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Understanding Activated Charcoal and Its Wide Range of Wellness Uses

When many of us hear the word “charcoal,” we think of cooking out on the grill or powering up an old stove to make a tasty meal. But there’s a trendy natural treatment called activated charcoal that’s being used for everything from skin to teeth, water filtration, and even hangover prevention. Let’s take a closer look at what activated charcoal really is, why it’s used as a natural treatment, and how you can give it a try for yourself.

Photo credit: Andy One via Flickr

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Charcoal is a substance made from wood, coal, or other materials. But the “activated” in activated charcoal is the result of high temperatures that combine with a gas to expand the surface area of the substance. This substance comes in the form of a black powder and may include anything from coconut shells to peat, petroleum coke, and even olive pits. Activated charcoal was once considered to be an antidote in ancient medicine, and it’s used as a natural treatment for a wide variety of uses today.

It is more porous than the charcoal that’s used for cooking, and it doesn’t have the toxic substances that cooking charcoal contains. The way that this strange, yet promising, substance works is actually by trapping toxins in the gut, preventing them from being absorbed in the body, and sending them through the body as a waste product.

Uses for Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has traditionally been used as an emergency treatment for poisoning because of its properties of trapping toxins. It has been used to treat prescription drug overdoses, it’s been studied for its ability to promote healthy kidney functioning, and it has been tied to reducing fishy-smelling body odors. This substance may also help promote healthy cholesterol levels, and it has become widely used as a natural remedy for teeth whitening, acne, insect bites, preventing hangovers, and reducing gas in the body. Along with nopal cactus and seaweed, activated charcoal is used as a digestive cleanse as well.

Photo credit: magnoid via Flickr

Warnings about Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is considered to be safe, and side effects after use are very rare. Some people complain of constipation or black stools, while others may experience nausea or vomiting. But again, these risks are very rare. Something else to consider is that activated charcoal may interfere with how your body absorbs medications you are taking, which is why it’s important to discuss your interest in this natural remedy with a medical professional before giving it a try.

Buying and Trying Activated Charcoal

You can likely find activated charcoal products at health foods and natural remedy stores, but not all activated charcoal products are the same. Avoid products that are made with artificial sweeteners, and stick to ones that are made with ultra-fine grain wood or coconut shells. Since this is a manufactured product, you cannot reap the benefits of activated charcoal by eating specific foods.

Not all of the uses described above have been proven by science, but activated charcoal sure is an interesting remedy to learn more about. Have you tried activated charcoal in one form or another as a natural health remedy? Please tell us about your experience in the comment section below and what you thought about the treatment.

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