Charcoal - Healthy or Hoax?

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 09:00

People love a panacea (something that appears to be a total solution) when it comes to weight loss and health. Hence the rise of “the super food” or “super nutrient”. You know what I’m talking about…goji berries, maca powder, chia seeds, kale, and so on. That said, many of these nutrients are just as good as their far less expensive counterparts. Like spinach versus kale – there isn’t a huge difference.

With a supplement however, it can be even more confusing. And one of the big ones to make the rounds lately is activated charcoal. It’s either drinks with activated charcoal, health shots with activated charcoal, activated charcoal tablets, etc.

Now, before we discuss why activated charcoal is all the rage and if it lives up to the hype you should understand the difference between that and just plain charcoal. Regular charcoal is toxic and is to be used solely for the purpose of burning things. It’s made from agricultural bio waste and often has toxic chemicals added to it like lighter fluid. So don’t be grabbing a lump of coal from the bbq, grinding it up, and popping it into your smoothie. On the other hand, activated charcoal is made from non-toxic ingredients like coconut shells, olive pits, or saw dust. Then, that charcoal goes through an additional process, getting oxidized at high temperatures using steam or hot air. This is what gives it its theoretical medicinal properties. 

What are these medicinal properties? Good question. If you suffer from gas or bloating, activated charcoal can help by trapping the gas. It can remove stains and plaque from your teeth if you brush with it occasionally. It can be used as a purifying mask your on your skin or a clarifying agent in your shampoo. Because it’s so porous it can be used to trap 50-60% of unwanted contaminants in your stomach and intestines and has been used in medical emergencies for people who have ingested a toxic substance. Others also believe it can help with food poisoning or alcohol poisoning as well. 

While this all sounds great, don’t be fooled. There are some side effects that give rise for concern. The most significant of which is that it interferes with many different medications. It can block various drugs like antidepressants and even birth control. And, if you take too much or too often it can cause constipation, which is zero fun as I’m sure you can imagine. So be sure to discuss this supplement, just like any other, with your doctor before taking it.