Sometime in the early 1800s, a French scientist called Bertrand swallowed arsenic trioxide (a poison). He didn't die because he took charcoal powder immediately afterward.Activated charcoal was initially used in water treatment plants to filter out impurities, but scientists like Bertrand began to demonstrate its ability to stop some types of poison from causing harm if the charcoal was taken immediately after.
Since then, researchers have further refined and purified charcoal to improve how it works. It is now widely used in medicine to prevent certain ingested toxins from being absorbed into the body. Don't go swallowing poison though!
In addition to its medicinal use, activated charcoal is now taken as a supplement to remove toxins that build up in the body due to poor diet and pollution.
Natural materials rich in carbon, like coconut shells are burnt at very high temperatures to form charcoal. Once this is done, the charcoal is treated with certain chemicals to activate it. Some activated charcoal supplements, like the Eden Healthfoods Activated Charcoal Powder 100g, use steam instead of chemicals to activate the charcoal, which makes it 3 to 5 times more porous.
The rationale behind activated charcoal is that it is supposed to remove toxins by attracting them and binding to them. In its natural form, charcoal is unable to do that because its binding sites are already 'occupied' by other impurities.
Activation removes these impurities and frees the charcoal. Activation also transforms the charcoal into very fine porous granules with a very high surface area. This enables even a small quantity of charcoal to bind to lots of toxins.
The porous surface of activated charcoal is negatively charged, while many toxins and gases in the body are positively charged. Thus instead of being absorbed into the body, the toxins are attracted to the activated charcoal, bind to its surface, and are trapped in its intricate structure.
Activated charcoal can't be absorbed into the bloodstream, so it is excreted out of the body, taking the toxins along with it. Neat eh?
So what does activated charcoal do? Here are some of its health benefits.
Kidneys filter impurities from the blood. Activated charcoal can help them out by reducing the number of impurities they have to filter out.
One of the by-products of protein digestion is urea. Activated charcoal effectively binds toxins associated with urea plus other undigested toxins and drugs and filters them out.
This ultimately improves how the kidneys work and reduce inflammation and gastrointestinal damage caused by conditions that impair kidney function such as chronic kidney disease.
Cholesterol is a major health concern, and no one ever wants to be told they have too much of it. Activated charcoal can bind to cholesterol molecules and other bile acids in the gut which contain cholesterol and prevent the body from absorbing them.
Studies have shown a reduction of cholesterol levels, especially bad LDL cholesterol, after taking activated charcoal consistently.
Having gas issues can be quite uncomfortable and socially inconveniencing. And they tend to come at the worst possible moments! Nobody knows exactly how, but activated charcoal has been found to have the ability to reduce the production of gas in the intestine.
It is thought that the gases pass through the numerous tiny pores of activated charcoal, thereby getting neutralized. A number of studies have shown a reduction of intestinal gas in participants who took activated charcoal. Studies have also shown that abdominal pain due to gas reduced after taking activated charcoal.
The jury is still out on whether activated charcoal can be definitively used to prevent gas, but the evidence is encouraging. There isn't a hard and fast rule on how to use it for gas, but health authorities suggest at least 1 gram 30 minutes before and after a meal.
Diarrhea leads to loss of water and other important electrolytes and can lead to weakness and weight loss.
Recent studies suggested the use of activated charcoal to treat diarrhea, as it would be able to bind to bacteria and drugs that cause diarrhea and prevent them from being absorbed into the body. It also has fewer side effects compared to common anti-diarrhea drugs.
A lot of oral health products have activated charcoal as one of the main ingredients. It is thought to whiten teeth by binding to plaque and other compounds that stain teeth.
You can use Teelixir Coconut Charcoal (Activated) Powder 80g for this. Simply dip your wet toothbrush into the powder and brush normally, then thoroughly rinse out your mouth with water. For best results, do this 3 to 4 times a week.
Sometimes deodorant just isn't enough. Some people suffer from trimethylaminuria, or fish odor syndrome, a genetic condition that causes them to have a smell of rotting fish.
This happens because their bodies lack the enzyme that breaks down trimethylamine (TMA), which smells like rotting fish. Healthy individuals convert it into an odorless compound and excrete it in urine, while people with this condition don't have the enzyme to do this.
Activated charcoal can bind to compounds that lead to body odors, including TMA, and help in their excretion, effectively getting rid of bad odor.
Activated charcoal can be applied as a poultice on the skin surface to help draw impurities like toxins, bacteria, dust, and chemicals upwards to the surface of the skin, making their elimination easier.
Taking activated charcoal is like having a very effective detective in your body. It catches and expels nasty toxins, leaving you feeling energetic and full of life!