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Activated Charcoal: What Is It Used For? What Are The Benefits & Risks?

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There’s a lot of information out there on activated charcoal. Some say it’s healthy, while some say it’s harmful. Find out the truth in this article!

RELATED: 3 Obscure Ways To Use Activated Charcoal For Your Body

Everything You Need to Know About Activated Charcoal

What Is Activated Charcoal?

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Activated carbon (also known as activated charcoal) is a well-known antidote as it absorbs most organic toxins, chemicals, and poisons before they can harm the body. Common charcoal is made from peat, coal, wood, petroleum, or coconut shell. Activated charcoal supplements are similar to common charcoal but they’re made and used as medicine.

Activated charcoal is gaining a lot of attention in the health and detox world. So it’s good to fully understand what it is, how it can be used, the benefits, and the drawbacks.

It’s important not to get sucked into anything just because it’s trendy – be sure to always do your own research and understand what you’re consuming and why.

How Is Activated Charcoal Used?

  • Brush your teeth with crushed charcoal or activated charcoal powder and water to whiten teeth
  • Swallow activated charcoal pills if you ingest household chemicals, a toxic substance, or any types of toxins
  • Baking soda and activated charcoal mixed together to help bug bites
  • Reduces gas, bloating,
  • Treats alcohol poisoning
  • Water filtration
  • Anti-aging by preventing cellular damage
  • Reduces high cholesterol levels

Health Benefits of Taking Activated Charcoal

  • Gets rid of toxins in your body
  • Relieves bee stings and bites
  • Reduces acne
  • Improves skin health
  • Whitens teeth and removes plaque
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Reduces or eliminates gas
  • Removes bad breath

Uses for Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal can be used for many reasons, some of which are:

  • Poisoning
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Gas
  • Cancer
  • Bile Flow Improvement (in pregnancy)
  • Wound healing
  • Kidney disease
  • Indigestion
  • Food poisoning

Negative Effects of Activated Charcoal

Sometimes, while taking activated charcoal for medical reasons, there can be some unwanted effects that can occur.

Less common or rare ones are pain or swelling inside of your stomach, vomiting, and constipation. A more common symptom while using activated charcoal is diarrhea.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then you need to seek medical attention. You’ll also pass black stools while taking this medicine but don't be alarmed, that won't do any harm.

The Good and Bad About Drinking Charcoal – Beware of These Claims!

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What are the real health benefits of using activated charcoal products? If you plan to buy activated charcoal, you need to know how to differentiate between myths and facts.

Here are the most common health claims most brands make when selling activated charcoal capsules, powder, and supplements:

1. Detoxifies Your Body

The claims are that drinking organic activated charcoal pulls toxins from the body and can be a strong detoxifier.

However, strong detox isn't always a good thing for your body. When you take something that detoxes your body, your body also loses nutrients in the process.

So if you go on a cleansing program, make sure you still consume the necessary nutrients and minerals to maintain normal bodily functions. Otherwise, your cleanse will do more harm than good.

2. Gives You a Flat Stomach

The claim is drinking charcoal helps cleanse the intestine and your colon, which helps get rid of bloating.

Sadly, charcoal does not burn fat and won't make you have a slimmer body. It can just help with bloating and help you fit into your clothing a bit better.

If you want to lose weight, then you need to combine using activated charcoal with proper diet and regular exercise.

Exercising burns fat and tones muscles, while dieting feeds your body the nutrients it needs. Using activated charcoal rids the body of toxins and chemicals.

RELATED: DIY Activated Charcoal Toothpaste

3. Cures Hangovers

The claim is that the strong cleansing properties in activated charcoal helps remove toxins from your bloodstream and liver, but it does not absorb any of the alcohol left in your system.

So many people believe this helps your head in the morning, but it only minimally helps get rid of that headache from last night’s drinking.

If you want to avoid getting a hangover, make sure you drink a few glasses of ice-cold water before you sleep and remember to take your multivitamins. The activated charcoal might help cleanse the body of impurities, but it won’t do much in easing that throbbing headache.

Of course, if you don’t want to get a hangover, then remember to drink in moderation. Know your tolerance, what drinks to avoid, and when to stop drinking.

4. Energy Boosting

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Activated charcoal does not get your heart racing and get you pumped up and ready for anything. When your body gets rid of toxins and oxidants, this increases the energy level in your body and improves your overall health, which activated charcoal helps with.

You can take activated charcoal to help, but there are other natural ways to boost your energy levels even higher.

5. Removes Poison

Can activated charcoal treat overdosing? Well, the answer is both yes and no.

Activated charcoal does have toxic-absorbing compounds, but you need to use the right amount, or it won’t have any effect. Also, do not attempt to perform any emergency poison treatment procedure using activated charcoal if you do not have any professional experience.

Simply put, activated charcoal only becomes effective in treating poisoning if the procedure is performed by a professional.

Although you can use it to treat mild food or toxin poisoning, do not forget to visit a medical professional immediately after that.

6. Filtering Water

Yes, you can use activated charcoal or charcoal briquettes as water filters. It can effectively absorb the harmful toxins, minerals, and contaminants in your drinking water to make it safe for consumption.

7. Whitening Teeth

There are plenty of activated charcoal-based toothpaste solutions available on the market nowadays.

But is there any truth to their teeth-whitening claims? The answer: yes!

The chemical properties of charcoal have a whitening effect and it does pull plaque from your teeth. Less plaque means less stains which means whiter teeth. For best results, make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day and avoid things that stain your teeth such as cigarettes and coffee.

Learn how to make a powerful hydrating drink using Liquid Light in this video from Sunwarrior:

Just like with anything, approach activated charcoal with caution. Do your research, know what you are consuming and why.

There are always benefits, and sometimes drawbacks, to almost anything. Activated charcoal can certainly be beneficial, in the right context, but go in fully informed!

Do you have any questions on how to use activated charcoal? Post them in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 20, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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