Activated charcoal a.k.a magic black dust has gotten some major hype lately in the media and nutrition world. But the truth is, it's been used in conventional medicine as an effective emergency treatment for certain kinds of poisoning and drug overdoses for more than 150 years! That’s because activated charcoal helps prevent poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body. Think of activated charcoal as a vacuum cleaner. It works by binding or adsorption (process by which molecules in a thin layer adhere to the surfaces of solids and liquids), and pulls out the toxins from the digestive tract, reducing the level of toxicity before it can damage the rest of the body.
What are the benefits?
In addition to removing poison and toxins from the body, activated charcoal can also act as a natural teeth whitener, a face mask, and is claimed to be an effective hangover remedy. “Black Lemonade”, which is typically a mix of activated charcoal, lemon juice, alkaline water and a sweetener has become a popular drink among some juice companies for its detoxifying effects.
Another popular use is to have it on hand while travelling and consuming potentially contaminated food. Along with taking a high quality probiotic to optimize your gut bacteria and prevent digestive problems, activated charcoal is a great remedy as it binds to toxins from the contaminated food, allowing them to be excreted from the body. (Note: Do not take activated charcoal with any other medications or supplements as it binds to everything! As with taking any supplement or over the counter remedies, consult with your healthcare provider and read the label for recommended dosage).
How do you use it?
For consumption, activated charcoal typically comes in capsule form (or powder in the case of "Black Lemonade"). The powder can also be added to make a DIY face mask or toothpaste, otherwise store-bought options exist as well.
We do have two caveats if you feel like experimenting with activated charcoal:
1. Activated charcoal is NOT the same as the charcoal used in your BBQ grill which is highly toxic and should never ever be consumed. Additionally, when choosing an activated charcoal supplement be mindful of the source. Choose organic activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources.
2. Whenever taking activated charcoal it is absolutely imperative to drink plenty of water, think 12-16 cups of water a day to prevent possible dehydration and constipation that could be caused as result of taking this supplement.