Activated charcoal has garnered a lot of attention in recent years for its anti-poisoning properties and in the treatment of flatulence and bloating. It is listed on the essential medicine list of the World Health Organization.
Though it is now widely known, it is a surprising fact that its discovery dates back to around 1500 AD, when Egyptians were found using it to eliminate bad odors from wounds. Around 50 AD, Hippocrates began to use it for many different ailments, like vertigo.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen at a heightened temperature using gas to make it more porous and expand the surface area.
Is activated charcoal and the charcoal used in grills and barbecues the same thing?
Barbeque charcoal is different from activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is produced specifically under controlled high temperatures and from specific sources. It is considered a pure form of charcoal that can be ingested by humans.
Whereas, barbecue charcoal may not reach the desired high temperature, making it less porous. It is mostly made from undesirable sources that may not be suitable for the human body. Additionally, barbecue charcoal may contain poisonous toxins that are not recommended for human consumption.
How does Activated Charcoal work in the human body?
Activated charcoal doesn’t get absorbed in the human gut. The porous structure of activated charcoal carries a negative charge. This negative charge attracts positively charged molecules like gases and toxins. Therefore, in the presence of activated charcoal, these toxins and gases get trapped by the porous structure of the charcoal and, without getting absorbed, are eliminated from the body via the stool.
It acts as a detoxifying agent in the body!
What are the benefits of Activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is odourless and black in color. The powder form of activated charcoal has been used since ancient times to treat various ailments. In recent years Activated charcoal supplement in capsule form is the more the preferred way to avail their maximum benefits.
Stomach bloating and flatulence
The activated charcoal supplement acts similarly to how it acts in poison and overdose of medical treatment.
Activated charcoal can adsorb 1,000 times its own weight due to its huge surface area and porous nature. Hence, the small amount of activated charcoal can adsorb and trap vast amounts of toxins, impurities, gas molecules, atoms, and ions.
Therefore, in situations of excess flatulence or bloating, the ingestion of activated charcoal supplements can help in trapping the gas molecules and thereby promote relief from the discomfort.
Emergency treatment in episodes of poisoning or overdosing on certain medicines.
Activated charcoal is observed to be most beneficial when taken within the first hour after an overdose or poisoning.
Research has also shown that activated charcoal may be beneficial if taken up to 4 hours after ingestion of delayed-release drugs, those that slow digestion, and large drug doses.
This happens by trapping the positively charged toxins in the negatively charged porous structure of activated charcoal. Further, without its absorption, toxins get eliminated from the system via stools.
The activated charcoal supplement can be used for the treatment of overdoses from drugs like sedatives and aspirin.
Under medical treatment, to counteract poisoning or overdose, an initial dose of 50–100 grams of activated charcoal is normally administered, followed by smaller doses of 10–25 grams every 2-3 hours for up to 6 hours.
However, it is advised that the self-administration of activated charcoal for poisoning and over-dosage treatment should be avoided. Seeking timely help from a healthcare professional is always better to avoid further complications.
Evidence suggests that topical application of activated charcoal might-
- Reduce acne by controlling the production of excess sebum or oil in the skin.
- Removes toxins and impurities
- Provides gentle exfoliation.
- Help in reducing the pore size and blemishes
- Can treat insect bites
- Treatment of skin fungal infections
Ingestion of activated charcoal supplement capsules for skin improvement is believed to act by flushing out the toxins and unwanted impurities within the human system that may cause acne and skin infections.
However, enough research studies have yet to prove its role in the skin, considering both oral consumption and topical application of activated charcoal.
Though, one can opt for a capsule of activated charcoal supplement to maintain healthy-looking skin!
The topical application of activated charcoal on teeth is believed to remove dirt and promote whitening. Activated charcoal has some proven benefits in regard to dental health, however, there is not enough strong scientific evidence for its role in teeth whitening. Similarly, the oral consumption of activated charcoal for improving dental health has not yet shown any strong, supportive scientific results.
Are there any side effects of activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal capsules are likely to be safe on both a short-term and long-term basis.
The possible side effects observed are
- black stools
- sometimes constipation
- Rarely, dehydration, dizziness, and heartburn.
However, in the case of poisoning or an overdose of certain medicines, one should seek medical help immediately before taking activated charcoal.
Caution: Activated charcoal may cause more serious problems if used to treat poisoning caused by chemicals such as turpentine, strong acids, kerosene, gasoline, paint thinner, or cleaning fluid.
Which is the best form in which Activated charcoal is recommended?
Activated Charcoal supplement in capsule form is the best form recommended. It consists of the exact amount of activated charcoal the human body can tolerate. It is because activated charcoal has the property to bind with toxins and other substances, it becomes essential to be in the correct quantity. The purest form of Activated charcoal supplement can be found only in capsule form. Therefore, to acquire the maximum benefits mentioned above, an activated charcoal supplement in capsule form is highly recommended.
How much-activated charcoal should be included?
The usual adult dose for gastrointestinal decontamination is
Single dose-50 to 100 grams orally
Multiple doses of 50 to 100 grams orally every 4 to 6 hours
The usual adult dose for Flatulence:
200 mg oral capsules- 2 or 4 capsules orally daily
Looking at the overview and both pros and cons Activated charcoal supplements can be a part of every household medical box to treat flatulence (gas) and bloating conditions, but it should not be considered an emergency treatment in episodes of poisoning or overdosing on medication as it may worsen the situation.