A derivative of carbon, charcoal is commonly used in many homes to remove chlorine from water, in works of art, to get rid of unpleasant odors and in barbeques. When charcoal has oxygen added to it to increase porosity, it becomes activated charcoal. Activated charcoal has an expanded surface area, which enhances its ability to absorb chemicals in its surface. Activated charcoal is used for many medical and beauty purposes, it is also referred to as the universal antidote. (Citiation). Recent ads by many beauty products companies have made activated charcoal quite popular with the masses. Let us learn more about it in this article.
What is activated charcoal?
When charcoal is combined with oxygen at very high temperatures, the pores decrease in size but expand the surface area. Activated charcoal is basically a black powder, which is more porous than the normal charcoal. Now, the charcoal that is used at homes commonly for cooking is not processed and hence should not be used for any other purposes. Plus, it contains many toxic substances that are unfit for human consumption.
How do I make activated charcoal?
If you are looking to make activated charcoal by yourself, you will need to cook normal charcoal in temperatures ranging from 900 and 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, this can be somewhat difficult to achieve. However, for using activated charcoal for medicinal and beauty purpose, you should derive the charcoal from natural sources, like wood or coconut shells. The below steps can help you make your own batch of activated charcoal –
- Wash the coconut shells and let them dry completely. If using wood, make sure the wood is clean and dry.
- Burn the natural source in a sink or iron dish at a temperature of about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours till all you see is complete ash.
- If you do not get a powder (which you may not) go ahead and powder the chunk completely. The smallest the charcoal pieces, the better.
- You will need a 25% solution of Calcium chloride. Add one part of Calcium chloride to 3 parts water and keep it separate.
- Now add this solution to the powdered charcoal and bring to a paste-like consistency. Let the ash stay in the solution for about one day.
- Remove the paste and spread it evenly to dry.
- Rinse the dried paste with clean water to remove traces of the chemical solution. Allow the water to drain for about an hour.
- Now bake the charcoal in an oven for 2-3 hours at 215 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, remove the activated charcoal from the oven.
- Again, make the activated charcoal as a powder by gently hammering. The finer the particles, the better the activated charcoal.
- Store the powder in airtight bags until required for use.
Benefits of Activated Charcoal
The most popular use of activated charcoal is for treating people who may have ingested poisonous or toxic substances. Activated charcoal is also used for treating cases of drug overdoses. Some other common uses of activated charcoal are-
1. Whitening teeth
If you are looking for an all-natural solution for getting rid of stains on your teeth, then your search ends with activated charcoal. Just dip a wet toothbrush in powdered charcoal and start brushing your teeth normally. Rinse your mouth till the spit runs clear.
2. Treating gas and bloating
Taking some activated charcoal before eating a meal that is likely to cause gas and bloating with a glass full of water can alleviate the symptoms. Activated charcoal binds together the gas producing elements and eliminates them from the body. Do seek your doctor’s advice for the dosage, though 500 milligrams should be considered fine.
3. Treating acne
Get beautiful acne-free skin by using activated charcoal as a soap for cleaning your face. It can pull in the excess oils and dirt leaving your skin clear and smooth. However, if you have a dry skin, do not use it or use it only as a spot treatment lest the skin becomes overdry.
4. Boosting digestive health
Activated charcoal can help you take a detox by eliminating the toxins from your body and cleanse the digestive tract. Removal of toxins can help boost your immunity, reduce joint pains and gain overall health.
5. As an anti-aging agent
Premature or early aging is a result of toxin build up in the body. Activated charcoal can help get rid of toxins from the major organs like kidneys and liver. As the body gets cleansed, healthy adrenal glands get a boost and aging takes a pause.
6. Reducing high cholesterol
Some studies conclude that activated charcoal can bind together bile acids that contain cholesterol and cholesterol itself in the gut. This prevents the body from absorbing it. Total and bad cholesterol seemed to drop in people who took 4-32 grams of activated charcoal daily. (Citiation). However, to actually back the claim, recent studies on the subject are not available.
7. As a hair mask
Just like activated charcoal rids the skin of dust, toxins and excess oil, it does the same for hair as well. Running a patch test is recommended. Activated charcoal can be used on the hair like a shampoo, though you may need to rinse it several times so that color gets out.
8. Treating skin irritations, cuts and insect bites
Topical application of activated charcoal can help in quick recovery from minor skin irritants and injuries like insect bites, stings, cuts etc. Activated charcoal also helps in providing relief from symptoms like swelling, pain, and irritation.
How do activated charcoal tablets work?
Activated charcoal is available as pills and tablets and can be taken orally or used topically. If you are ingesting the tablets, swallow them whole without chewing them. Drink ample water as activated charcoal can cause dehydration and constipation. These tablets work by getting into the body and binding the toxins together before getting flushed from the system. This happens because the porous texture of activated charcoal is negatively charged, and it attracts or binds all positively charged molecules like gases and toxins. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body and thus can help the trapped toxins out of the body during excretion.
Can activated charcoal help you lose weight?
There are many people who believe that ingesting activated charcoal get help in weight loss. Detox diets with activated charcoal help bind the toxins in the stomach and flush them out. However, the point to note here is that though activated charcoal does flush out toxins, the weight loss may also happen due to the fasting that these diets call for. Several researchers believe that detox diets do not really help in losing weight directly, but because they call for consumption of lesser calories and have diet restrictions, one may notice the scale going down.
What precautions should be exercised when using activated charcoal?
Long-term administered use of activated charcoal can cause side effects such as –
- Black stools or black tongue
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Interference with prescription medicines
Any pre-existing medical condition like intestinal blockages or something for which an abdominal surgery was recently conducted needs to be discussed with the doctor. Always consume activated charcoal at least 90 minutes before taking any prescribed medicines or meal. Seek your doctor’s advice for potential drug interactions. Always use activated charcoal that is made from natural resources and is fit for human consumption.