Allow me to reintroduce you to carbon—or, its more common alias: “activated charcoal”. It may someday save your life or that of someone you love. A potent therapeutic concoction, activated charcoal is primarily used in trauma centers worldwide to safely and effectively treat drug overdose and poisoning. It’s a treatment that traps and then flushes out toxins and chemicals from the body; the best types of activated charcoal are created from natural sources such as coconut shells. The powder's benefits have been renown since olden times, with ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese physicians recommending its use for medicinal purposes.
In case of emergency toxin and poison removal
Apparently no one considered coconut activated charcoal powder when they stumbled across the bodies of Romeo and Juliet—or perhaps it was too late. In our day and age, it is essential to call 911 immediately in case of poisoning; at the emergency room or clinic, a treatment based on activated charcoal may be administered, at the necessary doses and with the correct procedures. While it is not recommended for cyanide, iron and lithium, or certain acids that quickly damage internal tissues, activated charcoal can prevent the gastrointestinal absorption of pesticides, mercury, lead, pharmaceutical drugs, chlorine, and several other chemicals. Activated charcoal was even placed in gas masks during WWI, effectively counteracting poison gas.[i]
The therapeutic potential of activated charcoal appears very high, and there is much published evidence that comes from studies with volunteers, who have shown that repeated doses of activated charcoal increased the elimination of amitriptyline, carbamesepine, dapsone, doxepin, digoxin, digotoxin, phenobarbitone, phenytoin, and so forth, but contradicting reports show doubtful benefits. In some situations, regardless, research does show that activated charcoal may be more effective than alternative treatments such as gastric lavage (stomach pumping) for flushing out poison.[ii]
To deodorize, disinfect, and filter
You’ve heard of mold inside homes, but mold in your body? It can exist, and it’s often the culprit of kidney and liver failure, heart disease, impaired immune system functions, severe respiratory distress, and decreased brain function. These mold spores can travel within your body from the confines of your home; flooded and poorly ventilated homes are quite prone to mold growth: even if not visible, mold may be thriving beneath your floor, inside your ventilation ducts, and even behind the drywall. You can cleanse mold naturally with treatments including baking soda, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar—and coconut activated charcoal powder.
Just as it can provide a digestive detox within our bodies, activated charcoal can serve as an excellent filter for your water supply by helping to trap some major impurities which include solvents, industrial waste, pesticide, and fluoride. It can be stirred in water and consumed or applied topically to the skin’s surface (for instance, to draw out toxins from a wound); the powder achieves its full potency after about a minute of absorption. Its benefits have been cited as fighting against anything from malaria, liver disease, and leaky gut syndrome to poison ivy, radiation poisoning, pink eye, heart disease, and acute psychotic mania.[iii]
For that million-dollar smile
This helps explain, in part, why ancient civilizations managed to retain their teeth (for the most part) without today’s vast array of toothbrushes and toothpastes. They used miswak, licorice sticks, and carbon (among other natural treatments). It’s said that no chemical teeth whitening solution can come close to the brightening action and gentle treatment of carbon, sans all the carcinogens, sulfates, and petroleum-based dyes enclosed within those shiny colorful tubes.[iv]
Brushing your teeth with carbon may result in a blackened mouth (while you’re brushing) and a messy sink—so it may certainly seem like a paradox—but the result is worthwhile. It adsorbs plaque, tannins, and toxins that stain your teeth (especially coffee and wine stains), normalizes the pH balance of the mouth, and prevents bad breath and gum disease. Just make sure to rinse very thoroughly. Note, too, that the charcoal may stain your crowns or porcelain veneers if you have any; also refrain from use if your teeth become sensitive.[v] For best results, use twice or thrice a week.
To alleviate gas, bloating, and heart conditions
Want to fit back into those jeans you wore so well just yesterday? Coconut activated charcoal steps up to bat, as further shown in clinical trials in both the U.S. and India. By binding the gas-causing byproducts in foods that cause bloating and discomfort, activated charcoal can thus prevent or reduce intestinal gas as well as abdominal cramps and pains.[vi] Dr. Axe recommends taking 500 milligrams an hour before the meal with two full glasses of water.[vii]
Coconut activated charcoal’s benefits can extend beyond your stomach and intestines. It can also be used to safely treat bile flow issues (cholestasis) during pregnancy and there have been reports of using coconut activated charcoal to reduce cholesterol levels as well.[viii] In fact, activated charcoal’s reduction of the absorption of bile acids in our bodies results in increased cholesterol breakdown by the liver.[ix] Researchers noted that volunteers who took three 8-gram doses of activated charcoal for about a month enjoyed a 41% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an 8% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol[x]. Some studies show that a daily dose of activated charcoal may even prevent the sclerosis in the heart and coronary blood vessels.[xi] It may even slow the progression of chronic kidney disease by removing toxins before they reach the kidneys; a study conducted on rats treated with activated charcoal showed significantly lower levels of oxidative stress markers correlated with blood vessel inflammation.[xii]
It can even prevent hangovers, although studies are still being conducted to determine the true effectiveness of this; activated charcoal doesn’t seem to trap alcohol toxins efficiently, but it does help quickly remove other toxins—i.e. mixers that include chemicals and artificial sweeteners—from the body which contribute to alcohol poisoning. The First Aider’s Guide to Alcohol at Princeton Medical Center indicates the administration of activated charcoal in certain scenarios in order to flush out the alcohol or poison in the stomach.[xiii]
The Essence of Balance
Note that activated charcoal isn’t typically used in cases of ingested petroleum, alcohol, acids, lye, or other corrosive poisons. Taken orally, it may cause black tongue or stools, and should not be used in tandem with certain drugs or supplements. Always consult with an expert before usage. If you do consume activated charcoal, experts recommend drastically increasing your daily water intake to 12-16 glasses, as the consumption of this alchemy can cause dehydration and may otherwise cause constipation.
[xi] P. Kuusisto, et al., “Effect of activated charcoal on hypercholesterolemia.” Lancet 16: 366-67, August 1986.