There are many properties that are attributed to activated charcoal. Are they all true? What are supported by scientific studies? All the answers
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a black powder obtained from the combustion of coconut shell, peat and timber (in particular poplar, willow and birch). First it is subjected to combustion in an oxygen-free environment and then activated to give it the typical porosity and therefore the capacity to absorb.
Activated charcoal should not be confused with what is used to make barbecues, even if the materials with which it is built are the same. In fact, the charcoal has not undergone the activation process at high temperatures: it therefore contains various substances that are toxic to humans.
How does it work?
Activated carbon traps toxins and chemical agents in the intestine, slowing down or preventing assimilation. It has a negative electrical charge that attracts the positive molecules that make up toxins and gases. Because activated charcoal is not absorbed by our body, it carries toxins outside through the faeces. This is also the reason why they are black.
Absorbs some poisons
Thanks to its properties it is often used in cases of poisoning. It can be used to treat drug overdoses, even over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, tachypyrin and some sedatives. How effective is it? It depends on when it is hired. Within five minutes, it can reduce the over-absorption of medicines by up to 74 percent. This effect decreases to about 50% when taken within 30 minutes, 20% after three hours. It does not work in all cases of poisoning. It has little effect with alcohol, heavy metals, iron, lithium, potassium and acidic or alkaline poisons.
It can help the functionality of the kidneys
Activated charcoal can help the functionality of the kidneys, reducing the number of waste products that these organs must filter. It is especially useful in patients suffering from kidney disease. When they are healthy, however, the kidneys are well equipped to filter our blood without any help.
Continue Reading: The benefits of activated carbon
Reduces the symptoms of fish smell
The scientific name is trimethylaminuria (TMAU). It is a metabolic disease that is distinguished by the fact that it gives off the body of the patient who suffers a smell similar to that of rotten fish. Healthy people are able to convert trimethylanine, which is guilty of this odor, into an odorless compound, before expelling it through the pee. People with TMAU do not have the enzyme that guarantees this conversion. So they emanate this smell from urine, sweat and even breathe with very heavy consequences on their social life. A study by the University of Hokkaido in Japan, it has shown that taking 1.5 grams of activated carbon for ten days reduces the concentration of trimethylanine at the levels of healthy people. Although promising the results of this research need to be more investigated, because the sample of people analyzed was small.
It can help reduce cholesterol
Activated charcoal can also capture cholesterol molecules, preventing the body from absorbing them. In the eighties, numerous studies were carried out on this property, but these studies have not been repeated.
Helps reduce flatulence
Several studies have shown that activated charcoal helps reduce gas in the intestine. It also helps to improve the smell of these gases.
It is often said that activated charcoal has the ability to whiten the teeth, by absorbing bacterial plaque. In reality there are no large scientific studies to confirm this statement.
Helps manage hangover
Some people use activated charcoal to recover more quickly after they have drunk too much alcohol. Also in this case there are no scientific studies that confirm this statement.
Activated charcoal is safe
In general it is considered safe and side effects, mainly nausea and vomiting, are rare. Depending on the doses taken can give constipation. It should never be done by people who are not completely conscious. As with all supplements, you need to talk to your doctor.