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. It’s 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. You read that right: aDsorption. Unlike aBsorption in which a chemical is dissolved by a liquid or a solid – the aBsorbent – adsorption traps particles like atoms, molecules, ions, potentially viruses and bacteria, which then adhere to its surface. Kind of like a tiny fishing net that captures unwanted stuff. Since the body is unable to absorb charcoal, it is 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 pregancy and while breast feeding. 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!
Activated Charcoal Uses
Traditionally AC has been used as a first line treatment of ingested toxins of unknown origin. This treatment is adiministered 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.
Other traditional uses include:
- water treatment
- wound treatment
- cure all for a variety of ailments
We’ll skip the embalming for today and move on to more practical everyday uses;)
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO HARNESS THE GOODNESS OF ACTIVATED CHARCOAL
#1. WHITEN TEETH
Using something pitch black like activated charcoal to whiten teeth sounds completely counterintuitive, I know! But after using it semi 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 AC 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 a enough anecdotal evidence to make it worth a try.
The good news is that you don’t need to run out and buy pricy 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.
#2. 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 (what is up with that???) try my favorite DIY activated charcoal mask recipe. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Why does this work for aging (ahem) 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. A total win in my book. Don’t worry, it washes off easily!
You can find the recipe for this and my other favorite masks as handy printables in my FREE Resource Library. Sign up is easy and the password is on its way in an instant.
#3. HOME REMEDY FOR INTESTINAL WOES
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 caspsule 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.
According to some activated charcoal also works very well as a preventative measure for hangovers. Not an alcohol consumer myself, I wouldn’t really know, though.
Again, 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!
When it comes to neutralizing odors activated charcoal beats baking soda every time. While baking soda only neutralizes a few 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. About 2 cups stored in an open container will do the trick for any full size refrigerator.
For other unpleasant smells use activated charcoal bags. They are portable, handy and can be tucked into a gymbag, sneakers or hung in the closet.
#5. CREATE CUSTOMIZED BODYCARE PRODUCTS
Creating your own customized body care products is easier than you think. I love making my own. They are much cheaper than most store bought versions and I prefer knowing what is in the stuff I put on my skin, don’t you? How can you add the goodness of activated charcoal? It’s easy! Just add a capsule or two to your favorite gentle fragrance free shampoo. Extra bonus: add 8-10 drops of tea tree oil while you’re at it. 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? Find the printable recipe in the FREE Resource Library! Another fun way to add AC 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. And it makes a wonderful gift that is sure to impress. Not into soap making? No problem. You can find hand crafted charcoal soap like this on Etsy. This soap happens to be from The Black Kettle Soap Company. Lovely, isn’t it? And it contains lots of wonderful, skin loving ingredients!
You notice that it is best to add activated charcoal to products that will be washed off. No need for charcoal laden body lotion or lip balm, unless you are channeling Elvira from the Adams family;)
And there you have them, my most favorite ways to incorporate activated charcoal into your health and beauty routine. There are many other suggestions, but I tried to narrow it down to those who seem to make the most sense. You really have nothing to lose by trying. Few other ingredients will give you the same bang for your buck. Have you tried it? Be sure to share your experience in the comments below. For more updates and useful info *LIKE* TheWittyGrittyLife on Facebook! Are you on Instagram? Follow me there for a dose of REAL life, the good, the bad and the ugly!
Have a great day!