6 Activated Charcoal Benefits (incl. Detox) & Side Effects
In 1831, a French researcher named Tovery openly swallowed a deadly dose of strychnine and walked off with no ill effects. And this wasn’t any hint: continue reading to learn more about how activated charcoal saves lives each day — and some of its less dramatic potential benefits.
What is Activated Charcoal?
Charcoal is usually wood which has had nearly everything burned out of it: all the water and volatile compounds are eliminated through slow, dry heat, leaving only carbon behind.
Activated charcoal is a bit different: during production, it is exposed to any one of many chemicals that make tiny bubbles and pores on its surface. This process increases the surface area of the charcoal, thus increasing its capacity to bind to or adsorb different compounds. This reaction and absorption capacity is why we call it activated.
Carbon, the sixth element in the periodic table, is the most crucial component of well-prepared activated charcoal. It may form bonds using heavy metals, volatile gases, and other poisons.
Many filtration systems include a layer of activated charcoal to bind heavy metals and prevent contamination with germs.
Individuals have used activated charcoal to endure poisoning since the heyday of early Egyptian culture. In 1831, 1 guy by the name of Tovery stood before the French Academy of Medicine, took a lethal dose of strychnine, and lived.
He swallowed a big dose of activated charcoal in precisely the exact same moment. The charcoal adsorbed the strychnine in his belly and intestines, preventing it from penetrating his bloodstream.
- Stops poisoning and overdoses
- Supports liver and kidney function
- May encourage digestive health
- May lower cholesterol
- May encourage oral health
- Promotes wound healing
- Considered very secure
- May Lead to nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- May bind to and inactivate drugs
- May stop nutrient absorption
For Poisoning & Overdose
Activated charcoal has been a well-known antidote for poison for centuries; the early Egyptians may have been the first to use charcoal for this purpose.
It has been utilized as a “universal antidote” for decades.
Activated charcoal has a special capability: it binds to a lot of drugs and toxins in the intestine. This habit prevents them from crossing into the blood, where they might have damaging effects.
As a result, activated charcoal is regarded as an extremely helpful antidote to a variety of toxins and a remedy for overdose with specific medications.
Overdose and Poisoning
In contemporary medicine, activated charcoal was used to help people suffering from overdose and poisoning. Compounds that have been cleared with aluminum include:
- Alcohols (ethanol, methanol and ethylene glycol)
- The drug of abuse phencyclidine (PCP, also Called angel dust)
- Sedatives like phenobarbital and benzodiazepines such as Xanax
- Drugs such as digoxin and theophylline
- Valproate, used for epilepsy and bipolar disorder
- Datura berry (jimsonweed)
Certain medications, such as PCP, remain in the body for a long time. The liver processes PCP and excretes it into the intestine with bile; it may then be emptied back into the blood vessels. Individuals who have overdosed on PCP may be given several doses of activated charcoal to catch the drug as it moves from the liver back into the gut.
Activated charcoal is more effective the sooner it is taken following an overdose. In some areas of the Earth, paramedics are licensed to give activated charcoal in the ambulance to shorten the period between overdose and therapy.
The Most Important Thing
While activated charcoal is a significant detoxifying compound, it isn’t suitable for many toxins, all overdoses, or even all sufferers.
Don’t attempt to self-administer activated charcoal for poisoning or overdose unless directed to do so by a professional. If you imagine you’ve overdosed, call poison control immediately and follow their instructions.
Does it Function for Detox?
Should you suspect that your water or food is contaminated with specific substances, activated charcoal may prevent your body from absorbing them. As an instance, it binds to many common water pollutants and to aflatoxin B1, a fungal toxin made by Aspergillus molds.
Activated charcoal may be beneficial sometimes, but keep something in mind: it does its function in the digestive tract, therefore it can only “detox” the digestive system.
Once toxins and toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream, activated charcoal is not as useful. That is why it’s so important for caregivers to provide activated charcoal over the first hour following poisoning.
Plus, activated charcoal also binds to vitamins from the gut. Using it lasting may prevent the body from getting all the nutrients it needs.
Bottom line? Activated charcoal can prevent your body from absorbing damaging toxins and pollutants, but there are better choices for regular use.
Potential Benefits of Activated Charcoal
The FDA hasn’t approved activated charcoal for any health purpose or medical maintain. Furthermore, certain authorities (like New York City) have actually banned activated charcoal as a food additive and characterized foods containing activated charcoal as “adulterated.”
All these are important caveats to keep in mind if you are seeking to use activated charcoal for health reasons. We recommend speaking to your doctor before using activated charcoal.
Insufficient Proof For
1) Kidney and Liver Function
The kidneys and liver are all our detoxifying organs: they filter drugs, toxins, and wastes out of our blood and clear them from our bodies.
