For the longest time activated charcoal had three uses – at least in my mind: to rid a parakeet of diarrhea, to eliminate stinky feet odor, and to pull the toxins out of people who took an overdose of medication. But lately activated charcoal is popping up in everything. It has become the latest trend. Not a follower of trends just for trendiness’ sake, I had to investigate if this charcoal thing lives up to the hype. And if you have been curious to find out if it is worth trying and more importantly how, you are in the right place!
Well, for starters, activated charcoal is by no means a new kid on the block. Its use goes waaay back – more on that in a little bit. What makes it so attractive is its versatility, ease of use, and the fact that you get a lot of bang for your buck. And I don’t know about you, but that checks all of my boxes!
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What exactly is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a fine, black odorless powder that is usually derived from wood products or coconut shells. It is reheated at a very high temperature which further oxidizes it and renders it highly porous. A natural material, its use dates back as far as around 3750 BC in ancient Egypt, when it was first used in the smelting process to create bronze. Medicinal and cosmetic use can be dated to around 1550 BC. So much for trendy, right?
How does Activated Charcoal Work?
Activated charcoal owes its detoxifying properties to a process called adsorption. Unlike absorption in which a chemical is dissolved by a liquid or a solid, adsorption traps particles like atoms, molecules, ions, potentially viruses, and bacteria, which adhere to its surface. Much like a tiny fishing net that captures unwanted stuff! And since the body is unable to absorb charcoal, it is simply eliminated through the digestive process.
While the use of activated charcoal carries a relatively low risk, with the major side effect being constipation, which can lead to bowel obstruction in severe cases, it is not recommended for use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Steer clear from using it in children under the age of 3 as well.
It is also important to note here that the process of adsorption can interfere with certain prescriptions and essentially render them ineffective. If you are considering the use of activated charcoal, be sure to check with your doctor first!
common uses for activated charcoal
Traditionally activated charcoal has been used as a first-line treatment of ingested toxins of unknown origin. This treatment is administered in an Emergency Room setting by qualified medical personnel.
Never try to treat toxic ingestion on your own at home unless advised to do so by a medical professional or the poison control center!
TRADITIONAL USES FOR ACTIVATED CHARCOAL INCLUDE:
- water treatment
- wound treatment
- a cure-all remedy for a variety of ailments
We’ll skip the embalming for today and focus on more practical everyday uses!
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO HARNESS THE GOODNESS OF ACTIVATED CHARCOAL
WHITEN TEETH WITH ACTIVATED CHARCOAL
Using something pitch black like activated charcoal to whiten teeth sounds completely counterintuitive, I know! But after using it regularly for several months, I can report from personal experience that it definitely works for me.
Why would that be? Well, since the main function of activated charcoal is to pull out and adsorb toxins, it stands to reason that some of the culprits responsible for discoloring tooth enamel are likely to be adsorbed as well. The science is still out on this, but there is definitely enough anecdotal evidence to make it worth trying.
The good news is that you don’t need to run out and buy pricey charcoal-infused toothpaste, nor are you required to brush your teeth with messy black powder. And no, as countless silly videos on the internet prove, pouring the dry powder onto your toothbrush will only make a huge mess and you run the risk of inhaling the charcoal powder. Don’t do it.
Just mix about 1 teaspoon of your favorite toothpaste with 1 capsule of activated charcoal! Use a pea-sized amount to brush your teeth once a day. That amount should last you about a week. I just mix mine up in a small plastic container from the Dollar store.
USE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL AS A SIMPLE DETOXIFYING MASK
Yet another super easy and probably the most relaxing way to enjoy the goodness of activated charcoal is by mixing up a quick detoxifying mask. If you are like me who is fighting wrinkles and breakouts at the same time – one of the idiosyncrasies of middle age – try my favorite DIY activated charcoal mask recipe. I bet you will love it as much as I do.
Why does this work so well for aging and breakout-prone skin? The lactic acid in the yogurt softens skin and loosens dead skin cells, while the activated charcoal helps pull out toxins. This is one of my favorite facial mask recipes of all time and it couldn’t be any easier. Don’t worry, it washes off completely with lukewarm water!
You can find the recipe for this and all of my favorite natural skin care recipes as handy printables in my FREE Resource Library. Just sign up here and the password is on its way to your inbox.
Help soothe digestion with activated charcoal
Indulge in something you know you shouldn’t have eaten? Upset stomach, bloating, gas, and diarrhea got you down? Ditch the pink liquid and try activated charcoal instead.
This has been the go-to remedy for yucky stomachs and frequent trips to the porcelain throne at our house for some time. No need to buy pricey antidiarrheal meds. Take one charcoal cap with 8 oz of water. For children 3 and over or whiny husbands, you can pour the contents of one charcoal capsule in a cup of dark grape juice.
While activated charcoal has no taste, it can be challenging to get children to drink black water. Just make sure you are using 100% juice. You can repeat after 4 hours, but generally, you won’t have to do that. Just be mindful and watch for signs of constipation.
Many people also swear by activated charcoal as a preventative measure for hangovers. You can read more here about the various medical uses of activated charcoal.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this is not in any way meant to take the place of proper medical advice. Always consult with a medical professional!
use the deodorizing power of activated charcoal
When it comes to neutralizing odors activated charcoal beats baking soda every time. While baking soda does a decent job neutralizing some pesky smells, activated charcoal traps and eliminates them all.
Next time you are looking for a way to eliminate those onion or fish odors in the fridge, reach for charcoal pellets instead. You can find them at pet supply stores in the aquarium aisle. About 2 cups stored in an open container will very effectively absorb odors in a full-size refrigerator for a long time.
For other unpleasant smells use activated charcoal bags. They are portable, handy, and are perfect odor eliminators in gym bags, sneakers, or hung up in your closet. Use them wherever unpleasant odors tend to linger.
CREATE CUSTOMIZED BODYCARE PRODUCTS with activated charcoal
Creating your own customized body care products is easier than you think. Making your own skincare with activated charcoal is not only easier but also much more cost-effective than storebought. How can you harness the goodness of activated charcoal for beauty?
It’s so easy! Just add a capsule or two to gentle fragrance-free shampoo. Extra bonus: add 8-10 drops of tea tree oil for a cooling scalp treatment. Your dry, itchy, irritated scalp will thank you for it!
Why not add a charcoal cap the next time you make some amazing honey face wash?
Another fun way to add activated charcoal to your body care is to create homemade easy charcoal soap. Just use it as an add-in when you make your own soap next time. It looks fantastic if you just swirl it in.
Activated charcoal soap also makes a wonderful gift that is sure to impress. Not into making your own soap? No problem! You can find handcrafted charcoal soap like this on Etsy. Lovely, isn’t it? And it contains lots of wonderful, skin-loving ingredients!
Activated charcoal products like soap, toothpaste, and masks don’t stay on your skin for long and rinse off easily without leaving any black residue behind.
These are my most favorite ways to incorporate activated charcoal into any health and beauty routine. And I use all of them frequently. There is truly no need to spend a lot of money on expensive products when it is so easy and cost-effective to make your own. If you haven’t tried it yet, I hope I have inspired you to give the power of activated charcoal a try!
Be sure to share your experience in the comments below.