Activated Carbon: What Exactly is It, and What Does it Do? | Wholefood Earth®

The properties of activated charcoal have been known for thousands of years by both Eastern and Western physicians. As early as 400 BC it was being used by some Greek cultures to purify drinking water. Since the early 20th century it has been produced commercially in the form of black powder, often available in capsule form. Some people assume that it is only used for treating accidental ingestion of toxic substances, but the unique qualities of activated carbon have a multitude of uses to keep our bodies healthy.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is very different from the type of charcoal bricks that you would use in a grill. They are similar in that they are made from carbon-based materials, but the substance you use in a grill does not have the health properties of activated charcoal and it may very well contain toxins that would be dangerous to humans. Activated charcoal is created when base materials like sawdust, peat or bone char are heated to very high temperatures. This changes the molecular structure of the charcoal and the charcoal becomes more porous. These pores will now absorb toxins readily.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

The super-heated charcoal now has a negative electrical charge. The negative electrical charge means that it will attract substances with a positive electrical charge such as gases or toxins. When the toxins are absorbed by the charcoal they bind to it and cannot free roam around the body to wreak havoc. Super-heating the charcoal also creates a unique texture with tons of nooks, crannies, and pores throughout the surface of the charcoal. The highly textured and porous surface of the charcoal is what allows it to attract and bind a significant amount of toxins before it become inactive. Charcoal is not digested by the body so when it is ingested into the digestive system it can pull toxins and impurities to it, trap them in its porous surface and then carry it out of the body before it can do any harm. This makes it an invaluable addition to any clean eating program.

How Can You Use Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal can be used in a few different ways to detox your body inside and out. It has routinely been taken internally to help absorb toxins in the case of an accidental overdose or ingesting a poisonous substance. It can also be taken orally to absorb other types of toxins that may be on your food or to address digestive issues.

For instance, if you are can't obtain organic produce and you are concerned about the chemicals that may have been used in growing your food you could take activated charcoal before a meal to hinder your body's absorption of the chemicals. Macro nutrients that you need are not typically attracted by the charcoal, so you will continue to get the benefits of nutrients from your food without the harmful byproducts of agricultural chemicals. Many supplements are used by those who adhere to a clean eating lifestyle, and many of these supplements use small-to-large carbon molecule chains to impact the body in different ways. Taking activated charcoal is not likely to significantly impact the effectiveness of this type of fatty acid supplement, however it may be wise to use the charcoal an hour or so after taking the supplement so the maximum amount of transference to ketones can be achieved.

Activated charcoal can help reduce flatulence, prevent bloating and assist with bile production. Many plant-based diets contain foods that are known to contribute to flatulence and cause uncomfortable bloating. Activated carbon helps trap some of the byproducts of digestion that lead to this discomfort and may facilitate bile production that's necessary to digest certain fats. Supplements that are used in keto type diets are usually made up of fatty acid chains. Many of these supplements use small-to-large carbon molecule chains to impact the body in different ways. Bile is used to help break down fatty acid chains and taking activated carbon may help keep the process as efficient as possible to allow the body to stay in ketosis for longer periods of time even with the addition of carbs to the diet.

Another way to use activated charcoal is to purify your body from the outside. When used instead of toothpaste activated charcoal will absorb a good deal of plaque and microscopic bits of food particles from your teeth and your gum line. It may help absorb some bacteria and toxic byproducts of bacteria that grow in the mouth and remove them before they can activate tooth decay. Activated charcoal is often used to help whiten the teeth as well.

Because of its ability to absorb large quantities of oil activated charcoal makes a great treatment for the skin. Using a scrub or mask a few times a week will deep clean your pores and remove oil or sebum buildups that cause uneven skin and acne. Besides the beauty effects the treatment will also help you detox yourself from the outside in. The pores are where the body secretes a lot of toxic metabolic byproducts. By using activated charcoal to adsorb these and keep the pores clear your whole system will be cleaner and toxins will be removed from the body more rapidly.

When Should You Not Use Activated Charcoal?

There are sometimes when it is not a good idea to use activated charcoal routinely. Because it is a powder it can lead to dehydration if you are restricting your fluid intake for any reason. The charcoal sometimes causes the lower GI tract to slow down, so it should never be taken if you have or suspect you have any kind of bowel obstruction. Activated charcoal does interfere with the absorption of some medications, so it's important not to take it in conjunction with medicines that you want to get the full effect of. Taking the charcoal, a full hour before taking the medication should prevent any negative interaction from occurring. Lastly, activated charcoal will reduce the effectiveness of syrup of ipecac. Ipecac syrup is used to induce vomiting in the case of poison ingestion and should never be combined with activated carbon or the effectiveness of both will be reduced greatly.

Anyone who is serious about keeping the body free of toxins and running at maximum efficiency should invest in activated charcoal. It can be used in nearly endless ways to detox the body both inside and out. Activated charcoal is safe and effective, and best of all, it is inexpensive and readily available over the counter.


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