The first time you hear about it sounds weird: eating coal? And why not? The charcoal, more correctly called activated carbon, is a powder obtained from the processing of wood (often willow, poplar or birch) and sometimes from shells, fruit pits, sawdust that is subjected to flameless combustion. The coal obtained is treated and then transformed into pills or tablets that are bought in herbal medicine as activated charcoal.
But what is it for? Activated carbon is mainly used for abdominal bloating, aerophagia, flatulence, because it is able to adsorb the gases formed during the fermentation of food in the digestive tract. In the same way, it adsorbs liquids, it is therefore useful in case of stomach acid, gastric reflux, and gastric fermentation. From the medicinal point of view, charcoal is used in some cases of intoxication and poisoning, because it can absorb some toxic substances. Leaving aside the medical use that must be supported by a specialist, from an herbal point of view is a panacea for those suffering from abdominal bloating and heartburn.
Its characteristic is precisely that of ‘adsorbing’, not ‘absorbing’: the difference between the two verbs lies in the fact that in the first case the porous material retains liquids, gases, bacteria and toxins on its surface, imprisoning the microparticles. In the case of absorbency, the material in question is impregnated with these substances. Activated charcoal does not soak, but gaseous particles stick to its surface. There are no contraindications to its intake, which is effective even if taken sporadically. Care should be taken in the case of taking medication, because it is able to adsorb its active ingredients making them ineffective: consult your doctor if you are on medication.
The edibility and effectiveness of activated charcoal in making one immediately feel lighter, giving relief to those with digestive difficulties, linked to the fascinating intense black color that characterizes it, has made charcoal a new protagonist in contemporary cuisine. Many chefs are experimenting with the integration of activated carbon powder with flour for bread and pizza dough, creating panified black scenographies that seem to be lighter and more airy than traditional ones.