Activated Charcoal: Uses & Benefits

I recently came across activated charcoal this year, while I was looking for a natural toothpaste recipe that could help eliminate bad breath and whiten teeth!

Fun fact: Activated charcoal has actually been around for centuries (its use dating back to 1550 BC!). This sooty, jet-black powder contains many amazing health properties, such as being a powerful antidote that absorbs most organic poisons, toxins, and chemicals before they can do harm or damage to the body (in fact it’s been used by paramedics as an emergency first response treatment for certain kinds of severe poisoning).

What’s more, activated charcoal is often used in water and air filters because of it’s powerful purifying abilities.

There are SO many benefits to using activated charcoal, by the end of this post, you’ll want to have some around in your house, too 😉

What is Activated Black Charcoal?

Now, activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as the charcoal you find on charred wood from the fire or the charcoal for your grill. So please don’t try to substitute or make your own with these things.

Activated charcoal is made from a substance – usually wood, bamboo, coconut shell, or coal – burned without oxygen to create char. Next comes the “activation” part of the process. This char is then heated to very high temperatures whilst being exposed to certain gases through a multi-step process to make it extremely porous.

Once activated, the molecules in the charcoal have an increased surface area which enables them to bind powerfully to any substance. This is known as adsorption (not absorption) and this process is what makes charcoal so powerful. True activated charcoal is tasteless, odourless, and non-toxic.

Benefits of Activated Charcoal

Some of the main benefits of using activated charcoal include:

1. Acts a Remedy for Toxins and Poisons.

Studies have shown that activated charcoal has the ability to absorb up to 50-60% of unwanted substances in the stomach and intestines when taken quickly after ingestion, making it one of the most effective GI tract decontaminants available.

Emergency rooms, in fact, will often administer large doses of activated charcoal for certain types of poisonings (including if an individual is unconscious (due to overdose) or showing signs of acute alcohol poisoning). It’s been found that activated charcoal will bind to and remove most of the toxic substance even after it’s entered the bloodstream!

Note: Anyone who does come into contact with toxic substances or experiences poisoning should contact a poison control centre or hospital immediately and follow any instructions they give.

2. Ingredient in Beauty Products.

Activated charcoal has become more and more prominent in many beauty products, too. It’s very effective at removing bacteria, dirt, chemicals, and build-up on the skin, and makes a wonderful black pigment for homemade eyeliners and mascaras.

3. Oral Health.

While activated charcoal doesn’t neutralise toxins, it does however bind them to the many tiny pores on its surface, and remove them as its excreted from the body.

It’s used by many manufacturers in powders, toothpastes, and oral care rinses, as it can bind to bacteria and other harmful substances and remove them from the mouth. People also use it to help remove stains from their teeth, as it binds to these staining substances, and can whiten teeth in only a few uses! (Warning: activated charcoal can be quite abrasive so use with caution).

How to Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal can be used for things like:

1. Removing Impurities in Shampoo

I haven’t yet found a pre-made shampoo with completely 100% clean ingredients (but I’ll keep looking), so adding a small amount of charcoal to a natural shampoo can help remove impurities. Simply add 1/2 tsp of charcoal to shampoo before washing your hair. Scrub gently through then rinse out.

I use a homemade shampoo now, as I know it’s 100% clean and completely natural!

2. Whitening Teeth Naturally

I was amazed at how quickly my teeth started to whiten after I started using activated charcoal in my oral care routine. I used it when brushing my teeth. The process was as follows:

  1. Dip a wet toothbrush into some high quality activated charcoal and gently brush your teeth.
  2. Before you spit out the charcoal, quickly swish it around your mouth, ensuring you push it through all the gaps in your teeth. Then, spit it out.

Alternatively, you can swish charcoal water (1/2 tsp of activated charcoal mixed in with 1/2 a glass of water) around your mouth for a minute or two (this is less abrasive).

Before and after; I was able to whiten my teeth naturally! No chemicals.

Because charcoal is mildly abrasive, it’s very important that you’re gentle when using it on your teeth, and don’t do this charcoal brushing or mouth wash more than once or twice a week.

3. In Toothpaste

Charcoal can also be used in toothpastes and tooth powders to achieve the same results. Again, do not do this daily as charcoal can be abrasive, but adding a little charcoal to a homemade toothpaste or tooth powder a couple of times a week can help to whiten teeth and freshen breath.

There are pre-made toothpastes and tooth powders available now that work really well too. Just be sure to check the ingredients before purchasing to make sure only natural, clean ingredients were used. (This is the pre-made charcoal tooth powder I use)

4. Cleansing Mould from the Body

We often don’t think about mould growing in our bodies, but it can. Toxic mould can cause depression, vomiting, kidney and liver failure, impact brain function, cause headaches, heart disease, irritate eyes, prevent proper immune system function, and cause severe respiratory distress.

Symptoms of mould exposure include things like wheezing, rashes, watery eyes, coughing, headaches (and usually these symptoms can’t be linked to other health issues). Mould can thrive behind drywall, under floors and in ventilation ducts, and can be an issue even if no visible signs of mould can be seen.

