Do you have any friends that have been using activated charcoal or eating it? What do you know of it? Most, know it for its medicinal use for treating a poisoning. I, on the other hand, first knew of it in water filtration, especially the kind used in home installations. One thing is for certain: there’s a lot more to activated charcoal that meets the eye, for it does have some surprising uses and a growing fan club including Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow who rave about its detox abilities via a number of wellness drinks.
Activated charcoal is used to trap unwanted substances such as toxins and chemicals in the body (some claim that it even absorbs heavy metals – but I have my doubts on that)! It all sounds super cool! But, it is a manufactured product and therefore, it doesn’t come naturally in foods.
It is a form of processed pure carbon, made of coal, wood, peat or other sources i.e. coconut shells, black in color. It becomes activated after combined with a gas agent and subjected to high temperatures to increase its porosity and surface area and consequently, its absorbing capacity. It can be found as a powder, liquid or tablet (that’s taken by mouth).
There is a wide range of claims for its uses, aside its industrial usage and medicinal use in hospitals for drug overdose or a food poisoning. So let’s look over them.
Skin care. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-odor. Therefore, it is used heftily for a number of skin issues and odor control treatments. It relieves discomfort from insect bites and poison ivy rashes. Its detoxifying qualities make it ideal as acne prone skin treatments for blackheads and blemishes. It helps remove dirt and impurities from the skin without any side effects hence, it can be used by people with normal skin complexions too. If activated charcoal powder is combined with aloe vera then it may very well turn into a cool homemade face mask that can be rinsed off with water. When infused into konjut-root fibers, it turns into a hybrid with a gentle exfoliating benefit for the body. Thumbs up, right?! 😉
- Teeth whitening. This use totally surprises me! Activated charcoal stains! It stains grout, it stains fabrics, and it stains tooth caps and porcelain veneers. Therefore, I have a hard time accepting this use as an all natural solution for whitening teeth from coffee, tea and wine stains that I would be willing to try. I’m going to ask my dentist on this one! 😉
- Improves digestion. It alleviates temporarily gas and bloating. Be careful with this one, because it doesn’t solve any real problem – the actual cause of bloating. Moreover, it may cause constipation and/or digestive distress. Since it absorbs water along with all the other clinging stuff, good chances are that it may dehydrate you! Personally, I don’t see any real benefits to this use. As a matter of fact, drinking apple cider, for example, sounds like a far better alternative to me.
- Detox. Activated charcoal lemonade and lattes are all wellness drinks that are trending nowadays, but without any substantiated benefits to them. On the contrary, activated charcoal’s absorbing property means that it also binds with nutrients our bodies really need and flushing them away altogether. In other words, activated charcoal can flush away the good stuff along with some of the bad ones, leaving us less healthier in the long run. That doesn’t sound that good after all, now does it?! Hence, I’ll pass on this one! 🙁
- Water filtration. Contaminants, impurities and chlorine get trapped into the porous structure of the activated carbon filter through a process known as adsorption. It can effectively remove the unwanted taste and odor in water. Its overall efficiency is highly dependent upon the filter type and replacement rate. Drinking good quality water is undoubtedly of a huge benefit to any of us. Therefore, thumbs up to this use as well!
Anti-aging or prevention of hangovers claims by some, have yet to be proved and established. As such, I haven’t bothered to look more into them. To the risk of sounding prudent, I find something really disturbing with the train-of-thought of consuming a preventative hangover remedy, because the plan is to drink large amounts of alcohol but don’t want the side effects! Why would I drink such large amounts of alcohol in the first place? Activated charcoal shouldn’t be consumed for a reason like that.
The bottom line is that, for every action there’s a reaction. Sorry, to break the news but there isn’t a single tablet you can swallow and rid off all the toxins alone! That’s like a fantasy. Drinking plenty of water, sleeping a good amount of hours, and eating a healthy, nutritious diet is all our body really needs.
Although, there are some legit uses of activated charcoal in our everyday lives, especially skin issues’ related, it is my strong belief that a manufactured product as such should not be taken so lightly and used without the consent of a physician. It may also have several negative side effects when someone is on medication.
Hence, it should not be used routinely for its safety and optimal dosage have yet to be investigated. Having said that though, I admit I’m curious about the teeth whitening. Have any of you tried it?
Where do you stand? How many of you are fans of activated charcoal, and why?