Activated charcoal has long been used through out the centuries as a treatment for tummy upsets, gas and skin infections. It has now become a bit of a buzz word in the health, wellness and beauty industry. But what is it, and what does it actually do?? Let’s see shall we….

What is Activated Charcoal and how does it work?

Activated charcoal is a fine black powder made from materials such as coal, bone char and peat, but for more commercially produced products for internal use it is derived from coconut shells. The charcoal is "activated" by processing it at very high temperatures. This results in the charcoal becoming porous. The absorbent nature allows for the binding of toxins, drugs and gases from the gastrointestinal tract and prevents systemic absorption of circulating toxins and chemicals (1).

Is it safe to use every day?

Current evidence has shown activated charcoal to be beneficial in acute infections, toxin build up and overdoses of some medications (2). It’s binding effects makes it a go-to for removing toxins and some pathogens from the body. Do we really need to be having this in food and drinks such as lattes and smoothies?? I say no. Activated charcoal ‘binds’ to toxins, so whats to say it doesn't bind to essential nutrients and minerals in the body when taken everyday. Keep this handy product in the cupboard for when its really needed, and go back to enjoying your nutritious smoothie the good old fashioned way.

How does activated charcoal support detoxing?

Our main elimination organs and systems include our liver, kidneys, bowels, lymphatic and circulatory system and skin. A build up of day to day chemicals, toxins and inhalants from our environment and personal care can effect the functioning of these organs and our ability to eliminate or “detox”.

Activated charcoals ability to draw and remove toxins is ideal to use in conjunction with a specialised detox program. Recurrent infections such as candida (thrush), bacterial and parasitic infections can sometimes go undetected and exhibit themselves as long term digestive issues, irritable bowel, chronic skin conditions and unexplained fatigue.

During a supervised detox plan, the use of charcoal is a great way to reduce “die off” or “detox “ symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, skin outbreaks and skin rashes as well as reducing excess gas and bloating due to its drawing and detoxing effects. When we are going through a detoxification program, it is vital to support the removal of those toxins otherwise they can be absorbed back into our circulation and cause more damage than good.

Other effective binding agents are slippery elm, psyllium husks, zeolites and bentonite clay. It is always advised to consult a qualified practitioner before starting one one of these products.

How do I know if a detox is right for me?

If you find yourself wondering if you should embark on a detox program then it is advised to consult a practitioner qualified in this area. There are many types of detoxes and there will be many different plans to suit all individuals. A comprehensive health history intake by your practitioner can help decide what will be best for you in your current health and situation. Pathology testing such as Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) is highly regarded in pinpointing bacteria, fungal, and yeast levels in the body. It also can diagnose parasitic infections and provide ample information on digestive marker function such as enzyme production. With the above knowledge, a practitioner can design a personalised detox program just for you.

If you would like to know more about any of the content in this blog post, the author Leia is available for nutritional Medicine consultations in the clinic every Thursday! Please contact us to enquire about any current promotions.

1. Juurlink DN, 2016, Activated Charcoal for Acute Overdose: a reappraisal, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Vol 81, No 3.
2. Hoffman RJ, Hahn IN, Shen JM, Protic J & Nelson LS, 2007, In vitro Activated Charcoal Binding of Staphylococcus Enterotoxin B, Clinical Toxicology, Vol 45, No 7.