Activated charcoal is a black powder that is characterized as being odorless and fine. It has been known to absorb toxins and as such, has been used to treat overdoses in emergency situations.
The capability of activated charcoal to absorb toxins has also made the use of activated charcoal for health and cosmetic reasons possible. In this article, we will look at the different uses of activated charcoal and its various health benefits.
Activated Charcoal: A Brief Overview
Charcoal is generally produced by heating various carbon sources. However, activated charcoal is different from the substance in the pieces of burnt wood. The creation of activated charcoal intentionally makes the said substance adsorbent, which makes it effectively bind with other particles such as atoms, ions, and molecules.
Activating charcoal actually requires exposing materials that are rich in carbon such as coconut shells, wood, and sawdust to extreme heat. This exposure to extreme heat release the previously bound particles from the charcoal freeing it up to bind with other molecules or ions. The process will also reduce the size of the surface pores present in charcoal which in theory, will increase its overall surface for absorption. Due to this, a teaspoon of activated charcoal will have a bigger surface area than a standard football field.
Health Benefits of Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal has only been approved for use in emergency cases such as drug overdoses and poisoning. However, because of its powerful toxin-absorbing properties, some health experts suggest its use to address other health issues. While further research is needed to objectively prove that a number of health benefits can be gained from activated charcoal, the evidence is leaning towards the positive effects of activated charcoal usage. Enumerated below are some of these advantages:
1. Promotes kidney health
Activated charcoal can help in the promotion and enhancement of kidney health by aiding the body in absorbing the toxins that are left undigested by the kidneys. Evidence suggests that it is especially effective in absorbing toxins resulting from the digestion of protein called urea. A study also showed that it can help improve the functions of the kidney, prevent damage caused by the inflammation of the gastrointestinal system. Moreover, it may aid in reducing the levels of inflammation for those with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Another study showed that the introduction of activated charcoal into the system of laboratory rats with renal failure somehow improved kidney function.
2. Helps reduce and manage intestinal gas
There are some studies that indicate that activated charcoal can help reduce the presence of intestinal gas. But there is a need for further research to objectively produce evidence for this claim. This numerous pores present in activated charcoal may efficiently absorb gases and liquids present in an individual’s intestine. A study conducted in 2012 had respondents with excessive gas take activated charcoal and were shown to have significantly diminished levels of gas within their intestines. Another study also showed that individuals who took it for ten (10) days thrice daily experienced less abdominal pains without any identified side effects.
3. May help filter water
People have been using activated charcoal as a natural water filtration system for many years. Applying its toxin absorbing properties to water, people found that activated charcoal can also be used to filter or clean water of its impurities such as viruses, toxins, bacteria, other chemicals, fungus, and drugs. Private manufacturing companies and waste management corporations often incorporate activated charcoal in their filtration process. It is also used by residences to filter out impurities in their drinking water.
4. Manages the symptoms of diarrhea
Due to its toxin-absorbing properties, experts also suggest that activated charcoal may manage and alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea. Some also believe that the numerous pores present in activated charcoal may alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea. The pores absorb and trap bacteria and gases that are present in the intestinal tract thereby removing some of the primary causes of diarrhea. Taking activated charcoal, however, should carefully be considered by patients. It may have more side effects compared to other antidiarrhea medications.
5. Whitens teeth and improve dental health
It is now common to have oral health products infused with activated charcoal such as toothbrush bristles and toothpaste. These oral health products usually aid in dental health because they are detoxifying, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. The health benefits of activated charcoal on dental health, however, needs more research to present more objective evidence.
6. Takes care of the skin
Evidence suggests that the toxin absorbing properties of activated charcoal may help bring various skin impurities up to the skin’s external surface making them easier to clean. These impurities may include dust, chemicals, dirt, bacteria, and other toxins.
7. May also serve as a deodorant
Bad smell is usually due to bacteria and other microorganisms consuming the biological particles present in an individual’s sweat. As a toxin absorber, it may absorb impurities found on the feet and underarms. This may prevent bacteria and germs from thriving. It is not surprising then that a number of deodorant products available in the market today contain some form of activated charcoal. Evidence also suggests that it can control the excessive production of moisture which may also help in the prevention of developing bad odors or smell.
8. Aids in fighting skin infection
A lot of people the world over use activated charcoal to treat various skin conditions and infection. This is because it may absorb microorganisms that cause various skin conditions and wound infections.