I recently came across activated charcoal this year, while I was looking for a natural toothpaste recipe that could eliminate bad breath and whiten teeth!
Activated charcoal has actually been around for centuries (its use dating back to 1550 BC!), and for good reason too. This sooty, jet-black powder is widely accepted in medical literature for its amazing health properties, such as being a powerful natural remedy that absorbs most organic poisons, toxins, and chemicals before they can harm or do damage to the body.
But, this amazing powder doesn’t stop there. Activated charcoal has so many benefits and uses, that by the end of this post you’ll want to have it around in your house too.
What Is Activated Black Charcoal?
Before I jump into activated charcoal’s many uses and benefits, I’ll give you a quick summary of what it is, just so we’re all on the same page.
It’s important to note that activated charcoal is not the same thing as the charcoal you find on charred wood from the fire or the charcoal for your grill. Please don’t try to substitute or make your own!
Activated charcoal is made from a substance — ususally wood, bamboo, coconut shell, or coal — burned without oxygen to create char. The char is then heated to a high temperature and exposed to certain gases through a multi-step process to make it extremely porous. This is the “activation” part of the process.
Once it’s been activated, the increased surface area of the molecules are able to bind powerfully to any substance. This is known as adsorption (not be confused with absorption) and this process is what makes charcoal such a powerful substance. True activated charcoal is tasteless, non-toxic, and odourless.
Benefits of Using Activated Charcoal
Here are some of the main benefits of using activated charcoal:
1. Remedy for Toxins and Poisons.
Studies have shown that activated charcoal is one of the most effective decontaminants available for the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract, a.k.a the gut). It has the ability to absorb up to 50-60% of unwanted substances in the stomach and intestines when consumed quickly after ingestion.
In fact, emergency rooms will routinely administer large doses of activated charcoal for certain types of poisonings. Unlike ipecac syrup (used to induce vomiting) or stomach pumping, activated charcoal will bind to and remove most of the toxic substance even after it’s entered the bloodstream. Amazing!
Now, anyone who does come into contact with toxic substances or experiences poisoning should definitely contact a poison control centre or hospital immediately and follow any instructions they give.
Activated charcoal’s powerful purifying ability is also why it’s regularly used in air and water filters.
2. Ingredient in Beauty Products.
Activated charcoal has become more and more prominent in many beauty products too. This is because it’s very effective at removing bacteria, dirt, chemicals, and build-up on the skin.
3. Oral Health.
The beneficial properties that make charcoal great for removing harmful substances in the digestive tract also make it beneficial for oral health too. While it doesn’t neutralise toxins, it binds them to the many tiny pores on its surface.
When charcoal is used in powders, toothpastes, and oral health rinses, it can bind to bacteria and other harmful substances and remove them from the mouth. Many people use it this way as it’s also great at binding to substances that stain teeth, and can also whiten teeth in only a few uses.
How to Use Activated Charcoal
I use activated charcoal almost daily for uses such as:
1. Whitening Teeth Naturally.
I was amazed at how quickly my teeth started to whiten after I began using it to brush my teeth. The process is simple. Dip a wet toothbrush in high quality activated charcoal and gently brush your teeth. Before you spit out the charcoal, quickly swish it around in your mouth, ensuring you push it through all the gaps in your teeth, before spitting it out. Alternatively, you can swish charcoal water around in your mouth by mixing 1/2 tsp of charcoal into a small amount of water.
Charcoal is mildly abrasive so it’s important to be gentle and don’t do this more than once or twice a week.
2. In Toothpaste.
Likewise, charcoal can be used in toothpastes and tooth powders to get the same effect. I wouldn’t use these 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 and freshen teeth.
There are also pre-made options available that work really well too. Just check the ingredients label to ensure they only contain natural, clean ingredients.
3. A Face Cleanser or Mask.
I love using activated charcoal on my skin. It leaves your skin feeling so soft and smooth. It’s a great way to help with acne as it absorbs toxins and impurities on the skin. Fair warning, it does look and feel bizarre applying this charcoal mix all over your face, but it does wash off easily and it leaves your skin feeling incredibly soft!
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. The consistency should become like a paste).
Once it’s well combined and forms a paste-like consistency, apply it to your face, leave it on for 20 minutes, and then wash it off gently with luke warm water. Careful not to get it all over the sink (a mistake I’ve made many times!). If you do get it everywhere, don’t worry, it washes off relatively easy.
As a cleanser: Mix 1/2 tsp of activated charcoal powder into a natural face wash, and scrub skin gently. Rinse off with luke warm water and pat dry.
4. Water Purifier.
Activated charcoal helps to remove contaminants and other impurities from the water. Look for a water purifier that uses activated charcoal in its filtration system.
5. Purifies the Air.
The porous structure of activated charcoal makes it great at removing odours, harmful allergens and chemicals from the air. This is often why you’ll find charcoal in air purifying products.
6. In Shampoo.
Charcoal can be found in shampoos as it helps remove impurities and build up. You can try this yourself by adding 1/2 tsp of charcoal to shampoo before washing your hair. Scrub gently then wash it out.
I haven’t yet found a pre-made shampoo with clean ingredients (but I’ll keep looking), so just add the small amount of charcoal to a natural shampoo that you like.
7. Relieves Insect Bites.
Charcoal alone has been shown to help draw out venom.
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.
To treat bites from snakes and spiders, including the brown recluse or black widow, you’ll want to cover a much larger area than just a small bandage, as the bacteria and viruses that lead to tissue damage need to be alleviated quickly.
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: It is advised to seek professional medical help along with this treatment.
Is Activated Charcoal Safe?
Activated charcoal is not known to be toxic, however it should not be taken within 2 hours of medications or vitamins as it will keep the body from absorbing them. I personally wouldn’t take charcoal on a regular basis, only as needed.
As with any substance, you should always check with your medical professional or doctor before internal use, especially in emergencies or life-threatening situations, or if there is any other underlying health problem.
Remember, activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as the charcoal you find on burning wood or other fires at home, so please don’t try to use those types of charcoal for these or any other uses.
Charcoal cocktails have become popular of late, and some experts recommend charcoal as a hang over remedy, so they may be worth a try. However, charcoal-infused drinks and food are not recommended as charcoal can bind to nutrients in these foods or drinks and result in your body not absorbing them. This will in turn make these foods and drinks less nourishing rather than enhancing them.
Where to Get Activated Charcoal
I purchase activated black charcoal from my local health food store, 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 (trust me, I know). It’s a good idea to keep it out of the way to reduce the risk of it potentially being spilled or knocked over.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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Have you ever used activated black charcoal before? What did you use it for? Share in the comments below! It’s always great to hear different ideas.
Have a beautiful day!
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/