The many uses of activated charcoal as a dietary supplement

Recently, activated charcoal has been the talk of the town: You can find it in face masks and other skincare products, teeth whitening products and even food. But what is it exactly, and is it good for you?

Activated charcoal is a fine, orderless, black powder that is produced when a source of carbon, such as wood or coconut shells, is burned. The high temperature eliminates all of the oxygen and leaves a highly absorbent material that has countless tiny pores. These tiny pores capture, bind and remove heavy metals, chemicals, and poisons.

Activated charcoal has many health benefits:

  • Activated charcoal can detoxify the body: Because the charcoal has a negative electrical charge, it attracts positively charged molecules such as toxins and gases. Therefore, when you consume activated charcoal, the toxins and chemicals in your body are trapped in the gut and will not be absorbed. And because the body does not absorb activated charcoal, the toxins and chemicals bound to activated charcoal can be excreted from the body through the digestive system. Activated charcoal can help remove toxins and drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), sedatives, calcium channel blockers, dapsone, carbamazepine, malaria medications, and methylxanthines. (Related: Activated Charcoal: Keep this Inexpensive Miracle Powder in Your Medicine Cabinet.)
  • Activated charcoal can help with hangovers: Activated charcoal is a great natural remedy to relieve hangovers. Consuming activated charcoal will help eliminate alcohol from the body, as well as the toxins that cause headaches and muscle pain.
  • Activated charcoal is a poison antidote: In case of ingestion of a harmful chemical, substance, or poison, use activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is also used to treat overdoses in emergency rooms. It has been used for this purpose since the early 1800s.
  • Activated charcoal keeps the kidneys healthy: Because of its toxin-absorbing properties, activated charcoal can reduce the number of waste products that the kidneys have to filter. This, in turn, helps promote optimal kidney function.
  • Activated charcoal helps lower cholesterol: In addition to toxins and chemicals, activated charcoal also binds with cholesterol and cholesterol-containing bile acids in the gut. This prevents the body from absorbing them, which leads to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Activated charcoal reduces bloating: Although activated charcoal will not make your waist smaller, it will help reduce bloating. This is because it helps cleanse the intestines and colons.

Safety and dosage of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is generally considered safe. However, it may cause unpleasant symptoms or side effects in some people, but these are said to be infrequent and rarely severe. Its potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and black stools. It should also only be used as an emergency antidote for poison in people who are fully conscious. There is a risk that it can go to the lungs instead of the stomach if the person receiving it vomits or is drowsy or semi-conscious. People taking prescription drugs should consult a medical professional first before taking activated charcoal because it may interact with other drugs.

Dosages for different conditions range from 1.5–32 g per day. In case of drug poisoning, a dosage of 50–100 g is given for adults, while children receive 10 to 25 g only.

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