Activated charcoal has been used for centuries for its medicinal purposes and lately added to everything from water through blackhead removal creams to teeth whitening toothpastes and bread. But what is activated charcoal, what are the benefits, its side effects and how best to use it.
Most activated charcoal products today come from charred coconut shells. Activated charcoal (or activated carbon, not to be confused with the barbecue charcoal) is charcoal that has been heated or otherwise treated to increase its adsorptive power and this is where it gets tricky.
As the trend has emerged, or should we say re-emerged, activated charcoal has begun appearing in many products including toothpaste, bottled water, bread and even fish and chips, darn you Melbourne for being so trendy, and we all thought Bondi was so hipster!
Activated charcoal works by the process of adsorption – a chemical reaction where elements bind to its surface, hence it’s proven century-old effectiveness in assisting with reducing gas and bloating (I recall my parents had activated charcoal tablets in their medicine cabinet when I was growing up and used them after over-indulging in heavy meals at parties or with bouts of diarrhea.
Here are 5 most beneficial uses for activated charcoal
1. Teeth Whitening – its use in toothpase is warranted, and having used My Magic Mud activated charcoal toothpaste (it’s fluoride-free, too) I can say that it actually works – be careful when handling and brushing as activated charcoal can easily stain your clothes and grout.
2. Relief of Intestinal Gas and Diarrhea– this has been the main purpose for activated charcoal before it became trendy. Activated charcoal can also used in the treatment or diarrhea and food poisoning.
3. Digestive Cleansing – in addition to its use in some instances of ingested poisoning.
4. Water Filtration – used in most fridge water filters and many under-sink ones, activated charcoal helps to remove heavy metals and other impurities from tap water.
5. Skincare – activated charcoal masks (I love this one) and skin scrubs are all the craze, and for good reason. They can help remove impurities from the surface of the skin as well as get rid of those pesky blackheads leaving it supple and reducing blemishes.
Why activated charcoal should not be used in food
The issue with adding activated charcoal to drinks and food lies in the exact same properties that make other uses so beneficial.
Huh? What consumers may neglect to understand is that due to its adsorptive power, activated charcoal can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, supplements and prescription medications. This is why activated charcoal should be taken at least 90 minutes up to 3 hours prior or after meals, supplements and prescription medications.
So as #hipster as it may seem to sandwich your tempeh burger between two slices of blackened leavened bread or that fancy black brioche bun, bear in mind the digestive effects of this potent substance. This is why your activated charcoal fish and chips, Melbourne, is nothing but a trendy fad and has nothing to do with good nutrition. The same goes for drinking charcoal water with lunch. There, I said it.
Thank goodness another Melbourne #hipster invention that’s ‘gothic latte’ does not contain activated charcoal but a blend of delicious wholefood ingredients.
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