What is Medicinal Activated Charcoal?
Put simply, as wood burns there is often not enough oxygen to allow for complete combustion. The water and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) evaporates off, and the carbon in the wood distills into the black charred coals or crust we see when we put the fire out. As the fire smolders for a period of time, the wood slowly dries and eventually changes into charcoal.
Activated charcoal begins as regular charcoal and is then “activated” with oxidizing gases, such as steam or air, at high temperatures. This oxidative process further erodes the charcoal’s internal surfaces. This increases its adsorption capacity by creating an internal network of even smaller pores rendering it two to three times as effective as regular charcoal. But charcoal is not produced from wood alone. Bone char, coconut shells, peat, coal, petroleum coke, and sawdust are the most common starting materials for making activated charcoal. Many other materials have been experimented with, but generally are not as economical.
What is the primary source of medicinal activated charcoal?
The source of activated charcoal for those products sold for internal or medicinal use (including for animals) is typically listed as “All Natural”. This includes charcoals made from hardwood, coconut, bamboo, peat, or olive pits. Sometimes you will see the notation USP.
What is USP Activated Charcoal Powder?
USP (U. S. Pharmacopoeia) is the US certification required by Pharmaceutical companies to meet federal standards. This assures the buyer to be getting a very fine, black, odorless, and tasteless powder, free from gritty matter, with less than 4% ash residue, and acid-washed to remove virtually all of the remaining inorganic constituents. This also allows the activated charcoal to be labeled and sold as “Food Grade”.
USP activated charcoal also comes in granular form for other medical applications.
Will taking activated charcoal affect my medication?
In many cases yes. Activated charcoal is designed in such a way that it electrostatically attracts certain chemicals and micro-organisms. As a group, most compounds that are poisonous to the body are attracted to charcoal. Because most drugs are electro-chemically configured in a way similar to poisons and other toxic compounds, activated medicinal charcoal taken orally will often adsorb prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. This is both a desirable and undesirable effect.
On the positive side, because of its strong attraction to many drugs, activated charcoal is used daily in Emergency Rooms to counteract the effects of poisoning from overdosing on medication, whether accidentally or intentionally (as in attempted suicide). Activated charcoal is also used in many different detox programs to adsorb the accumulation of drugs in the body (prescription or street). This prepares the individual to receive the benefits of a more holistic approach to recovering health without the body also having to cope with the side effects of poisonous drugs.
On the other hand, if there is any concern that activated charcoal will interfere with the desired effect of prescription or non-prescription drugs, it is recommended to take activated charcoal no closer than 1 to 1½ hours before or 1 to 1½ after taking drug medication.
This does not rule out applying activated charcoal externally in the form of a poultice or in a bath.
Will taking activated charcoal affect the nutritional value of the food I eat?
We cannot say categorically that charcoal does not depreciate the level of nutritive absorption in any way. But, both clinical observation of patients in hospitals and numerous animal studies have demonstrated charcoal poses no threat to nutritional uptake. While science has yet to prove this conclusively, it seems more prudent to say that if there is any adsorption of nutrients, it is so negligible that it has yet to be shown to compromise one’s health. For instance, charcoal has been used for many years as a fecal deodorant for patients with ileostomies and colostomies. In spite of the fact that they may routinely take charcoal orally three times daily for years, it has never been demonstrated to nutritionally affect these individuals who are already at risk of nutritional deficiency. (Patient Care p. 152, October 30, 1977)
In one animal study, Dr. V. V. Frolkis, a famous Russian gerontologist, and his colleagues, demonstrated that the lifespan in older laboratory rats increased up to 34% by feeding them charcoal in their diet! (Experimental Gerontology 1984) Toxins, including free radicals, are believed to play a significant role in aging. But these “loose canons” will form a stable matrix with charcoal in the gut until they are eliminated from the body. Researchers concluded that the binding up of these toxins in the intestinal tract before they are absorbed or reabsorbed into the system may be one mechanism that allowed the rats to live longer and healthier.
“Charcoal added to the diet of sheep for six months did not cause a loss of nutrients, as compared with sheep not receiving charcoal. … 5% of the total diet was charcoal. It did not affect the blood or urinary levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, inorganic phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, creatinine, uric acid, urea nitrogen, alkaline phosphatase, total protein or urine pH.”
There is some anecdotal evidence that activated charcoal will interfere with the absorption of artificial supplements. Again, if there is any concern that activated charcoal is compromising the absorption of essential food elements or artificial supplements, then simply adjust the intake of activated charcoal so as not to conflict, as in the case of drugs (see above).
While there is no evidence to suggest long-term use of charcoal is harmful, neither is there any research to suggest that activated charcoal should be taken as a daily supplement indefinitely.
Can activated charcoal be taken during pregnancy?
Yes, so far as is known, activated charcoal may be taken during pregnancy and lactation.
