What is Activated Charcoal and Why Should You Use It?

You may have noticed an increasing number of products that are being sold that showcase the use of activated charcoal. You may have even seen products being advertised lately on your Facebook feed that is made from activated charcoal, and it seems that everyone is buying them up!

Some of the most popular and recognizable products on the market are the charcoal teeth whiteners. Not only is it fun to use as it turns your entire mouth black, but it helps leave behind a whiter smile.

But what is activated charcoal and how does it work? Just a few years ago if you asked the average person what charcoal was, they’d point to their grill and tell you that it is what you use to cook your food. Activated charcoal as a supplement has been around for a long time, but it is only recently that it has begun to gain mainstream popularity and recognition for its health and detox benefits.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal comes from the act of burning sources of carbon matter, such as when you burn wood, coconuts, sawdust, bamboo, etc. When you burn the carbon matter, the high temperatures remove the oxygen and creates a material with smaller pores and more surface area. It is these small pores that make the activated charcoal so useful. The smaller pores allow certain substances such as chemicals, toxins, heavy metals, and poison to be adsorbed within the charcoal. Unlike when a something is “absorbed”, “adsorbed” means that the substance binds to the charcoal, or rather is pulled into the charcoal and trapped, unable to be released.

For a long time, activated charcoal has been used by the medical field to help treat people who had ingested poisons because of its ability to adsorb and bind to specific poisons, toxins, and heavy metals. In fact, the use of activated charcoal goes back more than 10,000 throughout the ancient world. Today, the use of activated charcoal has expanded as the health benefits become more well known and its availability more present in everyday products.

Why should you take activated charcoal?

If you care about the health of your body, activated charcoal will be something that you want to include in your diet. Our environment is riddled with toxic chemicals and heavy metals that get into the body through the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air that we breathe.

Unfortunately, the modern age has polluted almost every aspect of the environment that we use and encounter. This means that no matter how clean you eat, how tidy you keep your home, and how hard you try to remove unhealthy substances from your life, you can’t entirely escape unhealthy toxins.

And if you live in a city, chances are you are consuming and breathing in more toxins that someone who lives in a rural area due to the heavier smog and contamination of your general environment.

Using activated charcoal can help remove these toxins from your body and create a healthier balance.

Activated charcoal comes in both powder and pill form, with the activated charcoal pill being the easiest and most convenient way to get it into your system.

You can also check out my favorite charcoal drink recipes for a fun and tasty way to get all of the benefits of activated charcoal!

How does activated charcoal work?

When you take activated charcoal, the charcoal draws in the toxins and gases and become trapped within the charcoal. This happens due to the positive charge that is given off by the porous substance. The several poisons, toxins, heavy metals and gases within your body hold positive charges, causing these chemicals to be drawn and bind to the charcoal.

Because your body does not absorb charcoal, it passes through your digestive system and exits the body, taking all of the unwanted toxins and chemicals with it.

When should you take activated charcoal?

Taking activated charcoal on a daily basis is a great way to help your body remove the toxins from your body that it encounters every day. These are the toxins that are found in the air that you breathe and even some of the food that you eat.

If you don’t take activated charcoal on a daily basis, there are more prominent times that would be beneficial. You can also take an activated charcoal supplement before eating processed food, when drinking unfiltered water, or when you are drinking alcohol.

What are the top benefits of activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal has many uses and isn’t only good for detoxing your body. The applications for activated charcoals seem to be limitless, which is why so many products use it as their number one ingredient.

Whitens Teeth

Using charcoal to whiten your teeth has quickly become one of the most mainstream uses, and you have probably seen these products on your Facebook feed. Many of these teeth whiteners come in powder form, but you can also find them in toothpaste and mouthwash.

One of my favorite brands that sell charcoal toothpaste and mouthwash is Hello. The charcoal toothpaste and mouthwash are natural and free of fluoride, artificial sweeteners, sulfates, dye, and peroxides. Plus, they are cruelty-free and very affordable.

Using a charcoal toothpaste is a great natural alternative to the expensive teeth whiteners that are full of chemicals and only work to eat your enamel. With activated charcoal, you can keep teeth looking great and, more importantly, keep your teeth healthy.

Relieves Gas and Bloating

The porous nature of activated charcoal allows the charcoal to adsorb gases within the body and remove this. Taking activated charcoal can help relieve gas and bloating, so it can be especially useful to take before you eat food that you know will cause either of these two symptoms.

For example, many people experience gassiness after consuming beans, due to the way they break down within the body. Taking activated charcoal before your meal can help reduce the amount of gas that is produced and alleviate some of the adverse side effects of the beans.

