Activated charcoal is a hot topic in health and wellness these days, gaining recognition as a powerhouse agent for detoxification with a wide range of potential uses.
Activated charcoal is everywhere. It’s added to face masks, whitening toothpastes and sold as a food supplement in tablet, capsule and powder form. Claims for its use include cleansing us of toxins, beating the bloat and even curing a hangover: But what is it and is it worthy of the hype?
Activated charcoal is a byproduct of burning coconut shells, bamboo, olive pits, wood, or various other substances. If you are a fan of natural medicine, we recommend purchasing activated charcoal that is organic and made from coconut shells. Processed at very high temperatures, this unique charcoal is “activated” in a way that changes its structure to increase the surface area and make it more porous. This causes the charcoal to develop a network of tiny pores and crevices, which greatly increase its surface area and its ability to trap and hold onto molecules.It is the porousness of charcoal that makes it effective at attaching to toxins and flushing them out of the body. This is the principle behind this charcoal detox.
What is activated charcoal used for?
It has a long history of use in emergency medicine being used for the treatment of drug overdose or accidental poisoning. Prompt administration and at sufficient doses it binds with certain drugs or poisons, reducing their absorption in the gut and minimising the potentially damaging effects for the patient. Let’s discover more about it’s uses:
The most scientifically proven of all of activated charcoal’s benefits, detoxification happens naturally with this powerful agent. Because activated charcoal’s porous surface has a negative electrical charge, it attracts positively charged molecules such as toxins and gases for safe removal from the GI tract. In hospital emergency rooms throughout the developed world, a high single-use dosage of activated charcoal is the most frequently used method of gastrointestinal decontamination after certain kinds of poisoning, toxic exposure and drug overdose. It is considered to be effective for acute poisoning from a wide variety of drugs and poisons including acetaminophen, aspirin and tricyclic antidepressants. However, it is not useful for poisoning from lithium, iron, cyanide, potassium, and ethanol. While some use activated charcoal as a hangover cure, there is currently no evidence to support this. More than one study has shown that it is not effective at adsorbing alcohol.
Alleviating Gas and Bloating
Activated charcoal’s ability to reduce gas and bloating in the digestive system is scientifically proven. When used for digestive cleansing, this charcoal can promote overall digestive health. Considered a natural gut cleanser, it can help lighten the body’s toxic load — potentially reducing allergic reactions and oxidative damage, as well as strengthening immune system.
Some researchers have found that it can help people lower their cholesterol. Just as it does with toxins, activated charcoal can attach to and flush out cholesterol in the intestine, preventing its absorption in the bloodstream. In a controlled study of people with high cholesterol, activated charcoal was effective at lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels.
Reducing the Effects of Radiation
Piggybacking on its powers of detoxification, activated charcoal can also reduce the effects of radiation. Through the process of adsorption, activated charcoal attaches to radionuclides in the same way that it attaches to other toxins.
Through its ability to rid the body of toxins, activated charcoal has the potential to be a natural approach to healthy aging. With a reduced toxic load, the body experiences less of the oxidative damage that drives the aging process. In the same way, it may help to prevent cellular damage to our natural detox organs (the kidneys and liver) and also support adrenal gland health.
What are the side effects of activated charcoal?
There are no known studies looking at the long-term use, at the levels likely to be present in over-the-counter ‘health’ and ‘detox’ products. Most experts believe that ingesting charcoal at low levels is likely to present few, if any side effects. Although, if you rely on prescription medication, taken by mouth, you should be aware that taking the charcoal may make your medication less effective.
Activated charcoal and its effects are limited to your gut so, regardless of what the marketing hype tells you, your ‘detox’ juice cannot absorb toxic materials from other areas of the body. There’s no evidence supporting the regular consumption of this product as either beneficial or helpful.
What’s more, the idea that you need support to help your body remove everyday toxins to stay healthy is a myth. In a typically healthy person, detoxification is very effectively done by the body via organs like the liver and kidneys and is not aided by detox juices, smoothies or supplements.