Activated charcoal is an odorless and tasteless black powder that has been used since ancient times to treat various ailments. It is now often used in medical conditions to treat drug overdoses as an emergency antidote.
Activated charcoal is thought to provide many other benefits, including reducing gas and bloating, lowering cholesterol, and improving kidney function. Some people say it can help whiten your teeth, filter water, and even cure hangovers. However, you might be surprised how many of these claims are scientifically based. This article examines what activated charcoal is, as well as its evidence-based benefits, side effects, and dosage.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen at very high temperatures to make it more porous. This treatment changes their internal structure, reduces their pore size and increases their surface area.
The resulting fine black powder can be sold as is or packaged as supplements.
Activated carbon is also added to a variety of food and non-food products, from ice cream to toothpaste.
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Activated charcoal is a type of charcoal that is processed to make it more porous. It is sold in supplement and powder form, added to various foods and household products.
How does activated charcoal work?
Gas activation of charcoal at high temperatures creates these microscopic holes that increase its surface area. Activated charcoal is not absorbed into your intestines. That after you swallow it, it enters your intestines unchanged.
The porous texture of charcoal has a negative electrical charge that attracts positively charged molecules such as toxins and gases. When liquids or gases pass through this activated carbon, it binds to it through a process known as adsorption. These toxins and chemicals are trapped in your intestines and excreted in your stool instead of being absorbed by your body. Activated charcoal is also very effective at absorbing gas, which helps reduce inflammation.
Activated carbon negatively charges, the porous texture helps trap toxins and prevents their absorption into the body. It is also effective at trapping gas to soothe flatulence.
Advantages and uses of charcoal
Activated charcoal has many potential health benefits. However, some of these benefits are based on decades-old research, so its validity should be taken with a grain of salt.
Additionally, you do not need to administer self-activated charcoal as a poison or overdose treatment. If you suspect poisoning or overdose, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.
Emergency treatment of poison
Activated charcoal has been used since the early 19th century as an emergency antidote treatment. This is because it binds to a wide range of drugs, which can reduce their side effects.
This medication can be used to treat overdoses of both prescription and over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and sedatives. Studies have shown that drinking 50-100 grams of activated charcoal within 5 minutes of taking the drug can reduce an adult's ability to take the drug by up to 74%. Activated charcoal is said to be most beneficial if taken within the first hour after an overdose or intoxication.
Old studies suggest that use after this initial period may not help. However, more recent research has noted many cases where it is effective even when used for the first time. This is because activated charcoal not only prevents the absorption of the medicine, but also helps your body eliminate the absorbed medicine more quickly. In addition, research suggests that activated charcoal may be beneficial if taken up to 4 hours after taking delayed-release medications, those that delay contamination, and multiple doses of the medication.
In medical conditions, an initial dose of 50-100 grams is sometimes followed by somewhat smaller doses of 10-25 grams taken every 2-4 hours for 6 hours. This multiple dose activated charcoal (MDAC) protocol can help with slow drug intoxication. Although further research is needed, MDAC may be particularly useful in life-threatening cases of dapsone, phenobarbital, quinine, carbamazepine, and theophylline.
It is important to note that activated charcoal is not effective in all cases of poisoning. For example, it does not appear to have much effect on alcohol, heavy metal, iron, lithium, potassium, acid or base poisoning. Old and new studies warn that activated charcoal should not always be used in all cases of poisoning. Instead, use should be considered on a case-by-case basis by qualified healthcare professionals.
It can improve kidney function
Activated charcoal can improve kidney function by reducing the amount of waste products your kidneys need to filter. It can be particularly beneficial for people with kidney disease.
Healthy kidneys are usually very well equipped to filter the blood, but this condition limits the kidney's ability to remove urea and other toxins. Activated charcoal can bind urea and other toxins and help your body eliminate them.
Urea and other waste products can pass from your bloodstream into your gut through a process known as diffusion. In your intestine, they bind to the activated charcoal and pass it out in the feces. Older human studies suggested that activated charcoal may help lower blood levels of urea and other waste products, as well as improve kidney function in people with kidney disease.
A small study found similar results, but more research is needed.
Symptoms of fishy odor syndrome can be alleviated
Activated charcoal can help reduce bad odor in individuals suffering from trimethylaminuria (TMAU), also known as fishy odor syndrome.
TMAU is a genetic condition in which trimethylamine (TMA), a compound that smells like rotten fish, builds up in your body.
Your body normally converts TMA into an odorless compound before it is excreted in the urine, but people with TMAU lack the enzyme needed for this conversion. This causes TMA to collect and enter the urine, sweat and breath, causing an unpleasant odor. Studies have shown that the porous surface of activated carbon can bind small, odorous compounds such as TMA, which can increase their excretion.
A small, older study gave people with TMAU 1.5 grams of charcoal for 10 days. This dose reduces urinary TMA concentrations to normal levels. A recent case study suggests that combining activated charcoal with medication and dietary changes may help reduce fishy odor in people with TMAU. Larger recent studies are needed to confirm these effects.
It can lower cholesterol levels
Activated charcoal helps lower cholesterol levels. Old research suggests that activated charcoal can bind cholesterol and contain cholesterol bile acids in your intestines, preventing its absorption.
In an older study, drinking 24 grams of activated charcoal daily for 4 weeks lowered total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 25% each, while HDL (good) cholesterol increased by 8%. On the other hand, drinking 4-32 grams of activated charcoal per day helped total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 29-41% in people with high cholesterol. Larger doses are most effective.
Other studies have reached similar conclusions, although the results are mixed. Additionally, all relevant research was conducted in the 1980s, so new knowledge is needed.
Activated charcoal can treat intoxication, drug overdose, and a condition called TMAU. It may also help lower cholesterol, although more research is needed.
Home, cosmetic and other possible uses
Activated charcoal is a popular home remedy for many other ailments – and is sometimes used for other household and beauty purposes as well. However, most of these claimed benefits are not supported by science.
• Gas reduction. A recent study reported that drinking activated charcoal 8 hours before an abdominal ultrasound can reduce the amount of gas in the intestines, making it easier to get a clear ultrasound image. However, further research is needed.
• Help with dong. One case study showed that activated charcoal may help treat diarrhea, but more high-quality studies are needed.
• Water filtration. Activated carbon can help filter water by removing contaminants, suspended solids and microorganisms such as bacteria – all without affecting the pH or taste of the water.
• Teeth whitening. This substance is said to be unofficial for teeth whitening when used as a mouthwash or toothpaste. It is said to do this by absorbing plaque and other compounds that stain the tooth. However, there are no studies to support this claim.
• Avoiding hangovers. Activated charcoal is sometimes recognized as a catheter. However, this substance does not absorb alcohol efficiently, so this benefit is not possible.
• Skin treatment. When you apply this substance to your skin, it is said to treat acne, dandruff, and insect or snake bites. However, there is virtually no evidence for these claims.
Activated charcoal has a number of popular uses around the home. However, gas reduction, manure reduction and water filtration are only scientifically supported. Almost all applications require further research
Activated charcoal is a natural medicine with a variety of uses. It is commonly used as an emergency overdose or anti-poison treatment. A lot of research goes back to this application.
It can also help lower cholesterol, combat symptoms of fishy odor syndrome, improve kidney function, and reduce gas and diarrhea. However, studies supporting these benefits are likely to be older than the limited coverage.
Activated charcoal can interact with other medications, so check with your doctor before trying if you're currently on medication. You can also start at the lower end of the recommended dose to see how you react before increasing the amount.