You may have noticed activated charcoal products while walking down the beauty or self-care aisle at your local supermarket. Peels, scrubs, face washes apart, you might even find detox drinks with activated charcoal in the healthy foods section. This rise in the popularity of activated charcoal products is so widespread that you may have already used a few too.
But is activated charcoal actually good for your health? Is consuming it more beneficial than applying it on your skin?
The first thing you need to know is that activated charcoal is not the same as the charcoal you use to light a fire or a barbecue. Activated charcoal is a fine black powder made of coconut shells, coke, coal, olive pits and sawdust. These ingredients are activated at a very high temperature and so activated charcoal is porous and devoid of toxic substances which are usually present in barbecue charcoal.
Benefits of activated charcoal
Activated charcoal is not absorbed in the body. Quite like dietary fiber in food, it passes through the digestive system intact. Activated charcoal is porous, which means it is negatively charged. Toxins and gases in the body are, on the other hand, positively charged. So, when activated charcoal is used, it absorbs these toxins and has a purifying effect. The following are the benefits of using activated charcoal.
1. Detoxifying effect: Drinking a juice with activated charcoal in it can have a detoxifying effect on your body. Some studies suggest that consuming regulated amounts of activated charcoal drink can also purify the blood and control cholesterol levels. More scientific proof is needed to establish this claim though.
2. Improves skin quality: Topical application of activated charcoal scrubs or face packs is believed to deep-cleanse the skin and prevent acne outbreaks, tanning and other issues.
3. Poison treatment: Due to its remarkable toxin-binding effects, activated charcoal is used as an emergency treatment for poisoning and even drug overdoses. However, it’s important to note that activated charcoal isn’t effective against all types of poisons and has little effect on alcohol, lithium, heavy metals, iron, acids and alkali poisonings.
4. Improves kidney function: Waste filtering and disposal is the main function of the kidneys. Activated charcoal can assist the kidneys in this function as it attracts and disposes of toxins too. This is particularly useful for people suffering from chronic kidney diseases.
5. Good for oral health: Toothpastes with activated charcoal can help not only absorb the plaque and teeth-staining compounds but may even whiten the teeth. However, it is important to note that these oral health benefits can be garnered by using any toothpaste in the market that does not contain abrasives or numbing agents.
Side effects of activated charcoal
Activated charcoal is usually considered to be safe but there are a few side effects that may be experienced by users:
- As it passes through the entire digestive system, activated charcoal can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation and black stools when consumed in large amounts.
- In case the activated charcoal travels to the lungs instead of the stomach, it can cause vomiting, drowsiness and loss of consciousness. Contact a doctor if this happens.
- People who have diseases of the skin, gut or nervous system, like porphyria, may have more severe reactions on coming into contact with activated charcoal.
- Because activated charcoal absorbs toxins and other substances, it may lessen the effect of prescription medication. If you use any prescribed medication for any health condition, consult a doctor before using activated charcoal.
- Consuming activated charcoal before or right after a meal is not recommended as it can cause vomiting and malabsorption. Getting the dose right is very important, so consult a doctor before oral consumption.
For more information, read our article on Activated charcoal.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.