Activated charcoal can be found practically anywhere: in toothpaste, skincare products, baked goods, and even beverages. There’s a good reason for it, though, as activated charcoal has been linked to numerous benefits, ranging from lowering cholesterol to whitening teeth and treating acne.

Activated charcoal was once considered the universal antidote, and nowadays, it continues to be promoted as a potent natural treatment with several claimed benefits. That being said, what is activated charcoal, and what are its benefits and side effects?

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is derived from sawdust, coal, petroleum coke, peat, coconut shells, or bone char and turned into a fine black powder that is suitable for human use. This type of charcoal is different from charcoal briquettes because activated charcoal is activated by processing it at very high temperatures.

Once activated, the internal structure of the charcoal obtains a larger surface area with smaller-sized pores. This porous texture is what allows activated charcoal to be easily distinguished from other types of charcoal.

This charcoal works by trapping toxins and chemicals in the gut, thus preventing their absorption. Because activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body, it carries out toxins that have latched themselves onto its surface out of your body via feces.

Benefits

Activated charcoal can be used orally and topically, and both methods can have extremely positive health outcomes if used properly. The benefits of activated charcoal range from preventing hangovers to reducing cholesterol levels.

What does activated charcoal do for your body? Some of the most common benefits of activated charcoal include:

Benefits when taken orally:

  • Used as an emergency poison treatment, due to its toxin-binding properties. 
  • Help promote kidney function, due to its ability to reduce the waste products that kidneys must filter.
  • Reduces symptoms of fish odor syndrome, because of its ability to bind small odorous compounds such as trimethylamine (TMA).

Benefits when applied topically:

  • Minimizes the appearance of pores, as it binds to dirt in your skin and helps pull it out of your pores.
  • Treats Acne, due to its exfoliating nature.
  • Rids Hair of Toxins, as it attracts dirt and oil and rids of them as it is washed out of the hair. Similar to Ketoconazole Shampoo.

Activated charcoal is both versatile and full of benefits, making it a worthwhile purchase for those looking to improve their hair, skin, and overall health.

Side Effects

Activated charcoal contains potential side effects that you should be cautious of before use. Some of the potential common side effects of this charcoal include:

  • Constipation and black stool
  • Dehydration
  • Slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract
  • Regurgitation into the lungs

Although these side effects are rare, it’s important to be on the lookout for any signs of adverse reactions when you use activated charcoal orally or topically. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you have any kind of intestinal obstruction, talk to your doctor before using activated charcoal.

How to Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is extremely versatile, as it can be found in a plethora of products and forms. For best practice, it’s important to follow the instructions of your doctor and the instructions indicated on the activated charcoal product label. 

Activated charcoal can be taken in capsule, liquid, or powder form. Since it’s tasteless, the charcoal powder can be mixed into a juice, smoothie, or tea of your preference. Other methods for using activated charcoal include:

  • Made into a face mask or a hair mask
  • Used as a lotion
  • Used in toothpaste
  • Taken in capsule form

To prevent any negative reactions from topical application, it’s recommended you do a skin patch test with the product to see if any irritation occurs. 

Final Thoughts

When you use activated charcoal, you’re opening up a world of numerous benefits that come with the supplement’s use. If you are thinking about using activated charcoal, you should consult with your doctor first. They will be able to provide more information on whether or not this supplement would be beneficial for you. 

Further, when purchasing activated charcoal products, look to the packaging labels for more information. You may want to look out for the following.

  • What, if any, government labels the package has to determine the level of regulation and testing the product underwent
  • Other ingredients in the product that you could be sensitive to

Disclaimers: This article does not constitute professional medical advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed professional.

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