Activated Charcoal In The 21st Century: How It Works And How It’s Used

Once you realize the benefits of activated charcoal, you will want to keep a 50-pound supply in your home (like me). As early as 1800 AD, scientists were demonstrating the effectiveness of charcoal in the prevention of poisoning in humans and animals.

The following instance may seem like a special case, but it’s a personal one to me and reminds us all that charcoal can actually save a life. It was a relaxing Sunday evening: the sun had set and our family had been planning the following day’s activities. Our dog had been playing outside for awhile and we didn’t notice anything irregular until I decided to step outside later that evening and I saw her lying on the grass in extreme pain. Her paw was swollen to twice its size. I looked at her paw to find the cause and recognized a puncture that was oozing fluid. It was a rattlesnake bite. Unless treated immediately, these types of venomous bites lead to death. There was no way to reach a vet in time so we had to improvise and move fast.

Charcoal intervention

We gave our dog a dose of pain meds and applied activated charcoal directly to the wound, and also along with her paw and leg leading up to her shoulder. Once having applied powder charcoal, we then gave her charcoal mixed with water to drink. At that point, the rattlesnake poison was traveling rapidly up her leg and to her neck. We thought we were too late, but we continued the charcoal treatment anyway. To our amazement, the charcoal drew the powerful poison out of her body and the liquid charcoal flushed the venom from her body.

Our little dog a week later was jumping and playing like she’d never been bitten. I believe it was because of the charcoal treatment. Usually, only anti-venom can reverse the result of a rattlesnake bite, but this situation proved otherwise. Research has shown the effectiveness of charcoal for home-use. After realizing just how powerful charcoal is, I went out and got myself the aforementioned 50-pounder of charcoal powder, just in case.

Activated charcoal – what is it?

Activated charcoal is a natural substance that can help remove toxins and chemicals from the skin and can prevent the body from absorbing unwanted chemicals. It’s a fine, black powder typically made from coconut husks, bamboo, wood, willow peat, and many other naturally occurring substances. These carbon-rich materials are burned at high temperatures to obtain charcoal, which is a pure form of carbon. This pure form of carbon is passed through chemical processes, which activate the charcoal, and then treated with oxygen, steam, and carbon dioxide, which removes any impurities.

The final product is a fine black porous grain. The granules have many holes and crevices, which increase the surface area and creates ample space for surface binding and adsorption. The adsorbent nature of charcoal traps toxins and chemical molecules. The charcoal granules have a negative electrical charge that pulls the positively charged toxins and gases into the molecules of activated charcoal. This prevents the toxins from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Another important fact is that the activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body. Instead is excreted from the body along with the adsorbed toxins on its surface, just like the rattlesnake venom that left my dog’s body.

Today’s uses 

Even though the adsorptive qualities of charcoal have been studied for over 150 years, it’s only gained wider recognition in the past fifty years. Now, activated charcoal is commonly used to prevent toxins from entering the systemic circulation.

The most frequent use is to treat drug overdose. The time of charcoal ingestion after overdosing can mean life or death. In poisoning cases, it has to be applied speedily from about one to two hours after exposure to the poisonous substance. Charcoal also promotes kidney function by absorbing a large number of impurities. Another major benefit of charcoal is its ability to bind to cholesterol and bile acids. This is beneficial in the adsorption of cholesterol.

Finally, the common everyday uses are teeth whitening, reduction of gas and bloating, and skin treatment. Now, there is even a ready-made hydrogel charcoal patch on the market that eliminates the mess and time it takes to make a charcoal poultice and works to naturally relieve inflammation, chronic pain, and soreness. Activated charcoal truly seems to be reaching its fullest potential in the modern world. The health benefits are important to know so that we can know when and how to utilize this tool.

How to use activated charcoal for an insect bite, sting, or rash 

    1. Mix 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed (or cornstarch) with 3 tablespoons of charcoal powder.
    2. Slowly add 2/3 cup of water to the mixture and mix.
    3. Apply the mixture to the affected area.
    4. Repeat every half an hour at least 1-3 times until the itching or rash is completely gone.  
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Raeann Leal

Raeann is a graduate student at Loma Linda University School of Public Health pursuing her MPH in Lifestyle Medicine. In her free time, Raeann likes to cook unique and healthy dishes, read relevant and recent research articles related to diseases and their cures, and experience the outdoors.

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