The Benefits of Activated Charcoal


Getting rid of impurities and toxins from our body is nothing new. It’s been done since the 19th century. And since then, many types of detoxification cleanses have been tried out, like infrared sauna studios, yoga twists, juicing, fasting, and many others. We know fasting is effective, but what else can we do?

Lately, we’ve hearing of a new detox which uses activated charcoal or activated carbon. There are those who claim that this heat-treated charcoal binds itself to toxins and flushes them out of your system; a process known as adsorption.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Charcoal is basically burnt organic matter, mostly from wood, peat, or coconut shells. The ‘activated’ part happens during a special process, as Gina Keatley, C.D.N. practicing in New York City explains, “…when the charcoal is exposed to gases at high temperatures, which gives the charcoal a very porous surface that acts as a sort of magnet, binding with everything it can get its greedy hands on.”

Doctors have been using activated charcoal to treat cases, such as drug overdoses and poisoning because of its ability to bind itself with the drug or poison in your stomach before it’s absorbed by your digestive system. And this is where the idea was born that activated charcoal shouldn’t be used only in the emergency room, but also as a way of cleansing the body from toxins.

How Does it Work?

First off, activated charcoal isn’t what you ordinarily use in your barbecue grill. We know it works through a process called adsorption, and the reason is that activated charcoal has a porous surface with nooks and crannies as a result of the heating process. This makes its surface have a negative electric charge which easily binds to positively-charged toxins.

Activated charcoal is now available in several bottled beverages (charcoal water, lemonade, among others). It’s also available in supplement form which can be used to ease digestive problems, gas and bloating for example, and even as a teeth whitener.

With extensive background in the anti-aging field, Richard C. Kaufman, BS, MS, PhD, (Bio-nutritional Chemistry from the University of Brussels) says that, “Detoxification is an on-going biological process that prevents toxins (from infectious agents, food, air, water, and substances that contact the skin) from destroying health.” Through his research, he has come up with the following detoxifying programs:

  • The use of activated charcoal on 2 consecutive days weekly. The dosage should be divided into 2 or 3 with a total of 20 – 35 grams. It should be taken in the morning, noon or before bedtime on an empty stomach. During those days, processed foods and extra calories should be avoided.
  • Over the course of several months, take 20 grams of activated charcoal in divided doses. Then take a 1-month break before continuing again.

It goes without saying with a charcoal detox, drinking great amounts of water is essential to help flush away the toxins. Activated charcoal has been known to cause dehydration and constipation, so anywhere from 12 – 16 glasses of water daily is adequate.

The Downside

Although activated charcoal is an effective way to help detox the body by cleansing the digestive tract, it can also be harmful if you’re not careful. The problem with activated charcoal is that it doesn’t differentiate between the good and the bad which means it can get rid of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, prescription medications and dietary supplements.

In severe cases, it’s been also reported to cause vomiting, slow movement of the digestive system, intestinal blockage and even colitis.

A Final Note

Activated charcoal can be used if you want to cleanse your system after a stint of unhealthy eating. But even more important is what you do after the cleanse.

Remember that indulging every now and then is healthy and normal. But on the whole, your body is equipped with its own detoxifying system which consists of your liver, which breaks down impurities and toxins, and kidneys, which flush them out. And the way to get them functioning at their best is to do the following:

  • increase your intake of plant-based foods which enhance your body’s ability to cleanse itself (ginger, turmeric, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, kale)
  • increase your fiber intake
  • avoid processed foods
  • drink plenty of water

“The best strategy of all is to focus on the big picture. If you eat right every day, you’ll never have to worry about detoxing, says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer.”


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