What is Activated Charcoal?
One of the latest and most sought after “detox” supplements in the health industry is activated charcoal. The type of charcoal you may be more familiar with is made from substances like coal, wood, or petroleum (A.K.A. The charred rocks in your grill!) Activated charcoal is made from carbon based compounds (like sawdust, coconut shells, or peat) that is “activated” by being heated at really high temperatures.
This “activation” process has been done for hundreds of years! It causes the charcoal to develop internal spaces or “pores”. These pores allow the charcoal to trap a variety of substances. As a result, this substance starts to act like a sponge, hence the claimed ability to “detox”.
This product won’t be found in any of the foods you eat, but rather from a variety of manufactured supplement forms, like activated charcoal pills, powders, liquids, and some personal care products.
What is it used for?
Another reason this supplement is loved by many is because it’s so easy to buy! No prescription needed. Depending on what you’re interested in “purifying” (it can range from within your water filter to the common tummy ache), here are 8 ways this supplement may be helpful to you:
- Disrupt Intestinal Gas and Bloating
- Teeth Whitening and Oral Health
- Skin Care
- Skin Infection Treatment
- Kidney Health
- Cholesterol Reduction
Although this product may aid in resolving discomfort or irritation (depending on the issue at hand), it is strongly recommended that you drink 10-12 glasses of water per day while taking this supplement to prevent any risk of dehydration.
Disrupt Intestinal Gas and Bloating
With all the extra space in this extremely porous substance, activated charcoal is able to trap gas molecules while passing through the intestines. This may reduce the amount of trapped gas that causes bloating. So, if you’re ever caught in an important social event and start feeling *those* types of stomach cramps creeping up on you, perhaps this supplement may be the move.
Some may consider this stomach issue worse than the one previously mentioned! A study from 2017 found that activated charcoal may be able to trap any diarrhea-causing bacteria within its pores, preventing the body from absorbing them.
Teeth Whitening and Oral Health
Any average grocery store you step foot in most likely contains a popular line (or few) of activated charcoal flavored toothpaste, mouthwash, and even...toothbrushes.
There have been various claims of activated charcoal benefiting the teeth whitening process by absorbing stains and impurities, as well as detoxifying the mouth as a whole. Activated charcoal may also work by changing the pH balance in your mouth, aiding in preventing cavities, bad breath, etc. As a safety precaution though, be sure to contact your dentist with any questions regarding activated charcoal products.
Due to the absorption abilities that activated charcoal has, this supplement may help draw microparticles, like dirt, dust, chemicals, old skin cells, and bacteria, to the surface of the skin. You can use this product, then finish up your skin care routine with a light exfoliant to try and help improve skin health.
Surprise! Activated charcoal may be absorbent for another great cause: absorbing stinky smells! This product can be used as a shoe or underarm deodorant. Who knows, maybe down the road it could become the next Febreeze?
Skin Infection Aid
Activated charcoal may act with an antibacterial effect due to its ability to absorb bacteria or dirt from wounds. This practice is popular among various healthcare specialists around the world. This is just another way this product can live up to its name as a possible detoxifying agent!
This product may act as a filtering device that could assist kidney function by filtering out toxins and unwanted chemicals. This product is best paired with a low protein diet to help treat renal disease, according to a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
For those who struggle with high cholesterol, this product may be something to look into! Activated charcoal may help with lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Check with your healthcare provider before taking this product to ensure it doesn’t interfere with other prescription cholesterol medications.
While activated charcoal is in need of more research to truly validate these claims, this supplement may be able to help support your health. Always consult with your healthcare provider first to see if adding a new supplement to your daily regime is right for you!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.