For years, I’ve noticed activated charcoal supplements at favorite health shops and wondered what they were for. Since they also popped up at standard pharmacies, I considered them a bit more curative than preventative. Still, I was always curious what they were about.
Over the past year, particularly when spending time in Ubud, Bali, which is a Mecca for health care products and cutting-edge vegan cuisine, I tripped over some activated bamboo charcoal products and decided to give them a try.
I purchased the products and then did some Internet research to see the consensus around them as I gradually tried them out.
The following points about are a combination of resources I’ve looked into and personal experience with activated (bamboo or other food/product grade) charcoal. They are written so that you have a deeper sense of what it is, the debate around it and a little experience from me personally to help you gauge whether or not this product fits into your life.
•Activating charcoal gives it its purported mega-absorptive properties. Through a steam or chemical process, the charcoal is heated in the presence of gas so that it develops micro-pores that increase its surface area to a remarkable degree (just one gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 3,000 m2 (32,000 sq ft) according to the Annals of Emergency Medicine) and allow it to sponge up toxins with just a small dose.
•For sustainability reasons among others, activated charcoal from bamboo is becoming quite popular. Other source materials such as nutshells, coconut husk, peat, wood, lignite, coal, and petroleum pitch. However, selecting bamboo ensures a more sustainable, and likely conscious, product.
•The debate around internal cleansing with activated charcoal is real. As with most health products, there exist conservative and liberal opinions about how useful and effective activated charcoal is as a detox aid. Its use to date has been limited largely to the ER in poison-control situations. And this is where conservatives draw the line as to its effectiveness. However, as it gains traction on the market as an internal body-cleansing detox product, the financial incentives for companies to boost a range of claims is huge. Both sides have points and deserve consideration—as does your own careful experience with it. Personally, while my impulse to detox has become more sophisticated over the years, it has not waned and so I wanted to try the charcoal powder as an internal cleansing technique that can sub for a full-on detox. I found my desire fulfilled. Taking the powder in the morning before a meal for a few days, I found myself getting some headaches and noticed that my body released more waste over that time. My instincts, however, told me not to drink it for days on end but just a few to “clean the pipes” between longer detoxes. And this is what most websites and information echo as a wise approach.
•The debate around activated charcoal’s use externally is a mute point—try it and see. From water and air purification, to skin cleansing, to teeth whitening, to deodorizing your living space, the absorptive properties of activated charcoal set it up to make a difference in your life. You face no more than a slight financial risk to buy a product and see if it works as purported. Through my experience, I find that deodorants based on the product don’t use enough of it to make an impact because if they did it would be messy—because make no mistake this is a messy product in the raw. However as a tooth whitener, an air freshener and an exfoliating/purifying soap, activated charcoal left me wanting more and, as a simple product, has a lot of life-enhancing potential.
•Everyone can agree—it works as a poison-control and alcohol detoxing measure in case of emergency. Parents and pet owners are advised to keep a little bit on hand in case kids or fur babies get into something nasty. Overindulgence can be more quickly cured as you drink a bit of this black, liquid mop and let it work its way through your system. However, it is suggested that the most effective area of the bamboo, internally, is the stomach and large intestine. So taking it with the poison or drink recently ingested is recommended in emergency situations. However, its debated wider internal cleansing properties are worth consideration as a detox aid.
•Other uses like relieving acne, balancing ions in the air and purifying water deserve mention as well. This is a beautiful blog supporting such claims, and, again, the risk is a bit of a mute point. Try it and see!