Some researchers assert that, by binding to toxins from the digestive tract, activated gas prevents them from entering the bloodstream, which decreases the amount of work left into the kidneys. In conjunction with a low-protein diet, activated charcoal improved symptoms and reduced the demand for dialysis in elderly people with kidney failure.
Cholestasis is a state wherein the bile can’t flow from the liver. As a result, bile builds up in the liver and causes severe itching, jaundice, and eventual damage to the liver and immune system.
Cholestasis is relatively common during pregnancy. In 1 study, the vast majority of pregnant women given activated charcoal had significantly decreased bile acid buildup, though itching symptoms did not enhance.
More studies must ascertain whether activated charcoal is actually powerful against cholestasis.
2) Digestive Health
Some people today believe that activated charcoal can reduce bloating, by simply lowering the amount of gas produced by the gut flora or by directly binding this gas.
In one study of nearly a hundred people, individuals who took activated charcoal had better results in their hydrogen breath tests and reported fewer symptoms of abdominal cramps and bloating.
More lately, end-of-life physicians and physicians have revived their fascination with activated charcoal.
In palliative care research, activated charcoal enhanced diarrhea and enhanced quality of life in older people. Researchers still haven’t researched this claim in additional clinical trials.
Some early research suggests that activated charcoal reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) and raised good cholesterol (HDL).
From the 1980s, three little clinical studies showed a significant decrease in LDL after 3-4 weeks. These results were supported by mobile and animal research; however, researchers have not replicated or enlarged these trials in recent years.
4) Oral Health
Many activated charcoal products are labeled with claims of being the perfect toothpaste, able to whiten the teeth, protect the enamel, and clear toxins from the mouth area.
Unfortunately, the evidence is mixed: in a review of over a hundred articles, researchers discovered that toothpaste containing activated charcoal did not necessarily clean better than conventional toothpaste.
But these results may depend on the type and quality of the charcoal merchandise.
One study researched toothbrushes with fingernails made from a charcoal and nylon combination, which are very popular in south-east Asia. Charcoal bristles let less bacterial growth than regular bristles, supporting claims that charcoal is antimicrobial.
If these results could be repeated, charcoal bristle toothbrushes may assist in preventing gingivitis.
A current study compared activated charcoal to other home whitening treatments and to a whitening toothpaste. Activated charcoal significantly whitened teeth; however, this study did not investigate any of their home remedies’ impacts on the enamel surface or on how long the color improvement lasted.
The Most Important Thing
Although recent studies have been promising, more evidence is required to support claims that activated charcoal considerably whitens teeth or improves oral health.
Despite this, much charcoal-based toothpaste, teeth cleaning goods, and dental powders have flooded the marketplace. These are advertised for”oral detoxification,” antibacterial action, and much more. These are probably safe to use, however, don’t expect miraculous teeth-whitening.
Charcoal toothpaste also has a rather obvious”dark” side: Unlike walnut bristle toothbrushes, commercially available or home-made toothpaste with charcoal may temporarily leave black spots on the tongue.
5) Wound Healing
Activated charcoal — with or without silver is occasionally included in lotions for chronic wounds like stress ulcers.
In one study, ulcers dressed with aluminum treated better than individuals with different additives. Researchers suggest that activated charcoal may have the ability to eliminate fluids and bacterial toxins in the wound, thus encouraging recovery.
In individuals with extensive blisters and skin loss, activated charcoal and baking soda may also significantly decrease odor.
How Does Activated Charcoal Bind Toxins?
Each quadrant of carbon can bond to up to four different atoms. In charcoal, most carbon atoms are bound to other carbon atoms, but the electrons on the surface are exposed and available to bind chemical compounds. This surface binding is called adsorption.
The very high surface area and complicated shape of activated charcoal make it absorb more effectively than common charcoal.
The microscopic shape of this substance is so complex that 50 grams of very high quality activated charcoal can have a total surface area of roughly 175,000 square meters. As an example, the typical football field has a surface area of 5,351 square meters.
Safety & Side Effects
Accidentally breathing activated charcoal may be the most serious potential threat associated with its usage; in 1 instance, a middle-aged man breathed activated charcoal into his lungs and died as a result. This event is infrequent, however, and also the benefits of activated charcoal much outweigh the dangers of its usage in overdose and poisoning.
Other possible risks related to activated charcoal include corneal abrasion: that’s, scratches on the surface of the eye. If preparing face masks or toothpaste out of activated charcoal powder at home, make certain to keep it away from your eyes to avoid this threat.
To avoid complications, people with damaged respiratory or gastrointestinal systems shouldn’t take activated charcoal.
People with variegated porphyria (a rare hereditary illness ) can experience skin disorder worsening after taking activated charcoal and should, therefore, avoid carrying it unless directed by a medical professional or poison control.
