Activated charcoal is the latest health and wellness trend popping up everywhere these days. You can find it in activated charcoal cocktails, detox drinks, pore strips, and even ice cream. It’s hailed as the ultimate acne fighter and natural deodorant alternative.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: activated charcoal is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book.
For countless years, both natural healers and medical practitioners have been using this substance to remove poison and toxins from the body. But are the health benefits convincing enough that you’d actually take activated charcoal pills? What are the benefits for the body?
I want to give you everything you need to know about activated charcoal. In this article we’ll cover why you may want to add the pills to your first aid kit. We’ll also cover how safe activated charcoal is for internal or external use. I’ll even share what type of activated charcoal pills you’ll want to purchase and if you should add charcoal to your dental regimen.
What Is Activated Charcoal Powder?
Before you see what it does, it’s helpful to get an answer to “how is charcoal made?”
Activated charcoal powder starts out like regular charcoal. It comes from a wide variety of sources like coal or wood or coconuts.
But the “activation” part is what makes it special.
The charcoal is heated up alongside gases that create small micro pores in the charcoal, which leaves it with a negative charge. Something that just so happens to attract anything with a positive charge – like toxins (I know, it’s counterintuitive. In this case, positive is bad – as in toxins – and negative is good – as in activated charcoal, the detox agent)..
These toxins can either get deep into your body through absorption or they can join with activated charcoal powder through the process of adsorption, when a chemical binds to another material.
So instead of having toxins absorb into your body, they are “caught” by the charcoal and then get disposed of by your body’s natural waste systems.
A Word of Caution: Please don’t grind up your barbecue charcoal. It’s not the same thing as activated charcoal pills or powder. Two very different things. Don’t confuse them.
Uses For Charcoal Pills
For convenient use, activated charcoal powder is often sold in pill form. You can purchase “loose” activated charcoal powder, but I find it to be super messy and it can be tough to clean up (ever tried getting charcoal powder out of white tile grout? It’s no picnic.).
We know that the main reason activated charcoal has been used for centuries is because it removes dangerous and poisonous substances from the body. This is why activated charcoal detoxification is still one of the top uses for charcoal pills today.
Even beyond emergency situations, there are plenty of other benefits of activated charcoal. Here are 5 ways to use activated charcoal that can take your health and body to another level.
1 – Detoxify Your Body
Our world is filled with pesticides, heavy metals, cancer-causing chemicals, and a plethora of toxins that slowly (sometimes quickly) deteriorate our health. As much as we should be active in taking steps to remove them from our kitchens, bathrooms, and workspaces – it is inevitable to come in contact with them regularly.
Your body, your brain, your skin, your gut, your reproductive organs – everything – can be harmed when toxins absorb into your system. Activated charcoal pills can prevent that.
Say you’ve been feeling sluggish lately, or dealing with digestive issues, or maybe you’re just not on your A game – try an activated charcoal detoxification. This can improve your energy, boost gut health, clear your complexion and even promote anti-aging.
2 – Beat the Bloat and Get Rid of the Gas
Whether your stomach is bloated or you’ve been dealing with uncomfortable gas, activated charcoal pills are a safe, natural option to find relief.
Charcoal pills can actually bind to the gasses, acids, or other byproducts of digestion. Then the charcoal helps them exit the body more easily and comfortably. Two double-blind studies showed that activated charcoal pills significantly reduced bloating and any cramping related to gas.
Remember to take them in between your meals and to drink plenty of water any time you’ve been using charcoal.
Another Word of Caution: This isn’t an everyday remedy. If you are bloated or gassy regularly, there are probably greater digestive issues at play. You may need to improve your gut health through fermented foods and probiotics.
3 – Prevent a Hangover
If you detox your body of toxins, it will help you after you’ve had too many drinks. Some people like to use activated charcoal pills to prevent a hangover from setting in. If you take your charcoal pills after a night of drinking (before you fall asleep), you should wake up feeling better.
But don’t make this your go-to excuse to consume too much alcohol. I’m not saying you should go out and get drunk and use activated charcoal to reduce the side effects. In no way is it removing all the negative effects of excessive drinking.
It’s more like a strategy to use if you know you had a little too much at that wedding, holiday party, etc. and you don’t want to wake up in the morning feeling horrible.
And remember this one critical point: Just because it can ease up your hangover does not mean activated charcoal pills can cure alcohol poisoning. They won’t. That requires immediate medical attention.
4 – Lower Your High Cholesterol
So far, we’ve relished in all the detox-type uses for charcoal. But here’s a benefit you’d probably never guess:
One study looked at seven patients with high cholesterol. They took 8 grams of activated charcoal three times each day. Their LDL cholesterol (AKA: the “bad” cholesterol) was lowered by 41%.
This can be a natural option for those who are already on a healthy, low-cholesterol diet and want an alternative to prescription drugs.
5 – Help With Food Poisoning
This is the #1 reason that experienced travellers wouldn’t leave home without activated charcoal pills in their suitcase.
Activated charcoal can really save the day if you take it right when you realize you have food poisoning. You can also take it preemptively. The charcoal can bind to any harmful substances you eat and prevent them from absorbing into the body.
Since I know you don’t want to spend the night leaning over the hotel toilet during your travel, make sure you pack a few activated charcoal pills before you go.
If you’ve eaten something that feels undercooked or unsanitary it’s probably best to take a pill right away.
Are Charcoal Pills Safe?
Activated charcoal pills are considered to be safe as long as you take them at least 2 hours before or after taking vitamins or medications of any kind. If you take them too frequently it is possible that you could have activated charcoal side effects like:
- Black stool
- Black tongue
- Gastrointestinal blockage
Remember, the use of activated charcoal is mainly for detoxification and acute purposes. It’s not something you should be taking for months and months. And if you even start to experience any of the above symptoms, stop taking the activated charcoal pills right away and talk to your doctor or naturopath.