Can one overdose on charcoal?
By its very nature, charcoal does not lend itself to overindulgence. Because charcoal is neither digested nor absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract, there is therefore no concern of overdosing on activated charcoal.
What is the dose for poisoning?
There is no clear consensus among those promoting charcoal in cases of poisoning, except that you can’t give too much. There are no definite dosages, but there are three recommended formulas (Activated Charcoal in Medical Applications 1995):
Age – 2 ½ to 5 Tablespoons (25gms to 50gms) for children
Body weight – 1 Tablespoon per 10lbs. (1gm per kg) body weight
Amount poison taken – 1 Tablespoon activated charcoal per 1/28 oz. (10gms per 1gm) of poison.
In case of poisoning it is vital to give activated charcoal as soon as possible and, if uncertain of the dosage, give more than you calculate you should. If possible consult the Poison Control Center or closest Emergency Clinic for further information and instruction.
Activated Charcoal is known to adsorb some heavy metals, and is included in an IAOMT protocol for the removal of mercury amalgam fillings. In referring to a detox program using oral activated charcoal for heavy metals, some have compared it to "oral" chelation therapy, BUT, without the negative side effects often associated with the use of EDTA, DMPS, and DMSA.
However, some substances are poorly adsorbed by charcoal including: Lithium, strong acids and bases, metals and inorganic minerals (such as sodium, iron, lead, fluorine, and boric acid); alcohols (such as ethanol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, glycols, and acetone); and hydrocarbons such as petroleum distillates (e.g., cleaning fluid, coal oil, fuel oil, gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner) and plant hydrocarbons (pine oil). Other antidotes are more effevtive. If possible consult the Poison Control Center or closest Emergency Clinic for further information and instruction.
What is the dose for poisoning in animals?
The Animal Poison Control Center recommends 1-3 gm of activated charcoal per 1kg body weight.
Remember, giving too little will be ineffective. With no known adverse side effects you really do not have to worry about giving too much, as long as the animal gets plenty of water.
Does taking activated charcoal orally produce any harmful side effects?
Charcoal is neither digested nor absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract. As such there are no known adverse side effects to the use of activated charcoal. Taking activated charcoal orally will naturally turn the stool black. For those who have a predisposition to constipation, taking activated charcoal can have a binding affect if the patient does not drink sufficient fluids. For others, charcoal may work as a laxative.
As already mentioned, activated charcoal may interfere with drug medication.
The only published research we have found that suggests charcoal as contraindicated is in the treatment of variegate porphyria (VP), a rare skin disease (British Journal of Dermatology December 2003). There are eight classes of porphyria. Initial research with congenital erythropoietic porphyria (CEP), or Gunther’s disease, found activated charcoal to be helpful (New England Journal of Medicine 1987). When later trials were made with VP, it was expected that there would be similar benefits with activated charcoal or, at worst, no effect at all. Instead there was a completely unexpected increase in skin disease, urine and plasma porphyrins. The results were said to be “paradoxical” and “unexplainable”. It may be that subsequent research will discover the cause of the out-of-character results of this first trial.
Are there any hazards to using activated charcoal?
The only hazards associated with activated charcoal are those connected with its use in hospitals. Only three hazards are listed – aspiration, bowel obstruction, or constipation. In each of the reported cases activated charcoal was implicated by association with either the accidental perforation of the windpipe during intubation, the use of some drug resulting in bowel obstruction, or dehydration of the patient resulting in severe constipation. It should be noted that the complications attributed to charcoal were secondary to medical error on the part of the hospital staff.
As you have opportunity to peruse our site you will see a number of stories where people have only had available the primitive charcoal from a fire pit, but the simple remedy proved effective.
We believe all healing comes from God, and God's hand is not shortened just because we do not have the more adsorptive activated grades. We may have to take more but charcoal still works as it has since ancient Egyptian times.
We have a saying, "If you have to be wealthy to be healthy then God only loves rich people" But charcoal is Simple for anyone to use. Scientific enough for any PhD. It is universally Affordable and Accessible. It is Free from adverse side effects. It requires a measure of Faith to use. It is Easy to apply. And, when used in conjunction with other proven health principles, you should Expect positive results. All together charcoal is a double SAFE remedy whatever one's wealth, education, or geography.
Will charcoal leave a “tattoo” when applied directly to a skin wound?
In ulcers and other open and infected wounds, activated charcoal can be applied directly into the wound with no worry of leaving a tattoo effect. It has been suggested that charcoal applied directly into a fast mending cut wound may leave a tattoo effect. If there is any concern simply apply activated charcoal in the form of a poultice .
To get more answers to your questions about activated medicinal charcoal and its many uses be sure to purchase the book CharcoalRemedies.com The Complete Handbook of Medcinal Charcoal & Its Applications today.