The world’s obsession with activated charcoal isn’t going away. Social media platforms (particularly Instagram) are constantly feeding users an increasing number of people chomping on charcoal-based foods or slurping on black-colored ice cream.
But this trendy product is never without its controversies. Some time ago, activated charcoal was completely banned in New York since the state’s health department sees the compound as “adulterated food.” Simply put, they view the black stuff as unsafe and impure.
Some are actually wondering what risks are associated in using the black powder. There was even a suggestion that it may lead oral contraceptives to function ineffectively. Experts and charcoal users have weighed in their opinion.
The compound is basically a black powder made from the following sawdust, coal, and coconut shells. These ingredients are naturally heated at high temperatures that lead them to be a hundred times more porous that ordinary charcoal.
Activated charcoal is widely appreciated for their detoxification properties. Some users feel its detox properties are felt while others feel the compound is nothing but a marketing hype. Many who have attempted using charcoal indeed had their hangovers cured.
The powder is frequently used in hospital for treating accidental poisonings. This is because charcoal can attach to harmful chemicals within the gut. One study done in 2015 indicated that the presence of the compound significantly “reduced systematic absorption of toxins.”
Wherever one will look, activated charcoal is everywhere. This holds true in the beauty department. From toothpastes to toothbrushes to facial masks, the compound is becoming one the most well-known ingredients today. While many may see it for its striking black color, it goes way beyond that notion.
How It Functions
Activated charcoal functions by trapping in harmful chemicals in the body, which prevent them from being systematically absorbed. Its porous structure enables it to possess a negative charge, causing it to lure in positively charged components, like harmful chemicals and gases. This renders is highly effective.
Since the compound can’t be absorbed within the body, the body itself will excrete the compound and its attached toxins in the form of feces.
For the most part, activate charcoal is deemed safe in a majority of cases. Adverse effects are extremely rare and not as frequent as many would expect. With that in mind, it may lead to some mild side effects such as vomiting and/or nausea. Other notable side effects are black tongue (temporary), black stools, and constipation.
Whenever the compound is being utilized as an antidote for accidental poisoning, there’s a small possibility of its particles to travel in the lungs instead of going directly to the stomach. This holds true if the individual taking it is vomiting, party conscious, or feeling drowsy.
Due to such risks, activated charcoal can only be administered to those who are wide awake.
In addition, the compound could make the symptoms worse especially for those with variegate porphyria, an extremely rare inherited disease that affects the nervous system, gut, and skin.
In rare scenarios, there have been instances where the product is linked to hole formation in the gut or blockage of the bowel.
It’s worth noting that charcoal may lead to reduced absorption of over-the-counter or prescription medications. Hence, people who take meds should seek opinion from their doctor or healthcare practitioner before ingesting it.
In cases of accidental drug poisoning, one should seek medical assistance right away. A recommended dose of 50 to 100g of activated charcoal should be given by medical provider within an hour or less from the time the person was poisoned. Children should be administered a dose of 10 to 25g.
Doses for other health conditions may vary. They may range anywhere from 1.5g in treating “fish odor” disease to 4-32g per day in lowering bad cholesterol levels and/or in improved kidney function for those with end-stage kidney disease.
Supplements that contain activated charcoal are available in capsule, pill, or powder form. If one opts for the powder version, the compound can be mixed with a non-acidic beverage or plain water.
Those who take the compound should increase water intake to curb constipation symptoms.
Activated charcoal provides a wide range of benefits on the hair, body, and skin. It’s what makes it an ideal ingredient in the health and beauty department. It’s beneficial since:
1.It extracts impurities.
A known benefit of activated charcoal is that it can attract impurities from the skin. Regardless if it’s grime or dirt, the compound functions similar to a magnet: it takes in different impurities to keep the skin clean and to curb future breakouts.
2.It makes teeth white.
One may feel a little hesitant applying black material on their teeth, but it’s for good reason. Activated charcoal removes yellow stains on the teeth surface, which will make them even brighter than ever before.
Brush the powder with a drop of water then follow up with toothpaste for complete clean.
3.It balances oil content.
Aside from extracting impurities, activated charcoal can do the same for excess oil. Extra oil from the scalp and skin can be pulled out. In doing this, it keeps sebum levels balanced and unclogs pores thereby curbing other skin issues.
4.It functions as a disinfectant.
Activated charcoal can also function as a disinfectant. It shields the skin and prevents any future infection from fungus, bacteria, and other harmful components.
5.It minimizes body odor.
One surprising benefit with the compound is its ability to neutralize body odor. Similar to how it acts on impurities, it traps bad smell. It’s one reason why charcoal is being added in in products like deodorants and toothpastes.
Effect on Contraceptives
Activated charcoal is capable of absorbing bad chemicals that can easily pass out of the body. Sadly, it’s a product that doesn’t function selectively: it carries with it both the bad and good stuff out of the system. That means medications and multivitamins intended for absorption are flushed out of the body.
The mechanism of the compound makes it an “adsorbent.” Simply put, it traps harmful chemicals in the body and excretes them from the body. In theory, this could make birth control pills or other medications ineffective.
It should be noted that only oral contraceptives are affected. Other contraceptive methods such as the coil or implant will not have any effect since they tend to send out the needed hormones directly to the bloodstream and can’t be ingest.
What Can Be Done
So far, there has yet been clinical trials that prove charcoal to be capable of rendering contraceptive pills ineffective. But one should always be careful no matter what. The compound can absorb just about everything in the stomach. The best advice is to take the charcoal a few hours after ingesting any form of medication.
It’s way better to stay on the safer side. But it’s very unlikely that one serving of a charcoal-flavored ice cream or bread can interfere with one’s medication. Just make sure one isn’t taking too much of the substance.
While snacking on a charcoal-flavored snack is a rising trend and considered harmless, one should know its side effects. One may notice their bowels to have slowed down, leading to constipation.