How to use Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal Uses and Benefits - why to keep it on hand

Activated Charcoal powder is used medicinally as well as in air and water purifiers. Its recorded use dates back to 1550 BC and in modern times is most widely used medicinally as a detoxifier and poison antidote. I always keep it on hand for spider bites, accidental ingestion of toxins or stomach bugs. (I also brush my teeth with it…)

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is well known as a  antidote as it adsorbs most organic toxins, chemicals and poisons before they can harm the body. Some Emergency Rooms administer large doses of activated charcoal for certain types of poisoning.

According to this article, activated charcoal has a long history of medicinal use:

It was 1831. In front of his distinguished colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine, Professor Touery drank a lethal dose of strychnine and lived to tell the tale. He had combined the deadly poison with activated charcoal.

That’s how powerful activated charcoal is as an emergency decontaminant in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach and intestines. Activated charcoal is considered to be the most effective single agent available. It is used after a person swallows or adsorbs almost any toxic drug or chemical.

  • Activated charcoal is estimated to reduce absorption of poisonous substances up to 60%.
  • It works by adsorbing chemicals, thus reducing their toxicity (poisonous nature), through the entire length of the stomach and small and large intestines (GI tract).
  • Activated charcoal itself is a fine, black powder that is odorless, tasteless, and nontoxic.
  • Activated charcoal is often given after the stomach is pumped (gastric lavage). Gastric lavage is only effective immediately after swallowing a toxic substance (within about one-half hour) and does not have effects that reach beyond the stomach as activated charcoal does.

How to Use Activated Charcoal?

I most regularly use charcoal to brush my teeth as it whitens them naturally. I keep it on hand in case any of the kids ever ingest any toxins or household chemicals, though we also do our best to keep anything toxic out of the house completely. In case of any emergency, I would absolutely call a poison control center (we keep the number with all emergency numbers on our fridge) and follow their directions, but this basic use guide is also helpful.

I have personally used charcoal to treat a spider bite on my son’s leg (we had confirmation that it was likely a brown recluse bite and a mix of charcoal and baking soda helped draw the toxin out and he healed with no long term scarring. I’ve also used it  when I got food poisoning (another good reason not to eat out!) and was able to get rid of it within a few hours with charcoal followed by apple cider vinegar and then epsom salt (to avoid the charcoal building up in my system).

As with any substance, you should always check with a doctor or medical professional before use, especially in an emergency or life threatening situation or if there is any other underlying health problem.

Activated charcoal is not known to be toxic, though it should not be taken within two hours of vitamins or medications because it will keep the body from adsorbing them. Care should also be taken to find a high quality form of charcoal. I personally would not take charcoal on a regular basis and would only use as needed. This article has a full list of precautions.

Also, activated charcoal is NOT the same thing as the ashes from burning wood or other fires at home, so please don’t try to use those type of ashes for these or any other uses!

Where to Get Activated Charcoal

I keep this brand of activated charcoal on hand because it is made from coconut shells and is the most pure source I’ve personally found. I store in a glass jar and usually keep it on the bathroom sink since we typically just use it for teeth. Fair warning: activated charcoal is EXTREMELY messy if spilled. It will easily wash out of a sink or bathroom counter but isn’t so easy to get out of rough surfaces like tile grout (don’t ask how I know). I recommend keeping this out of the reach of children or messy pets for that reason!

Activated charcoal is also use in the carbon block filters on our water filter as it can pull toxins from the water as well.

Ever used activated charcoal? What did you use it for? Share below!

Activated charcoal is a good resource for teeth whitening, in case of accidental poison ingestion, and spider bites and similar maladies.

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