Activated charcoal: What it does and why you should try it
There’s something to be said for the popularity of detoxifying. Whether it’s skin products or juice cleanses, everywhere you look there’s a new way of doing it. Activated charcoal doesn’t sound like something you’d want in or on your body, but there’s a reason people are using it. That reason? The detox factor.
Activated charcoal has a variety of popular uses: It can be used to relieve bloating and gas, clean hair and skin, treat insect stings and mild infections, and even whiten teeth. But how do you actually take it? Is it mixed with liquid? Taken as a pill? Here are the best ways to safely use it to benefit your health.
Relieve bloating and gas discomfort
If you’re taking activated charcoal to straighten out your stomach discomfort, there are a few options. You can take activated charcoal in a pill, liquid and or powder form. (Your best bet: tablet form or capsules.) The tablets may be cheaper, but keep in mind that you can open the capsules and use the powdered charcoal for other purposes.
It’s suggested that you drink lots of water when taking activated charcoal supplements, in order to avoid constipation. Take them between meals, when your stomach is emptier — and staying that way for a while — so that the supplements aren’t depleting vitamins and nutrients you do want. Activated charcoal supplements aren’t to be taken daily as a vitamin, only as needed. Follow the directions on the bottle carefully, typically they’ll advise two capsules between meals.
Remove stains from your teeth
Buying activated charcoal powder is probably the most economical way to do it. Because it weighs very little and goes a long way, buying it once should have you covered for quite a stretch. You can use the activated charcoal powder to remove plaque, whitening teeth in the process. It’s not pretty while you’re using it, but once the treatment is done, you’ll be glad you tried it.
How to use activated charcoal for whitening teeth
You don’t need a special toothbrush, a regular one will do just fine. But you might want to have a second toothbrush for this purpose, though, only because the activated charcoal may discolour the bristles on the brush.
Mix activated charcoal powder with water until it is a thick enough consistency that it will stay on your toothbrush (1 or 2 emptied capsules is likely what you’re looking at). Brush your teeth gently or even just dab the mixture onto your teeth. Wait three minutes before rinsing.
For a quicker route, add an emptied capsule of activated charcoal to a natural toothpaste of your choice and brush as usual. Rinse well after brushing.
An option that works without a toothbrush is to use equal parts water and powdered charcoal (about a teaspoon should do it) and mix. Swish the mixture in your mouth for a minute, then hold it in your mouth for about five more.
The activated charcoal is odourless and has almost no taste, but is gritty, so may be a bit of an adjustment to get used to. You can use this method daily to remove stains from teeth — but note that natural discolourations won’t go away with activated charcoal.
Deep clean and purify your skin and hair
You can buy ready-made activated charcoal skin and hair care products — including pore treatments and exfoliating scrubs — from larger pharmacies and health food stores. But, if you want to make your own, the same powder you bought for whitening your teeth will go a long way for your skin and hair. Here are some ways to try it.
Make a clarifying face mask
Add a teaspoon (5 milligrams) of powdered activated charcoal to warm or lukewarm water, until a paste is formed. Then add a teaspoon of honey (5 millilitres) or aloe gel and apply a thin layer of the mixture to your face. Rinse after five to 10 minutes.
Add a detoxifying element to shampoo
Add a teaspoon (5 millilitres) or capsule of activated charcoal to the regular amount of shampoo you use; wash and rinse as usual. For light hair, an extra rinse will remove any discolouration from the charcoal.
Make a deep-cleaning body scrub
You can add activated charcoal powder (2 to 3 emptied capsules for this purpose) to your usual body scrub and use as directed.
Keep in mind that activated charcoal is not recommended for daily use, but rather to be used as you would any other deep-cleaning product. Don’t use it on dry hair or skin, as activated charcoal is dehydrating and you don’t want to lose more moisture. Whenever trying out a new product, do a test first to make sure the product doesn’t stain. Though, not to worry, an activated charcoal hair product that leaves colour behind should wash out with a regular shampoo and still have benefits for your hair and scalp.
Active charcoal powder can also be used to create a paste to treat minor wounds, skin irritations, allergic reactions, insect bites and stings and to draw out minor infections (when mixed with baking soda). For more severe cases, seek medical treatment.
Take activated charcoal for general detoxifying
You probably wouldn’t be happy if you ordered lemonade and were handed a bottle of black liquid. But black lemonade exists and is black on account of having activated charcoal in it. (What you should know about charcoal lemonade.)
How well activated charcoal “works” in this capacity is unclear
Many people have reported feel-good effects from trying out juices containing active charcoal. Medical professionals say it’s possible it will detox your system some and be revitalizing. Given it helps with bloating, this is a way you could take it to deal with that. That said, it’s also possible that the activated charcoal could actually pull nutrients from the juice — or your digestive system — that are actually good for you. While some experts are skeptical on the effectiveness of charcoal taken in juice, many say it’s safe to give it a try and see for yourself, as long as you’re not taking medications. Just be sure to try it in moderation and drink lots of water along with it.
Drink activated carbon in juice between but not with meals and only in non-acidic (no citrus) juices. If you’re making your own, empty 1 to 2 capsules into your favourite green or other health-boosting juice recipe. Alternately, several juice companies are offering up juices containing activated charcoal; these tend to be quite pricey but people who love them say the results are worth the cost. Activated charcoal juices are best consumed as an occasional detox or pick-me-up. Drinking them daily is not advised.
Before you run off to try these out, remember that activated charcoal has many health benefits, but it’s not a wonder drug. Claims that activated charcoal can cleanse your system, boost your heart health and make you live longer are not backed by clinical research as of yet. Many swear it is the hangover cure the world has been waiting for and will even suggest it for food poisoning and worse kinds of chemical poisonings, but until these claims are proven, we recommend you keep your activated charcoal ingestion to a moderate amount when you first try it out.