You may not have ever heard of activated charcoal, but you’ll be surprised to learn the number of health-boosting benefits it has. Those who live, or want to live, a healthy, natural lifestyle already use it as a replacement for many cosmetic products, like face wash and toothpaste; but activated charcoal has been in use for thousands of years by people around the world, particularly for its ability to remove toxins from the body. During WWI, for example, American soldiers used activated charcoal in their gas masks to prevent chemical poisoning; around the same time, activated charcoal became a way to treat water to make it odorless and tasteless. Today, activated charcoal takes a new form, now available to everyday consumers in capsule or bulk form, but the benefits it brings remain the same.
Activated charcoal, sometimes called activated carbon, differs from regular charcoal in one respect: activated charcoal has been heated, causing its already porous surface to expand and become more efficient at trapping toxins and other chemicals. Whereas regular charcoal is used for activities like building fires, activated charcoal provides primarily medicinal uses.
Because heating expands charcoal’s pores, it also greatly expands the surface area of the charcoal overall. In fact, the surface area of a single cubic inch of activated charcoal is equivalent to that of a 150,000 square foot field. Unbelievable! You can imagine the number of toxins, atoms, ions, and other substances that activated charcoal can chemically bind to its surface.
Perhaps the most important, and potentially life-saving, benefit of activated charcoal is its ability to rapidly absorb and remove toxins from the body. In fact, activated charcoal not only hinders the body’s absorption of a variety of drugs, chemicals, and toxins, but also improves elimination of such substances even after bodily absorption (source). In emergency situations, overdoses of pharmaceuticals like aspirin, cocaine, and morphine, DDT and other pesticides, and mercury and lead (among other chemicals) may be treated using activated charcoal while the patient waits for emergency medical help.
Indigenous cultures around the world have used activated charcoal for thousands of years not only to prevent the internal absorption of harmful toxins, but also to prevent toxins from entering the body externally. Activated charcoal mixed with water and cornstarch or flaxseed powder creates a poultice that draws poisons from wounds, curing bee stings, rashes from poison ivy and other toxic plants, and bites from snakes and spiders—even highly venomous and poisonous species like the Brown Recluse or Black Widow! Testimonies from people who have been saved by a poultice of activated charcoal abound, including from those who are highly allergic to bees (source).
Don’t think activated charcoal can only be used in emergency or extreme situations. Used daily, activated charcoal is an excellent choice for skin and dental care. Due to its ability to remove toxins, activated charcoal reduces acne and other skin problems by removing impurities that can clog pores from the skin. It’s an amazing way to completely remove your makeup, too! You can easily create a face mask using a capsule of activated charcoal powder with a teaspoon of water, a few drops of tea tree oil, and a bit of sea salt. This mixture is extremely effective at drawing out toxins, dirt, and oil, leaving your skin refreshed and rejuvenated. (Just be careful not to get it on your clothes or counter tops, as it can stain these surfaces.) You can also purchase charcoal face masks and face wash from a number of organic and all-natural cosmetics retailers. My husband and I use Poofy Organics’ Activated Facial Soap.
Contrary to what its black color suggests, activated charcoal also whitens teeth. You can sprinkle some activated charcoal powder into your regular toothpaste, or purchase toothpaste made with activated charcoal powder. It may look funny to brush with, but after a few weeks of regular use you’ll notice a much brighter, whiter smile!
Finally, activated charcoal works wonders as a detox agent. There are so many recipes for activated charcoal detoxes that it’s important for every individual to find the recipe that works best for him/her. For example, if you take too much activated charcoal, you’ll become constipated and feel sluggish, while too little of this agent won’t do anything. You can also use activated charcoal in small doses to relief temporary instances of constipation, bloating, and gas, especially caused by highly fibrous foods like beans. No matter the recipe you choose to fit your lifestyle, be sure to increase your daily water consumption to assist the charcoal in flushing toxins from your body.
Because of its many health properties and versatile uses, there’s no doubt that activated charcoal should be a staple item in every organic and all-natural home. It’s easy to introduce slowly into your home too, replacing a face wash here or trying a capsule for indigestion there. Even if you’re new to organic living, activated charcoal is an excellent first step towards creating a healthy, natural lifestyle.