The Benefits of Activated Charcoal You Didn’t Know About

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM


Benefits of activated charcoal in a spoonDid you know nature has provided us with almost everything we need medicinally? Buried deep within many plants are cures to numerous common and some not so common ailments. Amazingly, many of these plants provide us with more than just one benefit. They cure and nourish, thereby providing us with natural ways to keep our health at an optimal level without side effects. For example, there are over a dozen benefits of activated charcoal from teeth whitening to digestion. With proper usage, the benefits of activated charcoal are quite literally astonishing.

At one time, people looked to pharmaceuticals to address all their health conditions. Some really great quick fixes have been developed, helping many people. However, the vast majority of people have forgotten about nature and rely too heavily on medicine rather than practicing a healthy lifestyle. In addition, many prescription drugs have harmful side effects and should be avoided, if possible. Thankfully, there has a been a switch in recent years and more consumers are now turning to alternative health care.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is not the soot on your grill after you barbeque but is most commonly derived from bamboo, wood, coal, or coconut shells that are burned without oxygen to create char, which then undergoes a multi-level process to become ?activated.? The char is heated to high temperatures and exposed to a gas, creating an extremely porous surface. The enlarged surface area of the activated molecules can then bind to certain substances, a process called adsorption–the adhesion of an extremely thin layer of molecules, gases, solids or liquids, to the surface of another solid or liquid as they come into contact. The term ?adsorption? should not be confused with ?absorption?, as they are two different reactions. The adsorption process is where all the benefits of activated charcoal are derived from.

The History of Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal practices, dating back to 1550 BC. Oddly, it is one of the rare treatments that both modern conventional medicine and ancient traditional medicine agree upon, used by both traditions as a natural and safe way to remove toxins, chemicals, and poisons from the body. However, the benefits of activated charcoal go far beyond poison control.

The Benefits of Activated Charcoal

With the purchase of a single bottle of activated charcoal, you will have treatments for many common health and household issues. True activated charcoal is non-toxic, odorless, and tasteless, and should be readily available in the medicine cabinet of every home.

Here are some of the benefits of activated charcoal you may not know:

Poison Control

The first thing to do if you or a family member accidentally ingests poison is of course call 9-1-1 or poison control. The second thing to do is use your activated charcoal. It could save your life. Most organic compounds, pesticides, fertilizers, metals, and even bleach will bind to the surface of activated charcoal, preventing absorption of the toxins into the body. Activated charcoal is also effective in binding aspirin, opium, cocaine, morphine, acetaminophen, and can also be used in cases of food poisoning.

In 1831, a professor at the French Academy of Medicine purposely drank a lethal amount of strychnine and experienced no ill effects whatsoever, which he attributed to combining the poison with the charcoal. After this incident, the world of modern medicine became aware of the benefits of activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal should be administered as soon as possible after ingesting poison, but proper dosing is required. A study from the University of Michigan Health System recommends 50 – 100 g for adults and 10 – 25 g for children. For food poisoning, it is recommended that adults take 25 g at the onset, and children take 10 g.

Teeth Whitening

Benefits of activated charcoal - whitening your teethOral Hygiene is an extremely important part of an individual?s overall health. Not only does activated charcoal help whiten teeth, it changes the pH balance of the mouth, helping to prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum disease.

To whiten your teeth, dip a moistened toothbrush into a container of activated charcoal and brush as normal, then sip some water, swish, and rinse until clear. It is recommended that you brush your teeth with activated charcoal 2 – 3 times per week. However, exercise caution if you have crowns, caps, or veneers as the charcoal may stain them.

Mold Removal, Detox, and Cleansing

If you or your family suffer from unexplained wheezing, rashes, watery eyes, coughing, or headaches, you could be suffering from a toxic mold reaction and should have your home inspected immediately. Mold may or may not be visible but can often cause serious, often unexplainable, symptoms. Severe toxic mold symptoms can include depression, respiratory distress, kidney and liver failure, cognitive dysfunction, heart disease, and an impaired immune system. It is not something to leave unremedied.

Activated charcoal can be used to cleanse the body of toxic mold. Environmental factors such as mold, pesticides, and chemicals in our drinking water, are a huge burden on the body. Therefore, routinely cleansing our system and digestive tract can aid in removing toxins to support optimal health.

To perform a detox cleanse with activated charcoal, take 10 g at least 90 minutes before each meal for two consecutive days. Be sure to drink plenty of water.

