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Activated Charcoal? Should You Have It in Your Medicine Cabinet?

By Fitoru | 21 August 2018
black bread baked with activated charcoal

These days, people are using activated charcoal for everything. It’s a cure for stomach upset, a tool for skincare, and even an ingredient in smoothies. So what does it do, exactly?

A fine black powder, activated charcoal has long been used in hospitals to help patients vomit after overdosing on alcohol and drugs. However, in recent years, people have begun to realize that this odorless substance has numerous benefits to health and wellness. Today, you can buy activated charcoal in your local drugstore under names like Optimum Charcoal, Liqui-Char, or Actidose Aqua. Read on to learn about the benefits of activated charcoal and why it might be worth stashing this miracle substance in your medicine cabinet.

Benefits to Kidneys

Our kidneys perform an essential function by filtering out toxins and other substances that are harmful to our health. One of the benefits of ingesting activated charcoal is that it can help remove toxins from urea, one of the principle byproducts of digestion, thereby boosting kidney function and reducing inflammation. And studies seem to back up this claim.

According to one study performed in 2014, rats who received oral activated charcoal experienced serious drops in both intestinal damage and inflammation linked to chronic kidney disease. Another study showed that mixing charcoal into the diets of rats with kidney disease boosted overall kidney function. More research is needed to assess the effect of activated charcoal on people suffering from renal failure and other related diseases.

Help with Stomach Upset

Chronic stomach upset is a serious condition. In fact, research shows that between 25 and 45 million Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, while many more experience occasional bouts of indigestion and intestinal distress. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to alleviate symptoms and prevent them from affecting quality of life. In appropriate doses, activated charcoal can be effective at treating diarrhea. Research suggests that this benefit may stem from the fact that charcoal prevents diarrhea-causing bacteria from being absorbed by the body. Adding activated charcoal to your morning smoothie may also help reduce bloating and ease constipation throughout the day.

Skin Care Effects

Most of us wish our skin was clearer, brighter, and more youthful. And while we can’t yet do anything to stop the aging process in its tracks, we can take steps to beautify our complexions. Recent research shows that applying activated charcoal to skin extracts dirt, chemicals, bacteria, and toxins. You can use charcoal as a spot treatment or rub it all over the face for more extensive cleansing.

Additionally, charcoal offers benefits for acute skin injuries. Anecdotal evidence reveals charcoal can help mitigate an array of mild skin ailments, including bee stings, insect bites, cuts, and infections.

Emergency Poison Treatment

Among activated charcoal’s many uses is the ability to treat overdoses and accidental poisoning. Because charcoal binds with toxins, it prevents them from being absorbed by the stomach. The body can’t absorb the charcoal, so both it and the toxins leave the body in the form of excrement.

Doctors have been using activated charcoal to treat poison cases since the 1800s. Today, hospitals employ this substance to treat patients who have OD’d on aspirin, acetaminophen, sedatives, and more. According to one study, taking 50 to 100 grams of activated charcoal within five minutes of ingesting a toxic substance reduces absorption by over 70%.

The effectiveness of activated charcoal decreases with time. If you or a loved one has ingested a toxic substance or drug, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.


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