Despite my complete ignorance to the very existence of activated charcoal, it’s actually been around for centuries (its use dating back to 1550 BC).
This sooty, jet-black powder contains many amazing health properties, including as a powerful antidote that absorbs most organic poisons, toxins, and chemicals before they can do harm or damage to the body (paramedics use it as an emergency first response treatment for certain kinds of severe poisoning).
It’s also used in water and air filters because of it’s powerful purifying abilities.
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is made from a substance – usually wood, bamboo, coconut shell, or coal – and burned without oxygen to create char. It then goes through an “activation” process where the char is 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.
Note: Activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as the charcoal you find on charred wood from the fire or the charcoal from your grill. So please don’t try to substitute or make your own with these substances.
Benefits of Activated Charcoal
Some of the main benefits of using activated charcoal include:
1. As 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!
Anyone who does come into contact with a toxic substance(s) or experiences poisoning should contact a poison control centre or hospital immediately and follow any instructions given.
2. An Ingredient in Beauty Products.
Activated charcoal has become a popular ingredient in many natural beauty products. 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 bind them to the many tiny pores on its surface, removing these toxins 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 can whiten teeth with 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 made with 100% all-natural clean ingredients (but I’ll keep looking). So, I like to add a small amount of charcoal to a natural shampoo to help remove impurities. To do this, add 1/2 teaspoon of charcoal to your shampoo before washing your hair. Scrub it through hair gently then rinse out.
2. Whitening Teeth Naturally
I was amazed at how quickly my teeth started to whiten after I began using activated charcoal in my oral care routine. This is the process I follow:
- Dip a wet toothbrush into some high quality activated charcoal and gently brush teeth.
- Before spitting out the charcoal, quickly swish it around the mouth, pushing it through all the gaps between teeth, then spit it out.
Alternatively, you can swish charcoal water (1/2 teaspoon of activated charcoal mixed with 1/2 a glass of water) around your mouth for a minute or two (this is less abrasive).
Because charcoal is mildly abrasive, it’s very important that to be gentle when using it on teeth, and do not 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. 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 have been used.
4. Removing Mould Spores from the Body
Symptoms of mould exposure include things like wheezing, rashes, watery eyes, coughing, and headaches (and these symptoms usually 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.
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.
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, 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 absorption.
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 subsides.
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 activated charcoal sticks which can be placed into jugs of tap water where it will filter and purify the water within 8 hours.
7. As an Air Purifier
Due to activated charcoal’s porous structure, it works as a natural air purifier, removing odours, harmful allergens and chemicals in the air.
8. As a Face Mask
Using activated charcoal on the skin can be really helpful for things like acne as it absorbs toxins and impurities in the skin.
To make a natural skin care mask, mix together two tablespoons of bentonite clay, one teaspoon of activated charcoal, and 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (the mask should develop a paste-like consistency).
Apply the paste to your face and leave it on for 20 minutes, then gently wash it off with lukewarm water (be careful not to get it all over the sink).
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 25 grams of activated charcoal and children be given 10 grams. The dosage may be increased as necessary. Ensure water is consumed when taking activated charcoal, as it can be quite dehydrating. For poisoning of any sort, call emergency services.
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.
The proper dosage for activated charcoal really depends on the condition that’s being treated.
10. To Treat Insect Bites
After a mosquito bite or bee sting, mix one teaspoon of activated charcoal with 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil, and dab on the 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 prevent the charcoal from 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 around the injured site. Secure the wrap with bandages. Reapply every 2-3 hours, rinsing well between applications.
Seek medical professional help along with this treatment as soon as possible.
Where to Get Activated Charcoal
I purchase activated 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 often use it for my teeth.
Note that activated charcoal makes a huge mess if it’s spilled. It will easily wash off a sink or bathroom counter, but it is very difficult to remove from rough surfaces like tile grout. Storing it out of the way helps reduce the risk of it potentially spilling or being knocked over.
Activated charcoal should not be taken within two hours of medications or supplements as it will prevent proper absorption. Charcoal does not need to be taken on a regular basis, only as needed.
Charcoal-infused beverages and foods are not recommended, as charcoal can bind to nutrients in these products, preventing proper absorption.
Always check with your medical professional or doctor before taking internally, especially in emergencies or life-threatening situations, or if there are any other underlying health problems.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Have you used activated black charcoal before? What did you think of it? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
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