My niece Ava dropped by the other day with her three little ones for a visit and in the course of our conversation the topic of “activated charcoal” came up. I’ve always been impressed with Ava’s knowledge of alternative health solutions (drop by her blog “Treu Colors“) and so my ears perked up when she started talking about how she was using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener!
Of course this piqued my incurable curiosity and I had to look into it further. I was so fascinated by what I learned about activated charcoal that I knew I had to share at least some of it with all of you!
The use of activated charcoal dates back centuries. Egyptian doctors, as well as Hippocrates (the Greek physician), recommended the use of charcoal for medicinal purposes. North American Indians used it for gas pains and skin infections.
Charcoal can do these various things because of its ability to attract other substances to its surface and hold them there. This is called “adsorption” (not absorption). Charcoal can adsorb thousands of times its own weight.
The most effective type of charcoal is the activated form. First, the charcoal is ground very fine; and then it is placed in a steam chamber. This opens up the charcoal and exposes more of its surfaces, so it can adsorb much more. In fact, one teaspoon of activated charcoal has a total surface area as big as a football field! (Note: Charred toast and scorched food are NOT charcoal.)
Activated charcoal is harmless when ingested, and there are no ill effects when it comes in contact with the skin. It is rated Category I (safe and effective) by the FDA for acute toxic poisoning. It is actually required by law to be part of the standard equipment on many ambulances, in case poisoning is encountered.
Here are some other uses for activated charcoal:
Activated charcoal can be effective for reducing gas, especially after eating foods, such as beans, that commonly create excess gas. AC helps reduce intestinal gas by attracting and condensing gas molecules into thousands of tiny pores on its surface. These gases are then carried out of the body with the charcoal.
It can also relieve an upset stomach or nausea. However, activated charcoal should only be taken occasionally to relieve these symptoms, and should not be used every day.
Charcoal can also be used as a treatment for diarrhea and vomiting, either from food poisoning, or from infecting agents such as the flu.
Another of the benefits of activated charcoal is that it helps eliminate bad breath, because it cleanses both the mouth and the digestive tract.
Cuts and Wounds
Wounds of any kind can easily become infected which can then lead to worse complications. Activated charcoal has been shown to neutralize many different kinds of pathogens that directly or indirectly produce or promote infection. Activated medicinal charcoal binds these toxic substances and organisms so that the body can often heal itself.
Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, describes the use of charcoal compresses to speed the healing of wounds and eliminate their odors. Make a poultice by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of charcoal powder with just enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste on a piece of gauze cut to fit the area. Place it over the wound & fix in place. Poultices should be changed every 6-10 hours.
In instances of ingestion of drugs, poison or household chemicals, activated charcoal works well to draw out harmful toxins preventing them from entering the bloodstream. In the event of ingestion of poison, mix 1-2 tablespoons of activated charcoal with a full glass of water and drink quickly. Call a poison control center or go to the emergency room as well to make sure the poison has been fully removed!
Insect and Snake Bites
Spider bites, specifically from a brown recluse spider, may be healed through using activated charcoal. Standard medicine has no remedy to offer for this type of spider bite. However, if a charcoal compress is applied to the area quickly, the effects of the bite may be eased significantly. Activated charcoal may also be used to treat bee stings and ant bites in the same manner.
If an individual has been bitten by a poisonous snake and there isn’t enough time to get to a hospital, activated charcoal may help save his life. An emergency charcoal compress in combination with ingesting activated charcoal internally may be an effective remedy for a snake bite when medical help is far away.
Sounds strange, I know! But when it comes to whitening teeth, AC has the same effect as it does when ingested: it pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains. It can actually be helpful in changing the pH of the mouth, effectively killing the bad bacteria present in tooth decay and gingivitis.
Charcoal is hard in nature, but it will not scratch your teeth. In fact, it is one of the safest ways to whiten and deodorize your teeth. Just dip a clean, wet toothbrush into the powdered charcoal and brush. Spit carefully and rinse well.
Reduce Acne and Improve Skin
Because activated charcoal removes toxins, it can help reduce the instances of acne and other skin impurities you might suffer from.
To use activated charcoal on your skin, combine 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal, 1 teaspoon of rosewater, 1 teaspoon of aloe vera gel, & 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. Mix these ingredients together until you have an even consistency. Apply to your skin, let it dry, and then rinse off. Your skin will feel amazing.
There are also many soaps made with activated charcoal, which are also effective at treating your skin. You can find a wide selection of handmade charcoal soaps and face masks on Etsy.
Activated carbon is often used in water filters due to its ability to trap impurities, such as chlorine. Click here to learn how to make a simple AC water filter at home using a glass beverage dispenser with a spigot.
Activated charcoal is an extremely effective odor eliminator as it adsorbs and traps bad odors. You can make an air freshener by placing a few tablespoons of activated charcoal in moist saucers or ashtrays. Place the activated charcoal on tables or other surfaces around the room and let it stand overnight.
How to use activated charcoal:
Simply place some in water, stir, and swallow. Or apply it to the skin’s surface. It is odorless and tasteless. It can also be placed in empty gelatin capsules and swallowed. But they will act more slowly than swallowing the powder mixed with water. AC powder can also be mixed with a little fruit juice before being swallowed.
The oral dosage is one tablespoon of powder stirred into a small amount of water. Four capsules of activated charcoal represent about one tablespoonful.
Where to find activated charcoal:
Most natural health stores carry activated charcoal in loose powder or capsule form and it is also available online.
Even if you don’t end up using any of the additional uses ideas above, I highly recommend having some activated charcoal on hand at all times for food poisoning or accidental ingestion of toxins.
Having AC in your home could one day be a life saver!
IMPORTANT: Never use activated charcoal for any treatment in lieu of a qualified medical professional. Activated charcoal can be used in emergency situations where your life or the life of someone else is at stake, but this is only to buy you valuable time to get to an emergency room for qualified care.
Have you used activated charcoal?