Charcoal has been a trusted medicinal component since ancient times. Its power lies in its ability to absorb impurities. Thus, it is commonly used in many air and water filters and for treating poisoning.
When regular charcoal is treated with oxygen to make it porous, it becomes activated charcoal. The tiny holes spread over a large surface area and let it absorb more impurities, quite like a sponge. It is available in the form of tablets, capsules and powders.
- Benefits of Activated Charcoal
Emergency Treatment of Poisoning
One of the primary health uses of activated charcoal is detoxification in cases of emergency. It is used to treat poisoning as it prevents absorption of the poison into the body. It can be mixed with other drugs to treat acute poisoning too. However, it is ineffective against poisoning from iron, strong acids, boric acid, lithium and alcohols. Also, it doesn't prevent the absorption of petroleum products like gasoline, paint thinner, fuel oil and cleaning fluid into the body. In either case, it should be administered only in consultation with a medical professional.
- Tummy Troubles
The second benefit of using activated charcoal is in the cases of constipation, gas and diarrhea. As it passes through the intestinal tract, it absorbs toxins and impurities, especially the trapped smelly gases.
It could also absorb other compounds that may be causing gastrointestinal problems like IBS and diarrhea.
- Skin Care
Because activated charcoal removes impurities and toxins, it is being used in skin care products to offer acne treatments. It also works as a make-up remover.
There are some studies, which have revealed that activated charcoal helps reduce the bad cholesterol in the body and increases the good cholesterol.
- Cleanses and Detoxes
More and more people are taking up cleanses and detoxing. Activated charcoal is said to be quite helpful in a digestive cleanse. It removes many kinds of toxins from the digestive tract. These toxins may cause allergic reactions, poor immune system function and oxidative damage. Removing these toxins helps increase energy and mental function and can reduce joint pains.
The activated charcoal also targets pesticides and chemicals we ingest through our food and water.
Charcoal almost sounds like a magic wand; you swish it, and voilà! So many health issues are taken care of. But there are no free lunches; there are downsides to using activated charcoal. And although, it is available over the counter without a prescription, you shouldn't over-indulge in it and must see professional advice if symptoms persist.
Some of the side effects and risks you may encounter with prolonged use of activated charcoal are:
If consumed orally, one may experience black stool, black tongue, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. In some serious cases, gastrointestinal blockages have also been caused by consumption of activated charcoal. If it doesn't suit you, you might also see allergic reactions on the body.
Since activated charcoal works by reducing absorption of chemicals and compounds in the body, it may do the same with certain medicines and supplements.
It has also been known to cause metabolic, ocular, respiratory issues if not administered properly.
Activated charcoal has its benefits but its risk cannot be underestimated. It is important to use this under expert supervision.