Support Healthy Organs and Adrenal Glands

By routinely flushing our bodies of toxins and chemicals, charcoal prevents cellular damage to organs including the kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands. Being overloaded with toxins can burden our bodies leading to debilitating and often chronic diseases such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Toxins can also hinder recovery from health issues.

For those suffering from advanced stages of a disease like AFS, caution is required when performing any type of detox since the body will be extremely sensitive to foreign substances, and can often reject even the healthiest of supplements. However, there are a number of options available for reaping the benefits of activated charcoal to suit the needs of each individual. In fact, even clothing made of activated charcoal can be use as a gentle detox, and is useful in sensitive cases and could be an excellent option for those seeking a more subtle approach.

Stop Premature Aging

Keeping all of our organs and glands healthy and operating efficiently can prevent premature aging. Although aging is a natural process, overloading the body with toxins often leads to inflammation, cell degeneration, premature wrinkles, reduced cognition, and other age-related ailments. Basically, the more toxins you have in your body, the quicker you age.

Regulate Cholesterol

Studies around the world have demonstrated that the benefits of activated charcoal are equal to those of prescription cholesterol medications. Moreover, the use of activated charcoal has been shown to increase good cholesterol in the body while decreasing bad cholesterol by 25% in just four weeks.

For regulating cholesterol, 8 g of activated charcoal three times a day is suggested. Do not take the charcoal within 90 minutes of taking any other medication or supplement as it can interfere with their absorption rates.

Reduce Bloating and Gas

Benefits of activated charcoal pillYou can put aside the Tums, or any other chemical-laden over-the-counter substance you might be taking for stomach discomfort, and reach for activated charcoal.

You have a few options to relieve bloating and gas. Activated charcoal can be taken in capsule, liquid, or powder form and since it is tasteless, can be mixed into a non-acidic juice of your preference. Tablet and capsule forms are the least expensive and often the best investment, since you can open the capsule and use the powder for other things, such as teeth whitening or as a body scrub, or even relieving itchy bug bites.

Health and Beauty Uses

Due to the benefits of activated charcoal, it can now be found as an ingredient in beauty supplies everywhere you look–facial masks and cleansers, shampoos, and makeup. Activated charcoal can remove dirt, build-up, and skin impurities.

To make a cleanser, you can mix half a teaspoon of activated charcoal with an all natural organic face wash, then gently scrub, rinse, and pat dry. If you suffer from acne, mix one capsule of activated charcoal with two teaspoons of aloe vera, and smooth evenly over the face. Once dry, rinse well. You can also use this combination to correct blemishes. For hair, add half a teaspoon to your shampoo and lather.

Alleviate Bug Bites and External Skin Irritation

Activated charcoal is just as good externally as it is internally. It can be used for many types of skin ailments–from body odor to insect and snake bites to rashes from poison ivy or oak, the benefits of activated charcoal are numerous.

For insect bites, mix one capsule with half a teaspoon of coconut oil and gently cover the affected region. You can re-apply the mixture every half an hour until the discomfort or itching has been relieved.

For larger skin irritations, use a large piece of fabric to act as a bandage, spread the activated charcoal mixture onto it, wrap it around the affected area twice, and secure. Re-wrap the area every 2-3 hours with a good rinse in between.

Side Effects of Activated Charcoal

Benefits of activated charcoal for gas and bloating - broken pillWhile there are numerous benefits of activated charcoal, listed above, and it can be used safely by most people, it is important to understand that there are some medical conditions, such as intestinal bleeding, blockages, or irregular digestion, recent abdominal surgery, or chronic dehydration, which may interfere with activated charcoal.

In general, those suffering from AFS, particularly the advanced stages, do not fair well on detox programs. In some cases, detox plans can trigger an adrenal crash as the body may be too weak to tolerate the activated charcoal.

In addition, activated charcoal must be taken when the stomach is empty 90 minutes to 2 hours before a meal, prescription medications, or other supplements. Otherwise, it will interfere with food and drug absorption rates and deplete vitamins and minerals.

It is suggested that activated charcoal supplements should not be taken daily and only ?as needed?, and must also be taken with a huge amount of water to avoid constipation and help flush out toxins.

In summary, activated charcoal offers numerous health benefits and should be a staple in every household medicine cabinet. However, it should be taken with care when suffering from AFS or other medical disorders.

? Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

There are many benefits of activated charcoal that people who suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome can take advantage of. However, they must exert caution when taking this product as it could lead to adrenal crashes if the illness has progressed to more advanced stages.


Benefits of Activated Charcoal