I’ll confess, I came to activated charcoal for vain reasons. I previously read on WellnessMama’s website about using activated charcoal to whiten teeth, and I wanted to try it before we had family pictures taken. Years of coffee and tea had wreaked their own havoc.
As I picked some up at our local health food store for less than $8 (way less than the cost of an expensive in-office whitening treatment or even the cost of the whitening strips!), I knew surely there were other uses for activated charcoal than just for whitening teeth. In fact, I knew from a few years ago when my daughter had a potential poisoning scare that it is used in hospitals to “prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body” (source).
But what else can activated charcoal do? Much like clay (you can read Kresha’s comprehensive post on clay here), activated charcoal has several uses.
Unlike clay, though, activated charcoal is a powdery black substance, often administered in a capsule, and not muddy or goopy like clay. It carries no odor, no taste, and is non-toxic (clay is also non-toxic).
Activated charcoal is unique because it adsorbs, which is an ability to attract other substances to its surface and hold them there (source).
According to NaturalNews.com, “a single teaspoon of activated charcoal has a surface area of approximately 10 000 square feet. It adsorbs (binds to and helps eliminate from the body) poisons, heavy metals, chemicals and intestinal gases that have thousands of times more weight than it has, making it very effective in detoxing and eliminating toxins and poisonous substances from the body” (source).
Not only is activated charcoal used in water purification systems, it is also used in gas purification, decaffeination, gold purification, metal extraction, medicine, sewage treatment, air filters in gas masks and respirators, filters in compressed air and many other applications (source).
How can you use activated charcoal?
- for upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating from food poisoning or gassy foods (see dosing guidelines here)
- to treat stomach bugs — read Kate’s story
- to naturally whiten teeth & eliminate bad breath (Wellness Mama’s guide)
- to create facial masks to improve acne and skin (see here, here or here)
- to treat insect bites, cuts (mix with water to make a paste and apply)
- as an air freshener (source)
- to reduce cholesterol (source)
A word of caution:
“When using activated charcoal, it is best to take it between meals and a few hours after using any vitamin or mineral supplements, as it may interfere with the absorption of these into the body. It must also be stored in a properly sealed container away from heat and moisture. It should preferably be used with water only, or taken alone, as anything else such as fruit juice or ice cream will cause it to lose a great deal of its effectiveness,” according to Natural News, emphasis mine (source).
Now that I know all the ways activated charcoal can be used, I’ll definitely always keep some on hand for emergencies or just for the occasional teeth whitening. 😀