorbs positively-charged molecules — including impurities, chemicals, toxins, and free radicals — from the body.
How is it used?
There are many modern uses for activated charcoal with awesome benefits and results, it is commonly used in tooth cleaning & whitening, skincare, hangover-free cocktails, ice creams, coffee, and more:
Many people have begun to use natural whiteners with activated charcoal, finding it to be a more effective solution – without harmful toxins. While some may consider cleaning teeth with activated charcoal a new trend, charcoal powder itself has been an indigenous tooth cleaning method in rural parts of Africa, South Asia, and Tanzania for generations.
A small quantity of charcoal whitening powder brushed or rubbed on the teeth once a week unleashes the activated charcoal to leave your teeth whiter, while absorbing toxins and cleaning your mouth, eliminating the elements (like coffee, tea, and wine) that stain and yellow your teeth.
While pearly white teeth are the key motivation for using a natural activated charcoal whitener, a valuable key benefit is it also eliminates bacteria and pathogens from the mouth and protects teeth against the onset of decay. With so many popular at-home teeth whitening products, label reading is a must. Many are filled with harsh, potentially harmful chemicals. Natural alternatives, like activated charcoal tooth powder, is a great choice.
Activated charcoal deodorant.
Activated charcoal is a great ingredient to fight odor naturally. The activated charcoal draws out and absorbs impurities and bacteria from your pores. Detoxifying properties in activated charcoal help eliminate body odor without harsh chemicals or synthetics.
Activated charcoal effectively helps to absorb moisture to minimize underarm wetness. Charcoal deodorant is a healthy alternative to conventional deodorants and can be used as a daily detox, especially when paired with magnesium hydroxide to help neutralize odors.
Headaches and hangovers.
Many people use activated charcoal tablets to soak up the toxins trapped in the body after a night of a little too much fun and an Uber ride, to help get rid of hangovers. It’s also found in many pain relievers.
“Theoretically, taking some activated charcoal after a night of drinking will lessen damage to the skin by binding the alcohol that hasn’t been absorbed before it hits the bloodstream. Alcohol can lead to a dull and dehydrated complexion, and the sugar in mixed drinks or white wine can lead to more inflammation.” – Dr. Vivian Bucay
Activated charcoal may irritate the stomach or bind to nutrients, medications, vitamins, and supplements to render them less effective.
Skincare and hair care.
Activated charcoal can be found in many body care products, including beauty bars, shampoos, sponges, and masks. With proper hydration, activated charcoal can help acne-prone and oily skin, binding to micro-impurities to clean pores and lightly exfoliate the skin.
“Charcoal binds to micro-impurities in your skin, like dirt, bacteria, oil, leaving your pores clean and removing an inflammation-causing debris. Moreover, since it has a gritty texture it works great to exfoliate the skin.” – Dr. Neil Sadick
Love the outdoors and the thought of a natural remedy for bug bites? A pinch of activated charcoal powder mixed with a carrier like a coconut oil can help soothe bug bites, mild burns, and other mild skin irritations.
Supplements and food.
While new charcoal products are popping up everywhere, including foods, it is recommended to consult a physician when ingesting activated charcoal, as it may impact the effectiveness of prescribed medications.
“Activated charcoal can bind a number of compounds, including nutrients and medications, so it’s important to limit consummation to no more than once a week.” – Dr. Vivian Bucay
Research shows activated charcoal can promote kidney function, reduce cholesterol, help get rid of intestinal gas, promote nutrient absorption, boost anti-fungal protection, and a host of other benefits. However, once again, activated charcoal may cause stomach discomfort and interfere with the effectiveness of nutrients, vitamins, supplements, and medications.
Is activated charcoal a carcinogen?
Unlike regular charcoal, activated charcoal is not a carcinogen and is considered medicinal. It is a byproduct of slowly burnt wood, peat, or coconut shells that is treated with oxygen, making it highly porous and non-polar.
So, when you think of activated charcoal, think detox – not toxic.
Is activated charcoal for you?
If you’re thinking about jumpin’ on the activated charcoal train but aren’t quite convinced, remember activated charcoal has been used as a scientifically-proven method of water filtration for a very long time and has removed toxic heavy metals and fluoride to make water safer to drink.
The powerful potential to safely draw out toxins in so many easy, accessible and innovative mediums (e.g. supplement, tooth whitening powder, deodorant, drink, food, mask, shampoo, etc.) is a solid base for a decision to strongly consider the use of activated charcoal.
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