General Health

Activated Charcoal and Ways to Use It

I’m sure you’ve heard about it.

That dark as a black hole, gritty stuff that is said to cure a whole slew of things.

I haven’t cured anything yet, but I do use it and it does work for certain things, at least in my experience.

So, what is activated charcoal anyway? Where does it come from? Is it safe? Are there any risks/benefits? What are the different ways to use activated charcoal? If you want to know more about it, keep reading. Before you implement anything you find here, please read  Ancient Wisdom’s Disclaimer.

What is Activated Charcoal?

First, activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as those briquettes people use in their outside grills to cook up their steaks. And it is NOT the same thing as the left over pieces of charred wood you find in a fire pit. That fine, powdery stuff we are talking about here is called “activated” charcoal because it is processed at very high temperatures that cause it to become more porous than the typical charcoal you find at a camp site or in the grill. That’s the basic explanation. There are more scientific writings out there if you are interested in the specifics.

What is Activated Charcoal made from?

The most common sources that activated charcoal is made from are: Peat, Wood, Coconut Shell, Bamboo, Olive Pits or petroleum. The source is different depending on what it us going to be used for. Make sure to select charcoal that says “food grade” if your are going to be using it in or on your body.

How Does it work?

Activated charcoal is very porous and has a negative electrical charge which attracts molecules that have a positive charge. Our bodies will not absorb the charcoal and whether taken internally or used externally, it will bind to wastes, toxins and gases and carry them out and away from the body.

Ways Activated Charcoal Can Be Used

As with everything, remember that everyone’s body is different, what works for one, may not work for the other. And use your intuition, it’s there for a reason.

  • Food poisoning (not all cases)
  • Chemical poisoning (not all cases)
  • Deep cleaning for hair. I haven’t tried this yet, but some say they mix it with their shampoo for a really great clean. I wonder if it would remove color from hair at all…
  • Teeth whitening/cleaning. As far as I know, there is no scientific evidence for this, however, people swear by it. As for myself, I use activated charcoal to clean my teeth once a week or so (works great for a cleaning) and have noticed a very slight whitening effect. I can’t use it too often though because it is abrasive on the teeth. I keep wondering if one were to use it as a mouth rise, rather than scrubbing if this would work better to whiten. Theoretically, one could use it as a mouth rinse a few times daily as it would not be as abrasive.
  • Gas/bloat reduction. Research has varied results with this, but some people speak highly of it in this way.
  • Water filtration.
  • Treat bites/stings from poisonous bugs, spiders or snakes.
  • Digestive cleansing.
  • Skin treatments, for acne or infections. There are only anecdotal stories to back up this claim, but you never know. I haven’t tried it on my skin yet.
  • Overdose of alcohol (very small effect), certain street drugs and pharmaceutical chemical drugs
  • May help with kidney function by binding to urea, other wastes and toxins
  • Used to reduce foul smells. Evidently, there is some research that suggests that it may even help reduce various body odors if taken internally, possibly due to the waste leaving the body and not having to be excreted via the sweat glands and pores on the skin.
  • Possible lowering of cholesterol, though there isn’t much research to confirm this yet.

Risks of Use

Activated charcoal is considered generally safe to use in a wide variety of ways even for infants, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of some possible side effects.

  • It can stain fabrics and other porous surfaces in the home. I have had experience with this. I used to use activated charcoal in coconut oil for oil pulling and it seems that the oil makes the black stick pretty dang well. I washed out an old oil pulling container in the dishwasher and it made black smears all over and it stained my dishes!!! The dishes were not stained permanently, I was able to get it off by hand washing with dish soap…but the dishwasher was another story! I scrubbed that thing with everything I could think of including Comet and 409. NOTHING worked to get it off. Over time the black smears have lightened, but it’s been years and it’s still there. BUT, I have gotten straight activated charcoal on my clothing or counter tops (not mixed with oil) and have no problem at all getting it off. The oil must help it bind to things more than just alone.
  • Might cause constipation in certain individuals
  • Possible nausea and vomiting if doses are too high.
  • May reduce the effectiveness of medications greatly. The closer in time charcoal is taken to when medication is taken the greater loss of the medication’s effectiveness.
  • Activated charcoal should not be used for extended periods of time internally because it binds to nutrients as well.
  • Very rare incidents of people with certain diseases having  reactions to activated charcoal, so it’s best to do a little research if you are concerned about it.


How Much Activated Charcoal Can We Use?

As far as external use goes, there is no set limit unless unpleasant symptoms present…like sensitive teeth or blackened pores if you use it on your face. For internal use though, there is a limit. Taking charcoal daily is probably not a good idea. Remember, it also binds to nutrients that our bodies need. It’s meant to be taken very short term internally.

How much you take is highly dependent on what you are using it for, how old you are and how much you weigh.

Rather than write it all out myself, Mayo Clinic has a good guideline to follow for dosage. Follow THIS LINK.

Where to Get?

You can get activated charcoal almost anywhere including the hygiene isle of the grocery store. Of course it is best to buy a brand that uses proper practices and sources for their charcoal. I have gotten several different brands from Amazon. Just look for “food grade” and if you want make sure it is from a specific source, like coconut shell or bamboo, then you will have to search for that.

Does Activated Charcoal have an expiration date?

As long as it is stored in an air tight container, away from heat, moisture and light, it will last almost indefinitely. When left open to the air, the charcoal will absorb whats in the air and eventually become “full” and be useless.