Individuals who take activated charcoal from mouth occasionally experience constipation, electrolyte imbalance, nausea, or vomiting.
Pneumonia was reported as a rare complication in people treated for an overdose with activated charcoal.
In order to prevent constipation, individuals are frequently given activated charcoal in a sorbitol solution. Sorbitol is a laxative and helps the charcoal pass through the intestine, but it might decrease the overall effectiveness of this charcoal.
Children and Pregnant Girls
Activated charcoal is used in children and pregnant women in the exact same manner as in the remainder of the populace, though children are likely to get smaller doses. Pregnant women with cholestasis are sometimes given activated charcoal to help clear bile acid from the liver, even though this benefit hasn’t yet been confirmed [49, 29].
Dogs and cats
The low carb sweetener xylitol is a biotoxin to dogs. Some studies and anecdotal evidence have indicated that activated charcoal is helpful in dogs that have eaten xylitol. Activated charcoal may also be used to treat poisoning in cats.
No studies have investigated whether activated charcoal can reap healthy pets. Because of this, we recommend strongly against giving your pets activated charcoal unless directed by a veterinarian or poison control.
Activated charcoal prevents many medicines from functioning properly because it binds them in the intestine and prevents them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
If the signs of a drug can be treated with activated charcoal, then that drug will not work in the presence of activated charcoal because it’ll be absorbed before it can cross into the bloodstream. These include common painkillers like Tylenol and antidepressants like sertraline.
Your doctor may suggest taking activated charcoal at least 2 hours before or 1 hour after any medication or supplements to avoid interactions. To prevent any negative effects or unanticipated interactions, consult your doctor before using activated charcoal.
Commercial Forms (Pills, Powder) & Dosage
Activated charcoal is largely available in powder or capsule form.
If you plan on eating the charcoal, read the label carefully. To safely ingest activated charcoal in its powdered form, mix the suggested dose into a glass of water, then drink it, then drink another glass of plain water. Practice the direction of a doctor or poison control carefully in the event you’re directed to use activated charcoal.
Note that some charcoal goods, like tooth scrubs, can include different ingredients such as calcium bentonite oil or herbal extracts. As these are not toxic, they can change the effect of activated charcoal in a way that has not been studied.
Some products will list the origin of the charcoal (often coconut shells, but occasionally various kinds of timber ). If the activated charcoal has been well-prepared, the source should not matter: everything except carbon has already been burned away.
There’s not any safe and effective dose of activated charcoal for whatever except overdose because no sufficiently powered study was conducted to find one. Commercial activated charcoal goods generally advocate between 1 and 3 grams of activated charcoal every day.
In elderly men and women, lower doses of approximately 250 — 750 mg/day were utilized to ease constipation.
However, studies on charcoal as a digestive aid for individuals with impaired bile flow or high cholesterol typically used doses of 24 to 40 grams daily.
The standard dose of charcoal given after poisoning or drug overdose is 50 to 100 grams.
Limitations and Caveats
Activated charcoal is a well-established antidote for poison and overdose, however much of the research on its usage and mechanics is a few decades old. In particular, its purported benefits (for instance, supporting digestive health and lowering cholesterol) haven’t been fully investigated.
Recent business interest in activated charcoal as a”cleansing” has generated a minor resurgence, but the proof is still lacking in several locations. By way of instance, claims of improved skin health are scientifically unfounded and have yet to be investigated.
Most people who often take activated charcoal do this for gas and bloating; the majority of reviews are extremely positive. Many people report feeling better over half an hour of taking activated charcoal for gasoline. Some reported side effects such as abdominal pain and constipation; rarely, activated charcoal could worsen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Many people took activated charcoal to help with the symptoms of food poisoning and reported it did not help with their own pain, bloating, or nausea.
Certain activated charcoal products had considerably higher average ratings than others. Go through the reviews to recognize the highest quality products, and talk with your physician before using activated charcoal to avoid unwanted side effects or interactions.
Activated charcoal is a special type of charcoal using an extremely high surface area which enables it to bind to the majority of toxins and drugs in the gut, preventing them from becoming absorbed into the blood. It’s been an effective antidote when taken within one hour of the majority of poisonings and overdoses. It might even have more mundane health benefits, like supporting liver and kidney function, but these are not well studied and the signs are deemed inadequate to support its use.
Some early studies suggest it might lower cholesterol. It may also encourage oral health, whiten teeth, and even help chronic wounds stay clean and cure. Activated charcoal is thought to be very safe, even though it can absorb nutrients, drugs, and other beneficial compounds if taken at the identical time.
The most common side effect is constipation, followed by nausea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance, and pneumonia (from inhaling the powder). Activated charcoal can prevent most drugs from working; avoid it if you are on an important supportive medicine or seek advice from your doctor.