That Old Black Magic

From bev­er­age to tooth­paste to face­mask, ac­ti­vated char­coal is find­ing its way into prod­ucts beyond the vi­ta­min aisle.


The ben­e­fits of ac­ti­vated char­coal

AC­TI­VATED CHAR­COAL CAN HELP RE­LIEVE DI­GES­TIVE DIS­TRESS, AS­SIST A DETOX, AND EVEN SAVE YOUR LIFE IF YOU'VE SWAL­LOWED poi­son. Although it cer­tainly doesn't re­place emer­gency med­i­cal treat­ment, tak­ing ac­ti­vated char­coal while wait­ing for an am­bu­lance can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce harm from in­gest­ing poi­son or drugs. In fact, it's used in emer­gency trauma cen­ters around the world.

Made from co­conut shells or wood, ac­ti­vated char­coal is a fine, black pow­der that is odor­less, taste­less and non­toxic. Quite dif­fer­ent than ashes from burn­ing wood or char­coal in a bar­be­cue grill, char­coal be­comes "ac­ti­vated" when high tem­per­a­tures com­bine with a gas to ex­pand its sur­face area, cre­at­ing tiny pores that trap tox­ins and chem­i­cals.

It works by trap­ping drugs, many poi­sons, en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins and food­borne bac­te­ria in the stom­ach and helps you elim­i­nate, rather than ab­sorb, them. How­ever, there are some sub­stances that it can't trap, in­clud­ing cyanide, iron and lithium. Typ­i­cally, it's not used when pe­tro­leum, al­co­hol, lye, acids or other cor­ro­sive poi­sons are in­gested.

Ac­ti­vated char­coal cap­sules can help to ab­sorb tox­ins from food poi­son­ing. Char­coal


works best when taken when you first re­al­ize you ate some­thing ques­tion­able. The ac­ti­vated char­coal that is used to treat poi­son­ing in emer­gency rooms is a pow­der that is mixed with a liq­uid. Ac­ti­vated char­coal for home reme­dies is avail­able in handy cap­sules.

Aside from emer­gen­cies, ac­ti­vated char­coal in cap­sule form is used to pre­vent gas or bloat­ing. When taken be­fore or right af­ter a meal, it can ab­sorb gas-pro­duc­ing food byprod­ucts. A study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Gas­troen­terol­ogy found that the sup­ple­ment de­creased the amount of gas pro­duced in the colon and re­duced bloat­ing and stom­ach cramps.

As a detox aid, ac­ti­vated char­coal can ab­sorb and help elim­i­nate tox­ins. Dur­ing a detox, tox­ins will be re­leased and cir­cu­late through the body, pos­si­bly caus­ing flu-like symp­toms. De­pend­ing on the length of a detox pro­gram, ac­ti­vated char­coal sup­ple­ments could be taken af­ter a few days or ev­ery cou­ple of weeks. Re­search shows that ac­ti­vated char­coal may also re­duce bad choles­terol and in­crease good choles­terol as much as some pre­scrip­tion drugs.

On trend, ac­ti­vated char­coal is find­ing its way into green juices and lemon­ades and is be­ing touted as a detox elixir. The idea be­ing that the char­coal ab­sorbs all the stuff in your sys­tem that shouldn't be there. Promis­ing to boost en­ergy, brighten skin and make you feel sharp and fo­cused, ac­ti­vated char­coal is be­ing com­bined with cold-pressed le­mon juice, dan­de­lion extract, gin­ger root, hemp seeds, le­mon zest or spinach and pack­aged as a juice detox. Dirty lemon­ade or ebony col­ored juice may not be ap­peal­ing or easy to stom­ach and there are sev­eral pre­cau­tions of which one should be aware.

The most im­por­tant pre­cau­tion is that ac­ti­vated char­coal in any form can in­ter­fere with the ab­sorp­tion of nu­tri­ents, sup­ple­ments and pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions. It should not be taken within two hours of vi­ta­mins or med­i­ca­tions. Drink at least 8 - 10 ounces of wa­ter with each dose, and drink plenty of wa­ter dur­ing and af­ter. Wa­ter is es­sen­tial to elim­i­nate tox­ins and ac­ti­vated char­coal can cause de­hy­dra­tion and con­sti­pa­tion if ad­e­quate amounts of wa­ter aren't con­sumed with it. If you have in­testi­nal block­ages, chronic de­hy­dra­tion, slow di­ges­tion or re­cent ab­dom­i­nal surgery, in­gest­ing ac­ti­vated char­coal is not ad­vised. There are also ad­verse in­ter­ac­tions re­ported with a va­ri­ety of drugs, so con­sult a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner be­fore tak­ing ac­ti­vated char­coal if you are tak­ing any drugs.

Ac­ti­vated char­coal can also ab­sorb bac­te­ria and tox­ins from the skin, and is a pop­u­lar in­gre­di­ent in nat­u­ral cleans­ing scrubs, masks, soaps and de­odor­ants. It draws out bac­te­ria, im­pu­ri­ties, chem­i­cals and dirt. It treats acne with­out dry­ing out the skin.

You will also find it as an in­gre­di­ent in whiten­ing tooth­paste. Ac­ti­vated char­coal whitens teeth by ad­sorb­ing plaque and mi­cro­scopic par­ti­cles that stain teeth. It also changes the pH bal­ance in the mouth, help­ing pre­vent cav­i­ties, bad breath and gum dis­ease. Caution: If you use pure, pow­dered ac­ti­vated char­coal for oral care, it can stain crowns, caps, porce­lain ve­neers, cloth­ing and rough sur­faces, such as bath­room grout.

Lastly, ac­ti­vated char­coal is used in wa­ter fil­tra­tion sys­tems to re­move dis­agree­able tastes and odors, in­clud­ing ob­jec­tion­able chlo­rine and hy­dro­gen sul­fide that pro­duces a rot­ten-egg odor. It also traps im­pu­ri­ties in wa­ter, in­clud­ing sol­vents, pes­ti­cides, in­dus­trial waste and other chem­i­cals. How­ever, ac­ti­vated char­coal wa­ter fil­ters are not par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful at re­mov­ing heavy met­als, hard-wa­ter min­er­als, viruses or bac­te­ria.

His­to­ri­ans say that the Egyp­tians and Sume­ri­ans of south­ern Me­sopotamia were the first to pro­duce and use char­coal as a fuel in the process of man­u­fac­tur­ing bronze. The two civ­i­liza­tions also dis­cov­ered that it can be used as a preser­va­tive, and thus started cap­i­tal­iz­ing on its anti-toxin prop­er­ties that has con­tin­ued un­til to­day.


Rid tox­ins with Co­covit's Co­conut Char­coal Face Mask, avail­able at An­thro­polo­gie.

Pressed Juicery's Ac­ti­vated Char­coal Lemon­ade also in­cludes le­mon, laven­der and honey. Avail­able at Pressed Juicery Ala Moana.

The Bam­boo Char­coal Clean­ing Bar Soap from Her­bi­vore Botan­i­cals deep cleanses and nat­u­rally ex­fo­li­ates skin. her­bi­vore­b­otan­i­

Ernest Sup­plies' Char­coal Bris­tle Bam­boo Tooth­brush in­cludes char­coal in­fused ny­lon bris­tles. bar­

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