When it comes to drug interactions, stay on the side of caution and talk to your doctor first. You definitely do not want to combine activated charcoal pills with any of the following:
- Constipation medications (could potentially cause electrolyte imbalance)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
The biggest safety problem beyond mild activated charcoal side effects is simply that some people have relied solely on activated charcoal to rid their body of dangerous poisons. I do recommend keeping activated charcoal on hand in a first aid kit to help absorb poisons from the body in the case of accidental ingestion. But…
While the effects of activated charcoal pills can be harnessed for detoxification, you should not solely rely on them if you have ingested any sort of dangerous poison. Seek medical attention immediately.
Activated Charcoal Powder (vs. the pill/capsules)
Beyond activated charcoal pills that you take internally, there are many benefits to using activated charcoal powder externally.
Some people choose to drink or eat activated charcoal powder instead of taking the pill. As long as you are sourcing the powder from safe, natural brands, you can add a small teaspoon in your lemonade or a spoonful in your applesauce.
But just realize that charcoal powder is messy. And dark. A capsule can be easier to use.
There is one added benefit to powder. There will probably be no surprise that external use detoxifies your body’s largest organ: the skin. Wondering how to use charcoal powder in this way? Here are a few simple DIY ideas:
- Make A Detox Mask: The same way that charcoal pills can remove toxins from inside your body, it can clear up clogged pores. Try adding a small spoonful of activated charcoal powder to warm water to make a paste. You could also add the powder to purifying ingredients like local organic honey.
- Make A Detox Shampoo: Adding a small spoonful (or even emptying one of your charcoal pills) into your regular shampoo can clarify the hair to remove product buildup. (If your hair is very, very light colored, start with a small amount of charcoal and work your way up. That way you don’t have to worry about any short-term discoloration.)
- Make A Detox Soak: Sitting in your bathtub is obviously an ideal time to relax and unwind, so why not make it a time to detox too? Sprinkle in a few tablespoons of activated charcoal into your water, along with a few drops of de-stressing essential oils like frankincense, lavender, or roman chamomile.
- Make An Insect Paste: If you or your child gets a spider/bug bite, you can make a thick charcoal paste to help draw out any venom. Adding lavender essential oil to the mixture can be helpful to reduce inflammation and soothe skin. Of course, if the venom is serious and dangerous don’t use this as a substitute for medical help.
When you make any of these DIY projects, do them over an old rag or paper towels to protect your grout or any fabrics from black stains.
What is Coconut Charcoal?
Here is a health and wellness guru’s life motto: when in doubt, choose the coconut – coconut oil, coconut water… and even coconut charcoal.
If you are going to put activated charcoal pills in your body to detox, you’ll want to make sure you are choosing the highest quality brands and ingredients. Coconut is the answer.
All activated charcoal pills are not created equally. I already mentioned that these pills are sourced from a wide variety of materials.
Coconut charcoal is a favorite among the health community. It is made from heating coconut shells until they form their own version of charcoal. This is a safe, natural alternative to potentially harmful choices like coal.
Where To Buy Activated Charcoal
It is so important to be an investigative specialist before buying your activated charcoal and you need to be super aware of any sort of additives included in the brand.
Not sure where to buy activated charcoal capsules that are safe, effective, and completely devoid of additives or fillers?
Look no further. The activated charcoal that we use is a physician grade supplement called Bind. You can learn more about it right here.
Here’s why I recommend Bind:
- It’s great to use during any type of cleanse because it prevents toxins from being reabsorbed back into the body
- It can bind to hundreds of times its own weight in toxins
- It can help to prevent flatulence and bloating by absorbing gasses in the intestines
- It absorbs pathogens like viruses, bacteria, parasites and mycoplasma as well as their metabolic waste
- It’s ideal to take during travel when it’s more difficult to control the food you’re eating – BIND “catches” pesticides, herbicides and plastics when conventional foods are eaten
- It’s superior quality, super activated and has the highest binding capacity possible
To learn more about BIND, click here.
Best Activated Charcoal Toothpaste
One more little activated charcoal tidbit before I leave you to try it for yourself: toothpaste.
Activated charcoal can actually whiten and brighten your teeth. Of course, this idea made a huge splash and everyone started putting charcoal in their toothpastes – even some popular brands started adding it to their tubes.
And it makes total sense, right? The same way activated charcoal pulls toxins from the body it can pull stains from your teeth.
Does charcoal toothpaste work? In many ways, yes. You can actually see some immediate whitening and brightening. But there is one caveat.
Activated charcoal is still slightly abrasive, which can actually start wearing down your enamel. This means that even the best charcoal toothpaste shouldn’t be used every single day. Think of it as a little teeth whitening boost and a much better alternative to popular (and toxic) teeth whitening kits on the market.
If you already have enamel wearing or sensitivity you may want to skip this one. And if you have crowns or veneers, you should probably stay away from this tip entirely.
Activated Charcoal Pills & Your Health
Activated charcoal pills can a nice, natural detox which everyone needs every now and then just from regular day to day living.
For ingestion of poisonous substances, it’s also a good idea to keep charcoal pills on hand in your first aid kit. Of course, it’s not a substitute for seeking medical attention, but it’s still a good idea to have in the house just in case.
Because the reality is that optimal health is not just about putting the good stuff in your body; it’s also about removing the bad stuff from your body.
I want to hear from you! Have you ever used activated charcoal pills to help an acute case of poisoning? What about an overall, general detox? Or maybe you have a powder recipe that has changed your skin, hair, or teeth. Share your experience in a comment below!