What Is Activated Charcoal Used For?

Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2021
activated charcoal
Here are the 7 common uses of activated charcoal, which include water filtration, teeth whitening, skincare, and emergency drug overdose treatment.

Activated charcoal is a fine dark powder produced using materials such as charred bones, coal, petroleum coke, and coconut shells, among others. Activated charcoal is commonly administered for its medical and health benefits and industrial purposes.

Activated charcoal is available in several forms, such as pills, tablets, capsules, face masks, and toothpaste, depending on its intended use.

7 common uses of activated charcoal

People commonly use activated charcoal for the following reasons:

  1. Kidney health: Activated charcoal might help kidneys work by filtering out undigested toxins and medications. It is particularly powerful at eliminating toxins produced by urea, the main byproduct of protein digestion.
  2. Gastrointestinal gas: Activated charcoal powder may treat gastrointestinal gas although the exact mechanism is unclear. Fluids and gases caught in the digestive system can undoubtedly go through large numbers of small openings in charcoal, and this cycle might remove them. Ingestion of activated charcoal can also relieve diarrhea and constipation.
  3. Water filtration: For a long time, individuals have used charcoal as a water filter. Similarly, in the digestive organs and stomach, activated charcoal can interface with and absorb various toxins, drugs, bacteria, microorganisms, fungi, and synthetic substances found in water. In commercial/industrial settings, for example, water treatment plants, operators regularly use activated carbon granules for one of the filtration processes. Many water filtration items are additionally intended for at-home use, utilizing carbon cartridges to filter the water of toxins and impurities.
  4. Teeth whitening and oral health: Many teeth-whitening products contain activated charcoal. Numerous oral well-being products that use activated charcoal are noted to have different advantages, such as:
    • Antiviral
    • Antibacterial
    • Antifungal
    • Detoxifying
  5. Skincare: Researchers have revealed that activated charcoal can help draw microparticles, such as soil, dust, synthetic substances, toxins, and microbes, to the outer layer of the skin, making their removal simpler.
  6. Deodorant: Charcoal might retain smell and harmful gases, making it ideal as an underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant. Activated charcoal is known to absorb moisture and control humidity levels at a micro-level.
  7. Medical uses: In the emergency room, doctors may, at times, use activated charcoal to treat drug overdoses or poisonings. Activated charcoal can frequently assist with clearing toxins and medications that include:

Activated charcoal is also used as an antidote in some hangover remedies, however, experts are skeptical about its effectiveness.

How does activated charcoal work?

Carbon-rich materials, such as wood, are burnt at extremely high temperatures to get charcoal (an almost pure type of carbon). Charcoal is put through an assortment of chemical cycles to “activate” it. Activation means freeing the sites on the surface area of charcoal that were occupied by various molecules or ions. This includes treatment with oxygen, steam, acids, and carbon dioxide among different chemicals. 

Because of its excellent adsorbent nature, activated charcoal can trap and eliminate numerous toxins and chemical molecules. Other than the actual adsorption phenomenon, the permeable design of activated charcoal is likewise useful due to its negative electrical charge, which pulls charged toxins and gases. These particles are then caught inside the intricate meshwork of crevices and holes in the activated charcoal.

The human body is unable to absorb charcoal and thus is excreted from the body through feces.

What are the side effects of activated charcoal?

Until this point in time, there have been no unfavorable side effects noted with activated charcoal in any of its different forms. People who are taking drugs should see their doctor before using oral activated charcoal products because it may interfere with their medication's absorption.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2021