Adsorbs Alcohol and Prevents Hangovers

Most of us have been there. We drank too much alcohol and woke up with a hangover, and this can ruin the rest of our day. Taking a couple of activated charcoal pills before you begin drinking can help prevent or reduce the effects of a hangover by decreasing the amount of alcohol that enters into your blood system.

This has become part of many popular hangover cures. Next time you are planning on having a couple of drinks, remember to swallow a couple of activated charcoal pills. Your body will thank you in the morning.

Detoxes Your Body

As mentioned above, using activated charcoal can help remove the toxins and heavy metals that end up in our body every day through the foods we eat and the air that we breathe. Because our environment is so full of toxins and they are almost unavoidable, many people choose to take activated charcoal on a daily basis to help their body cleanse the toxins out.

You can either take an activated charcoal pill or add some activated charcoal powder to your favorite drink.

Purifies Water

Activated charcoal is often used in water filters to help clean toxins from the water we drink. Tap water can often contain contaminants like fluoride, lead, mercury, and other toxins, depending on where you live. If you are drinking tap water, I would recommend that you get a water filter, such as Brita, to help remove some of these toxins. They are relatively cheap and can produce a much cleaner and better tasting water. These water filters use activated charcoal to remove the toxins from your tap water in a natural way without introducing more toxic chemicals.

Over 4 million people in the United States live with water that is contaminated past legal limits. Use the free tool provided by the Environmental Working Group to find out what contaminants are found in your tap water. You may find yourself wanting a water filter after all.

Skin Health

Activated charcoal helps to draw out toxins and bacteria from your skin, making it an ideal product to fight acne. You can find many soaps and face washes that contain activated charcoal to do just that.

Chic Republic makes a facial cleanser with activated charcoal that detoxes your skin and your face so that you can be acne free. Plus, it is all natural, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, and paraben-free, so you don’t have to worry about what you are putting on your skin. Activated charcoal is especially useful if you have oily skin, as it will help absorb some of these oils.

Using activated charcoal can also help keep your skin young and vibrant looking, effectively slowing the visual signs of aging.

Lowers Cholesterol

When you take activated charcoal with food, the charcoal can actually bind to cholesterol and help you lower your bad (LDL) and total cholesterol. Studies have shown that taking activated charcoal daily can be highly beneficial for those who have high cholesterol.

A study published in The Lancet showed that when people consumed 8 grams of activated charcoal three times a day, on average had their LDL and total cholesterol drop by 25% [1].

Increases Energy

One effect that many people notice as they begin to take activated charcoal and start detoxing their body is that they have more energy than before. Toxins that we get from our environment can often make us feel fatigued and by removing they we get a natural burst of energy. This can lead to a more productive life.

What are some side effects of using activated charcoal?

There are many benefits of taking activated charcoal, but sometimes these benefits can come with some unwanted, or just weird, side effects. Taking too much charcoal may cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Black stools (this is the weird one)
  • Dehydration (drink lots of water!)
  • Lung intrusion (when used for poison, vomiting can cause it to get into your lungs)

For proper dosage, check the label of your product to ensure you are getting the recommended amount. Each product is different, especially if you are consuming activated charcoal in pill form.

Start with a natural product with a lower dosage, such as from Detox Organics or Schizandu Organics.

Can you use activated charcoal with medications?

If you are taking any medications or supplements, do not take activated charcoal, or speak to your doctor first. Because of the nature of activated charcoal and its ability to adsorb certain chemicals, it can interfere with certain medications and supplements, causing them not to work.

Activated charcoal can be used to remove toxins and poisons from your body, but it can also be used to remove medications and other supplements as well.

Where can you buy activated charcoal?

You can buy activated charcoal and products containing activated charcoal at most pharmacies, grocery stores, and beauty shops. If you are looking for activated charcoal in pill or powder form, check the section of vitamins and supplements. If you want a product such as a facewash or toothpaste, look in the appropriate aisle of your store, and it should be with similar items.

The best place to get all of your charcoal needs is through an online store, such as Amazon. Here you can find affordable activated charcoal products of all kinds. And, if you have prime, shipping is free of many of them.

Wrapping It All Up!

Activated charcoal is quickly becoming a mainstream health and beauty ingredient in many products, and for good reasons. Daily doses can help detoxify your body and improve your cholesterol health. It can also be used to whiten your teeth and clean your skin of acne.

If you are taking any medications or supplements, talk to your doctor first as activated charcoal can interfere with these medications and supplements work.

You can also use activated charcoal to help remove poisons, but this is not recommended to do on your own. If you suspect poisoning, call a doctor immediately. You can also contact poison control by calling 1 (800) 222-1222. This hotline is available 24/7.

Kuusisto, P., Manninen, V., Vapaatalo, H., Huttunen, J., & Neuvonen, P. (1986). Effect of activated charcoal on hypercholesterolaemia. The Lancet, 328(8503), 366-367.