When cleaning mould from your home, it’s important to wear gloves and a protective mask to keep from inhaling toxic mould spores. To clean mould: you can use a mixture of activated charcoal, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil and borax to clean mould off hard surfaces and prevent it from growing back in the future.

5. To Cleanse the Digestive Tract

When using activated charcoal to help detox your digestive system, it’s advised to take 10 grams of charcoal in water, 90 minutes before each meal, for two days. If you take it too close to meals or other nutritional supplements, it can bind to other nutrients and prevent their absorption by the body.

While cleansing, eat only organic fruits and vegetables, organic grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish. If you experience any constipation during the cleanse, this is a sign that you’re not consuming enough water, so drink a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon every half hour until the constipation has stopped.

6. To Purify Water

Activated charcoal can remove contaminants and other impurities from the water. Look for a water purifier that uses activated charcoal in its filtration system, OR, they even have activated charcoal sticks now which you can pop into jugs of tap water, and it will clean and filter the water within 8 hours!

7. As an Air Purifier

Due to activated charcoal’s porous structure, it’s a wonderful purifier for removing odours, harmful allergens and chemicals in the air!

8. As a Face Mask

Using activated charcoal skin can be really helpful for things like acne as it absorbs toxins and impurities in the skin (and it leaves your skin feeling so soft and smooth!).

For a natural skin care mask: Mix together 2 tbsp of bentonite clay, 1 tsp of activated charcoal, and 1-2 tsp of apple cider vinegar (you may need to add more, depending on your mix – it should become like a paste).

A bentonite clay and activated charcoal face mask I enjoy making

Once combined, apply it to your face and leave it on for 20 minutes. Then, wash off gently with lukewarm water (be careful not to get it all over the sink – if it does get everywhere, that’s ok, it washes off relatively easily).

9. As a Treatment for Toxic Overload or Overdose

If food poisoning is suspected, or diarrhoea and nausea symptoms occur, it is recommended that adults take 25g of activated charcoal and children be given 10g. The dosage may be increased as necessary. Note: it’s essential that water be consumed when taking activated charcoal. For poisoning of any sort, call emergency services.

Consuming proper dosage quantities is crucial when using activated charcoal for poisoning. According to the University of Michigan Health System,

50 to 100 grams (not milligrams) is used in cases of poisoning in adults and 10 to 25 grams for children. Activated charcoal for dogs is sometimes given to absorb poison under the care of a veterinarian.

Dr. Axe

The proper dosage for activated charcoal really depends on the condition that’s being treated or looking to be improved.

10. To Treat Insect Bites

After a mosquito bite or bee sting, mix 1 tsp of activated charcoal with 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil, and dab on affected area. Reapply every 30 minutes until the itching and discomfort are gone. Activated charcoal stains easily so be careful not to get any on your clothes. Wrapping a bandage around the area will help to prevent the charcoal staining.

11. Treating Snake & Spider Bites

Charcoal alone has been shown to help draw out venom. To treat bites from snakes and spiders, create a wrap of fabric that’s big enough to go around the affected area twice. Dab the mixture of charcoal and coconut oil on the fabric, and wrap. Secure the wrap with bandages. Reapply every 2-3 hours, rinsing well between applications.

Note: Seek medical professional help along with this treatment as soon as possible.

Where to Get Activated Charcoal

I purchase activated black charcoal from my local health food store (I select the one made from coconut shell), and usually store it in a glass jar and keep it on the bathroom sink since I generally use it for my teeth.

Note: Activated charcoal creates a HUGE mess if spilled. It will easily wash off a sink or bathroom counter, but is very difficult to remove from rough surfaces like tile grout. Storing it out of the way helps reduce the risk of it potentially being spilled or knocked over.

Final Notes

Activated charcoal should not be taken within 2 hours of medications or supplements as it will keep the body from absorbing them properly. Charcoal does not need to be taken on a regular basis, only as needed.

Always check with your medical professional or doctor before taking internally, especially in emergencies or life-threatening situations, or if there is any other underlying health problem.

Charcoal-infused beverages and food are not recommended, as charcoal can bind to the nutrients within these products, preventing proper absorption and making these foods less nourishing (rather than enhancing them).

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it.

Have you ever used activated black charcoal before? What did you use it for? Share in the comments below!

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources:

Wells, Katie. (October 23, 2018). How to Use Activated Charcoal (For Beauty, Health & Home). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/247/activated-charcoal/

McCoy, Kathleen, BS. (May 30, 2018). Top 10 Activated Charcoal Uses & Benefits. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/activated-charcoal-uses/

Charcoal, Activated (Oral Route). (Updated: July 1, 2021). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/charcoal-activated-oral-route/description/drg-20070087

The Use of Activated Charcoal in the Field. EMT & Fire Training Incorporated. Retrieved from https://www.emtfiretraining.com/blog/the-use-of-activated-charcoal-in-the-field.php